Posts Tagged ‘leadership’
June 1st, 2011 at 1:50 pm
California’s Criminal Lack of Leadership

Last week I wrote about California’s prison dilemma: mandatory sentencing laws combined with too few prisons.  So far, the choice has been presented as between less time for criminals or more taxes for the law-abiding.  An update by the Debra Saunders doesn’t paint a prettier picture:

Even law-and-order types understand that the system must be streamlined. Nina Salarno Ashford of Crime Victims United told me, “I understand budget constraints.” For example, parole violators should go to jail – not prison. But Salarno looks at overcrowded jails, which already have had to release inmates, and fears the consequences.

How do you pay for it?

“It is probably going to take taxes,” she answered.

No lie. There is not much point in keeping taxes low – only to have some lowlife boost your wallet.

On the other hand, there’s not much point in paying higher taxes if the state slashes the number of inmates by 40,000.

Now that the United States Supreme Court has demanded California reduce its overcrowded prison population by over 40,000, there may not be enough time to raise taxes and build adequate prison space even if Californians wanted to.

If ever there was a need for statesmanship from California’s executive and legislative leaders, this is it.  Otherwise, when tens of thousands of felons are freed, there will literally be rioting in the streets.

August 16th, 2010 at 5:41 pm
Liberals Turning on Obama

The New Republic’s John Judis is out today with a feature-length article titled, “The Unnecessary Fall,” a blow-by-blow recounting of how Barack Obama missed his opportunity to define his presidency in populist terms.  To Judis, the greatest betrayal of liberal America’s would-be Messiah is the latter’s failure to engage in confrontational politics.

Why has the White House failed to convince the public that it is fighting effectively on its behalf? The principal culprit is clearly Barack Obama. He has a strange aversion to confrontational politics. His aversion is strange because he was schooled in it, working as a community organizer in the 1980s, under the tutelage of activists who subscribed to teachings of the radical Saul Alinsky. But, when Obama departed for Harvard Law School in 1988, he left Alinsky and adversarial tactics behind.

The young lawyer who returned to Chicago and won a seat in the Illinois state Senate in 1996 practiced a very different style of politics. Obama’s principal accomplishments in Springfield were bills restricting lobbying and requiring videotaping of confessions in potential death penalty cases. He was not a typical blue-collar, bread-and-butter Chicago Democrat, but the kind of good government liberal that represents the upscale districts of the city, seeing in politics a higher calling and ill at ease with (although not in open opposition to) the city’s Democratic machine. He was also a post-racial politician who eschewed the hard-edged, angry rhetoric of Jesse Jackson. (That, too, is oddly reminiscent of Carter, who partly campaigned in 1976 as the white Southern antidote to George Wallace’s angry racial populism.)

Obama carried this outlook into the U.S. Senate, into his campaign for the presidency, and then, into the presidency itself. He is a cerebral, dispassionate, post-partisan; he wants to “end the political strategy that has been based on division,” to “turn the page” on the culture wars of the 1960s and the partisan battles of the 1990s. During the campaign, his aides jokingly referred to him as the “black Jesus.” While he can tolerate and even brush aside conflict, he is reluctant to actively foment it. “In a time of crisis, we can’t afford to govern out of anger,” he declared in February 2009. During his campaign and his first year in office, he held to a blind faith in bipartisanship, even as the Republicans voted as a bloc against his legislation. He is, perhaps, ill-suited in these respects for an era of bruising political warfare.

Ignoring Judis’ laughable attempt to paint Obama as a disappointed bipartisan, there’s nothing special about this era that makes politics any more or less “bruising.”  Leading is always tough.  As Judis indicates, maybe Obama isn’t.

May 27th, 2010 at 1:39 pm
Are Americans Pro-(Effective) Government?

That’s the point made by Daniel Henninger in today’s Wall Street Journal.

I would argue that the Reform wave building in the land is not antigovernment, but pro-government. When people call themselves Americans, Californians, New Yorkers, Illinoisans, Texans or, yes, New Jerseyans, they aren’t just talking about a place name, but a fought-for legal entity with a grand political history. Anger at Albany, Sacramento, Springfield, Trenton and Washington, D.C., isn’t antigovernment. It’s rightful rage at years of misgovernance.

I think Henninger’s argument is the best description of the anger roiling supporters and critics of the Obama Administration’s handling of the Gulf Oil Spill.  It may very be that there are limited options for “plugging the hole,” but the fact remains that people expect leaders to show they know how to prioritize problems, and work towards a solution.  Even James Carville is apoplectic at Obama’s seeming inability to do either during this crisis.

For the president who promised competence, we’re getting an awful lot of failing grades in Leadership 101.