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Friday, October 28, 2005

Moral Failing for the Sake of the Country

Let me start out by saying that I agree that Bill Clinton's moral failings are legendary. It was wrong for him to violate his wedding vows - apparently many times with several different women - and it was wrong for him to lie about it under oath. Politically, I understand why he'd lie about his actions - after all, every single one of us has lied after we got caught with our hand in some cookie jar. I've done it, you've done it, Bill Clinton did it. We understand. Understanding, however, doesn't make it right.

It is also true that Bill Clinton's sin was against his marriage and against his personal integrity. There is no indication that he put his personal skirt-chasing ahead of matters of state. There is no indication that our ability to collect and interpret information on Osama Bin Laden was effected by his false insistence that he didn't have sex with Monica Lewinsky. While the investigation was embarrassing to our entire country, his lying about his actions only cost us more money spent on the investigation - it didn't make any government agency go through intense scrutiny of their own personnel or endanger any sort of ongoing covert operations (even potentially).

Yet we expect that some time today, the Vice-President's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby will be indicted on some combination of perjury and obstruction of justice charges related to the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame. News reports this morning do say that Presidential advisor Karl Rove will not be indicted, though. At least, not today he won't.

However, every reporter connected to the issue has said that someone at the White House did reveal her name - though we still don't know if it was intentional or not. In the end, it doesn't matter. The damage was done. The CIA had to submit to an investigation by the Justice Department and FBI. Until the source of the leak is known and plugged, then any number of CIA operations could be compromised or be of reduced utility (or maybe not, too). Whereas rabid partisans couldn't wait to ignore everything in favor of a constantly expanding Clinton investigation, the Administration (and Congress) had to be pressured into investigating.

All moral failings are moral failings, and anyone who claims otherwise is simply doing so for either personal or partisan reasons. There is a significant difference, in my eyes, between a man whose moral failing exposed himself and his wife to ridicule (much of which was already being heaped upon them) and a man (or men/women) whose moral failing exposed people not directly involved in the issue at hand. In other words, it's one thing to make yourself look like the heel that you are (and cause personal pain to others), but it's another to do all of that and still manage to endanger the country's ability to gather and make use of intelligence (we are at war, remember?).

This doesn't have to be the end for President Bush. It could be the chance he needs to make "the big correction". He could publically order everyone to participate in a security training update. He could condemn the political culture that puts winning above all honorable goals - such as public service, protecting the country, and social justice. He could ask Americans to re-dedicate themselves to creating a society where liberty and justice exists for all and anyone who acts against that idea - no matter if they are in Iraq or in the West Wing annex - will be brought to justice.

He could. The President's moral failing is that he won't.

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