Loyalty and Leadership

News reports last week were interesting.  The former director of the Trump campaign was found guilty of violating multiple laws that could land him in prison for the rest of his life and faces trial on still more charges. The President’s former lawyer (Michael Cohen) stated for the record that when he broke campaign finance laws he was following instructions of the candidate. Some pundits would have us believe these were watershed events. Others are not so sure and point out that campaign finance laws are not simple black-and-white rules. In addition to these events early in the week, over the weekend, Allen Weisselberg of the Trump organization and David Pecker of the National Enquirer were granted immunity by prosecutors in the Cohen case.  Of course we don’t know where these events will lead if anywhere.

 What we do know for sure is that the President has surrounded himself with people that are not very admirable. We know that, in the past, the American people did not support sanctions directed upon former President Clinton based on sexual indiscretions; I suspect the President’s supporters will feel similar sentiments. We don’t have proof of any personal collusion with the Russian government by the President. 

But this whole situation does give me a chance to share some thoughts about the roles of both loyalty and leadership in our lives and in our government. I remember a healthcare administrator who once told me, “I’m loyal to those who are loyal to me.” I immediately knew his concept was wrong.  As a leader, his job was not to be taken care of, but to take care of others. It was his job to support the people who took care of the patients, who taught the trainees, and who helped the institution live up to its mission of serving the community and the region. And if someone was very loyal to the mission, but not so loyal to him, that should have been OK, because the mission goes on long after each of us is gone.

 This story illustrates my concern about role of so-called loyalty in the Paul Ryan led US House of Representatives, where the highest value is placed on blindly following the party leadership and tending to the wishes of billionaire donors. Where does this way of operating leave everyday Americans? The fundamental duty of a good leader is to the voters and to future generations, not to party or wealthy contributors. In government, loyalty should be to core principles, like the oath of office and the constitutional separation of powers, not to people who promise favors in exchange for doing their bidding. Great leadership requires leaders to stand up and be heard even if what they are saying is not popular with the other officials around them.

 So the events of last week confirm that the swamp is still doing well in Washington and drainage of said swamp remains to be accomplished.   Responsible change is pending. No matter what last week’s events portend for the future, my plan is to run for the Tennessee First District House of Representatives seat on the issues just as I have been doing.  So let me remind voters of a few issues:

 Promises should matter, but incumbent Congressman Roe promised to serve only five terms and is now running for his sixth term.

 Health care matters, but Congressman Roe voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  If that plan had passed the US Senate, twenty-two million Americans and thousands of East Tennesseans would have lost healthcare coverage.

 Financial transparency matters, but as VA committee chair, Congressman Roe approved a $16 billion dollar expense to privatize the Electronic Health Record system at the VA. This NO BID contract to the Cerner corporation cost billions more than necessary.  Cerner is a significant donor to Congressman Roe’s leadership Political Action Committee (PAC).

 People matter, but Congressman Roe was named one of the two most anti-worker members of Congress

 The cost of living matters, but Congressman Roe has done almost nothing to protect East Tennessee consumers and businesses from the tariffs on thousands of products which threaten to raise costs, close businesses, and otherwise disrupt our economy. Some of these tariffs involve products that the U.S. does not make in sufficient quantities to meet our own demand – like newsprint.  To his credit, Rep. Roe did co-sponsor a bill to protect newspapers. But why hasn’t more been done to protect consumers and other businesses?

 For the first time in a long time, East Tennesseans have a real choice for Congress in 2018.  That’s the beauty of a two party system when it is really working as it should – the opportunity for a choice, the requirement for candidates to earn votes.  We’ve been stuck with what is essentially a one party system in East Tennessee for generations.  In a one party system, candidates take voters for granted.  I’m confident that in 2018, East Tennessee voters will select a candidate who loyally works for them. It’s time that Washington insiders learn to respond to voter concerns, not just blindly play follow the leader.