I'm reading Rudy Giuliani's book, Leadership. He published this in 2002, so it has a lot of information about 9/11 and how he responded to it as mayor of New York City. Whether you like him or not as a presidential contender, Rudy is a great leader and his book is very relevant to me right now.
I particularly like the chapter called "Develop and Communicate Strong Beliefs." Giuliani says, "Expressing ideology is one of a leader's most powerful tools." I've watched and listened to Giuliani when he speaks in public, and he's really good at it. It's true...those who lead must know what they believe, stick to their beliefs in the face of opposition, and communicate those beliefs with confidence and clarity.
Which brings up a question I've thought about quite often...why doesn't President Bush use his bully pulpit more often? I mean, it seems like -- with issues like terrorism, the war in Iraq, immigration reform, tax relief, and health care reform breathing down his neck all the time -- a President would WANT to go on prime time TV at least once a week and speak about the things he believes are right. Nobody listens to those Saturday morning radio broadcasts. So why not get before the public on TV and tackle the issues directly? Wouldn't he pick up some support? Wouldn't he at least be able to educate people about stuff we may be totally ignorant about? I mean, he could use charts, give us the inside scoop, quote the experts, answer questions people are asking, etc. That seems like a no-brainer to me.
If I were President (God forbid) it seems like that's what I would do.
Presidents are the civic shepherds of the people. Wouldn't it get Bush some much-needed capital to talk directly to his sheep a LOT more often? If he can't put together a good talk, couldn't his peeps prop him up with a well-crafted explanation of why he believes we need to fight in Iraq, why we need to reform immigration laws, and the like? I'm not talking about a speech to some gathering of veterans or a news conference...I'm talking about a 30-minute address from the Oval Office to us, the people, every Sunday night, on an issue about which there is a lot of debate. Maybe people will disagree with his ideas, but at least they'd know what he believes and why.
Take immigration, for example. The legislation that Bush favored went down in defeat in the Senate this week. News reporters said over and over again how much Bush wanted that legislation to pass. He lobbied senators hard. He talked about it to the press. His press secretary Tony Snow talked about it on news shows. But I can't recall a single time Bush himself got before the people of America and told us why we need immigration reform. Maybe I just missed it. But my impression is that the legislation failed because in the absence of his leadership, conservatives on talk radio won the hearts and minds of the American people. I still don't know what I believe about that legislation. Maybe Bush was right about it. But he never told me why.
Giuliani writes, "A leader must not only set direction, but communicate that direction. He usually cannot simply impose his will -- and even if he could it's not the best way to lead. He must bring people aboard, excite them about his vision, and earn their support."