Friday, March 09, 2007

Does Character Still Matter, Mr. President?

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Anyone who coaches youth sports, and most parents of young children, will tell you that one of the best ways to build character in young people is to make sure that they have to experience the negative consequences of their own poor decisions. To let a kid completely off the hook for doing something wrong is to ignore an opportunity to teach a lesson that can help form an honorable, respectful, and in some communities, a God-fearing, adult. It’s often called “tough love,” and it’s practiced in various forms by liberals and conservatives alike.

George W. Bush came into the White House after campaigning under the banner “Character Matters.” While criticizing the misdeeds of his Democratic predecessor, he promised “to restore honor and integrity” to the White House. And his supporters believed him!

Aside from a small number of hypocritical neocon politicians, lobbyists, and pundits, Bush’s supporters are mostly those who see the world in black and white, right and wrong, crime and punishment, terms that are, when considering a family member who has done something wrong, consistent with the idea of “tough love.”

So, if Scooter Libby is such a nice guy, why not practice a little “tough love” and use his conviction as an opportunity to teach him a valuable lesson and build some character? After all, character matters in a Bush White House, right? A few years in prison won’t kill Scooter Libby. As the saying goes, it will probably make him stronger!

Or George W. Bush can issue a Presidential pardon. He can let Libby completely off the hook without building any character at all! He can be like the Little League coach who lets a player cheat, or lie about his age, without any attempt to teach good sportsmanship and fair play.

And what kind of character would the President be modeling as a leader? To pardon Libby, Bush would have to break his own Justice Department’s rules to pardon his own advisor, for actions taken at the behest of his own Vice President, and likely with his own approval. After all, according to Cheney, “this Pres” is the one who asked Libby to put his neck in the meatgrinder!

Of course we know that character isn't expressed through campaign slogans, and this President hasn't displayed much in the way of character since taking office. Still, at every opportunity, between now and the time George W. Bush leaves office, as long as Scooter Libby is in line to be held accountable for his own poor decisions, the President should be asked the followng question, over and over:

“Does Character Still Matter, Mr. President?”

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