The 2012 election is closing quickly. Across the country, and especially in swing states like Ohio, Virginia, and Florida, political advertisements are clamoring for our attention. Two debates in, we are all familiar with the issues at stake in this election: Defense cuts, Medicare, the economy, the supposed “war on women.”
But I propose that what this election is truly about is something deeper than any of these; I believe the real issue is trust. Who do you trust will be a strong leader for the American people?
As someone who served in the US Navy for over 23 years, I understand the importance of trusted leadership. During my career in Special Operations, it was my privilege to become a Commander at Seal Team Six, support Joint Special Operations missions in Europe and lead over 3,500 Special Operations personnel in Operation Iraqi Freedom. All of this culminated in the award of two Bronze Stars for my service in combat.
I list my accomplishments not for the sake of my ego but to illustrate the importance of trust. Those who led me as a young officer sought and earned my trust. When I rose to Commander, I followed their example by earning the trust of my own men and women. I could not have effectively led without working for their full support.
I believe the same principle applies as we elect our Commander-in-Chief. He must earn our trust. Governor Romney has a proven record of leadership. He has led his business, his church, the Olympics, and the State of Massachusetts. In each case he created a better, stronger situation. That is his record. Throughout both debates, the Governor displayed a masterful knowledge of the facts. He used it to refute the President’s record while detailing his strong vision for America. He was right when he said we don’t have to settle for this, we can do better — just as Mrs. Romney was right when she said in her RNC speech, “This is a man you can trust.”
When the President was elected, he had virtually no record. He earned the voters’ trust through lofty speeches and even loftier promises. The President promised unemployment would be below 6 percent after four years. He promised he would cut the deficit in half, and that Gitmo would be closed in the first year. He promised to be the most transparent administration in history. Most importantly, he said he would unite the American people.
In the last two debates, the Obama promises have been obliterated. His record simply does not match his rhetoric. After four years, we have been stuck at roughly 8 percent unemployment with the projection of dithering economic growth. Governor Romney aptly pointed out that this is 9 million people who were promised they would have a job by now. Every year, the President has released budgets that run $1 trillion deficits, adding more to the national debt than all previous Presidents combined. Guantanamo Bay is still operating with no plans for closure, and this administration’s “transparency” has been discredited by one blunder after another. Fast and Furious, botched Status of Forces agreements, weak Iranian sanctions and today’s muddled situation regarding Libya all expose this administration’s lack of clarity. Worryingly, in the town hall debate, the President could not honestly answer the question posed on Libya. Despite clear timelines, he and his administration have offered foggy dishonest explanations.
In addition, the President has made no effort to unite Americans. All of his major accomplishments have been passed along partisan lines. His policies have confined Americans to two categories: the haves versus the have nots; the red versus the blue. Rather than earning all Americans’ trust, he has doubled down on political division.
As a Commander in the Navy, I would have been a failure if I perpetually promised high and then under-delivered. I earned trust by being a direct, honest leader. Over the last two weeks, the world has seen two men debating their cases for why America should trust them. The contrast could not be clearer.
Think back to the first debate: the most vital portion was the candidates’ response on bipartisanship leadership. Governor Romney immediately pointed back to his working relationship with an 87 percent Democrat legislature. He met with them weekly and the result was substantive accomplishments on behalf of the people of Massachusetts. In doing this, he led all of his constituents, not just those who agreed with him. What was the President’s response? “Sometimes you just have to stand up and just say no.” That is not leadership! That kind of empty statement does not gain anyone’s respect, nor does it earn anyone’s trust.
I spoke at a conference recently where I told the audience the greatest threat to our national is security is a lack of trust. If Americans cannot trust their government, the republic will fail. Governor Romney has proven he can be trusted. The last four years have proven the President cannot. It’s time to elect a Commander-in-Chief with the leadership we can trust.
Ryan Zinke is Chairman of Special Operations for America and Former Commander at Seal Team Six. He currently serves on the Montana State Legislature.