Missouri

Hard Advice for Many Friends

“The [Johnson] Treatment” could last anywhere from ten minutes or four hours and it would come whenever and wherever Johnson might find a fellow Senator or politician within his radius. “Its tone could be and included supplication, accusation, cajolery, exuberance, scorn, tears, complaint and the hint of threat.” All of these elements together brought out the spectrum of human emotions. Its velocity was breathtaking, and it was all in one direction. Interjections from the target were rare and even if they were attempted, Johnson would anticipate them before they could be successfully delivered. He would move in close, with his face a mere millimeter from his target, his eyes widening and narrowing, his eyebrows fluctuating, his pockets stuffed with clippings, memos, statistics and other research he had gathered on his target.

– Mark Howard Long, Ph.D., American History II via https://sites.google.com/site/ucf2020/sources/student-pages/the-johnson-treatment

As despicable as Lyndon Baines Johnson was, I have to admit I admire the son of a bitch. I admire his ability to get what he wanted. I despise what he wanted and what he got. As Candace Owens says, Johnson’s Great Society destroyed the African-American community, and I despise LBJ for that.

But I still admire his persuasion skills. Don’t you?

This post isn’t about LBJ. It’s about Missouri legislators (and staffers), Governor Greitens, and persuasion. (See if you can tell which is which.)

I’m going to dispense some difficult, heavy advice in this post. I’m doing it in public because it’s a matter of public accountability. I do not click Publish on this post lightly.

Advice is a funny thing. People drop bits of advice on friends all day long. It’s usually worthless. Most things that are easy to do have little value.

But there’s another kind of advice. It’s valuable. Valuable advice requires a bit of courage. 

Think back to the times you’ve thought, “should I tell him or not?” It’s that kind of advice that might have some real value. Advice that’s painful to give usually has lasting value, even it make things worse in the short term.

If you don’t give this hard-to-give advice, you might live to regret it. You think you should say, “don’t go,” but you don’t say it. You bite your tongue. You don’t want to lose a friend. You don’t want to look like a know-it-all.

And then something dreadful happens. Because you kept your mouth shut. Maybe you lose that friend the hard way. 

I’m saying it now, even though I don’t want to.

Around the state of Missouri, and beyond, there’s a certain obsession with Eric Greitens. And it’s an unhealthy obsession that’s hurting us all. From what I’ve learned, these are the cold, hard facts:

  • A lot of Republicans hate the governor’s “Johnson Treatment” persuasion technique
  • Greitens treats too many people like they’re corrupt and lazy
  • Greitens has hurt some Republicans’ biggest donors and allies by cutting tax credits for big corporations
  • Greitens’ personal problems have opened the door for his GOP enemies to try to take him out
  • Despite any evidence of wrongdoing in office, some Missouri Republicans seem willing to impeach their own party’s governor in direct violation of the Constitution they’ve sworn to uphold

Before you think I’m wavering in my support of the governor, I’m not. I’m still 100% behind Eric Greitens. On that front, nothing has changed. I still wear my Day One t-shirt when I mow the lawn. So my neighbors can see.

And I still consider some of the governor’s Republican detractors my friends. I understand some of them feel the governor has been unfair and abusive. My Republican friends, like all of us, are the heroes in the stories they write in their own heads. That’s human nature.

If you’re the protagonist of your story, anyone who opposes your quest must the villain, right? So, I understand why some of my friends think some of my other friends are their enemies. We all have friends who like someone we don’t like. It’s human.

Here’s my advice to all of my friends involved in the Eric Greitens battles: knock it off! You look like fools, and you’re hurting your own, long-term interests. And, because your long-term interests align with what’s best for the people of Missouri, you’re putting your little butt-hurts before OUR best interests. Stop doing that.

I’m talking to EVERYONE now, including the governor and his inner circle, Including my friends in the Missouri House and Senate. Knock it the hell off.

To the legislators, past and present, who have turned against Governor Greitens, to us, you seem more interested in being treated like the stars of a high school musical than in advancing the people’s interests. We think you’re breaking promises to voters in order to “get back” at Greitens. You’re looking like hypocrites to make yourselves feel tougher.

People didn’t elect you to pad your egos. We elected you to represent our interests and ideologies. This isn’t about you. Never forget that you’re a public servant whom we’ve honored by entrusting you with our government. If the governor gets a little loud and pushy now and then, deal with it. The governor is on a mission, too. And the governor got a lot more of our votes than you did.

