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Clarence B. Jones

Clarence B. Jones

Posted: December 10, 2010 10:39 AM

Maybe We Can't Handle the Truth

What's Your Reaction:

OK, I got it. To quote Jack Nicholson in the 1992 movie, A Few Good Men, "you can't handle the truth!"

What is so surprising and startling, since I wrote a blog suggesting that those who tirelessly worked to elect Barack Obama president consider the "unthinkable" -- a Democratic Primary challenge to his reelection -- persons have ascribed to me "wisdom" or "insanity" for the mere expression of my personal political opinion.

Let me make it "perfectly clear": I am not nor do I seek to be a political "organizer" or "activist." I am a scholar, writer, author and student of domestic and world political history. I think and write in the same mindset as I did when I provided advice and political counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence that when political leaders appear to be abusing the trust of those who supported them, that such supporters have the right, and indeed, the political obligation, to challenge them.

And, so it is with Obama. We live in democracy under a written Constitution. Our leaders are not kings or queens governing under a monarchy. President Obama, as gifted and talented as he appears to be, is not immune from criticism or receiving advice from any number of people who invested their hopes, dreams and trust in his leadership.

The theory and philosophy of "pragmatic opportunism" suggest that the abandonment of one's core political beliefs is mandated by the political realities of the moment. "Elections have consequences" -- the application of the military doctrine of "conditions on the ground" to the exercise political leadership over domestic issues.

Following the midterm elections, President Obama, because of his previous failures to forcefully exercise politically principled leadership of integrity on behalf of issues non-negotiable to those who elected him, is now between a "rock and a hard place." There is significant resistance within his democratic base to the terms of a "deal" he negotiated on the extension of the "Bush tax cuts," unemployment insurance, estate tax reduction, accelerated depreciation for business, etc.

The resistance to accepting and supporting this "deal" from several Democrats in Congress and from segments of his voter election base, in spite of the results of the midterm elections, is not only or principally because of the intrinsic merits or deficiencies of the pending proposal. The current resistance is a reflection of the lost of trust and confidence in the integrity of Obama's PRIOR presidential leadership on several threshold issues important to those who worked 24/7 for his election.

Under such circumstances, why shouldn't those who invested their heart and soul and hopes in Obama think the "unthinkable" -- a challenge to his reelection?

The exercise of this right, enshrined in the precepts of our Declaration of Independence, is a call for public accountability; a call for making decisions not the old political-compromise- negotiating way, but a new genre of political governance.

During the election campaign, Business Week's Bill George described Obama as follows, in an article titled, "Barack Obama: A Leader for the 'We' Generation":

The sweeping victory of Barack Obama ushers in a new era of leadership that will affect every aspect of American institutions and that sounds a death knell for the top-down, power-oriented leadership prevalent in the 20th century.


A new style of "bottom-up, empowering" leadership focusing on collaboration will sweep the country. A new wave of 21st century authentic leaders will take oversee [sic] U.S. institutions of every type: business, education, health care, religion, and nonprofits. These new leaders recognize that an organization of empowered leaders at every level will outperform "command-and-control" organizations every time.

The 20th century leaders focused on money, fame, and power, earning the title of the "me" generation. Their leadership destroyed many great institutions, as evidenced by the failures of Enron, WorldCom, and dozens of companies like them. The recent fiascos on Wall Street can be traced to the failure of "me" leaders who put themselves ahead of their institutions.


Until Obama redeems his "compact" with his supporters, the jury is still out on whether or not a primary election challenge to his reelection is merely a talking point of truth to power and public accountability or a realistic option for those who voted for him, and are disappointed, to seriously consider. Not as a theoretical option, but as real possibility.