President Obama's need for continued leadership coaching astonishes me. His inexperience rears its ugly head almost daily. Leadership lessons have had to become a regular feature on my nationally syndicated nightly radio show, and this particular lesson may be coming too late for our president. His inability to master this crucial lesson may already have cost him his ability to muster any effectiveness in his remaining time as president..
Lesson: You cannot afford to major in the minors.
When you major in the minors, you squander your opportunity at accomplishing anything meaningful. Little things unnecessarily become big things, and the important issues languish and wither from neglect. Ask Jimmy Carter. More significantly, when you major in the minors as Commander-in-Chief, you may recklessly endanger the lives of American soldiers and weaken America's security at the same time.
Case in point. Obama's fiendish obsession with the “Don't Ask Don't Tell” policy has now borne strife and dissension in our own Joint Chiefs of Staff. Believe it or not, our own president has driven a very public wedge between the nation's highest-ranking military officer and the four service chiefs who collectively make up the Joint Chiefs.
Witness the missives fired off last week by Generals Norton Schwartz (Air Force chief), and George Casey, Jr. (Army chief), as well as Admiral Gary Roughead (Navy chief). These three members of the Joint Chiefs reacted strongly and vocally when they discovered that the White House had reached a back-room compromise deal with Congressional leaders to pass immediately the repeal of the “Don't Ask Don't Tell” policy without waiting for the Pentagon's previously-authorized review to be completed by December 1. Joint Chiefs Chair, Admiral Mike Mullen, knew of the compromise deal, but no other chiefs did. They never even saw the language of the compromise before the Congressional votes.
Admiral Mullen cooperated with the president, but lost the support of his own team in doing so. They were rightly incensed at having been excluded from the conversation as well as the lack of Obama's vaunted “transparency.” Worst of all, the chiefs each noted in their letters to members of Congress that passing the repeal will send the message to the present troops that their voice is not only not going to be considered, it is not going to be heard at all.
What is to be gained by such a hasty push-through? There is no other explanation for the accelerated ram-rodding of this repeal by the Obama administration than its mere political expediency. A decision that has significant ramifications on military readiness (which is why the Pentagon was asked to do the review in the first place) has now been made in order to satisfy the president's gay supporters so that a political base can be secured before the November elections. Political motives in a matter of national security and military readiness is bad enough, but creating division within the Joint Chiefs over such a minute matter is unconscionable.
President Obama has created a gaping breach in our key military leaders at a most inopportune time. In an unprecedented move, three members of the joint chiefs of staff broke ranks publicly with their chairman (Mullen). And the fourth member of the team, Marine Gen. James Conway, has already gone on record as opposing the repeal. Dissension now reigns within the ranks of our core military leadership team. Focusing on a minor has created a major problem.
However, it is not merely the breach in our military leaders that should cause concern. It is the distraction that Obama's obsession has created. While waging two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while preparing to attack the Taliban in Pakistan, and while monitoring the situations in Iran, Israel, and Turkey, our military leaders are investing enormous quantities of energy and attention on whether gay persons can serve openly in the military. Think about that for a moment. Multiple theaters of imminent national security threats, and our leaders are debating and squabbling about gays in the military. What is wrong with this picture?
By the most reasonable scientific estimates, homosexuals comprise about 2% of America's population. They likely comprise an even lesser percentage of the military. In other words, our Joint Chiefs have been forced by Obama's maniacal obsession to focus their attention and energy on a tiny portion of the armed forces at a time when those same forces are being stretched more than ever before: Distraction. Division. Obsession. Hello, Captain Queeg.
Sadly, this dissension and distraction is entirely at Obama's initiative. He alone created this conflict. Our president is majoring in the minors. His own security team cannot bring themselves to use the terms “radical Islam,” “terrorism,” or “jihad,” even though those are the categories of the very enemy we are fighting. Instead, our Commander-in-Chief is worrying about something that is minuscule in significance at the expense of matters that carry the weight of life and death.
Unfortunately, we have seen this minor majoring weakness in Obama before: His obsession with health care reform while most Americans clamored for economic leadership. As well as, his vacationing in Chicago and hosting Paul McCartney at the White House while the Gulf of Mexico fills with close to 40,000,000 gallons of oil. Distraction from the key issues at hand appears to be his leadership style.
When it comes to military readiness, such a leadership failure can not only be divisive and distracting, it can also be deadly.