Critical Thinking-Watching the following evening television shows: Fox News (e.g., The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, or On the Record with Greta Van Susteren) and evening television show from CNN or...

Critical Thinking-Watching the following evening television shows: Fox News (e.g., The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, or On the Record with Greta Van Susteren) and evening television show from CNN or MSNBC (e.g., Hardball with Chris Matthews, The Rachel Maddow Show, or The Ed Show). Please note: This is a not a political science assignment; your political predisposition, though impossible to ignore, is not the focus of this evaluation.  What is the focus is a sampling from these two network outlets, which will offer a nice range to address this topic.

By reviewing these shows and reflecting on the following question ...Be sure to identify the speaker as well as the question or topic to which s/he is responding:

1) Identify the television shows, their respective networks, and the dates, which are the sources of your analysis.

2) In what ways are the words “leader” and “leadership” used?  Are they, for example, used in relation to specific issues or are they used more globally as either a “need” or a “quality?  Or are they used in a pejorative or judgmental manner?  Be certain to include at least one example from each show, citing the speaker, his/her title or role (e.g., Pete Peters, US Senator, or Rachel Maddow, host), and the topic or question to which s/he is responding; there will likely be many available.  Again, keep in mind that these quotes may come from guests or the moderator him/herself!

3) In your view, how appropriate are the attributions or uses of “leader” or “leadership” in the examples provided? In other words, are their uses a fitting response to the topic or question being discussed (e.g., if I have an unproductive workforce, the issue may legitimately be “leadership”)? Or are they a catch-all or panacea for issues that require more specificity (e.g., if my business doesn’t generate enough revenue, then I might blame “leadership,” when in actuality what I really need is better marketing or a better product)?  You will likely see examples of each, but don’t feel that you “have to.” Review what you see!

4) In your view, how transparent is it when the terms “leader” and “leadership are MISUSED?  Is the audience a group of bobbleheads, nodding up and down, as moderators and guests cite these terms for credit or blame?  Or is the audience sitting back, yelling at the TV, “That doesn’t answer the question!  Stop saying ‘leadership’ and explain your plan for the economy, or cancer research, or health care, or the war in Afghanistan?”  Provide your view.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no question that the leadership of the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States have been topics of much contemporary concern. For the most part, there have more negative remarks than positive. Much skepticism about President Obama's leadership abilities has been prevalent on both liberal and conservative programs. Even staunch supporters of the President such as Chris Matthews have castigated his handling of such major scandals as that of Benghazi, and the IRS, while on FoxNews such as Greta von Susteren, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity have remarked upon their disappointment in President O'Bama's use of Executive Privilege and his refusal to meet with members of the House of Representatives regarding a Budget, etc. (There has been no budget passed during Mr. Obama's presidency.) With the exception of Hannity who refers to the President as "the anointed one," most major network journalists maintain a respectful address for the president; nevertheless, with the failure of the Administration to effect positive negotiations on both the national and the foreign stage, there has been negative criticism of the foreign leadership of the White House. And, for the most part, the word is used with its appropriate denotation as it is defined against past presidents who were successful in uniting Congress and passing budgets, bills, laws, etc. 

That President Obama's leadership as the executive who is capable of directing and unifying the branches of government and effecting results is under question can be documented by certain episodes of MSNBC's Chris Matthews Show. On May of 2013, Matthews asked "What part of being an executive does he like?"

....He likes going on the road, campaigning, visiting businesses like he does every couple days somewhere in Ohio or somewhere. What part does he like? He doesn’t like lobbying for the bills he cares about. He doesn’t like selling to the press. Does he like giving orders or giving somebody the power to give orders? No. He doesn’t seem to like being an executive.”

On a previous show, two days before, Matthews urged President Obama to act on the IRS scandal:

So don’t just talk about how “outrageous” it is. Do something. Act!

Remember what Reagan did when the air traffic controllers broke faith with their oaths and went on strike? He fired the bunch of them!

Guess what! You may not like the rough treatment, but that’s when we realized he was President! That’s when the Bad Guys in the soon-to-be-gone Soviet Union knew this country had a leader!

So do something. I can call something “outrageous.” You can act!!!....

Of course, on the more conservative networks, there have been many comments on leadership. For instance, on The O'Reilly Factor of March 31, Bill O'Reilly pointed to a survey in which 48% felt that the president is a poor leader. On his "Talking Points," segment, O'Reilly remarks that American power on the world stage has been greatly diminished, "Hostile countries no long recognize us as a power to respect." Further, O'Reilly criticized Obama's "deliberative style" and the "mixed signals" that he sends on important issues.

On the Greta von Susteren Show of January 6, 2014, she asked her guest if the president demonstrates leadership. He remarked that the President should have taken advantage Hawaiian rest and returned to work with Congress rather than immediately placing blame, saying, "Instead of working on unemployment benefits, the Congress went home."