Leadership -- what Ted Cruz taught us this week

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Some of Ted Cruz’s harshest critics now concede that his 21-hour marathon Senate speech against ObamaCare ended up helping him more than hurting him or the country.

Even the mainstream media, which tried to ignore the Cruz filibuster, were eventually forced to put portions of the talk on air by popular demand.

Why? Because Cruz was acting like a leader!

We have seen such weak and vacillating leadership coming from the halls of power recently that Americans thirst for a leader with solid principles.

Just look at three of those hallowed halls of power which have been wobbling along with no clear direction for at least a year now: the presidency, Congress and the Federal Reserve. All three offices seem half full, without mantles of solid leadership.

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As for the presidency, take two issues….foreign and domestic.

On Syria, the president’s vacillating on whether or not to attack the Assad regime became a sick joke.

At first he was going to do it on his own. Then, at the last minute, he threw it over to Congress, which was about to throw it back to him when the Russians came along and recognized an opportunity. Putin’s deal will essentially leave his ally Assad in power, and Assad may actually end up a billion dollars richer, which is the amount he told Fox News he wants to clean up chemical weapons.

The president’s vacillating led to precisely the opposite outcome on which he originally insisted.

On the domestic side, the president is seen as incompetent in dealing with the economy and with health care in particular.

His most recent admission that ObamaCare actually has caused taxes to go up “on some things,” is a reversal of a solemn promise not to raise taxes for ObamaCare.

Of course it’s also an insult to those “things,” which are not things at all, but millions of Americans who are taking another hit to their dwindling disposable income.

A look at Congressional “leadership” is hardly more encouraging. House Speaker John Boehner’s recent waffling over the budget is an example.

At first, Boehner was obviously not pleased with a confrontational approach to the budget that stripped out ObamaCare and threatened a government shutdown. But he was overruled by his Republican members who are getting an earful from constituents about how costly and unfair ObamaCare is.

So he sent over to the Senate an ObamaCare-less bill that prompted Senate leader Harry Reid to shriek bloody murder, which led Sen. Cruz to the podium for 21 hours and 19 minutes.

Now Mr. Boehner appears to be waiting for his next set of instructions from conservative House Republicans about where to go from here.

The point is that you can’t be a leader and a follower at the same time. The contrast between Mr. Boehner and the previous House Leader Nancy Pelosi is stark.

She ruled the House with an iron fist.

While his experiment with ruling it in a more democratic manor has been honorable, it’s been very messy and even more confusing.

In looking for the “right” style, I think the best models were Tip O'Neill or Newt Gingrich. Both men were tough, but they knew how to make deals with the other side, which Ms. Pelosi never did.

Then we have the Federal Reserve Board. Like John Boehner, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has sought to contrast his loose management style from the more autocratic style of his two predecessors, Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker.

But like John Boehner, Bernanke’s lack of a firm hand has led to confusion about his intentions.

The recent back and forth on when he’ll cut back on his accommodating (to Wall Street and politicians) monetary policy is a perfect example.

Last May, Bernanke began to hint that he may slow down on the billions of dollars he creates each month to buy government debt.

Just that suggestion sent the market tumbling. Now, market fluctuations would never have swayed Greenspan or Volcker from doing what they thought was right.

But Bernanke was so scared at the prospect of a market crash that he and other Fed officials began running around assuring any Wall Street audience they could find that they would only stop printing when the economy improved more. But as the economy did begin improving a bit during the summer, he still failed to pull the “tapering” lever earlier this month, even as Wall Street had more or less adjusted to the idea.

As a result, millions of savers are getting killed by negative interest rates, and real inflation is biting into everyone’s pockets.

Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan always looked immovable. They stood like rocks. And more than a few Americans stubbed their toes on those rocks. But at least you knew where they stood.

Bernanke looks and sounds more like a bureaucrat who’s not really sure of himself. And that’s not a good look for a leader, or for the people in whose trust his leadership depends.

Which brings us back to Ted Cruz. You know where he stands. And that’s the first rule of leadership. Stand tall and stand firm.

Of course, the taller you stand, the harder you fall. But that’s the risk that a true leader has to be willing to take.