by Steve Adubato, PhD
Sometimes leadership comes down to doing what’s right, not only for yourself and those closest to you. Sometimes leadership comes down to doing what’s right, even if you think strategically it may have a negative impact on your personal or professional ambitions. Sometimes leadership comes down to simply stepping up for the larger good. Such is the case with Congressman Paul Ryan and the spectacle surrounding the vacancy to fill outgoing House Speaker John Boehner’s position. To be clear, the Speaker of the House is the second most powerful political post in the country. For the Republicans, it will be the most important political leadership position – bar none. But make no mistake; it is no easy job – far from it.
Republicans in the House are fractured with a wing broken off and tied to the Tea Party movement. They don’t want to compromise very much with the White House and celebrated John Boehner stepping down because they thought he wasn’t strident enough in his opposition to President Obama. For me, the Tea Party movement has never been about leadership but has always been about simply trying to get what you want and when you can’t, taking your ball and going home – or in the case of Congress, simply shutting down the federal government. Only one catch…when that happens Veterans don’t get their benefits, federal parks are closed, and critical health services aren’t provided to the people that need them. These are just some of the reasons why the House of Representatives needs a strong Speaker; a strong leader who can bring together the Republican Party, work with folks on the far right and find some common ground with the Obama White House – which is not easy to do.
If Paul Ryan doesn’t take this post there’s no telling what will happen, not just to Congress but to our nation. Critical decisions must be reached between the White House and Congress over the debt ceiling and the continuation of the federal government. Something should be done about the funding of Planned Parenthood where serious questions have been raised about how those dollars are being spent. Shutting down the government over these issues is not leadership, it’s petulant and childish and dangerous, but that’s what the Tea Party wing of the House really wants. In my opinion, only Paul Ryan has the ability to talk them off the ledge and help those 40 or so members of the House understand that doing so will not just hurt the Republican Party but, more importantly, will hurt our country and the citizens they were sent to Washington to serve.
Paul Ryan stepping up, leading and doing what is extraordinarily difficult for him and his family by agreeing to become the Speaker of the House would be a very big deal. If he does it, I am hopeful he can bring together the forces of the GOP and work with the White House. It’s the patriotic thing to do. It’s what a great leader would do. It’s what someone who wants to be president of the United States would do, and last time I checked, Paul Ryan wants to be president.
Bottom line, sometimes the lesson in leadership is to do what is painful and difficult in the short term and hope that somehow, because of the good that comes from it, you reach your goals in the long term. If Paul Ryan says no, he can only hope and pray that things turn out well in Washington, but when it comes to the leadership needed hope and prayer won’t be nearly enough.