Like all of us who have dealt with managers and/or work(ed) in management ourselves, I have witnessed on numerous occasions two defense mechanisms of incompetent and/or out-of-their-depth managers. Both of these are on ample display in the political environment today.
The two mechanisms are seemingly opposite but in fact closely related — both are misdirection/displacement/”red herring” tactics.
The first is: faced with large and seemingly unsurmountable problems, the outclassed manager instead focuses on some detail problem that (s)he judges manageable and declares this THE top priority, so that (s)he can “solve” it and declare victory. For example, the pathetic joke of a president suddenly declaring that not the $16T and swelling federal deficit, not the crash-and-burn of an Islamo-appeaser foreign policy, not an on-paper employment of 8% (out of an ever shrinking labor force), but… bullying or homosexual ‘marriage’ are the most important issue of the day.
The second mechanism takes an opposite tack: it instead redirects attention to some super-issue in comparison to which all other problems become trivial — so why waste time on them? For example, in Israeli politics, the agenda of the day is understandably dominated by the issue of ‘hamatzav’ (the [security] situation) — and any politician who wants public attention without the thankless hard work of writing and passing legislation that deals with mundane things like roads, crime, still pervasive oligopolies,… can instead pontificate about ‘the situation’/’the peace process’/… (Another such ‘super-issue’ there, albeit a distant second to ‘hamatzav’, are synagogue-state relations.)
Similarly, the pathetic joke of a New York mayor, rather than deal with the bed bug epidemic, a city that isn’t as safe as it was under his predecessor, or the vulnerability of the city’s infrastructure to man-made or (most recently) natural disasters — starts pontificating about ‘global warming’, and declares that we have to re-elect the Worst President In Living Memory because he has the ‘correct’ position on global warming.
I’ve dealt with incompetent managers who applied either tactic: more commonly they engage in both, like Bloomberg who also finds it necessary to regulate the size of sodas. They may be people that never belonged in any managerial role of any kind but wormed their way into one based on superficial, glib manipulation skills — like our president whom we at last have a chance to fire come next Tuesday.
Or they may actually be people who, based on their success at one managerial task, get appointed to one where they are manifestly out of their depths: Bloomberg’s manifest success in creating and building his financial news company clearly did not translate to anything resembling success in the unrelated field of running the municipal services of a metropolis. Here we actually see Peter’s Principle
in action: people competent at lower-level managerial jobs (or those merely able to pass as such) eventually get promoted to their level of absolute incompetence.
But in private business, when a manager is clearly not delivering, (s)he gets sent packing. And Clint Eastwood was quite right in pointing out that it doesn’t matter that (s)he is a nice person or has a desirable social profile: “when somebody does not do the job, we got to let them go
.”On Tuesday we have an opportunity to let go a chief executive whose main ‘achievement’ has been to stop the hapless Jimmy Carter from being the worst president in living memory. And #dontgetcocky, but… the polls suggest we have a very real chance of doing so — if we show up in numbers to do it. Let us do so in great numbers and send the fallen-upward empty chair back to the shady Chicago furniture store where he belongs.UPDATE: Walter Russell Mead
Admittedly, getting public support and finding the money for flood protection would be hard, but it is exactly that kind of hard job that governments are supposed to do. Leadership is getting the important things done, not looking busy on secondary tasks while the real needs of the city go quietly unmet.
The problem with nanny state governance isn’t just that it’s intrusive. It isn’t just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn’t just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It’s that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.
Mayor Bloomberg has done an admirable job under great pressure as the city reels from Sandy’s attack. But an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. The city needed flood protection for its subways and electricity grid—and it didn’t get it. If the Mayor had spent less time and less of his political capital focusing on minutiae, this storm could have played out very differently.