It is said by those who study and teach leadership that one of the primary attributes of the best leaders are that they give credit to their subordinates and assume accountability, even blame, for themselves. Credit for these sentiments is somewhat apocryphally given to President Dwight Eisenhower — it does not show up in the official website devoted to him — but it is a point of leadership scholarship and training no matter who uttered it.
And look what we get instead.
• Trump blames everyone except himself for coronavirus — China, Democrats, Obama (huh?), and, naturally, “the media.”
• Trump blames the FBI for the investigation that showed the hundreds of connections and contacts between Russian agents and his 2016 campaign — James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and more.
• Trump blames Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman for his — Trump’s — illegal phone call soliciting foreign government help in his re-election (and thus even his impeachment).
• Trump blames the Fed, the Democrats, and the media for the stock market tank.
This tiny list could go on and on for pages.
Let’s be clear: Trump looks at every problem and if it were a form to fill out, he would go to the end of it, to the place where the line asks, “Who is to blame?”, he fills in “Democrats, especially Obama, Crooked Hillary, and the media,” and then figures backward.
Nothing, ever, is his fault. His exceedingly rare apologies are fake, always couched in excuses and in minimizing off-loaded language, sounding a great deal like some of the conversations one might expect in prison among inmates, where nothing they did was ever their fault, always someone else’s, and any consequences to them are unjust, just rotten, disgracefully unfair. A travesty.
Or, in terms of emotional maturity, perhaps the average 5- or 6-year-old. “He started it!” “I didn’t do it!” “It’s not my fault!”
But my father was the psychologist, not I. The real psychologists peg Trump at about 4 years old, emotionally.
Harry Truman, president right before Eisenhower, did say, “The buck stops here,” and indeed placed a sign on his desk saying exactly that. John Kennedy, president right after Eisenhower, said, in taking personal responsibility for the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”
Trump should have signage on the door of the Oval Office, “I always pass the buck,” or perhaps, “All victories are mine, all defeats are theirs.”
This man, born with a silver spoon in his mouth grew up to exchange that for his foot, if we gauge his tweets, his press conferences, and his policies with any minimal standard of decency and competency.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.