Do as I Say, Not as I Do by Bret Callentine

How old were you when you first figured out that someone was lying to you? Or at the very least, when did you begin to notice the difference between someone’s words and actions? You know, that moment when you finally say, “Hey, why doesn’t Dad get punished for swearing like I do?” Or similarly, how did you feel when an adult opted out of giving you a full-fledged explanation for the old standby, “because I said so”?

I’m a firm believer of actions speaking louder than words. But I must admit that I’m not too fond of either the actions or words coming from our elected officials lately. Case in point: during his campaign, Barack Obama promised to make the political process more transparent. But if that’s the case, then why would his Vice President agree to meet in private with the heads of one of this country’s largest lobbying groups, the AFL-CIO? I have no problem with companies holding private meetings, and I understand that the government has to be able to hold discreet meetings with certain parties in areas of national security and the like, but when the current discussion is on the unions’ desire to eliminate the privacy of voting through the “Card Check” bill, then how do you justify the secrecy of the meeting itself?

Another promise from the Obama campaign was to institute a five day waiting period before signing bills to allow for public scrutiny and comment. But so far that’s not what we’ve seen. The very first bill to hit his desk was signed by the President only two days after it passed the House and Senate. Worse was the handling of the stimulus. I understand that Washington feels that immediate action is called for, but when they’re spending billions and even trillions of dollars, shouldn’t they take more than a few moments to read every line? After all, isn’t this action all part of an effort to bail out a nation that got into this mess by not reading the fine print in the first place? Whether it’s not understanding the terms of a credit card or not planning ahead for the terms of a home loan, the United States created this problem by not respecting the details and not spending enough time scrutinizing the potential pitfalls of its actions.

And my current distrust of politicians isn’t limited to the oval office. When the focus of both Democratic and Republican candidates was a return to accountability and an end to wasteful spending, how did we end up with a bill that contains thousands of individual earmarks? Political promises or not, how do you decry the financial decisions of corporations that took bailout money, yet not stand up against the inclusion of pet projects for cities and states that can’t even afford refund checks for taxpayers?

I guess what kicked it all off on the wrong foot for me was a statement made by Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste, and what I mean by that is, an opportunity to do things that you didn’t think you could do before.” Well in my book that seems to recommend a focus on opportunism, not correction. And in a time of crisis there’s a term for people like that: they’re called looters. Call me old fashioned, but when the waves roll in, and the levees start to collapse, I want a leadership team that’s focused on helping those in need, not just looking to grab a big screen TV from some abandoned property.

The thing that scares me the most is that speed is never more critical than course. You can’t reach the destination faster if you’re going the wrong way. And I’m not altogether certain our captain has the ship pointed in the right direction. Washington is as certain of their assessment of the financial meltdown as Al Gore is with his conclusions about global warming, and unfortunately, it seems that more and more experts are now coming out in both areas with dissenting opinions. I find it hard to have faith in any leadership that seems more focused on picking the right words than doing the right things.

When President Obama found out that his stimulus package might save the jobs of a few police and firemen in Columbus, he dropped everything, packed up Air Force One and flew right out to take credit. Well, how many additional jobs could he have funded if he would have saved us all the hundreds of thousands of dollars it cost just to take the one day trip? The easiest way to lead is to find out where the people are going and get out in front, but it’s hard to follow when those who say they know the way spend all their time pointing but haven’t seemed to move even a single step.

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Volume 5, Issue 6, Posted 3:27 PM, 03.26.2009