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What Obama can learn from Captain Sullenberger

Welcome Instapundit Readers!! While you’re here, please check out two of my two recent posts on Bush’s Legacy: President Bush, the Surge, America & Second Chances and On Bush-Hatred and the Bush Legacy.

Last Thursday, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, demonstrated an essential quality of leadership when he calmly reacted to an unexpected crisis in the plane he was piloting.  When his plane, US Airways flight 1549, hit a flock of geese, he had only few moments to decide how to react. Like Barack Obama in the fall campaign, Sullenberger was “cool, calm and collected” in a crisis.

The difference is that whereas the then-Illinois Senator didn’t change course, Sullenberger had no choice but to.  He acted and decisively so, ditching the plane in the Hudson, saving his passengers and crew. While many have praised Obama (and rightly so) for running a brilliant campaign, we often forget that it was not always so.  Were it not for the crisis (i.e., the financial one) he faced, the conventional wisdom might be that the Democratic nominee crumpled when facing the unexpected.

Recall how off balance he seemed in the weeks after John McCain tapped Sarah Palin to be his running mate, changing the dynamics of the campaign?  Had McCain not seemed even more off balance as the scope of the finanicial meltdown became manifest, we might more readily remember Obama’s floundering in the first weeks of the fall. Thanks to a generous assist from the MSM, Obama was able to counter the Palin pick which had so confounded his campaign.

But, on its own, the Obama campaign did not have the wherewithal to successfully challenge a selection which helped recast Republicans as reformers. To be sure, once he takes office, the new president is likely to continue receiving assists from the media.

Unlike a candidate, however, an executive must do more than give speeches; he must act.  It is a good thing to remain calm in a crisis.  And I’m reassured somewhat that Obama has that quality.  But, what Sullenberger’s success teaches us is that being cool and collected in a crisis is not enough.

In most crises, President Obama will not have to act immediately, to change course as quickly as did that noble pilot, but he will not to act. And he can only learn from our country’s newest hero.

The real test of leadership is not one’s demeanor, but how one faces the unexpected.  Chesley Sullenberger showed he was capable of meeting such a challenge.  Let us hope, let us pray, that Barack Obama is built of similar stuff.

RELATED:  Obama not good on defense.

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23 Comments

  1. Here is a big difference between Sullenberger and Obama, Sullenberger was in the airforce for many years. The things one learns in the military can be taught no where else!!

    On a very happy note, my nephew Achikam is out of Gaza. For how long, we don’t know. But whatever happens, it is quite a relief. His parents only heard from him once in three weeks. As a mother, knowing your kid is out of a war zone means a lot.

    Comment by Leah — January 18, 2009 @ 7:11 pm - January 18, 2009

  2. Recall how off balance he seemed in the weeks after John McCain tapped Sarah Palin to be his running mate, changing the dynamics of the campaign?
    You mean while he waited for the media to get over the “shock” of the terrifying pick of the no-name governor that McCain didn’t even know and return to the issues? As he waited for Palin to begin to self-destruct on her own, by, you know, talking? Obama was Off-balance? If you call a strategy of letting your political opponents take themselves out by calling attention to their own weaknesses as being off-balance, then his “off-balance” campaign continued right up until Election Day.

    Comment by torrentprime — January 19, 2009 @ 12:57 am - January 19, 2009

  3. Torrentprime, go look back at the campaign in early September and you’ll see what they mean.

    And note how the MSM criticisms bounced off Palin until she blew the Couric interview. And before you criticize that good woman, go familiarize yourself with her record. She did more to effect real change in Alaska politics before she become Governor than Obama did in four years in the United States Senate.

    And Palin would not have “self-destructed,” as you put it, had the Obama campaign not had a generous assist from the media, deploying more staff to Wasilla to unearth the pettiest peccadilloes in her past than to probe Obama’s background.

    Comment by GayPatriotWest — January 19, 2009 @ 2:37 am - January 19, 2009

  4. Palin didn’t self-destruct. The liberal media tried to destroy her… and failed. Only the financial meltdown, and McCain’s awful floundering in its face, saved Obama’s campaign. Now he has to deal with it… and so far, he’s only planning moves that make it worse in the long run, or will blow up in the Democrats’ face before their time is out.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — January 19, 2009 @ 8:13 am - January 19, 2009

  5. Really? You mean you haven’t seen the same video of the US Airways splash landing from the Rachel Maddow Show as I have?

    The one where Obama flies through the skies and gently brings the plane down into the water allowing the passengers to escape?

    He then, of course, walks across the Hudson back to Manhattan.

