Why Does President Obama Not Mention Hillary?

I’ve been wondering this for a few weeks now. You’d think she died. I’ve been expecting to hear President Obama and Vice President Biden say “We had an exceptional candidate.” But, instead, nothing. What’s the story?  Even in his last press conference today, again nothing.

President Obama and Michelle were in her corner toward the end of the campaign. Bill Clinton saved his campaign with his exceptional convention speech four years ago. President Obama whispered in Hillary’s ear a couple of months ago that he would be with her and yet here he is saying nothing about her.

Even if there are some hard feelings about whether he shared what he knew soon enough, he is the president. He can rise above those. And if there aren’t hard feeling between them, then let’s hear some praise for a race hard run. It’s the least the outgoing administration can do.

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What Are the Signs of a Government Turning Pathological?

In The Secret Handshake, written long before the post-election political maelstrom we’re now experiencing in the U.S. and in many countries around the world, four types of political arenas are described.  So, too, are the political styles of employees that suit them best.

All human organizations have some degree of political activity — positive and negative — ranging from minimally political to pathologically political.  Below is a description of pathological politics taken from The Secret Handshake.  You can decide for yourself if the U.S. government is healthy or perhaps precariously perched on the edge of pathology — if not worse.

Daily interactions are fractious when pathology exists.  Conflict is both long-lasting and pervasive.  Nearly every goal is achieved by going around the formal procedures and organization.  People tend to distrust each other.  Information  massaging is the only form of communication.  Out of necessity, people spend a lot of time watching their backs.

Unless leaders of such organizations become aware of and reverse pathology, they tend to self-destruct.  Unfortunately, they often take a lot of good people with them ruining careers to keep the pathology intact.

Below is a list from The Secret Handshake of “Tell-Tale Signs of Cultural Pathology” in groups, businesses and governments.

  1.  Frequent flattering of those in power coupled with abusiveness toward people in less powerful positions is a sure sign of creeping organizational pathology.  Flattery may not get you everywhere, but it is often used by those who fear they cannot advance on their own merits.
  2. Another sign of cultural degeneration is information massaging.  When hardly anyone says (and means) anything that might rock the boat, you can be sure that the organization is at least becoming or is pathological.  When people communicate via hint instead of directly expressing their views, the roots of pathology are present.
  3. “Poisoning the well,” is another political activity indicative of pathology in organizations and government.  The thing to look for is people frequently fabricating negative information about others.  They drop defaming information into conversations and meetings in the hope of ruining the target’s career chances.  Gossip and verbal backstabbing are common here.
  4. Some organizations are poisoned by the people in charge.  There’s no need to poison the well.  In such organizations there’s a cold indifference.  No one is valued  for long; in fact, everyone is dispensable — and feels that way.  The only way to survive is to become obsequious to those in charge and to get someone else before he or she gets you.
  5. Whenever there is a good deal of “fake left, go right” strategy — leading others in the wrong direction in order to look good oneself — organizational pathology can be found. A sense of organizational teamwork is absent as individuals’ careers are sacrificed to save those who are misleading them.  Sometimes teams mislead teams, with the spoils going to the victor — the one that faked the best.

If you are a political purist or anything other than a street fighter or manipulator, it is improbable that you will last long in this type of setting.  Besides, the people who run such political arenas don’t trust political purists or team players with the best interests of positive organizational goals in mind.  So, the people hired are mostly flatterers and liars facilitating the deterioration of the organization, what management expert Henry Mintzberg described as “scavengers that swarm over a carcass” in terms of ethics and constructive productivity.

Does this sound familiar?  If so, send this description to your senators and representatives.  They may need the help.

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A Scary Post-Trump Election Form of Reporting – Pathetic Make-Nice News

We should prepare ourselves for the emergence of a form of reporting that surely has existed but not on the scale we’re likely to soon experience. With Donald Trump attacking news outlets and individual reporters — denying them access when he doesn’t like what they report — intimidation of some journalists is to be expected.

The PEOTUS team has been planning new ways of treating the press at the White House that may well involve rewarding favorites.  It doesn’t take a prescient observer to predict that under such circumstances make-nice to the president news will be on the rise.

CNN Brian Stelter’s contentious interview with BuzzFeed’s editor Ben Smith, lecturing him on good journalism after Trump put both in the same basket of enemies, is an example.  Smith made an important point about this kind of your-dog-is-worse-than-my dog bickering between journalists:

I think — you know, there’s obviously an attempt to divide the press, to turn us on each other and to turn reasonable differences about editorial decisions into screaming matches between us on this show. I think that’s a trap that the media has obviously repeatedly fallen into over the last couple of years, but I think it’s better not to right now.

CNN’s recent New Day interview of Representative Jerry Nadler (Dem – N.Y.) by Alisyn Camerota also had some hallmarks of compensatory, make-nice to Donald Trump press. On the same day, CNN’s David Gregory was critical of John Lewis’ decision.  And while that is fair enough on its own, with some exceptions CNN’s televised coverage has taken a tilt toward kowtowing to Trump since he attacked their journalistic integrity.

My article on “Courage as a Skill” in The Harvard Business Review describes the steps required to make extremely difficult ethical decisions. Congressman John Lewis made a thoughtful, personal and courageous decision to not attend Donald Trump’s inauguration — especially given the PEOTUS’s tendency to retaliate for what he perceives as personal slights.  Representative Lewis didn’t demand that others join him or engage in incivility.

