Presidential Scandals: Nothing New Under the Sun (Pt. 3)

Presidents, Corporate Culture, and the National Mood

The President of the United States is in many ways like the CEO of Uncle Sam, Inc., the world' biggest corporation. As such, he, like all other top executives and presidents before him, sets corporate culture.

The boss sets the tone, and it's always been true. Who is Barack Obama and what is his tone?

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said May 26 Obama's "take no prisoners attitude" led to the IRS' alleged targeting of organizations whose ideas might oppose the Obama agenda. Senator Rand Paul went further the same day, saying on ABC's "This Week" the President is "really losing the moral authority to lead the nation," as result of the perfect storm of scandals swirling around his administration.

White House spokesman Jay Carney is working overtime to keep the president personally removed from these scandals. But intuitively, most people know that company culture, by intent or default spreads down the whole organization chart, including the values, worldview, and behaviors of the people who populate the lines and boxes. "The princes of Judah have become like those who move a boundary," says Hosea 5:10. (NASU) Leaders have boundary-moving power, and when they stretch moral limits, those who serve under them think they can play outside the lines too.

Warren Harding, womanizer, gambler, and flaunter of some of the laws he was sworn to uphold, set a corporate culture that resulted in his Justice Department being known as the "Department of Easy Virtue." Another Harding pal and appointee, Albert Fall, Secretary of the Interior, "was the first to pick the pockets of his countrymen," notes Nathan Miller in his book on the 1920s, New World Coming. Harding's choice to lead the Veteran's Bureau was so corrupt money designated for the relief of America's World War 1 veterans went into his own bank accounts.

No wonder Miller wrote that the Harding Administration "was honeycombed with corruption."

I couldn't help but think about George McGovern in 1972 opining that the election between him and Richard Nixon was a struggle between good and evil. The Nixon Administration, McGovern said, was "the most corrupt and immoral in the history of this country."

The subsequent Watergate findings, and especially the Oval Office tapes, affirmed McGovern's characterization – corruption and immorality did afflict key members of the Nixon team. The recordings revealed starkly that for good or evil, the top leader sets the tone for his big corporation.

The country's chief executive not only sets the tone for his corporate empire, but the mood for the nation itself. Back to Hosea: "Like priests, like people – since the priests are wicked, the people are wicked too." (Hosea 4:9 NLT) The nation's president is the high priest of the civil religion. His outlook and character impact the national mood.

America's shifting mood is as woozy and multi-hued as a 1960s lava lamp. There was James Monroe's "Era of Good Feeling", the romanticism of the Teddy Roosevelt era, the utopianism of the Woodrow Wilson presidency, the 1920s raunchiness of Harding's America, the Hoover despair, FDR and Reagan optimism, Kennedy idealism, Lyndon Johnson's age of anger, the Nixon gloom, the Ford hiatus, the Carter malaise, to name a few.

Where has Obama led us? The core worldview, character and style of a top leader – be it a company or a government – sets the mood of stakeholders and constituents. Moses, foreseeing Israel placing itself under a human king, understood the linkage between the leader, culture, and mood. He laid down a principle that today's power-holders should heed - especially presidents, prime ministers, and other national leaders:

"Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom ..." (Deuteronomy 17:18-20 NASU)

America won the War for Independence, survived the brutal rips of the War Between the States, stayed on her feet in World War 1, triumphed in World War 2, kept breathing after the Korean war, stayed alive through the Cold War, and even had a pulse after the Vietnam horror.

But can we continue to survive our Presidents?

The bottom line: Whatever rules over the heart of the king - or queen, president, premier, prime minister, CEO, Pastor, Coach, Principal, Parent - determines how he or she rules over a nation, corporation, team, school, church, family, or any other institution.

So Proverbs 11:11 says, "By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down." (NASU)

Wallace Henley, a former Birmingham News staff writer, was an aide in the Nixon White House, and congressional chief of staff. He is a teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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