BY CHUCK NORRIS
Obama promised during his campaign to “clean up both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue” with “the most sweeping ethics reform in history.” He repeatedly declared that “an Obama administration is going to have the toughest ethic laws of any administration in history.” But shouldn’t that moral commitment extend to all of those he appoints too?
First, there was New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who withdrew his name from consideration as commerce secretary because of a grand jury investigation into whether donations to his political committees were mingled with state contracts.
Second, there was William J. Lynn III, a lobbyist for a major military contractor slated to become the No. 2 at the Defense Department. (There are other Obama appointees who worked as lobbyists and are now located among his administration, like Mark Patterson, who represented Goldman Sachs and is now chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.)
Third, there was Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s appointment, which somehow squeezed through Congress despite his failing to pay more than $34,000 in self-employment taxes.
Fourth, there was former Treasury official Nancy Killefer, who withdrew her name as the government’s first chief performance officer because of not paying her taxes.
Fifth, there was Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle, who withdrew his name to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, but only after a barrage of confrontation over his failure to pay $146,000 in taxes.
Sixth, there was Rep. Hilda Solis, Obama’s nominee to be Labor secretary, whose husband this past week paid $6,400 in tax liens against his business – some outstanding for 16 years. (But she claims innocence and even press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “[W]e’re not going to penalize her for her husband’s business mistakes.” Is her husband’s business and money not also hers? Have you ever noticed how nothing is anyone’s fault anymore?)
And now, lucky No. 7, Obama has nominated David Ogden to be the deputy attorney general – the second person in command in the U.S. office of the attorney general. According to the American Family Association, as an attorney in private practice, Ogden has filed briefs opposing parental notification before a minor’s abortion and the Children’s Internet Protection Act and the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act. He has also litigated many obscenity and pornography cases on behalf of clients like the ACLU, Playboy, Penthouse and the largest distributor of hardcore pornographic movies.
With more than 90,000 names of registered sex offenders just turned over from MySpace alone, do we really want one more high-ranking politician who is soft on sexual crime and immoralities? I’d recommend Ogden and indeed everyone else watch the DVD, “Someone’s Daughter – A Journey to Freedom from Pornography” (distributed by Vision Video). (Ogden must still be confirmed by the Senate, so write your representatives today.)
Am I missing something? Remember when tax evasion was a crime? Remember when porn was bad? Remember when ethics actually mattered in our choices for politicians? Remember when there were expected moral standards for leaders? Remember when politicians were role models? (Now I’m dating myself!)
I’m doing my best to support my president. I don’t want him to fail. And I do want to give him a chance to get out of the gates without criticizing every step he makes. But when he repeats the same sizable mistakes in choosing unethical and even immoral leaders, does anyone close to him propose that maybe he’s going down the wrong road – that his criteria need to change? Have we grown so calloused of political indiscretions and corruption that we don’t care about any leader’s moral standings anymore? Do we really want controversial cabinet members running our country? Are we supposing they will help usher in the “most sweeping ethics reform in history”?
I know Obama told multiple network news stations in a dozen different ways, “I screwed up” and “nobody is perfect.” I have made my share of mistakes too, but I’m not the president, and I didn’t promise all Americans to make historic ethic reforms in Washington. I’m all for “mea culpas,” but what about my country? How many more leadership failings are we going to face? Should I or we keep silent until we reach 11 or 21 unethical appointees? We’re not even a month into Obama’s presidency!
The fact is that Obama has at his disposal more resources than any corporation on the planet to do a battery of background and psychological tests before even nominating anyone, but is he using them? Does he really have so few moral candidates from whom to choose that the only qualified ones are those who have straddled and gone over the ethical edge?
Call me Pollyanna-ish, but I believe leadership should be exemplary. I believe leadership should be above reproach. And if Obama can’t find an ethical criteria for choosing other politicians, then let me pass along some advice – from our Founding Fathers.
Ethics (the practice of morality) is the foundation of a healthy character, family and country. If ethics wane, so goes the people and eventually the nation. As Founding Father, Elias Boudinot once said: “If the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow.”
Good morals precede good laws, which is why government isn’t much help here. Unless the people and their legislators are grounded in morality, the best of laws will be broken and the worst of laws will be made, legalizing immorality. All the vetting in the world won’t vanquish a corrupt human nature. That is why we can’t look to government to improve decency, civility and morality. For that we need to look to another source.
John Adams put it well when he said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Government isn’t the answer. And neither is education, at least without religion. As Benjamin Rush, also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, explained, “Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”
Our founders had a better answer than government or even education. God is the answer. God is the moral compass of America. Or He should be, if we ever want to restore morality in our homes and civility to our land. Our founders believed morals flowed from one’s accountability to God, and that without God moral anarchy would result.
John Quincy Adams believed there were “three points of doctrine, the belief of which, forms the foundation of all morality.” He enumerated them: “The first is the existence of a God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is a future state of rewards and punishments. Suppose it possible for a man to disbelieve either of these articles of faith and that man will have no conscience, he will have no other law than that of the tiger or the shark; the laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy.”
To the founders, religion was an essential buttress of free government. That is why Patrick Henry wrote, “The greatest pillars of all government and of social life: I mean virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.”
Charles Carroll, who also signed the Declaration of Independence on behalf of Maryland, wrote, “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion whose morality is so sublime and pure … are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”
George Washington summarized it best in his Farewell Address: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. … Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
Of course, illegalities, immoralities and other ethic violations have existed in every age, including our founders’, but they weren’t as readily accepted and tolerated as they are today. Most led good, moral and decent lives. And most fought to elect those would so the same, and so should we.
To encourage ethical living in youngsters, I recommend they read and practice what even 14-year-old George Washington wrote out in freehand by his own volition, “110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” To everyone else, I recommend Jacob Abbott’s “Ethics: An Early American Handbook” – a reprint of an 1890 study on ethics. Humbly, Chapters 5 and 6 in my new book, “Black Belt Patriotism,” are also devoted to how to rebuild a civil and moral society according to our Founders. I lastly recommend Rushworth Kidder’s “Moral Courage” or, better yet, attend his seminar in Washington, D.C., on April 7, 2009. And stay attuned to ethical issues in politics by frequenting the website for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Mr. President, I’m doing my best as a patriot and a conservative to support you. But if your present choice of leaders is reflective of “the most sweeping ethics reform in history,” then I’d respectfully say, sir, you’re sweeping in the wrong direction.