It’s been a few thousand years since anyone was able to make a credible claim of being perfect. Anyone who expects perfection from our political leaders is setting themselves up for inevitable disappointment. I do not judge leaders based on whether they make mistakes, but whether they can own up to their mistakes and take the necessary steps to correct them. A true leader listens to criticism of their policies from their constituents and evaluates those critiques against their own actions. Factors on the ground can change. A decision that seemed correct at one time can be revealed later to have been flawed, based on incomplete or inaccurate information, or based on assumptions that turned out to be false.
I have seen two different approaches to providing leadership from our political elite lately about the same issue. The issue is Common Core. A few weeks ago, Senate Education Chairman Conrad Appel explained why he endorsed Common Core. In his post reported by Lee Barrios on her blog, Appel claimed he would explain in depth why he supports it. What his post boiled down to was, he had already made up his mind about Common Core when it was first introduced, and once he makes up his mind about something he never budges no matter what.
I call this the head in the sand approach or the adult equivalent of covering up ones ears and saying loudly “Na! Na! Na! I can’t hear you I can’t hear you!” This approach is just as juvenile in adults as it is in children, and is not very becoming on a high ranking elected official.
My life has not been that of a politician. I started my own business forty years ago and have been dedicated to family, hard work, and self sacrifice. This personal history taught me one great rule that career politicians often ignore. The difference between my personal philosophy and theirs is that once I evaluate an issue and make a careful decision upon its merits, I will not alter my position to make my political life easier or because it would further my political ambitions. I find that too many of our leaders are far too willing to flip-flop on ideas or principles because such ideas frighten or offend one small segment of the political spectrum, or because such ideas create a politically uncomfortable situation for themselves. This is intellectually dishonest and I will never pander to special interests by abandoning my fundamental beliefs.
Senator Conrad Appel’s governing approach
The latest example I saw completely surprised me. Governor Bobby Jindal came out strongly against Common Core.
“We support higher standards and rigor in the classroom, but every day, concern among parents is growing over Common Core. The feds are taking over and rushing this. Let’s face it: centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education. Education is best left to local control,” said Jindal through a written statement.
I kept expecting a retraction or “clarification” that would have mitigated some of the sting of this prepared statement, but none was forthcoming. Instead what I saw was piling on by “former” allies like Chas Roemer, who dismissed and characterized Bobby Jindal as just another desperate politician taking a popular stand to further his national presidential ambitions.
“This is presidential politics,” said Roemer, a Common Core supporter, about the governor’s statement. “This is the politics of our governor, who is running for president.”
My how the political winds have changed.
For years and Jindal has taken a wait and see approach to Common Core. I probably accused him of talking out of both sides of his mouth on the issue in previous comments or posts. However, nothing is standing in Bobby Jindal’s way of continuing that tactic. To come out so strongly and decisively against Common Core, which is still more popular than not (at least in statehouses and legislatures across the nation), would be a very strange tactic to pursue at this point. Jindal could have safely sat on the sidelines and allowed the Senate and Conrad “the ostrich” Appel to effectively block any and all Common Core legislation. The session is almost over and every bill proposing any form of modification has been defeated without Jindal having to take a definitive stand one way or the other. To come out so strongly against Common Core, which carries with it bazillions of potential donated dollars from corporations that stand to make a great deal off of it, makes no political sense whatsoever. The battle over Common Core is far from over, but in most states across the nation, Common Core is still the law of the land and many communities and parents are strongly divided over it. Siding with one side is bound to alienate the other side, and the “other side” has most of the money, lobbyists and power.
I have relayed in the past that my opposition to Common Core was a conversion after being exposed to how it was interpreted by the chief stakeholders (textbook and test making companies), deceptively and coercively imposed, and poorly implemented. Could it be that Bobby Jindal took a similar approach, and over time came to the realization that what he had been endorsing had too much wrong about it for him to stand passively by on the sidelines and let the conversation go where it wanted?
A strong leader in my mind is someone who confronts their mistakes and does something to correct them, even at some personal cost. It’s not someone who never makes mistakes in the first place or sticks their head in the sand and refuses to listen to opposing points of view for fear of being swayed. While I still differ with Jindal on a lot of issues, if he does act upon his latest set of words, and rejects PAARCC and removes Louisiana from being obligated to use Common Core, I will have to give him props for taking a politically risky move and perhaps following his conscience.
Could it be a gambit to court ideological conservatives? Perhaps. But there are much easier ways to do that with less potential fallout. Taking this stance now could seriously impact his fundraising potential and alienate folks who feel very strongly about supporting Common Core.
It will be interesting to see if these words blossom into actions. Bobby Jindal donated 5000 dollars to Chas Roemer’s last election campaign for BESE. While it would have been entirely reasonable and appropriate to explain his difference of opinion between the Governor’s stance and his own, to call him out publicly and ridicule him in the media was probably not the wisest course for Chas. I will be surprised if Chas runs for BESE again and receives another maximum contribution from the Governor, who Chas Roemer also unfavorably compared to President Obama.
“I don’t recall that ever happening…where a governor overrode or vetoed [school board] regulations,” Roemer said. “This is a maneuver that’s outside of the Legislative process. It is the same kind of maneuver that he attacked President Obama for doing.”
Chas Roemer has a funny way of supporting his allies. I wonder how that will work out for him next year when he’s looking for endorsements and support from presidential panderers, like he thinks Bobby Jindal is?
This brings me to a third type of leader . . . the really, really, dumb ones.
A Chas Roemer and John White feature presentation