The failure of American ‘leadership’
Here’s what I’ve taken from the debacle that is America’s response to the mess of New Orleans and Mississippi, post Hurricane Katrina: Don’t count on the men and women and the bureaucrats who fill offices in government buildings all over America to take care of you.
One only has to read the newspaper and magazine articles or watch the endless hours of TV news reports about how the evacuation and recovery along the Gulf Coast is going: It’s getting better, but at first was disastrous.
One of my first thoughts a day or two after the hurricane was this: America has failed its citizens.
I was shocked: So many people needed so much assistance that was not delivered.
Then, watching the looters on TV made me think some people don’t deserve assistance.
But back to my first thought: America has failed its citizens.
America too often elects its leaders based not on how effective they will be or on how experienced they are at managing people or how well they motivate and plan and problem-solve and multi-task.
Too many of our public officials are elected because they are Republican or Democrat, or because they are not Republican or not Democrat. Too many are elected because they deliver a fiery speech, or are not elected because they can’t deliver a fiery speech.
Then there are the bureaucrats, that sometimes invisible but often-times key cadre of men and women who make decisions from their desks deep inside government buildings all across America. We don’t know their names. We didn’t elect them. We didn’t hire them. They were hired by the politicians.
The bureaucrats open the pages of books and scour legal documents to find answers to problems. They sometimes hide behind the written documents, which they often site as a basis for what can and cannot be done in America. They’ll point to an obscure section, article and page number as the basis of why something can or can’t be carried out ASAP.
We saw this a few weeks ago at a meeting called by state Sen. Charlie Clary of Destin, when he collected a group of mostly bureaucrats to generate support for fortifying U.S. 98 across Okaloosa Island. The busy roadway has been washed out too many times during recent hurricanes — and Clary was showing leadership in trying to find a speedy way to protect the road. He wanted immediate action, which makes complete sense because of the probability of more hurricanes striking the Gulf Coast this year.
Well, Clary’s get-it-done initiative was shot down by bureaucrats, men and women who cited rules and regulations that prevented any sort of speedy action to protect U.S. 98.
Which brings us back to New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina: Too many “leaders” and too many bureaucrats failed to take prompt action, action that might have lessened the enormity of the evacuation as well as the recovery the Gulf Coast faces today.
The lesson from this: Don’t count solely on the government, at any level, to take care of you. To think the politicians and bureaucrats have all the answers and will make the right decisions is an error in judgment. Jim Wagner is The Log’s editor and can be reached at (850) 654-8448 and at