Monday, July 21, 2008

The heart of the matter

I’ve always thought that Lee Iacocca was a little batty, so when one of my brothers sent me a quote from his latest book today, I was prepared to roll my eyes. But I didn’t because he’s saying exactly what I’m thinking: “I’ve had enough!”

I made a cursory effort to confirm the validity of the source and couldn’t do it, but in the end I decided it didn’t matter who said it. It’s word up.
Lee says:

“Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course'

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America , not the damned 'Titanic'. I'll give you a sound bite: 'Throw all the bums out!'

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving 'pom-poms' instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of the ' America ' my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.

I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have. Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A Hell of a Mess So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia , while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: 'Where have all the leaders gone?' Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.
Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm.

Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan . Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when 'The Big Three' referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bonehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?"


hankster said...

Nice bluster. But, I remember back in the last 70's when he was hawking the K car. I think that was the name of Chrysler's first attempt to take on the imports. I also remember him later admitting it was a lemon, a dud...

d'blank said...

Very true Hank, plus Chrysler was the first of the late 20th century corporate welfare programs. But Lee, by most accounts, took very little money (he did it the Clinton way -- he was paid with fame that he turned into mega-buck book and speaking gigs). Either way it's beside the point to me -- i just thought it was well said.

jb said...

it is well said but where is his plan?

Anonymous said...

Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, so will this great nation. Freedom, and people's desire for it, are too powerful in the long run. This won't sound popular and i'm no right winger but I believe in 50 or 100 years W is going to propped up with Roosevelt and Lincoln for stemming what was to be the last best attempt of the muslims to take over the world. It's ugly, feels like a bees nest, but for the long term outlook of this now very small global community, it's a necessary evil to do what we're doing in the Middle East. Democracy is spreadiing and our children's children will benefit in a major way. In the meantime, it should be our jobs to think globally and act locally. I'm not talking about recycling your Pepsi can, I'm talking about staying home, raising our kids the right way, focusing on them instead of ourselves and empowering them to make the most of the world of opportunity coming to them. Oh and that gets a lot easier when you cancel your cable subscription and read a book instead of buying the Old Grey (and irrelevant) Lady every morning!

d'blank said...

Well Anon, before anyone else jumps down your throat, let me say you may be right about W. He may be seen as a great man for taking on radical Muslims, who I believe are a much bigger threat to the world than most Americans are willing to admit, and we had to fight them someplace. I just wish he'd gone about it in a more thoughtful and organized manner. So far we’ve achieved very little for the sacrifice of lives and treasure. America, Iraq and democracy would all be a lot better off if competent people had been in charge of the wars.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, better management a must. Having said that, what we've accomplished is debatable. I think it safe to speculate that we may have only moved the needle from 0 (tyranny) to 2 or 3 (democracy = 10) but if we didn't go in could Iraq be at a - 5 right now? Could it be much worse actually than it was when we first attacked? If so, have broght the middle east 3 up 3 places or 8?

kgwhit said...

Why should we expect people to be upset about the incompetent government we have? We have said since Ronnie that the problem is the government.

Homeland Security bid out to 4 companies the job of coming up with a plan and how to implement border security in the wake of the crisis on our borders.

They gave the contract to Boeing...I am pretty sure that was the company...and the plan was to use drones and other electronic devices to watch the border.

It didn't work...turns out Boeing never actually talked to anyone who is in border patrol on the border. Why would they? They are government workers, ergo dumber than dirt.

Our major businesses are geared towards Wall Street. The quarterly bottom line will drive up stock prices and executive packages, so that is the primary focus.

A friend who was a VP at MCI told me, when they were taken over by WorldCom, that it would go right down the toilet.

MCI had been a very good customer friendly alternative to AT&T. Ebbers bought the company. My friend said to watch out because his business plan is to take the stock as high as possible and not worry about the customer.

We were doing nearly a million a year with MCI and we were given some flunky just out of college as our new account exec. The senior people were let go as a cost cutting measure.

I said we'd renew our contract for three years if they would give us a new market rate. I suggested that he do that six months in advance so that we both would win. They had done things like that in the past.

He said he couldn't do that and came back about a week before the contract was to run out and offered the price I had suggested.

I already had a better deal with someone else. He was shocked we would leave.

Ebbers made a lot of money and went to jail. Sadly, he was not an aberration.

birdman said...

I enjoy a good rant as well as the next guy. This one was pretty good but lacked a bit seemed a bit disengenuious given that Chrysler was bailed out by the fed. Ioccoca then made his wad based on his managaement acumen which amounted to sticking his hand out to received a federal bailout. This may be a bit simplistic.

To Anonymous: The idea that GWB will be on Mount Rushmore in 50 years may be the most preposterous notion I've heard in years. He has poured gasoline on a powderkeg and dances around the pile with a lit zippo lighter and wonders where all the flames came from. That said, this guy is such old and irrelevant news that I'm just willing to move on and forget this bozo and try to fix the mess he left.

hankster said...

Anonymous, I haven't been able to conclude whether you are a troll or just plain stupid. I am leaning towards a bit of both. Look into the mirror and see what is wrong with this country. There are corrupt and/or misdirected leaders. There are followers. And there are apologists. You would be well served to open the NY Times and read it rather than using it as a kicking boy. I am convinced you have been reading the inside of a dirty diaper for news. If in fact you are purely a troll, you have got me: but I doubt it.