    Comment by Bruce (GayPatriot) — January 19, 2009 @ 10:11 am - January 19, 2009

  6. Here’s Obama as pilot–”Gee, Co-pilot Hillary, what would you do?” And after she safely lands the plane, he jumps in front of the camera and says, “All in a day’s work–please don’t call me a hero.”

    Comment by Ashpenaz — January 19, 2009 @ 10:28 am - January 19, 2009

  7. nothing like comparing apples to oranges to make a hazy point. Good thing you didn’t use McCain in this analogy who (as a military pilot) crashed a large number of planes….

    As far as Palin, get real. She’s a politician of questionable credentials and experience who never should have been nominated in the first place. She and McCain spent months trying to tell the public pretty much everything they didn’t want to hear. Funny, how I was thinking just yesterday of how Republicans hammered away with the term “executive experience” as a weak attack on Obama and Biden. Using that logic, then it means that she was more qualified than even McCain. I guess it’s too bad that Obama didn’t nominate Blagojevich as VP – boy, he has more executive experience than any of them! :-)

    Comment by Kevin — January 19, 2009 @ 12:17 pm - January 19, 2009

  8. You mean while he waited for the media to get over the “shock” of the terrifying pick of the no-name governor that McCain didn’t even know and return to the issues?

    LOL…which is, of course, why Obama’s first reaction was to foolishly attack her, then backpedal and begin the process of smearing her by claiming her child was not her own, that her husband was having incestuous sex with their daughters, and so forth.

    And Kevin, no wonder you hate Palin; she fought corruption in her own party and got people thrown out of office and punished for doing it. It looks particularly bad when one considers how Barack Obama fully supported and endorsed the Chicago and Illinois politics that the Blagojevich affair has laid completely open. That’s why you and your fellow gay leftists and liberals were spreading your lies about her baby not being her own and hanging her in effigy.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — January 19, 2009 @ 1:54 pm - January 19, 2009

  9. “A politician of questionable credentials and experience who never should have been nominated in the first place.” What a great description of–Obama. (Or Caroline Kennedy.) (Or Bill Richardson.)

    Comment by Ashpenaz — January 19, 2009 @ 2:13 pm - January 19, 2009

  10. She’s a politician of questionable credentials and experience who never should have been nominated in the first place.

    Do tell. Why not? Further, why can’t we get any real info on the experience and credentials of Comrade Obama?

    Funny, how I was thinking just yesterday of how Republicans hammered away with the term “executive experience” as a weak attack on Obama and Biden.

    Funny, I’ve been asking liberals about Obama naming Biden ever since. How is it that he was told, by democrats, twice that he wasn’t good enough for the job. Now, suddenly, he’s competent enough to be “one breath away”??? How does that work?

    But then not a single liberal I’ve asked has been able to sack up and answer.

    If you’d like to take a shot, could you also explain why it’s fair to go digging into Palin or Joe the Plumber’s background and not Comrade Obama’s?

    I anxiously await your response, Kevin.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — January 19, 2009 @ 3:09 pm - January 19, 2009

  11. Hats off to the captain. There is nothing like a demonstration of sheer expertise under duress to lift my spirits.

    Comment by Ignatius — January 19, 2009 @ 3:12 pm - January 19, 2009

  12. [...] GAY PATRIOT, What Obama can learn from Captain Sullenberger. “The real test of leadership is not one’s demeanor, but how one faces the unexpected. [...]

    Pingback by Instapundit » Blog Archive » AT GAY PATRIOT, What Obama can learn from Captain Sullenberger. “The real test of leadership is not… — January 19, 2009 @ 5:12 pm - January 19, 2009

  13. The difference is that Capt. Sully spent his adult life training for something like this incident while Obama spent his campaigning.

    Comment by Donna B. — January 19, 2009 @ 5:28 pm - January 19, 2009

  14. The tremendous experience of the airline captain is what distinguishes him from our new president. I just hope we can go four years without any major “bird strikes” while he learns the job,.

    Comment by Mike K — January 19, 2009 @ 5:34 pm - January 19, 2009

  15. “cool, calm and collected”

    Oh, swell. If reports be true, we’re in for another four years of “governing by focus group.” His Majesty may be “cool, calm and collected” to many, but, to me, he’s merely “catatonic.” Indeed, I fail to see how “cool, calm and collected” are automatically good in and of themselves: history is littered with authoritarian figures who were also “cool, calm and collected” when they made decisions that condemned millions to starvation, deportation, and death.

    But y’all know this already, don’t you?

