June 13, 2011

"Responsibility" should have consequences

Perhaps Representative Anthony Weiner really didn't "betray" his constituents, but he has said he did and he has accepted full responsibility for his actions. If he means that, then he will have to resign. There's no way to take responsibility for betraying one's constituents -- one's employers -- without resigning. 

Weiner's acts, though creepy, are far less than some actual crimes allegedly committed by other politicians, including Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) who remains in the U.S. Senate four years after showing up on the customer records of the infamous "DC Madam". That unfortunate woman, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, took her own life less than a year later, and Senator Vitter won reelection. Louisiana... I get it.

Referring to the Iraq War, back in 2007, President George W. Bush said, "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me." And yet, the only individuals who lost their jobs over Iraq were the Army General who predicted we'd need more troops than the President initially committed and some mid-level officials implicated in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. As for the 9/11 attack on our nation, which defined the Bush Presidency as well as the 2008 candidacy of Rudy Giuliani, I know of no Bush administration official who lost his or her job as a result of failing to prevent the worst attack on U.S. soil in the last 150 years. "Mission Accomplished"... NOT.

When President Obama learned that Air Force One and military jets had been flown at low altitude over Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty for a photo op -- without coordinating with alarmed local government and law enforcement -- he fired the White House official who should have known better. Had President Bush applied the same standard to those who failed their duties on 9/11 and in the planning and prosecution of the Iraq invasion...

Representative Weiner did take some responsibility for his scandalous and inappropriate actions -- though incompletely -- and he did submit to the questions of an eager press corps on live TV. He has reportedly entered some psychiatric facility for treatment of his compulsions. His decision window is still open, even though it's wider than our typical six-hour news cycle. 

The saddest aspect to the Weiner affair, and to most of our political scandals and policy failures, is that there is no responsibility or accountability, nor any consequences, for the actions of public officials. Taking "full responsibility" has become an empty figure of speech, as "With all due respect," or "Have a nice day." I don't need a shopkeeper to mean it when telling me, "Y'all come back now." But I would like elected officials to stand behind their statements of accountability. Call me old fashioned. 

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