BEING ACCOUNTABLE – THE WARTIME PRESIDENT, BARACK OBAMA

President Barack Obama (#44) followed the advice of predecessor Harry S Truman (#33) this week; he took responsibility for the screw-ups related to the Flight 253 attack.  As President Truman proclaimed – always evident by the plaque on his desk:  “The Buck Stops Here.”  Plain speaking Harry, from the Show-Me State (Missouri), over the course of his presidency (just about 8 years) made many difficult decisions and stood tall in the face of frequent criticism.

 

President Obama ordered a thorough probe of the mishaps, mistakes, oversights, and system failures that allowed a Nigerian national to climb aboard the Northwest/Delta flight (Amsterdam-Detroit) that he would try to bring down over the territory of the United States of America.  Clearly, an act of war in the War on Terror in which this nation has been engaged for several decades (September 11th; embassy attacks in Africa; embassy bombed in Lebanon; US Marines attacked in Lebanon; USS Cole attacked in Yemen…and on and on…).

 

And President Obama began to acknowledge that we are at war with combatants who are not representing specific nation-states but organized and just as deadly as when armies march under national banners.  “We are at war,” reported The Wall Street Journal quoting President Obama, “at war with Al-Qaeda.”  We applaud him on standing tall and being a symbol of accountability – so sorely needed in America in these times when other leaders use weasel-words to squirm out of responsibility.

 

Becoming president on the death of the war time president, Franklin Roosevelt, President Truman would write that he remembered…”Now the lightning had struck, and events beyond anyone’s control had taken command.  America had lost a great leader, and I was faced with a terrible responsibility…”

 

President Truman swung into action, guiding the grieving nation to end WW II; approved the use of two nuclear bombs to end the war in the Pacific; faced down Soviet Russia on many fronts in the early days of the Cold War (including the Berlin Airlift, an act that challenged the Russians directly in Germany); reacted immediately to the North Korean invasion of South Korea with a US – UN military response; fired an insubordinate hero, General Douglas MacArthur; with General George Marshall launched the Marshall Plan to rebuild war-torn Europe…and more.  The buck did indeed stop right there at his desk.

And so to this war, this wartime president.  When the facts are known, and remedies clear, President Obama should make the necessary adjustments and bring homeland security – defense – to the level needed to protect our nation.  Some hard choices will have to be made.  Fiefdoms overcome; barriers to cooperation broken down; heads knocked together.  That’s what you try to do in wartime.

 

You also ask everyone to make sacrifices on behalf of the nation, for the general welfare.  President Roosevelt demanded that in WW II.  When wartime corporate profiteers were exposed – by Senator Harry Truman and his committee before he became VP – President Roosevelt and the Congress moved to adopt excess profit measures (for a time, income taxes were at 90% for the high earners) and clawed back ill-gained profits once the war was underway (1942).

 

When the armed forces needed materiel, rationing was introduced at home.  Homemakers turned in their pots & pans to be recycled for the Arsenal of Democracy.  President Roosevelt frequently took his message to the American People on “Fireside” radio chats. He told the nation as the build up for war was underway (May 1941) that … “Your government has the right to expect that all citizens take part in the common work of our common defense…”

 

Adding, “This is no time for capital to make, or be allowed to retain, excess profits…”

Maybe those kinds of measures, realistically adjusted to 21st Century society, should be considered by the Administration.

 

We could start by taxing the overly-generous (and certainly the most obscene) bonuses of the financial sector organizations that received “war time” financial rescue by the federal government.  About those risk-prone financial organizations deemed too big to fail – what sacrifices are they committed to make in this wartime environment?

 

As the WW II wartime president said in 1941 (repeating the words of the signers of the Declaration of Independence):  “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor…”

 

We are all in this together, right?  What do you think?

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