By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
Now, more than ever, we need Maxwell Smart.
In the good old days, when the world was at risk, Agent 86 was called in to make things right. He would pick up his shoe, answer a call, and get things done. There was no Oval Office intrigue. No castigating of the press. No judicial criticism. No intelligence bashing. There was only good-old-fashioned butt-kicking and karate chops.
The bad guys, KAOS, stood not a chance against the likes of Max and his lovely companion, 99, the real brains of the operation. Max, of course, was a bumbler, but he was a good guy and always in CONTROL, literally and metaphorically speaking.
Things were so much simpler in the days of “Get Smart.”
Today, with the watchword routinely being “chaos,” it seems right to toss a little classic TV comedy the way of Washington, surreal as it has become.
Donald Trump’s first months on the job have not offered much in the way of comic relief, or relief of any kind. Instead, they have been a bitter reminder that a man with absolutely no government experience has much to learn on the fly. Mistakes, though, should be expected. Even the most experienced leaders — mayors, governors, presidents — are fallible. That’s why we have our great system of checks and balances.
What is not acceptable is this foolish casting of blame in an office far too dignified for it. Blaming leaks. Blaming media. Blaming Hillary. When a man is elected to any office, it is up to that man to take responsibility and lead. Stop wailing about the past because the present is far too important.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to a business group in Alton, and one person in the audience asked me if I had ever seen the nation as polarized as today. My answer was, I cannot remember a time. And I live in Madison County and in Illinois, both powerhouses of political fray going back generations.
Today’s Washington, inspired by Trump, has ratcheted upheaval to a whole new level, and our country is desperate for both a voice of reason and some way to drown out the nonsense.
Perhaps the answer is a Cone of Silence? Our president could be a lot more effective by 1) developing a thick skin and 2) avoiding public speaking. When he bears down and stays on script, he shows inclinations of true ability. He, for instance, ordered a hiring freeze on nonessential federal personnel. He is seeking a temporary ban on new regulations. He’s encouraging confidence in the business sector. He was immediate in nominating a Supreme Court justice.
But those strongpoints have been overwhelmed by the chaos — the rollout of his immigration ban, his overstatements on things like the inaugural crowd, his erratic press conferences and his misstatements in general. (Talk about fake news: The terrorist stronghold Sweden is still shaking its head).
While he might prefer Fox News to the rest, the media, even Fox, is not going to cut him many breaks, so the president might as well get accustomed to the scrutiny. Again, it’s part of the check/balance thing — and a vital part of the democracy that put him in office in the first place.
If, as Mr. Trump says, he “inherited a mess,” so too have we all. But he’s the guy elected to fix it. That’s the reality, unreal as it seems.
The truth is, there is no shoephoning Maxwell Smart or anyone else. Mr. Trump’s greatest crises to date seem to be ones he created. What he should be more concerned about are the real ones ahead, the unexpected events that test every commander in chief. That’s the fact. That’s the reality. And I’m sorry about that, Chief.
Dennis Grubaugh is editor and partner of the Illinois Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (618) 977-6865.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH