Saturday, July 25, 2020

Lead from the Front

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, right,
stands at a fence guarding a federal courthouse
 as tear gas drifts by
 early July 23, in Portland, Ore. (Karina Brown/AP)
What happened the other night in Portland was a case study in competing leadership styles.

The mayor of Portland, Oregon, was on the front lines of the conflict happening there. 

A Washington Post article describes the incident, 

Wheeler had come to the protest, he said, to stand with protesters in the face of what he has described as an “occupying force” — federal agents who were deployed by President Trump to a city that the president has described as “worse than Afghanistan.” (Amid a tense meeting with protesters, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tear-gassed by federal agents - The Washington Post)

From the article:

As Wheeler stood at the fence, he was heckled and insulted. Some demonstrators called for his resignation. Others, who had been tear-gassed by the Portland Police Bureau over the past eight weeks, shouted questions at the mayor.

Later in the article:

Wheeler tried to address Trump’s recent pronouncement that he would be sending a surge of federal forces to other Democratic-led American cities to help combat crime, starting with Chicago and Albuquerque, but the crowd shouted him down.

They wanted, instead, to talk about what, exactly, he was doing to get rid of the federal agents and asked about his dual role as mayor and police commissioner. Some shared personal stories of run-ins with the police. Others demanded he consider making sweeping systemic change to policing in Portland.

We can argue about his motives, but the article makes clear that the mayor got an earful from the protestors about the situation. 

In contrast, the president made the following statement about the incident, 

“He made a fool out of himself,” Trump said during an appearance on Fox News. “He wanted to be among the people. So he went into the crowd. And they knocked the hell out of him. That was the end of him. So it was pretty, pretty pathetic.” (Trump derides Portland mayor for joining protesters and getting tear-gassed - The Washington Post)

It is sad that the presumed leader of the free world reveled in the failure of a leader that was attempting to lead from the front rather than hiding in the basement bunker.

We can disagree about motives and results, but a leader should be out walking with and talking to the people about their complaints. It remains to be seen whether the situation in Portland improves. I hope that it does.

Lead from the front!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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