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Robert Goodwin

Robert Goodwin

Robert J. Goodwin is CEO and co-founder of Executives Without Borders; former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force and appointee at USAID, the State Department and the White House.

From service to skepticism

Correction: The following guest post incorrectly claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi squandered $101,000 on "in-flight cocktails." The author acknowledges mischaracterizing a Judicial Watch report that claimed to have calculated spending on a number of Pelosi-led trips for all food and all beverages, not just alcoholic beverages. The Speaker's press secretary, Drew Hammill, says the Judicial Watch report overstates the amount that was spent on the trips, and that some of the costs included would have been reimbursed by members of Congress. Hammill notes that the Speaker doesn't drink alcohol. The Post could not confirm the Judicial Watch report.

In response to the On Leadership question: Can Americans accept the painful reality that getting exploding deficits under control will require both tax increases and cuts in government services - or will they reject any leader who dares walk a responsible fiscal line? What's a leader to do?

When times are at their worst, Americans are at their best. The resiliency, determination and sympathy so often forgotten in periods of relative calm are reborn anew when and wherever crisis strikes. We saw it on 9/11. We saw it during Hurricane Katrina. And we're seeing today in the countless donations of time, effort and treasure on behalf of the Haitian people.

But while such compassion serves as one of this nation's greatest strengths, it is not without limits. When the institutions we trust to transform charity into tangible relief for suffering populations are found rife with corruption and inefficiency, we begin to doubt the impact of our efforts. When those in charge are found to be rewarding themselves at the expense of those they are called to serve, we begin to lose faith altogether.

At President Obama's inauguration, the same spirit we've seen change the world time and again was on display. We were energized by calls to put aside our partisan differences and work together for a stronger future. But as time wears on, we are again haunted by the questions that transform service to skepticism. Is our government doing a good job? Is it achieving results? Are those results worthy of the sacrifices we are making to realize them?

At the inauguration, and for most of President Obama's first year in office, people stood behind the president. We trusted he would govern well. Many held their noses when the stimulus package was passed with so many earmarks, but we trusted nonetheless. When unemployment rose above 10 percent, we trusted. And even when we watched the ugliness of the health-care reform process, we still wanted to believe that our leaders were capable of exhibiting the judgment and character worthy of their offices.

But now, it appears that those in Washington have completely lost touch with the people they serve. While, we struggle to put food on the kitchen table, we watch Speaker Pelosi squander $101,000 of our hard earned money on in-flight cocktails as she flies on taxpayer-funded airplanes.

While most Americans see the sacrifices of our troops and their families, we are left to wonder if our government is sacrificing as well - doing more with less, just like the rest of us. Are they working through the night and foregoing vacations? Do they truly appreciate the health benefits and job security they have compared with the rest of us living outside the Beltway?

Americans are willing to pay their fair share in taxes if we know the government will act as a responsible steward of our resources - but the government doesn't seem to be working very well right now.

That's why our leaders - and specifically President Obama - need to work to restore the trust and confidence in government. He needs to show us that our agencies and programs are as efficient and effective as possible and that they are doing everything they can to support those in need. We need to know that government employees are sharing the financial burden being felt across the land. We need to know that we won't have any more "bridges to nowhere" in the budget and that those receiving funds will be accountable for results.

When confident in our mission, Americans are always willing to go above and beyond. But it will take more than sweetly delivered words to put the faith back in our hearts. Simply put, we need to see that our leaders are ready to work as tirelessly as we are for the future we know we can achieve.

By Robert Goodwin

 |  February 3, 2010; 10:17 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The health care imperative | Next: Financial manifesto


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Here's an interesting fact. The military plane Pelosi uses is stocked from the Class VI (Alcohol)store and the commissary. Both are there for service people and are at discounted rates; also NO TAX is charged. So how do those in Congress (staffers, etc) and Pelosi's family qualify? Because it's "war" and she needs "constant contact" with the White House--why do any of these flights rate military food and no tax alcohol? I don't see anything allowing this except the idea of "privilege".

Posted by: mil1 | February 4, 2010 1:56 PM
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Speaker Pelosi's enjoyment of congressional "perks" are symptomatic of the growing gulf between government and the governed; particularly as life for "the governed" becomes harder. There are disturbing parallels to the period leading to the French Revolution when the French population suffered severe economic hardship, even starvation, along with increased taxation and a government deaf to their pleas for relief. The well-heeled Pelosi, Boehner, Reid, and McConnell--not to mention Obama and his crew are headed down the same path as the court of Louis the Sixteenth and the French aristocracy.

