President Obama explains his lack of leadership by blaming BP and the U.S. Coast Guard for giving him bad information. "They assured me that they had the situation under control." Is this a legitimate excuse? After all, Bill Clinton blamed everyone else for his failures.

On these pages, I have long-since written about the loudest voice in the room  (although I can't remember where, exactly). He (usually a he) has a commanding prescence, has an answer for everything, and people look up to him. At crunch time, the loudest voice generally lets you down. Further, I wrote, it's not a fault so much as human nature: we all are human, and we all make mistakes.

Maybe it's on the Economics 101 Page. I digress.

Anyway, hindsight is easy, and I wonder if I would have done the same thing that Obama did? In fact, No. On the Census Page, I related this:

In 1990, I was the Manager for the District Office for the U.S. Census - Numero Uno - for the ethnically-important Dade-County, Florida. The Federal Government in all of its incompetence, micromanaged everything. If I tried to set goals or establish procedures, a call to the home office in Atlanta by one of the five department heads under me generally resulted in an admonishment for me to let the department heads do their job.

In fact I was told, contrary to Bureau press releases, to just sit in the corner office and do nothing. The head of my data section used to come in late every day, so I started the (bureau mandated) morning meeting without her. One day, when she came in exceptionally late, I (horrors) pointed to my watch. End of discussion you say? 

This is the Federal Government, here. Two days later, I got a call from the EEOC, headed by that genius, Clarence Thomas. "One of your employees has filed a discrimination complaint against you. Apparently you reprimanded your data supervisor in front of the other department heads, and she was embarassed."

"She's late every day, and all I did was point to my watch - I never said a word. Silly me, I think all of my employees should be on time. And how is that descrimination" I inquired? 

(I'm not making this up) "She claims that she had to take her kids to school every day, so you are descriminating against her because she is a woman " said she; to which I inquires if she was putting me on. The EEOC said it's silly, but asked me just to apologize. As I failed, here in the Florida Summer, to see Hell freezing over, I politely declined. My point? Here it comes:

The function of the District Office in each Census is to hire a lot of Census Takers (Enumerators) to go out with these large ledger books (one for each census tract) and get the names and mailing addresses of, well, every residence in the U.S. so that the Census Bureau can mail out a census questionnaire to every house, outhouse, doghouse, henhouse, who . . , well you get the point,  in America - in my district, from Key West to Naples to Miami, South of Eighth St.- about 400,000 places.

Each book containing about 3,000 addresses and a lot of confidential information, are kept under lock and key. As head honcho, a large part of my job, other than sitting in the corner office, was to speak to media outlets and make speeches before corporations and community organizations - the purpose of which was to persuade the public that acquiring their census information was vitally important, and that said information was to be kept in the strictest of confidence - to be shared with no one.

After we had enumerated all of our census tracts (earlier than any district in the U.S. save one), I called in the relevant Department Heads who assured me that all the books were in order, ready to be sent to Washington - the computerized data (allegedly) having already been sent. Being always the skeptic, I told them to lay out all of the books in order so I could personaly examine them, before I signed off on the job.

Of course they objected. One, Joe, my second in command, had run the 1980 Census; the other, was a (female) ex-marine captain, who drove a Harley. They objected, saying they knew how to do their job. I'm know you do, I said (not-condescendingly at all), but I want to see the books - have them laid out for me by tomorrow morning, Joe said ok, Harley grumbled.

Two hours later those two came into my office looking sheepish and confessed that three books were missing. The crew chief had been called up by the Mets and the books were in his trunk - and he was gone (about 12,000 confidential entries). I sent out our best enumerators and we re-did the three tracts. 

Would President Sawyer have taken the word of the Coast Guard Commander or the Bigshots at BP (the loudest voices in the room)? Not a chance in Hell. I would have taken the advice of Gary Oldman from the movie "The Professional." 

"Send everyone." 

"What do ya mean 'everyone'"?


PS: I never saw Harley after I left the Bureau, but Joe has been my accountant for years. In 1993 he broke my finger in a basketball game, and in 2008 he was my Campaign Manager.