Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bailout Bill Disaster Was A Failure Of Leadership

The reason why only 9% of the American public approves the performance of the 110th United States Congress (according to the latest Rasmussen public opinion poll) was on full display yesterday.

After working for days on a financial bailout bill proposed by the Bush Administration and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in an apparent attempt to save the country from the financial abyss, the House voted 228-205 against the compromise bill.

Every Congressional politician from both political party's during the last week had the same talking points. Something had to be done right away about this financial crisis and a failure to act was not an option. Of course, a failure to act was indeed the option chosen yesterday and now the House Of Representatives will not vote again on any bailout plan until at least Thursday.

So what happened to this critical financial bailout plan? The answer can be found in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll. The poll found that just 22 percent of Americans said that they wanted Congress to "pass a plan similar to what the Bush Administration has proposed", while 56 percent wanted Congress to pass something "different" , and 11 percent wanted Congress to take no action at all.

The plan that was subject to a vote yesterday was not very different from the original plan submitted by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The plan went down because it did not have voter support in an election year. An alternative bailout plan from the Republican Party was never actually proposed.

In addition, the sad truth is that this entire financial crisis is exposing an even bigger problem for the American voter. It is now apparent that there is no political leadership in Washington, D.C. .

President George Bush, who in his eight years in office has never seen a spending bill that he would actually veto, endorsed the bill but never really sold it to a skeptical American public.

Consider that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a partisan speech to blame this mess on Republicans even as she was trying to get Republican support to pass a bi-partisan bailout bill.

Then after the vote fails, the House Republican leadership indicates members changed their vote due to Pelosi's partisan attacks. Its all about politics but what ever happened to voting on the merits of the legislation?

The fact is that 40% of Democrats voted against this bill and the bill could have passed without any Republican support since Democrats are the majority party in the House. So, the real question here is if this is a good bill, why could the majority party not pass it?

Meanwhile, both of our Presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama have gone AWOl. Its hard to understand what bailout bill they actually support. They appear to be awaiting passage of any bailout bill and a test of public opinion before they climb aboard the financial crisis bailout bandwagon.

The truth is that Barack Obama is hiding out on the campaign trail and is voting "present" on this difficult issue as he has often done throughout his political career. John McCain's response has been inconsistent and erratic. In fact, one of McCain's advisers told The Washington Post last week: "you've got to get it [the financial crisis] over with and start having a normal campaign."

The definition of leadership is the ability to affect human behavior to accomplish a mission. It requires the ability to rally and influence people to complete an important goal . It is difficult to achieve a positive result as a leader when you are afraid of the political risk and attempt to lead from behind. Yesterday's bailout bill disaster was a result of a failure of leadership.

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