President Obama, on speaking about Obamacare, “Ultimately, the buck stops with me. I’m the president. This is my team. If it is not working, it is my job to get it fixed.” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about Benghazi, said “We wanted to be sure that whatever these independent, nonpartisan boards found would be made available to the Congress and to the American people, because, as I have said many times since September 11th, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.” Yesterday, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson told the House Oversight Committee “It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly. I take full responsibility; what happened is unacceptable and it will never happen again.” The Obama administration recognizes that saying they will take responsibility for a disaster will pacify most critics but don’t most Americans expect more?
I am a mother of two elementary-aged children. Part of my job as a parent is to equip my children with the ability to take responsibility for themselves, from potty-training to tying their shoes to driving to earning a living. As my children get older, I am teaching them how to do these kinds of tasks so they can practice them and eventually take over the responsibility for completing them independently. I’m transferring my authority to them as well. By the time my kids leave the house, both of them will take responsibility for themselves, their actions and their lives along with assuming the relevant authority to do so. Personal responsibility is the key to success in capitalism and I want to help my children be as successful as they want to be.
Being a good leader also requires taking responsibility. General Patton once said “Do everything you ask of those you command.” My first job was with with Perot Systems. There were 13 of us, the first class of new hires for the company. Mr. H. Ross Perot came to meet with us one day and spent over an hour talking. One thing he said was that he ate at the company cafeteria on random days to ensure that the food was always good. Mr. Perot wanted to make sure that his employees were well fed and cared for – he took responsibility for us. Law enforcement officers take responsibility for keeping the community safe. Our armed forces take responsibility for protecting our nation from those who wish to do us harm. And, teachers take on the responsibility of teaching my children reading, writing and arithmetic (with my eternal gratitude!). Taking responsibility is something every functioning adult is expected to do with the assumption that action will follow words.
The Obama Administration falls short in the action part of taking responsibility.
To take responsibility is to assign oneself the task of carrying forward an action to ensure a successful conclusion given that one has the appropriate authority to complete the action.
When President Obama said that “the buck stopped” with him regarding Obamacare, the nation saw no meaningful action to follow his statement. Kathleen Sebelius resigned from her role as Secretary of Health and Human Services, but the Healthcare.gov website still isn’t completely functional and no one is looking to President Obama to to fix it. The nation still doesn’t know why rescue teams were not sent to aid Ambassador Christopher Stevens, despite Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s promises to “take responsibility”. I doubt any American who is paying attention expects even one Secret Service agent to be relieved of his/her duty due to Omar Gonzalez’s successful breach of the White House.
The “take responsibility” rhetoric has grown old. Americans are looking for overt actions that lead to a successful conclusion. Putting up a partial four-foot barrier in front of the White House along with more DC bike police doesn’t cut it. Neither does allowing the president to ignore the mounting problems related to Obamacare and the Healthcare.gov website. Giving the least truthful answer. Wailing “what difference does it make?” Invoking the fifth amendment regarding public tax issues. These are all responses from the Obama Administration when the public pushes them to take responsibility. In my household, when someone doesn’t take responsibility for a task they’ve been given, there are subsequent consequences, either natural or parent-imposed. With the mid-term elections coming in one month, Americans have an opportunity to impose their own consequences on the Obama Administration for its unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions. We, the People must now take responsibility and authority from President Obama and his cronies and give it to candidates who have proven that they know and respect the notion of taking responsibility. As we model “taking responsibility”, maybe the Obama Administration will follow our lead.