- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008


In the midst of all the outrage, opining and round calls for resignation in recent scandals among some of the nation’s top politicians — a major point is getting lost in the muck — morality. Whether it’s unethical conduct, irresponsible spending or an adulterous affair — morals matter.

With the rapid rise and fall of New York Mayor Eliot Spitzer and increasing calls for the resignation of embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick drawing comparisons between the two “rising stars,” it’s worth noting the stark differences among the similarities. Both allegedly broke the law and used public funds to do it. One knew when to quit, the other doesn’t. And the issue of morality lies at the center of both. The overriding question that is consistently asked is how such “powerful” men could be so stupid? One could invoke the Lord John Acton’s familiar adage: “absolute power corrupts absolutely” — which it does. But I say a faulty moral compass doomed these leaders.

Morality 101. Webster’s dictionary defines morality as: “pertaining to the principles of right and wrong. conduct in regard to standards of right and wrong.”

Compass is defined as: “moderate bounds. limits of truth. an instrument of direction in order to ascertain the course.” It is the internal instrument that directs the moral course we take to determine right or wrong. We all have one. We can choose to ignore it or be led by it. Instead of asking “how,” the question should be, what happened to their moral compass? Our Founding Fathers were on to something when they crafted a new world and new colonies based on the morality that guided them. William Penn wrote the famous, “Frame of the Government,” for his new colony in Pennsylvania on April 25, 1682:”Government, like clocks, go from the motion men give them; and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let them be good, and the government cannot be bad.” The precepts of history serve us well. If our current leaders have been given the power or authority to do good in administering the laws of their city, state, and country by virtue of their constituency (us), then where is this virtue: “moral goodness, the practice of moral duty, moral excellence”?

In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams once wrote: “without virtue, there can be no political liberty.” It’s pretty clear. There is virtue in holding a position of authority. And freedom to rule comes with responsibility.

I will concede that there is a time and a place when forgiveness is in order. A tenet not lost among people of faith and found in abundance among everyday citizens quick to redeem public figures of their questionable, even illegal (i.e. Marion Barry) behavior. But true forgiveness doesn’t come without some contrition from the offender and a turning away of that behavior. Key traits missing in Mr. Kilpatrick who, instead, seems to be making a mockery of his faith and the public trust.

In a page out of the Bill Clinton playbook — the “when caught with your pants down chapter” the young Detroit mayor met with about 25 pastors last week for a prayer session. According to the Detroit Free Press, the leader of the New Black Panthers in Detroit, said: “we went to pray [sic] “our mayor is a praying mayor. He believes in the power of prayer.” Mr. Kilpatrick, a “praying” man? I don’t doubt that, but what did he pray when he lied under oath with his hand on the bible? That God not strike him down as he lie to a jury about an extramarital affair?

The praying colonist, William Penn, stated: “If thou wouldst rule well, thou must rule for God, and to do that, thou must be ruled by Him. [sic] true Godliness doesn’t turn men out of the World, but enables them to live better in it.” Detroit taxpayers (as with all taxpayers) should ask themselves if they are better off and better served (or ruled) by a mayor who has cost them $9 million to settle a lawsuit brought by police whistle blowers, an additional $2.4 million for filing a tardy audit, and the likely tens of thousands paid to SkyTel Pagers for the more than 14,000 text messages Mr. Kilpatrick sent his lover? Has hizzoner been ruled by the God he prays to or by the immoral abyss of absolute power?

A pompous Eliot Spitzer recognized sooner rather than later that the public wasn’t having any of it and rightfully relinquished his governorship. While there are occasions when leaders have true lapses in judgment that call for redemption — not for Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Kilpatrick. Their actions go beyond a mere lapse to a pattern. A pattern of behavior that not only reflects their character but has overridden any ability for either to effectively maintain the integrity of public office. They have lost their moral compass. The relentless New York governor — who made more political enemies than friends — now appears the epitome of hypocrisy in the face of his robust prosecutions that included breaking up at least two state prostitution rings while he allegedly utilized such services for at least a half a dozen years. And the “Hip Hop Mayor” has succumbed to his own above -the-law arrogance in lying under oath, engaging in a long illicit affair with his chief of staff, under investigation for his alleged role in a stripper’s murder, apologized for personal purchases on a city-issued credit card, notorious for bullying the press (of which I can personally attest to), and facing accusations of nepotism in awarding city contracts. These days the headlines in Detroit read: “A Mayor in Crisis.” But it’s a “crisis” of his own doing and like Mr. Spitzer — he is a “victim” of his own demise. They can hide behind the pontificating about whether sexual trysts are a private affair — save for the millions in taxpayer dollars they likely squandered for personal pleasure, oh and that: 1) prostitution is illegal and 2) lying under oath is too.

Bill Bennett’s “Book of Virtues” is designed for parents to their children — bestowing the tenets of responsibility, loyalty, and honesty. Our politicians need a remedial course.

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