Viewpoint -- Without DeLay

April 5, 2006
In Washington, D.C., the issue is a lack of leadership.

In Washington, D.C., this first full week of April, there was a reminder of how much attention is paid to personalities, sometimes to the detriment of issues. I am referring to former House majority leader Tom DeLay's announced departure from Congress. Dubbed "The Hammer" for his less-than-subtle manner of dealing with people, DeLay ultimately had relatively few defenders and a growing number of critics, not all of whom would go on-the-record to register their objections. However, as David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, has so astutely noted, the real issue is not DeLay but DeLayism, that collection of heavy-handed practices that do away with discussion and dissent, command blind loyalty and raise serious questions about ethics and legality.

There is no shortage of issues to be discussed in the continuing national debate about the proper roles of government. Among those issues are immigration, tax reform, Medicare's finances, China's protection of U.S. intellectual property, the Doha Round trade talks, the future of manufacturing, and national security. But there is a remarkable shortage of political leaders, the kind of people who can bring others, especially their fiercest critics, into discussions on those issues. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are distinguishing themselves by being leaders, although some of them gladly take that title. Neither the people in the White House nor those on Capitol Hill are demonstrating the kind of leadership that is based on principle, is a product of honest discussion and produces policy that can be faithfully defended and executed.

I sense among the nation's voters a growing feeling that the country would be better served if Tom DeLay weren't the only person making a dramatic exit this year from the capital city. But I wonder if voters are ready to go beyond their grumbling and carping. I wonder if they really care enough to enter into a discussion of issues during the next seven months and then vote in the November elections. Leadership of the kind I am writing about isn't only the province of people in Washington, D.C. It begins at the local level with individual voters. And it would be reassuring to see a return to it -- without delay.

About the Author

John McClenahen | Former Senior Editor, IndustryWeek

 John S. McClenahen, is an occasional essayist on the Web site of IndustryWeek, the executive management publication from which he retired in 2006. He began his journalism career as a broadcast journalist at Westinghouse Broadcasting’s KYW in Cleveland, Ohio. In May 1967, he joined Penton Media Inc. in Cleveland and in September 1967 was transferred to Washington, DC, the base from which for nearly 40 years he wrote primarily about national and international economics and politics, and corporate social responsibility.
      McClenahen, a native of Ohio now residing in Maryland, is an award-winning writer and photographer. He is the author of three books of poetry, most recently An Unexpected Poet (2013), and several books of photographs, including Black, White, and Shades of Grey (2014). He also is the author of a children’s book, Henry at His Beach (2014).
      His photograph “Provincetown: Fog Rising 2004” was selected for the Smithsonian Institution’s 2011 juried exhibition Artists at Work and displayed in the S. Dillon Ripley Center at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., from June until October 2011. Five of his photographs are in the collection of St. Lawrence University and displayed on campus in Canton, New York.
      John McClenahen’s essay “Incorporating America: Whitman in Context” was designated one of the five best works published in The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies during the twelve-year editorship of R. Barry Leavis of Rollins College. John McClenahen’s several journalism prizes include the coveted Jesse H. Neal Award. He also is the author of the commemorative poem “Upon 50 Years,” celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Wolfson College Cambridge, and appearing in “The Wolfson Review.”
      John McClenahen received a B.A. (English with a minor in government) from St. Lawrence University, an M.A., (English) from Western Reserve University, and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University, where he also pursued doctoral studies. At St. Lawrence University, he was elected to academic honor societies in English and government and to Omicron Delta Kappa, the University’s highest undergraduate honor. John McClenahen was a participant in the 32nd Annual Wharton Seminars for Journalists at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. During the Easter Term of the 1986 academic year, John McClenahen was the first American to hold a prestigious Press Fellowship at Wolfson College, Cambridge, in the United Kingdom.
      John McClenahen has served on the Editorial Board of Confluence: The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies and was co-founder and first editor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown. He has been a volunteer researcher on the William Steinway Diary Project at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and has been an assistant professorial lecturer at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.


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