Ahead of Sunday’s French elections and in the aftermath of another terrorist attack–this time on Paris’ Champs-Élysées–that killed a policeman and injured two others, far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen seized the tragedy as an opportunity to boost her chances of winning by calling for a “restoration of France’s borders.”
Meanwhile in the United States, the U.S. Congress is returning from a two-week Easter-Passover vacation faced with a possible government shut down. Should Republican and Democratic legislators fail to agree on funding the government by the end of the week, the U.S. Treasury will be without legal authority to spend, which would lead to a partial or full shut down of certain government services.
As if getting two parties to agree on a workable budget isn’t enough, the Trump Administration is reportedly tossing two controversial financial bombs into the fray, concurrently pushing to resurrect efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, tweaking the failed replacement that was widely rejected (for different reasons) by critics even within its own party.
Furthermore, as Congress struggles to agree on proper budget allocations, some news reports suggest that the White House is also demanding to include funding for Mr. Trump’s pet project, the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. It’s a wall, we must emphasize, that according to 2016 candidate Donald Trump, Mexico would be paying for. It is a wall that he claims is absolutely, urgently needed because of “bad hombres.” And ISIS. Connecting the dots isn’t exactly forte of the real estate developer’s fledgling administration.
This is all fair game. As in business, opportunism and politics are inseparable lovers. Many politicians and businessmen who rise to the top have the following in common: they see opportunities when others do not; are able to seize chances quickly, with fervor and conviction; and generally stick to their game without fear of consequential or collateral damage to one’s reputation (and, sometimes, relationships). Whether this quality is a good or bad thing greatly depends on the character–or lack thereof–of the person.
In order to achieve success, especially in politics or business, a degree of “shamelessness” is almost a prerequisite. There are few exceptions, of course. But in general, one has to have thick skin to weather disappointments and criticisms. Speaking about his craft for instance, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screenwriter David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed the Plow) describes it this way, “You cannot write drama without writing plays, putting it in front of an audience, and getting humiliated.”
One who is afraid to make a fool of oneself is not going to stand out. And standing out is something that comes naturally to those who rise to the top. In this oversaturated world where everyone is fighting for exposure, you're almost certain to get drowned out. Today, even fools have to be bigger and louder.
Nowhere will you find more fools than in business and politics, where the breadth of someone’s success, power and influence are not necessarily inversely proportional to the depth of a person’s foolishness. Politicians certainly prove this point time and time again. In business, the latest example might be the big "bosses" at Fox over the handling of a growing number of sexual harassment complaints (Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, etc.), and Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines.
But beware. Opportunistic fools may have huge following, too. They can be appointed or elected, even though some may be clinically borderline. They are inclined to play on the follower's inability or disinterest in understanding complicated issues. When all these qualities lead to unchallenged deceptive policies and practices, they can be disastrous.
THE MATHEMATICS OF DECEIT
PROTECTIONISM IS ON THE RISE: WHY IS THAT GOOD NEWS?
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