Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I can think of no phrase more likely to emphasize the powerlessness of a senior government official than to say, "I'm madder than hell," about something that has gone wrong under his or her watch.  President Obama makes a habit of this:

Here's the quote about the VA:

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough says President Obama is very upset about reported cover-ups at veterans' hospitals and long waits for treatment at VA facilities that have drawn widespread scrutiny.

"The president is madder than hell. I've got the scars to prove it," McDonough said in an interview with CBS News's "Face The Nation" that was broadcast Sunday.

About the botched website:

"Nobody's madder than me that the website isn't working as it should."

About the IRS review of conservative nonprofits:

"It's inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it," he said.

The President continues to confuse his role as chief executive with his previous role as US Senator.  As a legislator, you have the freedom to cast aspersions on the executive branch.  As CEO, in contrast, you own the executive branch.

Your job in this kind of situation is to apologize sincerely to those affected and the public as a whole; calmly acknowledge that bad decisions were made; offer appropriate short-term remediation to those affected; to convene--with a review panel of respected people from both parties--a plausible root-cause analysis as to what went wrong and why; and to announce the changes that will result.

There is an analogy here to the medical world, when an error is made that hurts a patient:  Disclose, apologize, compensate, determine the root-cause, implement solutions for the future.

Some might ague that the body politic is too virulent to allow this kind of reasoned approach.  My response is that the opposition will always make a fuss anyway, and there is no point in feeding into their portrayal of anger by adding your own.  It just makes you look powerless.


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