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I was taught by my parents that it was good sense and good manners to avoid talking about religion and politics if you wanted to maintain harmony.  But the revelations in Rage, Bob Woodward’s recent book, confirming from Donald Trump’s own mouth that he knew early on that the coronavirus was deadly yet he ‘played it down’ (yet another euphemism for yet another lie) shocked me, although it didn’t surprise me.

Leaders, from Moses facing up to the might of Pharoah to Winston Churchill facing up to Hitler, have always been open about the challenges the people they led faced and these leaders acted to overcome those challenges.  They did not cover up the challenge, lie and mislead their people about the threat, pass the buck and deliberately put their people in harm’s way to serve their personal needs.

I was listening to Bob Woodward’s co-Watergate journalist at the Washington Post, Carl Bernstein, this morning.  When asked whether he thought that Trump’s actions were comparable to the Watergate scandal, he flat out said that it was much worse because Trump’s actions have led and continue to lead to the death of tens of thousands of Americans. 

There cannot be any greater sin for a person in a leadership position to commit.

It made me look back at some of the reams of reporting on Watergate for context – after all, Nixon’s malfeasance led to him resign when members of his party told him that his actions were beyond the pale and the unedifying sight of him fleeing the White House in a helicopter.

“What Richard Nixon did that was wrong,” the Washington Post explained, “was to surround himself with a group of aides who were unaccountable to anyone but himself, whom he empowered to … further Mr. Nixon’s political interests and personal animosities. Then he and they lied about it and further tried to employ the intelligence agencies of government to concoct an alibi for them; they paid people to lie in federal court about their involvement. And for almost two years, with great contempt for the public and also, incidentally, for their own political supporters who went out on a limb for them, they kept lying — using the White House Oval Office to lend majesty to the criminal cover-up.”

Doesn’t that sound eerily familiar? Except I don’t see the GOP senators showing the moral fortitude of their predecessors.

On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention and heard Abraham Lincoln pronounce that, “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it”.   He went on to proclaim that ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

He was referring to the abolition of slavery, but it resonates just as strongly today in reference to Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric, his inaction on the coronavirus and in relation to social and racial tensions in the USA.

I go back to the admonishment that you have heard from me many times before:

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. America is at a dangerous crossroads.

The post The Ultimate Leadership Sin first appeared on David Cairns of Finavon.

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