- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

Nobles: Vice President Dick Cheney, for giving an unthinkable order during an unimaginable disaster.

On September 11, Mr. Cheney had mere moments to make an agonizing decision — to order the deaths of many Americans aboard a hijacked airliner or to allow the deaths of many more by allowing it to crash into its destination. It is a debate that an ethicist could exhaust himself over the entire canon of literature on, but still come to no definite conclusion.

Even if such studies had been on hand in the crisis bunker beneath the White House, the vice president would not have had time to read them. He had few facts of any sort, being surrounded by that day’s fogs of rumor and misinformation. Mr. Cheney knew that America was under attack from hijacked airplanes; he had been given authority by Mr. Bush to order them downed. But Mr. Cheney still had to give the order, certain that Americans would die.

When told — erroneously — that a hijacked plane was within 80 miles of the nation’s capital, the vice president did not hesitate. “In about the time it takes a batter to swing,” Mr. Cheney decided to order fighter jets into the air to shoot down the plane. Minutes later, Mr. Cheney again authorized the shoot-down. However, the fighters circling Washington never received the order.

Had things been different, the sorrows poured out that day might have been lessened. In retrospect, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush made the right call. That the decision was revealed this week during the hearings of the September 11 Commission does nothing to lessen its nobility.

For making a heart-breaking call that had to be made, Mr. Cheney is the Noble of the Week.

Knaves: Matt Starr, for swiping and keeping a baseball from a 4-year old.

Call it a case of irrational exuberance coupled to unconscionable avarice. When a foul ball headed toward Mr. Starr at a Texas Rangers game this week, he dove for it. Caught up in the excitement of the moment, perhaps Mr. Starr simply did not see 4-year-old Nick O’Brien, even though he struck the boy’s leg as he dove across his seat.

However, Mr. Starr, 28, must have understood what he had done. Nick’s mother, Edie, told him. So did the fans at the stadium, who chanted “Give him the ball.” Mr. Starr, wearing a smirk, did not. He did not give the ball back after St. Louis player Reggie Sanders gave Nick a bat and a ball; he did not give it back after the two people sitting with Mr. Starr left without him.

Mr. Starr finally came to his senses at the end of the week. Through an intermediary, Mr. Starr announced that he would give the ball back, send a letter of apology to the family and buy them tickets to a game. The apology is appropriate, but the damage has been done.

For unsportsmanlike conduct and considered greed, Mr. Starr is the Knave of the Week.

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