    Comment by MarkJ — January 19, 2009 @ 5:50 pm - January 19, 2009

  16. > She and McCain spent months trying to tell the public pretty much everything they didn’t want to hear.

    That says pretty much everything one needs to know about how to appeal to liberals. Lie, and tell them what they want to hear.

    I would advise my easily misled liberal friends to prepare for lots of disappointment, particularly the ones who think their mortgages and gas bills will no longer have to be paid.

    Comment by Mambo Bananapatch — January 19, 2009 @ 6:27 pm - January 19, 2009

  17. Kevin you moron, McCain crashed planes that blew up because people were shooting at them.

    Comment by Charlie (Colorado) — January 19, 2009 @ 8:26 pm - January 19, 2009

  18. I’m sorry my memory is so faulty, but yesterday I read a blog post somewhere on the subject of the heroic Sully that pointed out how his achievement was “old school” heroism – heroism that makes one (by which I mean, at minimum, “me”) feel a little uncomfortable, a little unsure of whether one (by which I still mean at least “I”) could have performed as well. This kind of heroism was placed in contrast to modern heroism, in which every doggone person who didn’t just run screaming into the night is a “hero,” making us all feel good about ourselves because surely we ourselves could’ve held it together THAT well, at least.

    This presidential campaign was so strange, that way… Hope-plus-change, two words of high semantic value and little real meaning outside their specific context, defeated achievement, experience, painful honesty, and (eventually) belt-tightening. They – the words, that is – managed this feat by hitching their weak little wagons to the Obama star: young, handsome as politicians go, urbane, and oh so very stylish in his status as an Oppressed Minority who has Risen Above, but with next to nothing in the line of an actual record.

    I wasn’t a huge McCain fan going in, but given the alternative, I became one. Now I’m just hoping Obama doesn’t believe his own press.

    Comment by Jamie — January 19, 2009 @ 9:08 pm - January 19, 2009

  19. Excuse me but Captain Sullenberger spent his whole life preparing for emergencies. Obama is spent much of his using others and lying his way into his new job.

    Please do not insult all of the hard work and training that goes into military and commercial pilots with that of a politician.

    Comment by JAT — January 19, 2009 @ 9:21 pm - January 19, 2009

  20. 10: In a nutshell: Her election as Mayor of Wasilla was based upon her appealing to a growing fundamentalist religious population. That Mayor’s job was a part time job that dealt with issues like “do we need another traffic light” She turned it into an anti-abortion campaign (talk about appealing to zealots)

    For governor: she went up in the primary against a notoriously un-popular Republican ex-governor and in the general election she went up a notoriously un-popular Democrat. Governor by luck. it’s happened before and it will happen again.

    I know a number of politically active Republicans (a number of them family members) who were nothing short of aghast at McCain’s choice for a running mate. When so much hung in the balance to wash away the memory of George Bush and continue Republican control of the White House, McCain and company chose a faux-folksy sounding person. I had the feeling the nail was in the coffin the day Palin was announced. I knew it was all lost on the Saturday before the election watching McCain himself make fun of Palin by appearing in a sketch on SNL with Tina “I’m going rogue here for a moment” Fey.

    Comment by Kevin — January 20, 2009 @ 12:51 am - January 20, 2009

  21. 17: You should really do some fact checking:

    Crash 1: 1960, Corpus Christi Texas
    Crash 2: 1965, Eastern shore of Maryland/Chesapeake
    “Clowning around in Spain” – although not a crash, he did bring power lines down because of “daredevil” (ie unprofessional) flying techniques.

    Now, the last I checked, we weren’t under enemy fire in Texas, Maryland or Spain at those times, were we?

    And, let’s not forget that he was almost at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy..

    Comment by Kevin — January 20, 2009 @ 12:58 am - January 20, 2009

  22. #20 & 21

    Here’s some more questions you won’t answer. If Palin was so worthless, why was there such a need to smear her whole family and even a child with Down Syndrome? A kid with Down Syndrom, Kevin? This was your people who did that. Can you tell us that you’re proud of that? Why was there a need to invent “Trooper-gate”? Or was that to obfuscate lord Bj’s?

    Don’t you wish you knew as much about Comrade Obama as you know about Palin and McCain? Now that he’s POTUS, I sure as hell do.

    BTW, you left out the story about how he caused the disaster on the USS Forestal and how the big Jewish Conspiracy covered it up.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — January 20, 2009 @ 1:48 am - January 20, 2009

  23. Oh and I would guess that you have no problem with a president who sailed a PT boat into a Japanese destroyer.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — January 20, 2009 @ 1:54 am - January 20, 2009

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