Leadership is having the courage to make difficult choices -- even to break promises -- when conditions warrant it. Great leaders ask, "what's needed?" and don't delay when there's a tough choice to be made.
That's what Governor Chris Christie showed in his deft and bipartisan handling of the Sandy crisis, and his approval numbers now reflect the wisdom of his strength.
Leadership courage in the face of what's needed is the clear next step for the 235 US Representatives and 41 Senators who signed Grover Norquit's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge."
In fact, they should hold their heads high when they say "no more" to Grover. Beyond common sense and roiling economic seas, there's three more reasons to take the plunge: 1) the 9/14/12 Congressional Research Service study showing no proof that tax cuts for the wealthy lead to economic growth, 2) the outcome of the general election, and 3) the need for quick and smart bargaining on the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff.
In fact, if signers don't say goodbye to the pledge, they may well say goodbye to their offices in Washington in the not-too-distant future.
Light has dawned on the likes of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who said Sunday he's willing to violate that pledge to make a deal with Democrats, even as Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.), underlined Senator Saxby Chambliss' (R-Ga.) view that Norquist's pledge may be outdated. Since then, other signers have expressed openness to foregoing their pledge.
Those who are on the fence should take a moment to imagine, for example, if the Koch brothers were faced with an enterprise of theirs sinking from a lack of revenue. Regardless of any pledge or commitment they might have made, they wouldn't wait an instant before pulling the revenue lever that would set it afloat again.
In fact, working as a coach to CEOs and CEO succession candidates every day, I know not one in their right mind would sign a pledge preventing them from making changes to revenue or expenses. If they DID sign such an agreement, they would be forced to break it, be fired, or both, as economic and market conditions warranted.
No shame in facing facts on cost versus benefit
With the general election done, Norquist's signers are realizing leadership in fluctuating conditions demands flexibility rather than rigidity, particularly when it comes to the two most important levers of economic power: revenue and expenses.
Recent conditions have made the political and economic costs of sticking with the no tax pledge outweighed by the benefits of breaking it. That's why we now see key legislators shucking their Norquist handcuffs.
Defectors from the pledge need not be apologists for taking this difficult and courageous step. After all, pulling those big economic levers when the cost versus benefit equation shifts dramatically shouldn't be a source of shame or embarrassment, but one of pride. It's just an average day in the life of the very "job creators" the GOP enjoys as its key constituents and funders.
Courage Will Be Rewarded -- Christie Style
As the blackmail continues, and Norquist cries "shame on you" with the regularity of a Swiss watch, I am sure, as Chris Christie's approval has shown, that the prevailing sentiment about the defectors will be: glad that Senator / Representative showed courage. That's leadership.