I have always loved President Harry S. Truman as a sort of mythical underdog who beat “Dewey” (whomever that was) who jokingly commented that his middle initial shouldn’t have a period because it doesn’t stand for anything, and who championed the phrase “The Buck Stops Here.” Granted that was back in 5th grade when I knew very little about the man and even less about politics and DC.
Now I have grown up more and I have spend some time learning a bit more. I know who Dewey was and how President Truman wouldn’t go down without a fight and that spirit helped him beat Dewey in the Presidential Election of 1948 despite everyone at the convention thinking he was down for the count. I am currently reading a couple of books about Truman to learn even more, but the most interesting thing happened to me the other day as I quoted his favorite phrase in a discussion to a friend.
As I was telling my friend, in Washington DC everyone thinks that they know it all or at least pretends to know it all so that they don’t look dumb. If you’ve ever had that friend who is too stubborn to ask for help in understanding something and then went along as if they understood it, she probably would fit in well in DC. I fully admit that I do this as well at times, but I am working on it.
The problem with this attitude is that it often causes problems and when those problems start no one wants to step up to the plate and say “I did it, it was my fault.” I have talked about this before when an Umpire owned up to his mistake making national news and later when Sarah Palin claimed that a typo was her coining a new word. These are just a couple of examples, where I have discussed this, but I have seen it take place on a smaller scale all the time.
Now this is what is so profound about Truman, he made certain everyone knew that “The Buck Stopped Here” with him, and that he wouldn’t pass the blame but own up to it. It wasn’t until this last week that I realized how rare this was in our society and especially in DC.
I want you to do something for me, next time you get a chance to talk to your Representative or Senator ask them the question “When was the last time that you truly messed up in such a big way that you couldn’t fix it?” This is a standard job interview question that I bet most politicians will be ill-prepared for and will likely involve some buck passing.
When you find someone who is willing to own up to his mistakes and tell you why he did what he did and that he messed up, but for a reason that makes sense to the broader good, then that is your guy and you should stick to him until he starts passing the buck. Why? Because in DC, we need Honest people leading, not those who are afraid to admit they are wrong or they don’t know.