The President Needs to Be a Bigger A$$hole

Donald Trump

It has been stated that leadership is the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand. [John Ortberg]

This means that being a leader isn’t about being like necessarily, or making others happy. Being a leader often means having to make difficult decisions that will disappoint others. The key is knowing how to do that and when to do that.

Disappointing others often means being an asshole. Let me explain. We’ve all been in that situation when we were about to do something stupid–maybe with a group of friends–and there is that one asshole who tells us how wrong it is, gets us to understand the long-term repercussions, and eventually talks us out of it. At the time, we are disappointed, but eventually we are grateful that they saved us from what could have been a tragic situation. They have disappointed us, but at a pace we can stand.

What we need now is for President Trump to be that asshole with COVID-19. Right now all the states are doing their own thing. Things are a mess and it is out of control. There is no one leader at the top telling us all the right thing to do; on the contrary, for a variety of reasons the President has avoiding doing this all along. It may be because he is afraid that he’ll appear weak or, more likely, because he does not want to disappoint American citizens by making us do something unpopular…like enforcing the wearing of masks, social distancing, and closing establishments that cannot guarantee a reasonable level of safety. Nobody wants to be an asshole, but often it is the asshole who saves our asses.

President Trump, we need you now–more than ever–to be that asshole. We need you to disappoint us by telling us we cannot do whatever we want. We need you to disappoint us by telling us that freedom also comes with responsibility. We need you to disappoint us by demanding that we all do what is necessary to control the spread of this virus before it wreaks further havoc on our health and our livelihoods.

Mr. Trump, we need you to be an asshole. I’m pretty sure you’re up to the task; you’ve been one before. More, now than ever, we need you to disappoint us. Please be the leading asshole in nation.

Korach and Leadership

ORT-21 Tochka

Parashat Korach is considered by many to be the most revolting Torah portion there is.  (See what I did there?)  It is about the rebellion of Korach, Datan and Aviram against the leadership of Moses and Aaron as the Israelites began their wanderings in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.

At first read, the case brought by Korach and his followers seems like a legitimate challenge.  They want to know who put Moses and Aaron above everyone else; after all, are not all the Israelites holy?  Traditional commentaries have noted that their complaint was really a cover for a power grab.  Whereas Moses felt a responsibility to God and the people, it appears that the rebels were more interested in elevating themselves.  These are two very different views of leadership, and ultimately God makes it clear which one is preferable; Korach and his followers were swallowed whole into the earth.

On this post-Independence Day Shabbat, we reflect upon the history of our nation.  Like at Passover, we recognize the value of the freedoms that we sometimes take for granted.  We also consider those whose leadership—like Moses’—brought us through many challenging times.  It has been the sacrifices of members of our Armed Forces that have helped to ensure our freedoms, but it has also been the service of duly elected officials that have labored on behalf of the people.  Likewise, each of us has a responsibility to hold our officials to the standards set by our Constitution and our history; that is part of what we do to preserve this grand democratic experiment.  Let us be wary, though, that we do so for the right reasons—not for a power grab, but rather to benefit all those with whom we share this great country.