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Posted on Apr 14, 2017 in Opinion

Column: Truman’s adage would help right now

By Rich Elfers

“The buck stops here” was a sign that sat on President Harry Truman’s desk. The meaning of this pithy phrase was that responsibility for performance was not passed on beyond this point.
Truman’s era was very different from our own. America had just emerged from the end of World War II. Reality had been forced upon the president, the nation and the world by a bloody, destructive and costly world war, which ended with the rise of the atomic bomb, used by America against Japan.
What we see today are leaders at all levels of government who are more quick to pass the buck and blame others than to be accountable for their own words and actions.
Until a person or organization makes him/herself accountable, no growth can take place.
Why is it so difficult for our political leaders to take this approach of admitting blame? The answer to that question is revealed to us as one of Catholicism’s seven deadly sins – pride.
I have a friend who often shows me the tip of his ballpoint pen, saying, “This is what we humans know, and the rest of the space in the universe is what we don’t know.”
Why are we humans so full of pride when we are so abysmally ignorant of so much? It should be easy and rational to admit that we all are fallible and make mistakes constantly. All of us have wrong ways of thinking and acting that cause us and others pain. We are human. Yet, as a matter of self-preservation, we look for others to blame. We pass the buck.
How would our nation be different if President Trump admitted that he made mistakes when he over-promised during the election? What if he admitted that governing is a great deal harder than he imagined? What if he acted more humbly? It’s my guess that he might win over many of the voters who favored Hillary Clinton over him. He certainly would begin to calm the fear and the uncertainty that is rippling across the nation and the world.
What would happen if the Republicans admitted they wasted the last seven years being the party of no, focusing on blaming President Obama for his health care policies instead of compromising with the Democrats on a bipartisan plan? What if they had actually worked to come up with a viable alternative to Obamacare instead of trying to create a new plan in three months, only to fail due to splits within their own ranks?
What would happen if the Democrats got over the fact that they ran a lousy 2016 election campaign and ended up losing power? What if, instead, they decided to admit their blunders? What if they focused on doing what is good for the nation, rather than spending their energy on fighting President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, who is obviously extremely qualified for the Supreme Court? The Democrats, out of pride, had to create some lame reasons to reject Gorsuch to compensate for lack of any valid reason.
Both parties are already thinking of the 2018 elections. The way to guarantee a win is to be accountable and to compete to be the most patriotic president, representative, or senator by acting for the common good instead of for selfish, stupid, party interest.
Our leaders have become myopic – the president and members of Congress. If only they could become humble enough to follow the advice of President Harry Truman by acting out his adage, “the buck stops here,” then our nation and the world would be much better off.

Rich Elfers is a columnist with the Courier-Herald in Enumclaw, a former Enumclaw City Council member and a Green River College professor.

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