Tuesday, February 14, 2006

One or Two Habits of Effective Leaders, Of the Deadly and Non-Deadly Varieties

The public conversation over the relative merits of Vince Young versus David Carr was (is) notable in the way that it seemed to turn readymade racial stereotypes about athletes on their heads. For those of us who favor (and try to live out) what we like to call “deracialization,” that’s a salutary development.

From what we can tell---and we have to confess that we haven’t hung on every word of the conversation---the primary argument in Young’s favor turns on his possession of that intangible quality of leadership, as opposed to the white guy, whose talent in that area has been questioned (we understand Young’s a hell of an athlete, too).

That’s progress. Usually it’s the white guy who’s got the “intangibles,” although being slow of foot and relatively immobile, etc. Leadership, as anyone with a passing acquaintance with real life can tell you, knows no color. (Speed, on the other hand ... )

We have no pressing opinion on the possibly now-settled case of Young vs. Carr, although we of course were awed by Young’s Rose Bowl performance and almost as impressed by his post-bowl appearance before the Houston City Council, at least the snippet of it we caught on the TV news. Speaking to the mayor and council, Young, sounding at ease and unforced, said something like, “Every time [Longhorn teammate Selvin Young] and I come back home and go out, we’re like, ‘Dang, they got something else new going on,” meaning some newish World Class attraction or another. (Wait till he and Selvin visit The House of Blues!) You could almost see the grinning council members’ egos balloon up right there on camera.

It’s rare that someone Young’s age can blow smoke up his elders’ ass (and politicians' asses at that) and not sound like Eddie Haskell.

That's leadership …

… and then there’s Dick Cheney.

While the Wounding of Harry Whittington has taken a turn from the comic to the potentially tragic, it’s still a handy metaphor for the ongoing deterioration of the Bush administration, much as Jimmy Carter’s attempt to fend off that “killer rabbit” with an oar seemed to somehow sum up the ineffectuality of the pious president from Plains (and we say this having liked J.C., a bit, until we had the misfortune of meeting him in person).

It’s not so much the shooting itself----accidents will happen and mistakes will be made, as we know from our misadventure in Iraq. Cheney’s winging of the Austin lawyer---and from the descriptions of the incident it appears Whittington is as much to blame---is just another manifestation of the pattern of bumblefuckery the administration has established, from the record deficit-spending through the bollixed Katrina preparation and response (not to mention the misadventure in Iraq).

Most Americans can stand a little (or even a lot of) incompetence, even, apparently the sort with deadly consequences. It’s government, after all. But the arrogance on top of the incompetence is the killer.

It’s bad enough that the shooting wasn’t revealed to the public for almost a full day, and then through a self-appointed intermediary for Cheney. What’s truly appalling is Cheney’s refusal to emerge from wherever he goes to speak publicly about the episode.

Cheney needs to man up. Then Bush would be wise---and show he’s really in charge---by figuring out some way to ease the old boy back to the private sector.

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