Posted by: Watersville | February 4, 2010 12:25 PM
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The Post would provide a most useful service if it would print, alongside of the articles authored by otherwise completely unknown writers, a chronological sketch of the writers alleged accomplishments and their employment It would appear that Robert J. Goodwin is a disaffected former politician from the last Bush administration. It's always useful to know the real history and pertinent dates of those whose words waste so much of the Post's space and of my time. This Goodwin would-be pundit is but one more of the usual Post's authors whose ideology far exceeds their intellectual ability. In defense of other similar Post writers, it should b noted that most of the others demonstrate a modicum of respect for the accuracy of the details they include in their great literary offerings.

Posted by: gargoyle22 | February 4, 2010 12:04 PM
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I could care less about Ms. Pelosi's in-flight cocktails. Apparently, it's the cocktails she's had before each session in Washington that should worry us all.

Posted by: primegrop | February 4, 2010 11:57 AM
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if the princess would of been a republican, there would of been calls for her to resign. the same thing with dead fish emanuel. the double standard exists.

Posted by: mdoughtie22 | February 4, 2010 11:56 AM
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IMMEDIATELY! The Post is a joke.

Posted by: whistling | February 4, 2010 11:48 AM
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I highly doubt that the house speaker is the only one doing that! Seriously, be honest....they all do it. GOP and Dems. If a republican from cali was speaker, would this article have been written. Doubt it

Posted by: rmk1122 | February 4, 2010 11:40 AM
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Silly even for the ADOLESCENTS that write for the WaPo.

The Speaker of the House has a cocktail on a plane. Compared to the kingly travel of even the lowest echelon creeps of the Bush admninstration.

Let's look at Karl Rove's expense sheet, shall we? Or Abramoff's boys?

Posted by: whistling | February 4, 2010 11:38 AM
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It's basic accounting reporting. Polosi spent over $100,000 on food and booze.

What a lush!

Posted by: Revcain777 | February 4, 2010 11:16 AM
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Another cheap shot from the Washington Post. I could tell from the lurid headline, splattered on the front page and referencing Pelosi's cocktails, that this article would be just more dishonest right-wing propaganda.

Talk about the military budget.

Posted by: dougd1 | February 4, 2010 11:12 AM
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There are no cheap shots when the subject is politicians who live it up spending the people's money. The kind of thinking that protects the likes of Ms.Pelosi has to stop. Pelosi, like every other high-living politician, must learn that being a member of Congress, is not like being member of the French nobility (pre-1789.)

Posted by: mhr614 | February 4, 2010 10:33 AM
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This isn't about leadership. This is simply a partisan whack at Pelosi. I'm no big fan of hers, but to single her out with no basis for comparison is just a cheap shot. Using Judicial Watch as source calls the credibility of the whole piece into question.

"We need to know that government employees are sharing the financial burden being felt across the land."

What a crock. No mention of the tax cuts given to the wealthy that helped put our Government finances at risk and the GOP's refusal to ask those same wealthy people to help pay for their overseas adventures. Instead let's just pick on the easiest target around.

Posted by: st50taw | February 4, 2010 9:56 AM
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Let's look at this in a light besides political "left/right":

If a corporate big wig or "evil capitalist" engages in this kind of excess, you have the right to refuse to subsidize this kind of behavior. If you think auto company execs are living too high on the hog, you can buy a different car instead, or buy a used car. If you hate the fact that Bill Gates is giving $10 BILLION to worldwide vaccination efforts, you can buy a Mac or use Linux instead. Don't like factory farming? Buy organic. Don't like sweatshops? Pay top price for American-made clothes.

On the other hand, just TRY to refuse to subsidize or reward the excess behavior of politicians. You'll go to jail for tax evasion.

Posted by: LNER4472 | February 4, 2010 9:52 AM
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This should be on the front page - Obama and the elite democrats are as bad as the GOP. Never thought I'd say that!

Posted by: beenthere3 | February 4, 2010 9:42 AM
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It is ridiculous that the full records of all Congressional expenditures for travel, food, drinks, whatever are not put on display, side by side. I noted that one post
asked whether this is food AND drink, whether the Speaker is paying for this stuff herself, and whether it includes food and drink for fellow travelers/staffers, etc.

Otherwise, the writer of the article is just playing the same old "half truth" game.

Posted by: wwIIbaby | February 4, 2010 9:37 AM
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Another example of an inflammatory piece of information without context.

Why isn't anyone questioning the basis of the amount? Have you bought a drink on a plane lately? They're charging $5 - $10 bucks a pop!! Would you rather the carrier give her drinks for free and pass that charge on to you as a consumer in the form of higher airfare?

I'd also be willing to bet that these charges cover drinks the Speaker's buying for her staff and guests.

