Wisdom of the Bullfrog President?



I recently read Admiral William McRaven's Wisdom of the Bullfrog: Leadership Made Simple (But Not Easy). McRaven is a retired Navy SEAL Admiral. He is credited for organizing and overseeing Operation Neptune's Spear, the special operations raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.

I was hoping for stories from his long and storied career as a Navy SEAL. There are some, but not many, and no details. I suppose that a lot of the missions that he took part in might be classified.

Instead, the book is on leadership, just like the subtitle suggests. He makes it clear up front that he has nothing profound to offer: just work hard, do the right thing, mingle with the worker bees, have a plan, and always project confidence to your subordinates.

There, I just saved you eighteen bucks or so. You're welcome.

In the same week that I read McRaven's book, President Joe Biden announced that he would seek re-election. That is expected of most, if not all, presidents. But Joe Biden was the oldest president ever elected at 77 in 2020. He turned 78 a couple of weeks later and is now 80. He would be 86 at the end of his second term.

Part of the appeal of Biden in 2020 was that he would bring his long years of government service and experience as a leader to right the ship and calm the waters after four years of a tumultuous presidency under Donald Trump. Another part of his appeal was that Biden promised to be a bridge between one generation and the next, that he would serve as a caretaker president of sorts and pass the baton to a younger generation of Democrats. Many (including me) assumed that trailblazing Vice President Kamala Harris would be well-positioned to be the recipient of the baton and be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2024.

Not sure what happened there.

Meanwhile, Former President and Great Disrupter Donald Trump announced his candidacy months ago and is, by far, the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. Donald Trump would be 78 on election day in November 2024 and, if elected, he would be the oldest president ever elected.

If the two are their respective party's nominees, then we will see an 82-year-old square off against a 78-year-old.

I don't know, but an election featuring an octogenarian and a near-octogenarian doesn't seem to reflect the hopes and concerns of younger generations who will grapple with the ramifications of global climate change, emerging technologies, and a changing global order. Nor does it demonstrate the vibrancy of a healthy democracy.

Maybe it's just me.

If, in fact, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are their respective party's nominees again, I see a rare opening for a formidable independent or third-party candidate. I don't see that candidate coming out of either the Republican or Democratic party. Maybe a successful businessperson, a billionaire Manhattan real estate mogul? Oh, wait. After Donald Trump, and now with Elon Musk's antics and his Twitter and Tesla follies, I'm not sure another billionaire businessperson would garner widespread confidence among the electorate.

How about a military General? There are precedents: Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Zachary Taylor, Dwight Eisenhower and, of course, George Washington. Trouble is, I don't know of any prominent US Army or Air Force (or Space Force) Generals today that would be a household name and not tainted by recent administrations. There are no Colin Powells, as far as I know.

There is an Admiral, though, a US Navy Admiral. He isn't necessarily a household name, but you might have heard of him. If not, you have surely heard of the famous SEAL Team 6 raid that killed 9/11 mastermind and financier Osama Bin Laden. The person involved in organizing and overseeing that raid? Why, that would be Admiral William McRaven.  And relative to Biden and Trump, he'd be a rambunctious 69-year-old youth on election day 2024.

His folksy can-do book of rules for leadership is nonpartisan. His proven lifelong leadership under fire, literally, might stand up well against the bombastic fake patriotism of Trump, on the one hand, and offer the same steady-as-she-goes promise of Biden on the other while also offering a history of life-and-death problem-solving skills. Opposition to McRaven would seem … unpatriotic.  An automatic out-flanking of the right.

Then there's the timing of the book's release. I am probably reading into that and maybe I shouldn't. But if Biden and Trump are their respective party's nominees, then I foresee a formidable independent candidate challenging both.

Maybe someone like Admiral William McRaven.