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Steve Lunetta: Speak only when you have the facts

Right About Now

Posted: July 25, 2010 10:21 p.m.
Updated: July 26, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Like many folks in business, I learned a long time ago that I needed to hear the whole story before passing judgment. At first glance, many situations can appear one way, but the addition of hidden or non-obvious information can change the whole scenario.

I once had a male supervisor who was accused of making sexual advances on a female subordinate. These were serious charges that merited a full investigation.  

When we sat down with the female, she told us the supervisor had been “sending her dreams at night” and “sent a talking rabbit to give her messages.” No joke. The supervisor was an excellent family man with an impeccable record. Case dismissed.

Another time, I had to counsel two individuals regarding their disruptive behavior in our department. Both of them wound up going to human resources and complaining that I showed favoritism to the other.

The funny thing was, neither one knew the other was complaining. On top of that, one claimed that I had showed favoritism due to my “long military record.” Only problem was, I was never in the military. After a good laugh with HR, the incident was closed.

Good managers and leaders always seek complete information to fully understand a situation before acting. This avoids tragic mistakes with unintended consequences.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration seems incapable of learning this simple but important lesson. Time after time, the White House stumbles and bumbles, especially when it comes to race issues.

Recently, the Agriculture Department ousted Shirley Sherrod — director of rural development in Georgia — for making racially charged statements. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reacted to the initial firestorm of publicity and terminated her employment.

Unfortunately, her comments were taken out of context since she was actually using the illustration to make the point that race should have nothing to do with decision-making. Vilsack and President Obama personally apologized to her and offered her a new job.

The Huffington Post reported that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said “everybody involved made determinations without knowing all the facts.” Gibbs went on to say that he “largely blamed that on a culture in which ‘things whip around. People want fast responses. We want to give fast responses.’”

So, to the Obama Administration, good leadership is simply fast responses, not well-reasoned and well-informed solutions?

This is disturbing indeed.  

If this was an isolated case, it would be no big deal. But it isn’t.

When black Harvard professor Louis Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct by a white police officer last year, Obama immediately condemned the incident and criticized the police for the handling of the situation.

Once again, the president did not have all of the facts. Not only did Sgt. James Crowley ignore repeated insults thrown at him by the unruly professor, he attempted to withdraw from the situation peacefully. After repeated warnings, Crowley was forced to arrest Gates because, frankly, Gates deserved it.

Obama apologized for his comments and was forced into having the infamous “beer summit” in the White House Rose Garden to encourage reconciliation between the parties. What he should have done was berate a racist professor and commend an honorable and disciplined cop.

In comparison to the administration’s near-glacial response time in reacting to the BP Gulf oil disaster, one must wonder why some issues get slow and fully investigated responses while others get the “Gibbs Fast Response” treatment?

The answer is simple. It’s still about race. As progressive as the administration is struggling to appear that it has moved beyond this impediment, it is consistently showing itself to be mired in all of the old sensitivities and problems of previous administrations.

But what if it is not about race? What if this is a management style that has infected this White House and threatens to impact other decision-making processes that have nothing to do with societal and social issues?

A knee-jerk response to a crisis is a truly dangerous thing for the leadership of this nation. A leader that reacts before thinking and gathering all pertinent data endangers us all.

Let us hope that the behavior shown by the administration is isolated to race issues and not general governance of the nation.  

In picking our next leader, we need to make sure that he/she is imbued with the patience to gather all the facts before making a decision. 2012 can’t come fast enough for me.

Steve Lunetta is resident of Santa Clarita and can be imperiously contacted at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the Signal.


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