|Governor Andrew Cuomo|
We returned from a shortened seven-week vacation last week. Part of getting resettled in our home was reinstalling a Roku we’d taken with us. It’s an easy task I’ve done many times before. Nevertheless, I tested it to make sure it worked properly. Coincidentally, I turned it on as Governor Andrew Cuomo was giving his daily press briefing. I never watch TV news (see Stop Watching Cable News Now); so, I hadn’t seen our governor in action despite hearing wonderful things about his leadership during the current pandemic.
Regular readers know I am not a fan. Yet, I was struck dumb as I listened to him. Who is this guy? I thought. He is calm, rational and articulate. Where is the arrogance to which we’ve become accustomed? Even his tone of voice had changed. He answered questions directly without evasion. If he didn’t know the answer to a question, he said so. If a member of his team couldn’t provide a good answer, he said they’d find out.
There is no doubt he will have to make some tough choices in the days and weeks ahead. He’ll move equipment to where it is most needed, move patients to facilities better prepared to handle them and approve triage protocols that sacrifice some in favor of others (much like it’s done on a battlefield). The trust he has engendered will give him the credibility to make those decisions on behalf of the citizens he serves.
Contrast Cuomo’s leadership with that of Captain Brett Crozier who, this week, was relieved of the command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear-powered aircraft stationed in the western Pacific. The whiners in the Twitterverse and the great grandson of the man for whom the ship is named have called him a hero. I submit that not only is he not a hero, he has failed in his basic responsibilities as Commanding Officer.
I must digress for a moment. Americans take the security provided by the military for granted. It took one hundred fifty years for the US Navy to achieve dominance of the seas. In the post-Revolutionary War years, American ships were attacked routinely by the British Navy and the United States did not have the sea power to respond. We have achieved our current status by virtue of the century-long pursuit of Manifest Destiny, our victories in World War II and the Spanish-American War (in which the aircraft carrier’s namesake was a central figure) and a deal made by FDR to take over the North Atlantic British naval bases prior to entering World War II. Despite our diminished status (the US Navy has half the ships it had a decade ago), no foreign power would dare challenge the US Navy directly.
What the military does to ensure our security is described as “readiness.” There is a lot of protocol or S.O.P. involved. In battle, no one should have any doubts who’s giving the orders. So, we observe a chain of command. Since readiness is what we must achieve to go to war at the drop of a hat, we provide reports of our status up the change of command. Today, as has been the case since well before I received my officer’s commission, the movement of ships and their readiness to go to war are highly classified.
An aircraft carrier is at the center of the Navy’s military capability and strategy. To reveal its operational status on an unsecured communication channel is an egregious breach of a process meant to ensure the national security of our nation. That’s why Crozier should have been and was properly relieved of his command.
In his op-ed in the New York Times, Tweed Roosevelt describes Captain Crozier as a hero because he sacrificed his career to do what he thought was right. Unfortunately, he wasn’t right. The official statement of the Secretary of the Navy outlines the reasons why.
As a midshipman at Crozier’s and my alma mater (U.S. Naval Academy), we were trained to say, “I’ll find out” rather than “I don’t know.” We were trained to say “no excuse” when asked why we screwed something up. The admiration heaped upon Cuomo has rightly resulted from his adoption of those kinds of responses. He has exhibited true leadership where Crozier failed.
WHO WILL LEAD?