If the governor seems to distrust you, why don’t you read your own words written or spoken during your first campaign for office? Read what you told voters about what’s wrong with government. Remind yourself of how deeply you distrusted everyone in politics before you got into politics. Then consider, just maybe, Eric Greitens meant what said when he announced his candidacy and talked about throwing the corrupt fat cats down the steps of the capitol. That is his mission, kids.

And, then, think about this: what have you done to convince the governor that his jaundiced view of politicians was wrong? If you think you’ve done a lot to prove your integrity and consistency, ask yourself why the governor hasn’t noticed. Is it possible that you haven’t done enough to demonstrate that you put the people’s mission before special-interests missions? 

Now, for my friend, the governor. I understand that your leadership style comes from years of hard-won wisdom in terrible situations. You were a boxer in college in North Carolina and in the UK. You went to war zones and to desperate slums as a missionary. Then you became a Navy SEAL.

For you, every day was a life-or-death struggle. You worked in places where there was no time to make people feel good about the task at hand. People had to do what needed to be done on the spot, in a flash, without questioning. If they didn’t, people died. In the military, the place and time to ask questions is in the briefing room before or after the mission, not during. 

You’re not there anymore, Eric. You’re in Jefferson City, Missouri now.

I love your drive and your urgency on my behalf. It’s about time Missouri had a governor who shows so much zeal for making the state great again. We knocked on doors on 100-degree days because we wanted your fighter’s spirit in the governor’s mansion after so many years of wimpy, lazy, absentee governors.

But, as a Day One supporter, I am asking you to relax just a bit. Take stock of your potential allies in the legislature. They’re not all corrupt careerists. Some of the people who’ve been turned off were once your strong supporters. I know them well. They are honest and sincere and virtuous.

And they will have your back again if you let them. Sort out the wheat from the chaff. Burn the chaff, but cherish and nurture the wheat.

You’re a great leader, Eric. It’s why we chose you. Don’t be afraid to use your leadership and coaching skill with the people in government who need it. I know that coaching legislators is not the governor’s job, but you’re no ordinary governor.

You have the wisdom to make our legislators, our political leaders, better than they’ve ever been. Better than they could be without your guidance and teaching. Don’t be afraid to turn the porch of the governor’s mansion in the stoa poikile. Don’t hesitate to be Zeno for Missouri. I can’t think of a finer legacy than elevating the virtue of those around you. And no other governor in our history was better equipped for this noble mission.

For everyone involved, remember that you’ve accomplished remarkable things in the last 15 months. Thank you. You’ve passed right to work. You’ve improved the state’s finances. You’ve taken steps to fight the opioid problem without turning patient data over to the government.

But, if you keep fighting each other, all of your accomplishments will be undone by a Democrat governor and legislature. If you legislators keep moving toward impeachment, and if the governor keeps encouraging impeachment by pissing off good legislators, the Democrats will eat you alive in 2018 or 2020. And, if that hideous Clean Missouri initiative passes, we’re all toast.

Look, I know I’m not privy to all the things you’ve seen and experienced. I’m sure everyone on both sides of this has good reasons for believing what you believe. 

I also know that, sometimes, our brains inflate the meanings of things. Sometimes, we make mountains out of molehills. Sometimes we let confirmation bias blind us to obvious errors in our interpretations of events.

Our leaders should be better than average people at sorting out what’s really important. I’m asking you to figure out if your position is reasonable or if its the result of putting too much emotional weight on an incident that wasn’t personalpervasive, and permanent. (If it’s not all three, you’re probably making too much of it.)

But, whatever method you use to get over your personal issues in this matter, for the love of all that’s good and decent, all y’all knock it the hell off and get back to people’s business. 

Epilogue

And that’s the LBJ treatment. Used for good, it’s the greatest tool a human ever invented. 

Author: William Hennessy

Co-founder of St. Louis Tea Party Coalition and Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Persuasive design expert Latest book: Turning On Trump: An Evolution (2016) Author of The Conservative Manifest (1993), Zen Conservatism (2009), Weaving the Roots (2011), and Fight to Evolve (2016) I believe every person deserves the dignity of meaningful work as the only path to human flourishing.