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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Obama's Failure

Loyalty creates loyalty, and it is essential for a political leader to have a loyal team. Of course there are limits to loyalty. A leader is likely to cut the bonds of loyalty attached to someone who breaks the law or expresses irrational views that undermine his effectiveness. However, letting Van Jones resign was not about loyalty. Rather it involved a failure of President Obama to defend principle and policy.

Jones broke no laws and his radical views were well within the American tradition of political debate and advocacy. The petition he signed called for an independent commission to investigate the administration's previous knowledge that might have averted 9/11. In 2004, a Zogby poll reported the 66 percent of Americans wanted a new 9/11 investigation. There are political actors on both the left and right with radical viewpoints. It is a strength of our country that we allow a clash of ideas, and we would have a less vibrant society if everyone shaped their views to avoid offending someone.

Just as important as the principle of defending the right to express radical views, which Jones seems to have tempered with age and experience, is defending the policies of green jobs that he so effectively promoted. His ideas and projects to create green employment were praised by Republicans as well as Democrats. However, he was attacked by the far right and a foundation supported by traditional energy companies.

The resignation of Jones is a blow to Obama's vision of alternative energy. Having succeeded in knocking off Jones, the enemies of the Obama agenda will be emboldened to attack other key advisers on the basis of their views. Sacrificing Jones was a mistake that may prove costly.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  September 9, 2009; 2:05 PM ET
Category:  Making mistakes Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

"Jones broke no laws and his radical views were well within the American tradition of political debate and advocacy. "

So... are you saying it's okay to insult someone based on their race? Is it okay to call someone an a--ho-- because you disagree? Is that the kind of discourse you're encouraging?

I personally don't
insult people based on race because I simply don't see race. So I'm surprised when most of you do make those kinds of remarks.

But I find it hard to believe what you're writing here. In fact, I'd go so far as to say you're lying.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | September 9, 2009 6:32 PM
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Comrades: New synonym: Snake Oil and Van Johnson aka peddlar of 'tude in the 'hood. Bye, bye. . . .

Posted by: rep15 | September 9, 2009 6:27 PM
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I don't think Jones' services are lost to the Administration. They'll wait for the spotlight to shift, then quietly slip him back in somewhere else or find him employment elsewhere (some environmental think-tank consultancy or organization) that allows him to contribute to these issues.

The swift-boat Wolf Pack that attacked Jones definitely won a victory of sorts. But it's relatively minor and short term. And they can't escape the public perception that, deep down, they're unbalanced and absurd -- just this side of being rabid, in fact.

Posted by: hogsmile | September 9, 2009 3:30 PM
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I hate to say it, but I totally agree with this. Obama seems out of touch and is getting ready to get rolled if he doesn't look out.

Posted by: TKinTexas | September 9, 2009 2:43 PM
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