Why It’s Important

There’s been a respectable flap over the fact that Hillary Clinton sort of embellished when it came to the trip she made to Bosnia as the First Lady as Mike first pointed out earlier today.  Now, on the whole, this isn’t much more than what all campaigns do, and that is make the candidate look more heroic than they really are.

To be perfectly honest, I can only fault any individual candidate so much for doing this kind of thing because when we get right down to it, political campaigns are essentially the candidates selling themselves to the voters.  In any other kind of market, you don’t sell your product by saying, “My product sucks.”  No, you sell it by saying, “My product will make you breakfast in the morning, clean your house through the day, and walk on water just before getting back in the kitchen to cook your dinner.”

Anyone in advertising will probably agree with me.  But there is one thing about this instance that bothers me just a little bit more than usual.  To understand, I have to tell a sea story.

I’ve served under a great many officers whilst in the Navy, but during shipboard life, I’ve only served under three department heads.  The first one I served under was brilliant, a man who started off as an enlisted sailor, worked his way all the way up to the tops of the enlisted ranks, got commissioned, and did the same thing as an officer.  By the time I met him he had been in the Navy twice as long as I had been alive, and he was a captain (O-6).  In fact, word was, he was senior to the actual captain of the ship.

This was a man who knew both his people and his equipment.  He knew more than his technical experts and he knew his crew by their nicknames, and he had a hands on leadership style that I never forgot during my career in the Navy.

He was unfortunately replaced by another captain, this one not so senior, nor did this one ever serve in an enlisted uniform.  What was worse was that this guy seemed to not care to know the people that worked for him, nor the equipment that they worked on.  Needless to say, morale and departmental readiness fell appreciably under his stewardship.

But for all the grievances I and many of my other shipmates had, it took a senior sailor and a friend of mine to point out one of the biggest flaws that this new department head had.  He wore coveralls while the old one only ever wore khakis.

This may not seem much like a big deal, but as my friend and mentor pointed out, the subtle difference spoke a great deal about the nature and character of both men.  The first captain never wore coveralls because after a long career built off of hard work and excellent performance, his rank and stature meant his time of wearing coveralls was over.  His job wasn’t to crawl around in bilges or spend hours on end slogging through pump maintenance.  His job was oversight and paperwork.  He was the guy that made sure all the trains ran on time, so to speak.

The second department head was still a captain, and he too was beyond bilge diving and dirty work, but the wearing of the coveralls denoted a lack of understanding of this, and thus, a lack of understanding and respect for the work that we on the deck-plates did.

This would be analogous to the regional director of whatever firm you work for trying to pretend that he knows what your job is like and that his life is just as hard and demanding as yours.  It isn’t.  Both people have different jobs, different stressors, and different privileges.

So the fact that the department head wore coveralls was essentially something of an insult.  Granted it was an unintentional insult, but it was an insult all the same.  More importantly, it denoted a total lack of understanding of what was going on in his department.

What’s this have to do with Hillary Clinton?  I see the “landing under sniper fire” embellishment as something akin to Hillary Clinton wearing coveralls.  It shows a blatant lack of understanding and therefore respect for those men and women who actually do operate under sniper fire every day.  I’m not trying to say that she did so maliciously, of course she didn’t, but this is kind of the message that gets sent out.

The point is, no one expects the first lady to be some commando-super-soldier.  We expect her to be the first lady, and when she became a senator, we expected her to be a senator.  Should she manage to win the presidency, we expect her to be the Commander in Chief, and a respectful and responsible one.

Not, might I add, a carbon copy of George W. Bush who wore his own coveralls on a fateful day when he flew onto the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and stood under a sign that declared, “Mission Accomplished,” when the mission was very far from being accomplished.

2 Responses to “Why It’s Important”

  1. Dynamic says:

    This is a good parable, and a good insight into what it takes to be a leader (rather than just a manager).

  2. Thanks man. I appreciate that.

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  1. Five More Reasons Why Hillary Clinton’s Bosnia Lie Is Important » Comments from Left Field - [...] my own personal reaction to the Bosnia lie put forth by Hillary Clinton.  It shows a blatant disconnect between…

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