Webster’s dictionary defines leadership this way: “The power or ability to lead other people.” A business dictionary defines it as “establishing a clear vision, sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision.” Can we honestly say this describes Thad Cochran’s time in Washington over the last four decades? Many conservatives think not.
But our state leaders certainly think so. Since Senator Cochran’s decision to seek a seventh term in the US Senate, we have seen an outpouring of support from the establishment of the Mississippi Republican Party, almost all of the praise centered on his leadership.
Congressman Gregg Harper called him a “true statesman” who has “dedicated his life to serving the people of Mississippi. And Mississippi needs his leadership in the U.S. Senate now more than ever.” Cochran’s colleague in the Senate, Roger Wicker, said the “people of Mississippi need his experience and proven conservative leadership more than ever.”
Governor Phil Bryant was equally praiseworthy, noting that the “state has benefited from Sen. Cochran’s leadership for over three decades. In today’s political environment, we need this experience for Mississippi’s future.” And Lt. Governor Tate Reeves added that “Republicans have a major fight in Washington to unwind the Obama agenda in the next six years, and we need our best minds on the job. I hope all Republicans will rally behind Thad Cochran.”
May I be so bold as to ask a simple question: What leadership has Thad Cochran truly exhibited? Let’s look at a recent example shall we, the latest shenanigan from Washington – the Ryan-Murray budget deal.
Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, teamed up with Senator Patty Murray of Washington, a hyper liberal, to offer the American people a new federal budget. It does away with the sequester cuts, raises taxes and fees to make up for those cuts, and increases discretionary spending from $967 billion to $1.015 trillion by 2015. The package’s authors claim it will cut spending by $23 billion … over ten years! But it actually increases it by $85 billion. Conservatives quickly denounced the plan as “irresponsible,” “shameful,” a “capitulation,” and the “final surrender” of Republican leadership.
Senator Chris McDaniel exercised true leadership and came out strongly against the deal. “Our country is facing a debt crisis,” he said, “and instead of cutting spending, Washington politicians are making deals to eliminate what small spending cuts are already in place and increase spending further. The Ryan-Murray deal is a complete abdication of Washington’s governing responsibility.” But unfortunately, he continued, “Republicans in Washington are just as much to blame as Democrats. After increasing spending for years, many Republican politicians are now acquiescing to Democratic demands to continue business as usual. I urge Sen. Cochran to reject this deal and insist on absolutely no spending increases.”
Yet Senator Cochran did not take a stand or reject the deal outright, nor did he issue a strong statement opposing it like Senator McDaniel and other conservatives did. When asked whether he would vote for it or not, Cochran responded by saying “I hope I don’t have to.”
What kind of an answer is that? It’s a political one, meaning he would love to vote for it but is afraid he might take a political beating if he does. That is not leadership.
But as we have painfully learned from Barack Obama’s presidency, you can’t lead from behind, which seems to be the Senator’s style. In 2006, Time magazine labeled him the “quiet persuader,” not a title worthy of a true leader.
Leadership is not being quiet. It is standing up forcefully for what you believe in, no matter the political cost. It means fighting for principles against the odds, no matter what others may say. It is standing in the gap against the forces trying to destroy the economy, no matter what consequences may come.
Chris McDaniel has done this on more occasions than we can count. His very campaign against Thad Cochran is one of the biggest examples of courage, conviction, and leadership. But there are others. From confronting Haley Barbour in his attempt to destroy private property rights to his stance against state Democratic plan to manipulate the redistricting process, it was Senator McDaniel who stood with the people of Mississippi.
And how about Obamacare? It is the most atrocious law ever enacted by the federal government, which will obliterate the current healthcare system, destroy jobs, and bankrupt the country. Where was Thad in the fight over Obamacare? Sure he voted against it, but so did every other Republican, so that’s no big deal. Why did he not use his famed leadership in efforts to repeal and defund it? In fact, he voted to fund it, not once but twice.
Senator McDaniel saw the dangers in the law and vowed to confront President Obama’s power grab. He took the initiative and filed a private lawsuit against the administration, putting a giant bull’s-eye on his back in the process. But he stood tall and never backed down. By contrast, Thad refused to join Senator Ted Cruz in his filibuster efforts to defund it. But, having voted to fund it, it’s not surprising he was nowhere to be found. That’s not leadership; that’s surrender.
But, to be fair, we must give credit where credit is truly due. Senator Cochran has exhibited what might be called leadership in one big area: spending and wasting taxpayer dollars. He’s got that ability down pat. The problem is his freewheeling ways on spending has led us right down the path toward bankruptcy, a road that will surely devastate the economy and threatened the future for our children and grandchildren. If that’s what his supporters’ believe to be true leadership, then let us have no more of it.
“Men don’t follow titles, they follow courage,” said Mel Gibson’s William Wallace in the movie “Braveheart.” Senator McDaniel exhibits every ounce of that kind of courage. His life and career has more than demonstrated it. And it is through that kind of leadership that we can fix our sinking ship of state.
Laurel Leader Call, Saturday, December 21, 2013