Bottom line: If you have a drink or two after a hard day at work, why are you begrudging the Speaker when she does the same? Third in line to the Presidency deserves a good glass of Pinot or two.

Posted by: pfallsgirl | February 4, 2010 9:24 AM
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"But $101,000 for BOOZE? Are you kidding me? "
Yes, of course they're kidding you. They took the total cost of food and beverages on Pelosi's delegation flights over a two year period, added it up to a huge number and called it "cocktails." And like another commenter noted, Dennis Hastert had access to the exact same flight service but where is the side-by-side comparison with the costs of his military travel?

I knew this was going to be an amateur character assassination bit when he invoked 9/11 and Katrina in the first paragraph.

Posted by: squier13 | February 4, 2010 9:23 AM
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No one and I mean no one should be allowed to criticise the wicked witch of the...

I mean Representative Pelosi.

Posted by: jnrentz@aol.com | February 4, 2010 8:36 AM
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"Representative democracy" is the true opiate of the people. Any adult who still doesn't see it for what is -- government by, for and of the highest bidder -- is a fool.

Posted by: patrick3 | February 4, 2010 8:22 AM
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It doesn't bother me that high officials use government planes for travel. But $101,000 for BOOZE? Are you kidding me?

Posted by: kanawha | February 4, 2010 8:15 AM
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This is such a right wing crock of s...! After Sept 11 it was decided that the Speaker of the House, the 3rd in line to the presidency, should not be flying on commercial aircraft. Pelosi's Republican predecessor received the same aircraft privilege. Yet, Judicial Watch or whatever organization it was only did a freedom of information (FOI) request on Pelosi's travel expenses. Why not use FOI to request Hastert's travel taxpayer funded travel expenses? And then why not post a side by side comparison? My guess is the Judicial Watch has information on Hassert's travel expenses but won't publish is side-by-side with Pelosi's because it would not fit in well with their agenda...it would probably make Pelosi look like a teatotaler.

Posted by: WPL22 | February 4, 2010 7:44 AM
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npsilver wrote:"Nancy Pelosi has not ever been noted for what her service record is or accomplishments. Her reputation among many California voters is a person of arrogance who puts herself first."

While very true, the libitards in California keep re-electing her. So who is to blame?

Posted by: kavalair | February 4, 2010 6:43 AM
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Looks like this "leader" is looking for a job or his next appointment.....Let's have another look at your government salary and discuss ways that it can be cut...since its public money. Again, until you walk in someone shoes as an elected official and have to make the tough, I mean really tough decisions, that could have far reaching impact on every citizen of these United States of America ....sit down,shut up and pay attention..you might learn something about true leadership. BTW when do you plan to run for office?

Posted by: Pstacy | February 4, 2010 5:49 AM
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Leeches have their uses. The annelids are still on the job in Medicine and a fine mission run they are having. Not so with the bipeds in D.C. (Deadbeat Central)who still serve as a grisly but widely ignored example of what not to be.
There has been half-hearted talk of restitution from these Dorian Gray wannabes. Whoopee. Maybe confiscation (such as happened in the Made-off case)will be suggested. So what? Even if it happens, the tab would be paid from things that we have already unknowingly paid for. Hardly a just recompense for the damage that these trough feeders' chronic bacchanalian behavior has done.
I've found some lovely exile locations via Google Earth, but the odds on their being used are about the same as on the budget not resembling a rocket plane with a yappy dog at the yoke.

Posted by: beowulf3 | February 4, 2010 3:37 AM
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Nancy Pelosi has not ever been noted for what her service record is or accomplishments. Her reputation among many California voters is a person of arrogance who puts herself first.

Posted by: npsilver | February 4, 2010 12:14 AM
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Provide for the common defense. Promote the general welfare. Preserve the blessings of liberty.

Notice that "placate the constituencies" is not on that list. From a leadership standpoint, the role of public servants is to take action and make decisions in the best interest of the common good regardless of the cost in reduced approval rating numbers. When public servants begin to make legislative decisions based on their popularity they corrupt their role by placing the emphasis upon themselves rather than those whose trust they ought to guard.

Being responsible with public money, spending only what we have and making the necessary sacrifices to do so (many of which might adversely affect the services rendered to Congress more so than those rendered to the public anyway) is the only policy that makes sense in the long run. To wring our hands in fear of the response of the masses makes us no less cowardly than the parent who endangers their family's future by charging up a storm every Christmas in order to make sure the kids don't have a temper tantrum.

Anyone unwilling to do the right thing for the sake of pandering in order to maintain their position of power is no leader regardless of their job title.

Posted by: NedKeitt-Pride | February 3, 2010 5:54 PM
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