Friday, January 14, 2005

A Broken Record

Honor isn't about making the right choices.
It's about dealing with the consequences.
-- Midori Koto

Well, here I go again.

It was recently revealed that conservative columnist and television show host Armstrong Williams took a $240,000 fee from the Department of Education to run an ad on his program supporting President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program and to write a syndicated column supporting the initiative.

In an open letter published Monday, Williams apologized for his conduct and promised it would never happen again. He pointed out, however, that he had long supported such school choice initiatives and that his support for this program was co-incidental with the fee paid to him by the Education Department.

He also indicated that he accepts “full responsibility” for his lack of good judgment, and that he is “paying the price” for his actions. “Tribune Media,” he writes, “has cancelled my column.”

Of course, having a well-deserved beating forced upon you is not the same as taking “full responsibility.” But Williams at least is honest enough to recognize that his actions breached whatever shards are still standing in the increasingly oxymoronic “wall of journalistic ethics.” Williams sees that his behavior compromises his credibility as a journalist.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out again recently that, on the other side of the political street, two prominent liberal bloggers, Daily Kos and MyDD, took monthly payments from Howard Dean’s campaign in the months prior to Dean’s embarrassingly puerile self-immolation in the Democratic primaries. This fact -- the payoffs, not the self-immolation -- has been substantially overlooked in the media.

In any event, these incidents again prove two things: (1) the improper behavior exists on both sides of the spectrum; and (2) neither side is willing to be truly accountable.

Williams will apologize and he won’t cry "unfair treatment," but apparently will not do much else. He certainly won’t return a quarter of a million dollars. He may be sorry about all this, but he’s not that sorry.

The two Dean bloggers are even worse than Williams. They, like many liberals today, believe they are beyond good and evil -- their cause is just -- and they need not even acknowledge that they did anything that might have compromised journalistic standards.

They argue, instead, that their hands are clean because they disclosed their financial ties to the Dean campaign to their readers. In other words, everybody knew they were bought and paid for. You know, a sort of red light in the cyber-window.

They also try to distinguish their own hired gun status from Williams’ by arguing that the money they took was not taxpayer money, as was the money paid to Williams. That, of course, is a stinking red herring, a distinction without a difference, inasmuch as the key issue here is journalistic integrity and not the appropriate use of tax dollars.

No one -- in this case, neither Armstrong nor the Dean blog mouthpieces -- is willing to do much to illustrate that they are serious about taking responsibility for improper behavior. Williams will only apologize; the Dean folks won’t even do that. This unwillingness to take the consequences is probably predictable in an age much more familiar with Hari Krishen than hari-kari.


Blogger Gone Away said...

As I understand it, acceptance of responsibility involves admitting that that one is to blame for whatever has gone wrong. Any punishment that follows is surely up to those who have the power to administer it, although I do admit that there was once an unwritten rule in politics that admission of fault would be followed by self punishment in the form of resignation. This does seem to have fallen by the wayside in both America and Britain and we witness all too often guilty parties doing their utmost to hang on to office regardless of who or what suffers as a consequence. One might expect that the powers that be would then move in to administer the punishment; but who has the power to do so in the case of politicians? And, of course, in the case of the great and powerful, there is much more at stake than mere culpability. If the party is going to suffer, all other considerations tend to disappear in an excess of obfustication (always wanted to get that word in somewhere). Pardon my cynicism, but welcome to the 21st century...

1/15/2005 05:55:00 AM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

Obsfuscation is the key here. The PR folks, who trace their lineage to the Sophists, have refined the art to within a micron. Thus, one can be "fully responsible" by merely responding.

But, Gone Away, being among cynics is not too terrible.

"Diogenes, generally referred to as 'Diogenes the Cynic', is one of the most striking figures in Greek history; at least, his personality with its eccentricities, its coarse humour, its originality, and its defiance of the commonplace, has appealed with extraordinary force to the popular imagination."

On the other hand,

"The Cynic contempt for the refinements and conventions of polite society is generally given as the reason for the name dogs (kúnes) by which the first representatives of the school were known."

On the third hand, even a dog might get scraps off his master's table.

1/15/2005 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gone Away said...


1/15/2005 11:52:00 AM  

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