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Turning Aside to Fables

By June 8, 2011Legal
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It’s sad to see someone struggling like Rep. Anthony Weiner (D- New York). We should cherish and honor the institution of marriage, and it is tragic when that sacred bond is violated.

What is infuriating, though, is to see the treatment of the lies.

Here is an analysis of the situation from an article in Politico quoting an “ethics expert”:

“With what we know now, I don’t see a House rule” violation, said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group. “I think the conduct that does not reflect creditably on the House is really the lying about the whole thing – but of course, all politicians lie, particular [sic] about stuff like this.”

Of course! What’s the big deal? They all lie. It’s not like we need our representatives to be credible or anything.

Is Miss Sloan serious? Is this the type of “watchdog” group we have looking at ethics? Does she really mean to suggest it’s perfectly fine for our representatives to lie because “everybody does it”?

To be sure, there are many who buy that analysis. Many have become cynical about politicians and, therefore, we get jokes like, “We know a politician is lying when his lips are moving.”

But I think the analysis preys on an underlying fallacy. It is not the same to say that President Obama “lied” because he promised on the campaign trail that, if elected, he would close the Guantanamo Bay prison and has not done so. That is the type of thing that prompts the jokes, I suspect. But it is not the same. The only way you can compare Rep. Weiner’s situation with President Obama and Guantanamo is if President Obama made that promise with full knowledge that he would never do it – in other words, if he intended to deceive the public.

Rep. Weiner looked indignant when reporters asked him about the picture. He even called one a “jacka–” for interrupting him. “I did not send that photo. My system was hacked. I was pranked,” he said forcefully.

Then, days later, his story changes: “To be clear, the picture was of me, and I sent it,” he said.

The U.S. House of Representatives Official Code of Conduct clearly states that, “A Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House shall conduct himself at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”

Nothing can damage that credibility more than lying and deceiving your family, other Members, your staff, and the American people.

But no, according to the “ethics expert,” everybody does it, so it is okay.

And apparently Rep. Weiner agrees. After his two minutes of contrition, he appeared defiant and confident again as he proudly declared, “I am not resigning.” To him, this is an unfortunate personal matter. The fact that he lied to our faces with an arrogant smile apparently carries no weight.

The Bible warns us of a time when “they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:4). The fables here are: 1) that everybody does it, and 2) that that somehow makes it acceptable.

First, everybody does not do it. That is just a cop-out used not only to protect those involved in the immoral behavior, but to encourage others to feel free to try it. Theodore Roosevelt once said:

We cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure. Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity.

How about that perspective? Honesty is “an absolute prerequisite.” No public servant should get away with purposely lying to the American people in order to save their own skin. We need not take it.

Second, the sheer numbers of those who do wrong can never justify wrongful behavior. If they all lie, then they must all go. The House rule is in place for a reason, and we must respect it. If not, we should do away with it.

But even beyond that, lies and deception are naturally wrong, and we all know it. Even if there were no official rule violation, “we the people” instinctively know honesty is a requirement for public trust. We should never tolerate lies from our public servants.