--As published in the New York Daily News, January 24, 2020
According to a 2016 Dale Carnegie Global Leadership Study, the international workforce stands in agreement on some of the most important qualities they want to see in their leaders. High on the list? “Unimpeachable integrity.”
Interesting phraseology, don’t you think?
As if it were yesterday, I recall the feelings of bewilderment when a former boss lied about his mistake, blaming the error on a “miscommunication.” Over time, I learned that our CEO (we’ll call him Mr. Morton) could effectively weasel out of most any blunder with his favorite, ambiguous idiom. And so he did, frequently and with audacious success. I didn’t last long in that toxic environment.
Upon my quiet departure, I met with Mr. Morton and the chairman of the board, presented my concerns — countered with, “Oh, that was a miscommunication” — and encouraged the chairman to follow-up.
Alas — I learned from a fellow employee who resigned 10 months later — accountability never materialized. More bungling ensued, more blame-shifting gushed forth, and Mr. Morton’s self-serving leadership, normalized by those around him, became considerably more entrenched.
In retrospect, Morton’s leadership spurred further dysfunctions—and ultimately, corrupted the soul of the organization.
In retrospect, perhaps I should’ve put up more of a fight.
Recently, painfully, my erstwhile employer has come to mind repeatedly of late. Donald Trump has been channeling my former boss, times 10.
Trump’s incompetence and associated dishonesties have reached epic, incontrovertible proportions. As a demoralized Republican, and a person somewhat familiar with reality, I can say this with regrettable certainty. Yet, like those accommodating Mr. Morton, Washington Republicans have shown little interest in holding Trump accountable — manifest in their silent endorsement of most everything he does.
In a partisan bid to stop the moral bleeding, Democrats have impeached the president. Crying foul, Republicans have argued that Dems efforts to oust Trump are driven by political agenda (that is, “Driven by a lack of integrity”). We may never know. What we do know is this: an expansive darkness of un-integrity has descended from the political sky. Is there any chance Americans will see the light of day? Do Americans even care about the light of day?
Granted, the Carnegie study was written a whooping four years ago; before a reality TV mogul was elected U.S. president; before post-truth modernism became a “thing”; and before stand-up comedians actually had to work to find material. Perhaps Americans no longer place a high value on decency or truth-telling. “Integrity in our bosses, educators, mentors, pastors or politicians? Geesh, who cares?!”
If that were the case, it would certainly explain a considerable amount of duplicity.
It would explain why the nonprofit organization I had worked for — on paper, dedicated to high moral standards — could ignore the deceitful behavior of Mr. Morton. It would explain why my political party — apparently committed to traditional family values — could wholeheartedly support its vulgar, womanizing, unscrupulous Republican president.
“We don’t care about integrity. Just support the cause!” That would explain everything.
But personally, intuitively, I have a hunch that Americans continue to hold integrity in high regard. Integrity is woven into the fabric of our culture and on full display in our sentiments regarding exemplary leadership. We applaud upright leaders, those willing to sacrifice careers and consequences, all for the sake of the lowly, unprofitable outcome of doing what is right.
Which begs a recklessly straight-forward question. In the case of, “The Bungling Fibber vs. The People,” why isn’t one of my fellow Republicans stepping up to the truth-telling plate?
The upcoming vote in the Senate will either remove Trump from office or normalize his no-holds-barred behavior. If Trump survives impeachment, as he seems sure to do, the Senate vote will reflect not what Republicans value on paper, but rather, who they’ve become: The end — purportedly, a solid economy, a conservative-leaning court, pro-life victories, increased border security, a decent climb in manufacturing jobs — justifying the means — leadership dedicated to shady dealings, brash decisions, mind-boggling lies, routine bullying, incessant preening and a blatant disregard for the laws and ethics governing our land.
For an ordinary, peasant-Republican like myself, the impeachment trial feels like much more than legal action against a dishonest, self-serving president. It is a pass/fail litmus test of an American political party. And more so, a measure of Trump’s success in corrupting the soul of a nation.
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