Over the past few days, I’ve listened to some of the hearings Congress is holding regarding the IRS scandals, in particular, the one where the IRS targeted conservative groups, including religious organizations, slowing or denying them tax exempt status. As I watched some of the video replayed, I was shocked at the IRS Commissioner’s behavior. Completely ignoring the decorum and air of respect for Congress that are normally part of these proceedings, he interrupted speakers, belittled their statements, and did everything except answer their questions. And all the while, wearing a smug arrogant smile that told us all how proud he was of himself. I would have not been surprised if he were a young and inexperienced man, but he should know better.
At first, I wanted to reach through the internet and slap that smirk off his face. But late last night as I considered all of the day’s events, I found myself feeling sorry for Mr. Koskinen.
Because he cannot see that he is a pawn being manipulated by his political masters to protect more valuable pieces. They applaud him now, but when his usefulness is gone, well, does the name Christopher Stevens ring a bell? Mr. Koskinen happily sells his soul for a few hours in the national spotlight, so caught-up in the excitement that he does not realize what he has lost. And for what? To provide a few days of cover and distraction for a mob that loathes laws that limit their own ambitions and do not hesitate to leave Ambassadors to die.
I feel sorry for him because, in his response to Congress, he unwittingly revealed who he works for and where his loyalties lie. And it is not with we the people. Before Congress, he acts not like a man determined to serve his country, but a man who has been assured of a presidential appointment or pardon so he can play his cat and mouse game because he’s going to be okay either way.
I feel sorry for him because his behavior shows an empty hole in that little spot in a man’s soul where patriotic awe and wonder should reside. He feels no connection between where he sits and the sacrifice required by our nation’s founders and defenders to provide it. The overwhelming honor that he would be considered worthy to walk the corridors where so many of our nation’s heroes have trod eludes him completely, replaced instead by a childish urge to show the world how smart he is. Instead of wanting all of America to see his sincerity, he wants us to see how cute and clever he is. But like the bully we all knew in the second grade, he is the only one who is impressed.
I feel sorry for him because he would never understand a man like Sergeant Leon Seaton who spent the prime years of his youth fighting Hitler’s Nazis in Europe. Years later, when Sergeant Seaton was about Mr. Koskinen’s age and was asked to hold the flag for a Veteran’s Day program, he broke into tears when his fingers touched the fabric. I wonder if those like Mr. Koskinen can relate to anything like that? In their arrogance, they place nothing higher than themselves. Their small universe revolves around themselves and they are absolutely lost when someone suggests that there are some things more precious than life.
I feel sorry for him because he thinks he is responding to a few minor Congressmen, but it is the American taxpayer that is his audience. Those hard working men and women, who have already lost faith in most politicians, watch as yet another places his boot squarely in the middle of their backs as he reaches for a few more minutes of personal glory.
I feel sorry for those guys like John Koskinen because they do not respect the Constitution of the United States, therefore, they are unable to treasure it. It is this short and straightforward document that has given life to our democratic republic and has allowed it to thrive for more than 200 years. Ignoring world history, these fellows do not sense the miracle that is the United States. No other national government has at the core of its founding documents the fundamental rights of its citizens – even to the point of those citizens having the right to form a new government if the present one does not serve them. No other nation began, or survives, devoted to liberating the common man.
These men have no connection with the patriots who risked everything to gain and preserve our freedom. They will never be confused with our nation’s great statesmen – men of vision and passion who saw beyond their own interests. Men who used their platforms to promote and encourage eternal values like selflessness, liberty, honesty, integrity, and love of country. Instead of bringing honesty and truthfulness to the American people they pledged to serve, Mr. Koskinen and his kind find a sickening delight in obfuscating and confusing.
I feel sorry for him because, having been born to the Greatest Generation, he epitomizes the Clueless Generation, never realizing what could have been. No doubt familiar with the speeches of Winston Churchill, but a stranger to his resolve of character.
Guys like John Koskinen live in a world of no absolutes. Truth has no value. Integrity means nothing. Though grown and rich, they will never experience what really makes a man a man.
Where there are no absolutes, there is no rest for the Soul.
But the main reason I feel sorry for John Koskinen is his name. When all is said and done, all a man has is his name. All he has to leave his children is his name. From now on, the name Koskinen will be associated with half-truths, distrust, childish comebacks, and an arrogant smirk.
But it isn’t just those guys like John Koskinen I feel sorry for. I feel sorry for you and me. We deserve better. We are the ones who do the paying and the working, and, when necessary, the soldiering. We deserve leaders, not egotists who don’t even have enough self-respect to be embarrassed when they are caught in lies.
I know that humanity is fraught with weakness and the only perfect man got crucified. But is it asking too much for our leaders to at least pretend that they care about our country and its laws? Is it too much of a burden to remember that all of those Social Security numbers and 1040 forms represent real human beings with dreams, and hopes, and, yes, hurts, and needs?
Maybe if we paid more attention to what our children were taught in school we could raise up some leaders who understand what made American great and bring some of that back. But you won’t find it mentioned in our current history textbooks. Perhaps if we were as serious about our religious pursuits as we are our sports and fashion, maybe we would understand more about those things that are more precious than life.
It’s time that we look seriously at ourselves and our values and decide what is most important to us. Until we change, guys like John Koskinen, with their disdain of our laws and heritage, will sit in Congressional Hearings and disrespect the very things that made us great and our children will be none the wiser.
Ten Leadership Lessons From This Post
1. Leaders are in the game for the long haul. Therefore, they will not trade their integrity for a momentary victory or day in the sun.
2. Leaders know integrity is everything and won’t trade it for anything.
3. Leaders deliver a clear message and a sure sound: not confusion and uncertainty.
4. Leaders face problems head-on, fix them, then get back to building a better future.
5. Leaders speak to the audience, not just the fellow asking the questions.
6. Leaders stick to the issue.
7. Leaders wisely choose their battles.
8. Leaders always respecfully remember where they came from.
9. Leaders realize they owe a debt to the past and have an obligation to the future.
10.Leaders understand it is not about them.