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Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

McChrystal should just be the start

Q: In confronting the issue of Gen. McChrystal's apparent insubordination, did President Obama have any choice but to remove him? Going forward, what can Gen. Petraeus do to overcome this dramatic shakeup and keep his troops reassured and on mission?

It's long struck me as strange how reluctant presidents are to fire anyone. Even tough-minded hombres like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush couldn't bring themselves to boot aides lacking discretion or competence - or both.

When he was president-elect, Bill Clinton asked my advice on how to be a successful president - as successful, I then assumed, as Reagan had been. I made three points, the first being: "Just fire someone -- at least by June."

When Clinton looked at me quizzically, I explained that among his 25 or 30 new top appointees would be (at least) five turkeys - perfectly fine folks, yet who couldn't cope with the glare, or perform in the morass, of government. Firing just one such turkey would instill a smidgen of accountability in the public sector.

But he didn't. And Barack Obama hasn't been much better.

With disasters far more damaging than Clinton faced, Obama has fired very few - even those who did a remarkably god-awful job overseeing financial institutions, housing mortgages, or environmental protections. Or those responsible for homeland security.

Government positions have thus become entitlements. Public officials practically tenured posts.

Hence my wish that the firing of General McChrystal -- so obvious as to be unavoidable -- sets a new expectation (if not pattern) of top performance and discretion in government -- or else. The "else" being presidents who can (and do) fire wayward aides.

By Ken Adelman

 |  June 24, 2010; 7:22 AM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: How to fire a superstar | Next: When the reason trumps the result


Please report offensive comments below.

"Even tough-minded hombres like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush couldn't bring themselves to boot aides lacking discretion or competence..."

Ronald Reagan my have been tough-minded before Alzheimer's laid him low, but I think that was mostly hype perpetrated by his neocon fellow travelers and lapped up by the lamestream media.

George W, however--tough minded? You must be on drugs, Mr. Adelman. That overprivileged, incurious, underachieving over-aged frat boy is NOT tough minded. Irrationally stubborn, yes. Tough minded, no.

Posted by: nicekid | June 24, 2010 1:20 PM
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