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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

THE QUESTION

Gone But Not Forgotten

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has again criticized the Obama administration, raising the issue of the role of leaders after they step aside. Should "formers" offer advice, praise or criticism? In public or in private? When asked or unsolicited? Do different rules apply to public vs. private sectors?

Posted by Ben Bradlee and Steve Pearlstein on May 11, 2009 10:20 AM
FROM THE PANEL
Patricia McGinnis

Divisive Issues

"Values" issues like torture are important, but they attract divisive grandstanding and receive an outsized portion of media attention, especially when compared to tough challenges like health care or the environment, where nuance and innovation are required.

Posted by Patricia McGinnis, on May 15, 2009 10:44 AM
John R. Ryan

Unsolicited Advice

Having served in a variety of leadership roles in the U.S. Navy and in higher education, it's always been my policy after stepping down to offer advice to my successors privately and only when they ask for it.

Posted by John R. Ryan, on May 14, 2009 1:48 PM

Bush Gets It

President Bush understood the meaning of the inauguration ceremony -- a handing over to power -- and what that means for criticizing the next president. Apparently, Vice President Cheney did not.

Posted by Joanne B. Ciulla, on May 13, 2009 11:48 AM

One-Year Moratorium

Cheney is not the first ex-president or ex-vice president to be a vocal critic, but it might be wise for such ex-leaders to wait a year after leaving office before going public with their views.

Posted by Slade Gorton, on May 12, 2009 4:27 PM

Unwelcome Ghost

Dick Cheney's conduct should be a reminder to leaders who've stepped down from office, whether in the public or private sector, that they owe their successor the decency of support, and if not support, then silence.

Posted by Alan M. Webber, on May 12, 2009 2:40 PM

Still Relevant

Dick Cheney continues to speak on public matters, like his predecessors Al Gore or Jimmy Carter. When one's term ends, that person's brain does not dissolve and one's experiences do not suddenly become irrelevant.

Posted by Mickey Edwards, on May 12, 2009 12:19 PM

Motivated by Real Concern

Evaluating Cheney's behavior of giving his opinion hinges upon one critical question: Whether Cheney's opinion is right or wrong.

Posted by Ken Adelman, on May 12, 2009 12:15 PM

Old Soldiers Never Die

In retirement military figures never really escape the obligation for restraint in their public commentary.

Posted by Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.), on May 12, 2009 12:08 PM

The Long Goodbye

The "rules of comity" in both the public and private sector dictate that ex-leaders keep criticism to themselves, but certain exceptions apply, and a question of national security might be one of them.

Posted by Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr., on May 12, 2009 11:56 AM

Attacks, Not Advice

To criticize your successor in public is to deny him the opportunity to do his job as he sees fit. It also comes across as sour grapes.

Posted by Yash Gupta, on May 12, 2009 10:25 AM
Marty Linsky

Laundering Nixon

Richard Nixon made the transition from pariah to statesman, but it took time, patience, and a healthy absence and abstinence from the fray to launder himself.

Posted by Marty Linsky, on May 12, 2009 10:21 AM
Warren Bennis

Carter's Example

"Formers" can be very useful if they are trusted by both parties and are seen as men and women of good will, interested in the common good.

Posted by Warren Bennis, on May 12, 2009 10:15 AM

Unspoken Rules

Former Vice President Cheney should learn from generations of military officers who understand that once you leave command, you serve as a silent advisor, only providing input when it's requested from the new leader.

Posted by Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.), on May 12, 2009 10:11 AM
Kurt Schmoke

Organizations Over Individuals

Former leaders should step aside gracefully, offering both advice and criticism on a private basis when requested by their successors.

Posted by Kurt Schmoke, on May 12, 2009 7:13 AM

Propriety Aside

The real issue is whether in expressing his disagreement with the Obama administration, Mr. Cheney also expresses respect for our democratic process, for the American people and the electoral decision they made.

Posted by Bob Schoultz, on May 12, 2009 7:08 AM

Self-Defeating

Cheney's insistence on reviewing memos he claims will prove that "enhanced interrogation techniques" like waterboarding saved thousands of American lives may not be wise for the country and even for his political purposes.

Posted by Michael Maccoby, on May 12, 2009 7:02 AM

Free Speech

That former leaders are entitled to free speech reflects positively on our national values; that Dick Cheney condemns respect for human rights reflects negatively on his.

Posted by Prudence Bushnell, on May 12, 2009 6:58 AM
Andy Stern

Be Strategic, Not Personal

When former leaders let personal considerations overwhelm or substitute for the strategic is a demonstration of failed leadership. In most cases if you have something to say--say it thoughtfully, strategically, and privately.

Posted by Andy Stern, on May 12, 2009 6:52 AM

Leaving Well

When we leave, we leave. We close the door. Period.

Posted by Frances Hesselbein, on May 11, 2009 4:11 PM

Hardly Helpful

I find it hard to believe that any knowledgeable person, of any political persuasion, would approve of the way that former Vice President Cheney has conducted himself in recent months.

Posted by Howard Gardner, on May 11, 2009 4:01 PM
Marshall Goldsmith

Get a New Life

My guess that, in most cases, when a former incumbent puts down a successor the main motivation is ego - not altruism. Former leaders should "get a new life" and try to help the world be a better place.

Posted by Marshall Goldsmith, on May 11, 2009 1:02 PM

Every Right to Criticism

Opposition views are at the heart of a functioning democracy, and past leaders like Cheney have every right to offer theirs.

Posted by Pablo Eisenberg, on May 11, 2009 1:00 PM

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FEATURED COMMENTS

Dellis2: It depends entirely on the context. I tend to believe that immediate presidential predecessors should limit their public comments to non-con...

stephenrhymer: Dick Cheney bares a remarkable resembelence to Marine Corps Col.Nathan R. Jessep - the antagonist of the play and movie "A Few Good Men". O...

GaryEMasters: All of this concern is interesting, but beside the point. If Mr. Cheney has freedom of speech, the content is his to chose. Otherwise, it ...

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