In Lewis’ estimation, given Donald Trump’s derogatory campaign comments about minorities, people with disabilities, and women conjoined with the intelligence report received by the public and by Congress behind closed doors, he could not in good conscience attend the inauguration.

Using Representatives John Lewis and Jerry Nadler, and others, to engage in make-nice news to appease Donald Trump, if that is indeed the case, is not only bad journalistic form, it’s an insult and threat to a free and responsible press.


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Will Trump Bring His Businesses Back to the U.S.A.?

While it’s impossible to know exactly what Trump owns and who he owes, we do know that he is likely doing business in 25 countries.  He is either involved in building edifices, hotels and golf courses or licensing his name for millions each year — along with manufacturing clothing  in other countries as well.

So, shouldn’t more journalists be repeatedly asking him when he will cease to do business anywhere other than in the United States?  When will he insist that all future projects be U.S. based?  Will his entire family do the same?

With great fanfare, he is pressuring businesses to keep their manufacturing in the U.S.  He’s blaming and shaming.  So, when is his turn?  Otherwise, isn’t it just more hypocrisy?





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Is the CIA “Politicized”? An Academic Addendum to Mike Pompeo’s Response

Even church choirs are political entities.  When human being come together to achieve a goal, political activity emerges.  Wherever there is competition of ideas and/or people, political behavior exists.

So it should be no surprise if intelligence agencies are to some extent politicized. That is what The Secret Handshake and It’s All Politics are about — how political behavior is manifested in organizations, what types are more conducive to effective work and what individuals and leaders can do to manage politics.

When Mike Pompeo, nominee for CIA Director, was asked in today’s hearing if the CIA is politicized, he likely interpreted that question in terms of political party influence and so replied that he hasn’t observed the problem.  But there is another often less obvious and more virulent form of politics in organizations.

The type of politics that every organization must watch has nothing to do with political parties.  It is about, in part, how things get done, whose ideas are heard, accepted and rejected, who is rewarded for what behaviors, and the nature of communication types and flow.

It’s imperative that the next director of any U.S. intelligence agency appreciate this type of politics and work to assure that the culture of the organization does not fall into, or anywhere near, political arenas described in The Secret Handshake as “pathological.”  When organizations are so infected, they are usually in the process of self-destruction in terms of their more positive goals and often take a lot of good people with them before that destruction is complete.

It’s up to leaders to know enough about organizational politics to assure that the levels are at the minimal or moderate end of the continuum and stay there.  This means how organizational politics operate needs to be understood and managed.

I’ve worked with many organizations to achieve this goal.  When the work starts after an organization (in whole or part) is highly or pathologically political, ridding it of dysfunctional politics is much more difficult.  There is no reason to believe that government agencies are immune to dysfunctional politics.  The sooner people on the Hill begin to recognize this and take steps to manage politics, the better the American people will be served.

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What Part of “This Inauguration Can’t Go Forward” Do We Not Understand?

President Obama in his Farewell Address yesterday asked that anyone not pleased with the outcome of elections do something about it.  Take some responsibility.  Even run for office.  Don’t keep quiet.  Otherwise, he implied, you’re part of the problem.

On the same day that he spoke we learned the following:

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump…

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible.

Why were we fortunate to learn about this additional intelligence information even if so late?

One reason the nation’s intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington.

Then we’re told that Trump’s campaign surrogates were in touch with Russian government intermediaries during the election:

Now we’re supposed to sit back and accept that Trump must be inaugurated.  We’re supposed to clap and cheer, talk about which designers dressed Trump’s wife and daughters, and act as if we weren’t all duped.  Why?  Could it be so that Mike Pence, who didn’t run for president, can replace Trump rather than the woman who actually won 3 million more votes than Trump?

What part of this inauguration can’t go forward do we not understand?  Aren’t those insisting on a “smooth transition,” including Congress, complicit in potentially and perhaps irrevocably harming the U.S., democracy and the world order?  Of course they are.

This is not, by a long shot, what the American people expect of their leaders.  That is not what American patriots do.  That is not what a free press and the people should allow without a fight.


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Business Elites Get a Pass by the Press — While Meryl Streep is labeled a “Hollywood Elite”

Meryl Streep delivered an eloquent, brave, heartfelt speech at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony.  Here is an artist and businesswoman we can all admire.  Yet Donald Trump attempted to belittle her accomplishments by referring to her — of all people — as “overrated.”

As if that weren’t lowbrow enough for a man about to become U.S. president, many in the press have squeezed her into the easy category of “Hollywood elites.”  Yet Donald Trump is clearly a business elite —  not a man of the streets, born in dire circumstances, pulled up only by his own bootstraps, and a person of and for the people.

The international media celebration of senior business executives has, in many cases, enabled membership at the higher levels alone, rather than leadership acumen, to stand for  competence.  How often we’ve heard that Donald Trump is a businessman as if that endows him with what it takes to be a leader — to motivate people in ways that produce exceptional products within a culture characterized by moral principles rejecting of destructive insider politics.

How simplistic our thinking has become.  How facile the application of categories.  We have allowed ourselves to be duped by either-or boxes instead of examining categories and insisting that the press responsibly do so too.

Business is not a religion.  We need not kneel.  It is not superior to other forms of human activity.  We must start thinking — using our minds to reject simplistic categories that foster false dichotomies and demean so that the lesser among us might seem grand.

Kathleen has been a featured blogger at Huffington Post since 2005 and with Big Think.

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