#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller

Where does the buck stop?

Recently, I received a forward from one of my closest and most deeply respected friends. (Our political views could hardly be more different, and yet we find common ground in so many ways.)

The piece in question was written by Molly Ivins. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ms. Ivins, she is a Texan and a journalist of considerable accomplishment. She is smart and she is funny–two qualities I value very highly–and she’s not afraid to speak her mind. The forward basically damned the President for his handling, or mishandling, of the Disaster I Promised Not to Talk About (for a while), and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

For all Ms. Ivins’s qualifications, she cannot be considered unbiased. She makes a career of Bush-bashing, and one can only wonder how she occupied herself while the last President was in office. There was, after all, so little to criticize. (Don’t write to me. You won’t change my mind. I admired Bill Clinton in many ways, but let’s face it, Integrity Boy, he wasn’t. He was good in a crisis, provided he wasn’t engaged in a sexual pecadillo at the time, and thereby distracted.)

NO, I am not defending the way President Bush has handled the current situation. I am saying that any President, Republican, Democrat, Muggle or Wizard, is an archetypal figurehead representing all Americans. He (hopefully, someday, she) does not stand alone on the pages of history, but inherits, to some degree, the effects of causes set in motion by previous Presidents, along with the responsibility for his own actions and inactions. (I guess, technically, the buck stops with George Washington, but he was a stand-up kind of guy, so no fair blaming him. He had his hands full just getting the thing rolling.)

The current climate seems to be one of putting all the blame on the archetype in the Oval Office. People are furious that there wasn’t an instant response to the crisis. As one writer said, it’s as if there should have been National Guard troops standing ready at the borders of the Gulf States just in case. What’s that about? An operation of this scope takes time to orchestrate, and if it isn’t well thought through in the beginning, it will be ineffective at best and compound the problems at worst.

In my humble opinion, we are scapegoating the President, and it’s mighty convenient, but the hard truth is, he is our representative. And it doesn’t matter how you voted. The reality is, he’s the guy. BUT…

WE are the ones who were unprepared.

WE are the grasshoppers who thought it would always be summer.

WE are the people.

And the buck stops, not just with the President, but with us, individually and collectively.

It’s easy to point the finger, but is it fair? Is it productive? Is it even realistic?

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