"President Bush has ordered White House staff to attend mandatory briefings
beginning next week on ethical behavior and the handling of classified material
after the indictment last week of a senior administration official in the CIA
leak probe. … A senior aide said Bush decided to mandate the ethics course during
private meetings last weekend with Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and counsel
Harriet Miers. Miers's office will conduct the ethics briefings."
Orders Staff to Attend Ethics Briefings: White House Counsel to Give 'Refresher'
Course," Washington Post, Nov. 5, 2005
"And if the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit."
Compared to the shenanigans going on in the Bush
House, the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal is starting to look like a very minor
affair indeed, a quaint remnant of the days when presidents might cheat on their
wives, but they wouldn't dare cheat on the American people.
Yes, there was a time when presidents knew better than to lie to the nation's
armed forces, particularly those pivotal military families, telling laughably
tall tales (WMD, yellowcake uranium, mushroom clouds, huge fleets of killer
drones, biological weapons, chemical weapons factories) to trick young troops
into "making the ultimate sacrifice."
In fact, many presidents and their staff knew that this kind of naughtiness
on an epic scale is called "unethical behavior." Some might even call
In a public-relations ploy that's sure to embarrass even the most loyal Bush
supporters and cause them to angrily tear off their "Bush/Cheney '04"
bumper stickers (the once-popular "I Support President Bush and Our Troops"
stickers have already disappeared), the most famous Christian in the world is
sending his staff to a remedial ethics class taught by his own advisers.
The blind leading the blind, as someone very wise once said.
But this is the Bush administration, which means that nothing needs to make
sense – the White House considers its base too clueless and "wacko"
to see through even its most obvious PR maneuvers, or the Christian clothes
that conceal naked corruption.
As most of us know by now, the cardinal rule for the Bush clan is never
admit or apologize for any wrongdoing – but if you get caught, start a lengthy,
impressive-sounding internal investigation or big showy program (conducted
by your own pals, of course) so the public will forget about whatever you need
to distract them from.
Bush Cuts Class
Yet I wonder if Bush's base will fall for it in
quite the same "wacko" way this time. From the aforementioned Washington
"Bush also refused to address a question about whether he owes the
American people an apology for his administration's assertions that Rove and
Libby were not involved in leaking Plame's name, when it later became clear
that they were. The case has apparently helped erode public confidence in Bush's
integrity. Among those responding to a recent Washington Post-ABC News
poll, 40 percent said they viewed the president as honest and trustworthy –
a drop of 13 percentage points in the past 18 months. Half of those surveyed
said they believed Rove did something wrong in the case, and about 6 in 10 said
Rove should resign."
Apologizing when you've lied to someone, particularly when it has cost them
dearly? Sounds like ethical behavior to me – but how can we expect ethical behavior
from important men who have goals to set and problems to deal with?
"'It's a serious investigation, and it's an important investigation. But
it's not over yet,' Bush said. 'I think it's important for the American people
to know that I understand my job is to set clear goals and deal with the problems
By the way, it really isn't fair to the other kids that their captain and commander,
the one who got them into this mess in the first place, gets to cut class.
"'I understand that there is a preoccupation by polls by some,' the president
said. 'The way you earn credibility with the American people is to declare an
agenda that everybody can understand, an agenda that relates to their lives,
and get the job done.' Rove is among those aides who must attend. 'There will
be no exceptions,' the memo states."
"No exceptions," that is, except for George himself, who imagines
that a person can "earn" credibility by declaring agendas – whether
reality-based or wickedly deceptive – so simplistic "that everybody can
understand." Newsflash: credibility is not something you can earn, it's
something that others grant you when you consistently tell the truth.
And they take it away when they find out you've lied to them.
Bush's credibility obsession is quite revealing – most of us never even think
about "earning" credibility with others because we're not constantly
deceiving them. Credibility is a marketing tool for politicians, but it isn't
the same thing as ethical behavior. If you lie but don't get caught, you'll
still appear credible.
But if you get caught tricking people into costly or tragic "missions,"
you'll lose a lot more than your precious "credibility": If you're
the president, you could be impeached. And whether you're the president or his
corrupted pals, you could be sent to prison.
If anybody needs to learn ethics, it's the man who pulled the wool over his
trusting supporters' eyes, persuading them to support a costly, tragic, and
unethical mission that has caused, as this goes to press, 2,045 American
and untold Iraqi deaths. Shouldn't
George get a front-row seat in Ms. Miers' and Mr. Card's Ethics 101 class? Shouldn't
he be given after-school tutoring as well, so that he can learn how to behave
ethically as president of the United States of America and model truth-telling
for his impaired staff?
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