Re­spon­si­bil­ity Lite

Fall­ing on a sword is easy when the swords are made of rub­ber

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

What ex­actly, do the words, “I take re­spon­si­bil­ity,” ac­tu­ally mean? In Amer­i­can public life, circa 2017, usu­ally not very much. Politi­cians and other public of­fi­cials reach for the cliche when they get caught break­ing the law, but it’s an empty ges­ture, like of­fer­ing “thoughts and prayers” to the victims of tragedies that catch the public eye. Such thoughts flee once the cam­eras are turned off and the re­porters put away their pads and pen­cils, and the Lord knows most of the pols haven’t prayed since they dropped out of Sun­day school.

But it’s a nice thought, com­fort­able to any­one who doesn’t think about it. Tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity once meant some­thing. It was the public apol­ogy that pre­ceded sack­ing, and the guilty party could con­sole him­self, as he fell on his sword, with the knowl­edge that he might be the ex­am­ple to keep some­one else from a sim­i­lar end.

Hil­lary Clin­ton an­nounced with con­sid­er­able fan­fare, with a con­cert of bu­gles blown by no­ta­bil­i­ties in the me­dia, that she took re­spon­si­bil­ity for mis­lead­ing ev­ery­one about her in­fa­mous pri­vate email server and sub­se­quent breaches of na­tional se­cu­rity, but she never of­fered her­self to pun­ish­ment and hu­mil­i­a­tion. That was left to the vot­ers, who did in fact per­form their duty with ad­mirable en­thu­si­asm.

Su­san Rice has not yet taken re­spon­si­bil­ity for what she did wrong, be­cause she’s still at the stage where she’s telling any­one who will lis­ten that she did noth­ing wrong. Given her record of treat­ing the his­tor­i­cal record as if it is made of rub­ber and Span­dex, it’s fair to as­sume that the story is only be­gin­ning.

Miss Rice rat­tled off a false tale on sev­eral net­works af­ter the at­tack and death of four Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing the U.S. am­bas­sador to Libya, at Ben­gahzi. She lied in con­sid­er­able de­tail about how the ri­ots in Libya were a spon­ta­neous anti-Amer­i­can demon­stra­tion against an ob­scure Amer­i­can video ques­tion­ing ar­cane points of Is­lamic the­ol­ogy. The truth was that Libyan ji­hadists had plot­ted to kill Amer­i­cans, that Amer­i­can diplo­mats had pleaded for days for help, and none was of­fered. Su­san Rice knew all this, but the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion thought a lie would be more con­ve­nient.

Now we’ve heard from Miss Rice again, with the rev­e­la­tion that she “un­masked” Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, in­no­cent of wrong­do­ing, who were in­no­cently recorded in con­ver­sa­tions searched by U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies’ for im­por­tant leads to mis­chief. The iden­tity of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens was meant to be pro­tected un­less spe­cific ex­cep­tions were made by ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials look­ing for clues and leads to crimes. When word got out that she was re­spon­si­ble for “un­mask­ing” some of these names, she first de­nied it. Soon the back­track­ing be­gan. Well, maybe she did it af­ter all.

What is still at is­sue is whether she then passed this ma­te­rial on to oth­ers in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, per­haps to be used against the Repub­li­can can­di­date. But pshaw! Would any­one in Washington, and par­tic­u­larly a Demo­crat, do that in the heat of a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign with the Repub­li­can can­di­date clos­ing in for the kill?

“Tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity” car­ries no moral or eth­i­cal recog­ni­tion in Washington that words have mean­ings. In­vok­ing the phrase does not mean pay­ing a price in dol­lars and cents for fail­ure to honor the public trust, nor should he nec­es­sar­ily sur­ren­der priv­i­lege and pres­tige of office. This new ver­sion of re­spon­si­bil­ity lite re­quires nei­ther pain nor suf­fer­ing, and it fa­tally erodes the con­cept of right and wrong in public life.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.