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The downhill slide of true leadership in politics on both sides of the 49th parallel


February 5, 2020

My July 2017 article “Donald J. Trump: Leader or Boss?”

https://www.lighthouseleadershipservices.com/post/donald-j-trump-leader-or-boss

expresses my then concerns that the 45th President of the United States of America was to that point not demonstrating the characteristics of leadership whatsoever, but was merely a self-centred “boss”. His apparent lack of honesty; transparency; and decision-making ability (i.e. putting his personal goals and needs over country and party), combined with his bully tactics; passing the blame; falsely taking credit…and so much more, in no way exemplified what true leaders do, but were perfectly good examples of what they shouldn’t do. Well guess what? Nothing has changed. Zilch. In fact it’s gone to hell in a handbasket in my opinion.


He destroyed relationships with many allied nations. Much like his private business modus operandi, he bullies, pressures, lies and tries to bowl over anyone, anything or any country in his way. There’s no give and take or relationship building with nations that have stood strong with the US as trading partners or through international conflict. Unless of course you count his love for the ruthless dictators in Russia and North Korean – then he’s all in. Is that what is best for the American people?


The lying has reached a fever-pitch. Trump continues to claim “fake media” on every quote of his ridiculous and immature banter that he doesn’t like. That usually means almost every media outlet except FOX News is conspiring against him.


During the lead up to the recent Impeachment Trial of President Trump, he defied subpoenas for Administration witnesses and documents. Why? If Administration employees could take the bible in their right hand, swear an oath to tell the truth and give evidence that would clear him, why not encourage them to testify? If White House documents would help his defense, you’d think he’d be fighting like a rabid dog to have them made public. But he vigorously fought all attempts to produce witnesses and records that might prove his innocence – despite valid requests through established legal processes.


But what he did do – with abandon, is vilify American citizens that testified under oath against him in the House Committee Hearings. One, highly respected and longtime US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, was disparaged by Trump live on Twitter she was actually giving evidence under oath. She went on to testify that his Twitter comment was “very intimidating”. Only one so-called “leader” in recent memory would do such a thing.

Another witness, highly decorated Lt. Col. Andrew Vindman of the US Army, was publicly chastised by staff from Trump’s White house when he testified regarding his observations and concerns as a national security official. This man gave his life to the US armed services and was actually wounded by an IED while serving in the Iraq. Only one so-called leader in recent memory would allow unwarranted criticism of such a man.


A January 19, 2020 “Factchecker” article in the Washington Post, claims that “In 1,095 days, President Trump has made 16,241 false or misleading claims.” Have other Presidents of both political parties made false or misleading claims? No doubt. Sometimes quite innocently and other times in a complete attempt to deceive. But over 16,000 in 3 years? I’m not a historian, but come on.


What is even more alarming in my view is how the overwhelming majority – almost to a person, of Republican US Senators supported him throughout the Impeachment Hearing.


These aren’t stupid people. They’ve heard the facts. They know there’s damning evidence in documents and potentially from current and former Trump appointees like John Bolton that would sink him. But they put party and personal future election fears ahead of determining the truth and doing what is best for the people of the United States. That is NOT leadership.


So what’s happening on our side of the 49th parallel in terms of national leadership these days? Well for those that think I must be a “Liberal” (in reality I’m not) because I don’t believe every word that passes through President Trump’s lips (in reality I believe none), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is far from a shining example of what leadership should be. I can overlook some of the dumb things he did as a young supply teacher, and his broken campaign promises (they ALL do that) but there’s so much more.


The SNC-Lavalin scandal in which the PM conducted a number of “flagrant” attempts to pressure the Minister of Justice and Attorney General to drop criminal charges against a large and politically influential company, led to Trudeau’s expulsion of two Liberal Members of Parliament. It also had the PM apparently lying to the Canadian public about what he did or didn’t do in relation to pressuring his AG. Eventually the Clerk of the Privy Council resigned over the debacle and there was a tremendous loss of trust in PM Trudeau over what was a minimum an ethics violation, and I would suggest was at least at face value a criminal act.


And that wasn’t his first ethics violation. He had already been chastised by the Ethics Commissioner for accepting a vacation on a private island that was owned by a lobby foundation. How a Prime Minister could ever feel that was right or that the truth wouldn’t eventually kick him in the derriere, is completely beyond comprehension.


The Vice Admiral Mark Norman prosecution fiasco did nothing to restore any level of confidence in the PM’s transparency and ethical posture. As a dedicated, career public servant and military officer, Norman may not have handled the situation particularly well, but he certainly did not commit a criminal act. He actually did what he felt was best for the country, which is far and above more than we saw out of our PM. Everything around Trudeau’s involvement in the affair stinks. With an election forthcoming, the two-year old criminal case was suddenly dropped mid-stream but not before Norman’s exemplary career was destroyed and his life forever altered.


None of this diatribe is partisan on my part. I’m an equal opportunity critic when it comes to the failure of leaders.


I am a firm believer that leadership is about doing what is best for those you serve and those you lead. Real leaders inspire others to do and be their very best. Every decision is about putting the people first and personal careers second. When things go bad, true leaders own up and take the hit. When things go good, they pass on the credit and allow the light to shine brightly on those they lead. Anything less is an abject failure of leadership. But alas, such failures have become the norm at the helm of both of our beloved countries.


If there is a positive side to this depressing tale of two leaders, it is that Canadians can at least cling to the shred of hope that although their “leader” may not be a paragon of truth, he isn’t anywhere near the compulsive liar that our friends to the south are dealing with in their duly-elected President. He’s somewhere close to 16,000 lies short. However neither pseudo-leader is the rock of honesty, ethical-behaviour and transparency that we all deserve.

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