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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Leaders come and go, but it’s always up to us – a Nixonian lesson

"To continue to fight through the months ahead for my personal vindication would almost totally absorb the time and attention of both the President and the Congress in a period when our entire focus should be on the great issues of peace abroad and prosperity without inflation at home.

"Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office."

- President Richard M. Nixon, in his resignation address to the people of the United States, August 8, 1974
Nixonresignation speech

No politician, least of all, the president, leaves office with a positive legacy, until the people find agreement that it is so. The good old boys can pat each other on the back and give each other medals, as was done in the Bush 43 administration, or claim they act in the best interest of their oaths to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," as this administration and its Congressional supporters claim they do. The final word, though, is for the voters to decide whose service we laud, and whose we condemn, before it gets left to history.

By definition, in order to lead, one must have a compelling message, with an understandable plan, addressing important issues in a way that enrolls others to follow. So hungry are we for this kind of leadership, that we transfer our desire to be led to pop-culture heroes, like rock gods and movie stars, who tend to disappoint us because we bestow upon them a mantle, for which the never asked, and shake from their shoulders like an unwelcome chill.

Political leaders, however, are happy to acknowledge that we have high expectations of their service, and are not afraid to indulge us in any quality we want to assume they endorse, if it helps them gain a following, whether they actually have a stated commitment to our pet cause, or not. President Obama, for example, did not hide his disdain for the actions of the Bush administration, when it came to the warrantless acquisition of telephone data, during his tenure in the U.S. Senate, or when he was running for his current office, in 2008.

Then we hear phrases like the one President Obama uttered, Tuesday night, during his appearance on the Tonight Show, with Jay Leno. "We don't have a domestic spying program," he said, adding, "What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an e-mail address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat."

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