Friday, January 07, 2005

I Feel So Responsible

The Senate Judiciary Committee took up yesterday the nomination of White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as U.S. Attorney General. With this action, the Judiciary Committee again gives the American public an opportunity to see craven grandstanding and hypocrisy at its worst.

In one such example, Committee Democrats apparently even considered resurrecting at the committee hearing the photos and other images related to the torture of Abu Ghraib.

Aside from the genuine issues raised by these claims of torture (i.e., e.g., whether the torture was as widespread as claimed, whether certain actions are really even torture, whether Gonzales really tried to shield such actions from being disclosed) and the Democrats' willingness to make political gains based on empty but inflammatory posturing, the issue of the torture of terrorists and terrorist suspects brings before us again the concept of “responsibility,” more specifically, what it means to “take responsibility” for something, whether in the personal or political context.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield indicated last spring that he took responsibility for the torture. Does he really? Sure, his blame taking might have resulted in a loss of personal stature and perhaps some political fallout for the president, but what did it cost him? What actions accompanied his “taking responsibility”?

The Democrats, of course, jumped all over Rumsfield's essentially painless mea culpa as a hollow gesture. But it in no way absolves them and their consort of leftwing phonies (the ACLU,, e.g.) for their own actions or inactions when their side has been faced with similar allegations.

For example, those screaming about the hollowness of Rumsfield’s actions in “accepting blame” related to Abu Ghraib were completely silent when Janet Reno made the decision to incinerate the Cranks of Waco. Certainly she bore much more direct responsibility for the deaths of the Texas holdouts than Rumsfield does for the torture of POWs in Iraq. And while she shed tears, allegedly, over the literal immolation of the Branch Davidians, she certainly took no action that imposed any cost on herself or her Department, leading to the following clerihew:

Waco Janet Reno
Began the Great Inferno
Took responsibility
But stayed with us eternally

Perhaps there is no real solution to this tendency to such empty and painfree sorrow. But it is not surprising that most sensible people smell hypocrisy when politicians and officials claim to “take responsibility” without paying any real price. I, for one, would take such blame-grasping more seriously if it were accompanied by some of the political hari-kari we see on occasion in Japan’s political arena.

Until politicians get the stomach for such meaningful political shiv diving, maybe the process as a whole, and the American public’s cynicism quotient in particular, would benefit from a little less empty rhetoric. Officials would earn more respect if they would stop using phrases like "taking responsibility" unless they actually mean it -- and are prepared to act as if they do.


Blogger Remainderman said...

Palinurus, you're as
Bright as the breaking morn!
For who knew? Clerihew!
A new vehicle in verse for scorn.

Did I get that right, or was I supposed to use rhyming couplets?

1/07/2005 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger palinurus said...

The sentiment is totally accurate, but, yes, technically, the clerihew should have rhyming couplets: Jolly old Remainderman
With witty writings in the can
Is smarter than, and even brighter
than, a monkey with a type-a-writer

1/07/2005 06:33:00 PM  

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