Thursday, May 18, 2017

Failing Upward

In the world of business there is a term called "failing upward".  It's usually applied to someone who had a disastrous tenure at one company getting hired by another firm at a position even higher up in the command chain.  It's also used in regards to start up venturists who bring in millions in capital investment--go belly up--and manage to bring in even more cash for their next "big idea". 

Failing upward usually leaves people scratching their heads wondering, "Why would anyone hire that moron?" or "Who would give that person more cash to blow on a stupid idea?"  And yet you see people advancing in the world without really accomplishing anything.

The latest "upward failure" is Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.  The bombastic lawman--who in many ways has become a caricature of the old-school tough-talking sheriff--all the way down to the cowboy hat he wears indoors at public functions--is leaving his elected position for what he claims is an appointment to the Department of Homeland Security.  (It should be noted that Clarke is the only person saying he has been hired by DHS--as the department itself says no appointment has been made yet.)

While 71 other Wisconsin Sheriffs were in their offices overseeing their departments, or responding to scenes of emergencies and disasters, or working with other county departments to improve service to residents, Sheriff Clarke was interested only in self-promotion and stardom.  His appearances on Fox News Channel became so frequent that the network labeled him "America's Sheriff"--especially after the original "America's Sheriff", Joe Arpaio of Arizona lost in his last election.  And like "Sheriff Joe", Clarke may have been promoting himself right out of a job.  He was most likely going to face his stiffest challengers in years in the Democratic primary next year--and they would have had plenty of ammunition to attack him with.

Milwaukee County Jail deaths--including one involving an inmate that was not allowed access water to his cell for a week before his death--continued criticism of Black Lives Matter and basically never showing up for the job that the people elected him to do resulted in a drop in public confidence in Clarke borne out by a number of polls.

So what does Clarke do?  Does he step away from the national spotlight to focus on actual law enforcement?  Nope.  He takes (allegedly) a Federal job that lists "acting as a liason between Homeland Security and local agencies" as its main duties.  Sounds like a position that requires even less actual work--and more time to show up on Fox News as a "Homeland Security Expert". 

This also proves another business adage: "It's not what you know, it's who you know".

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