Tuesday, May 15

A Message From Lee Iaccoca

This was sent to me by a family member via email. I'm not sure where it originated but it is so well said that I would like to reprint it with/without the permission of the author. I can only hope that more eyeballs see this and absorb the sentiments expressed in this article. Whilst Mr Iaccoca was a Bush supporter in the 2000 stolen election, he apparently saw the error of his ways and backed John Kerry in 2004. In light of that fact, it puts much of what he says in this article into context. An ex-Bushie Republican industrialist has had enough too.

Had Enough?
Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what'shappening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloodymurder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state rightover a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can'teven clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead ofgetting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicianssay, "Stay the course." Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This isAmerica, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bumsout! You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, andmaybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this countryanymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignorethe Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack oflies.Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for thewealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders arenot the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq,the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And thepress is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not thepromise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.

I've had enough. How about you? I'll go a step further. You can't callyourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready andwilling to have. My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you'reeighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to, assoon as I can pry them away from their vacations, iPods, the golf course,sailing (you name it) for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'mgoing to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listento me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell youhow I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping tostrike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because theydon't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up.These guys work for us. Who Are These Guys, Anyway? Why are we in this mess?How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them, orat least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn'tagree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questionsor demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call freespeech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberalDemocrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of thereason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're apeople. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and falltogether.

Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make usstand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln?What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There wasa time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up andmade us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?

The Test of a Leader
I've never been Commander in Chief, but I've been a CEO. I understand a fewthings about leadership at the top. I've figured out nine points, not ten (Idon't want people accusing me of thinking I'm Moses). I call them the "NineCs of Leadership." They're not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obviousqualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how thecurrent administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to bearound until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to thepolls in 2008. Then let's be sure we use the leadership test to screen thecandidates who say they want to run the country. It's up to us to choosewisely.

So, here's my C list:
A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the"Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, becausethe world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about neverreading a newspaper. "I just scan the headlines," he says. Am I hearing thisright? He's the President of the United States and he never reads anewspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whetherwe should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without agovernment, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." Bushdisagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News pipedthrough the sound system, he's ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, hegrows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he knowhe's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means eitheryou think you already know it all, or you just don't care. Before the 2006election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn't listen to thepolls. Yeah, that's what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe heshould have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was onthe wrong track. It took a "thumping" on election day to wake him up, buteven then you got the feeling he wasn't listening so much as he wascalculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try somethingdifferent. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself onnever changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. Godforbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbinglymessianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversationhe had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe wasin the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President, the explosivemix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing theoil fields. "The President was serene," Joe recalled. "He told me he wassure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. 'Mr.President,' I finally said, 'how can you be so sure when you don't yet knowall the facts?'" Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe'sshoulder. "My instincts," he said. "My instincts." Joe was flabbergasted. Hetold Bush,"Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough." Joe Biden suredidn't think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn't.Leadership is all about managing change, whether you're leading a company orleading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard BusinessSchool.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouthor spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling thetruth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talkstraight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convinceus that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don't know if it'sdenial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while.Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful.The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure ofcommunication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was atthe door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualtiesand chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the differencebetween right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. AbrahamLincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power."George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bushhas shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because hehas the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. Hehas sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqicitizens) to their deaths. For what? To build our oil reserves? To avengehis daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show hisdaddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable,and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character doesnot ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes forfemale leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. GeorgeBush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk likea cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in thetwenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is acommitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk. If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when you knowit will cost you votes. Bush can't even make a public appearance unless theaudience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-calledtown hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devotedfans. The questions were all softballs.

To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION, a fire in your belly. You'vegot to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done. How doyou measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for numberof vacation days taken by a U.S. President, four hundred and counting. He'drather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business ofgoverning. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidencyso far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake.It's no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-sevendays in 2006. That's eleven days less than the record set in 1948, whenPresident Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most peoplewould expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to showfor it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now,that's not leadership.

A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charismais the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability toinspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That's my definitionof charisma. Maybe George Bush is a great guy to hang out with at a barbecueor a ball game. But put him at a global summit where the future of ourplanet is at stake, and he doesn't look very presidential. Those frat-boypranks and the kidding around he enjoys so much don't go over that well withworld leaders. Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received anunwelcome shoulder massage from our President at a G-8 Summit. When he cameup behind her and started squeezing, I thought she was going to go rightthrough the roof.

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got toknow what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surroundyourself with people who know what they're doing. Bush brags about being ourfirst MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let's see. Thanksto our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, SocialSecurity is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar pricetag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters. A leader has to be aproblem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be onthe back burner.

You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE. I call this CharlieBeacham's rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the carbusiness, one of my first jobs was as Ford's zone manager in Wilkes-Barre,Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the EastCoast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, ahuge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, "Remember, Lee,the only thing you've got going for you as a human being is your ability toreason and your common sense. If you don't know a dip of horseshit from adip of vanilla ice cream, you'll never make it." George Bush doesn't havecommon sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know,Mr.they'll-welcome-us-as-liberators-no-child-left-behind-heck-of-a-job-Brownie-mission-accomplished Bush. Former President Bill Clinton once said, "Igrew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get intothe reality-based world, and I like it here." I think our current Presidentshould visit the real world once in a while.

The Biggest C is Crisis Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged intimes of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk andtalk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen abattlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comestumbling down. On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more thanany other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out ofthe ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat tokids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there fortwenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You cansee it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back toWashington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked peopleof this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. Hebasically went into hiding for the day, and he told Vice President DickCheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs,scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we weregoing to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of daysto get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero. That wasGeorge Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do whenhe'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq, a road his ownfather had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn'tlisten to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on beingfaith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you,Idon't know what will.

A Hell of a Mess.
So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan forwinning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in thehistory of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, whileour once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gasprices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy.Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class isbeing squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership. But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leadersgone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the peopleof character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be asucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making ustake off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spentbillions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how todo is react to things that have already happened. Name me one leader whoemerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend asingle day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demandingaccountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours afterthe storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn'thappen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make aplan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we canrestore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed thatthere could ever be a time when "the Big Three" referred to Japanese carcompanies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to doabout it? Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for payingdown the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health careproblem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eatingaway at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on yourasses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijackedand our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody soafraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me abreak. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change? Had Enough? Hey, I'mnot trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light afire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In mylifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatestmoments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises, the GreatDepression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, theVietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent yearsculminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't getanywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to takeaction. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future forour children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raisingin this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe inAmerica. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shakeoff the horseshit and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough.

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