We have all done dumb things

Let me first say, Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia, must resign. He made a series of poor decisions in his past and has handled this whole escapade poorly. There has been a breach of faith with his constituents.

When incumbents dishonor the office, action must be taken. It need not always be resignation, but some formal censure or pulling of appointments to committees could be in order. It is vital to protect the auspices of the position. The Catholic Church failed to learn this regarding sexual assault and rape with Penn State and Michigan State Universities doing the same.

Unfortunately, my former party did not heed this lesson as the current US President should have been removed from the campaign when he confirmed what others had accused him of before the so-called “locker room talk” became public – sexual assault. Now he continues to defame the office with his untruths, bullying and demeaning of anyone who is in his way or he perceives to challenge his message.

Setting all of this aside, we have all done dumb things in our past. All of us, even the Pope. This is even more true when we were young and impressionable. We have done things in group settings, where we may not have been strong-willed enough to tell the group we should not be doing this or I choose not to do this. Three teen boys with free time is the makings of some poor decision-making.

The key in looking back is to come clean. Was this an isolated incident or a pattern of behavior? Are they otherwise exhibiting reputable patterns of behavior since that time? How is the person reacting to the resurfaced information? Did they fess up or go into protection mode as the governor has done?

What worried me about our newest Supreme Court justice is there seemed to be a pattern of behavior as a teen and young man that was troubling. Yet, once it got political, the truth was overshadowed by messaging. What also was overshadowed by accusers is his behavior since being a responsible adult. I would have liked all of this to have been handled more judiciously, yet I must confess the judge was in attack mode and the issues should have been raised much earlier before it became a crisis.

In a recent post, I mention the number 19 is the numerator of a favorite example. The person who does the right thing 19 times out of 20 is different from the person who has a less stellar track record. The President is untruthful 69% of the time and as Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked for him, said, “Trump lies every day, even about things of no consequence.” For the former person, you would tend to give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

Let me close with an observation we all need to consider. Not only have we all done dumb things, in today’s world, those things are recorded. For some reason, politicians tend to forget that things are recorded. Representative Anthony Weiner is a smart man, but doesn’t he know that sending a picture of his manhood is easily shared and not easily erased?

So, politicians or any officials need to come clean, preferably before they run.The sad part is since we are in a “gotcha” culture, people with pretty good records will choose not to run. And, that may be more harmful to our country.

 

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America falls on the Corruption Perceptions Index

This is probably not what those Americans with red ball caps with MAGA on them envisioned when they signed up on Team Donald. Per watchdog group Transparency International, in 2017 the US fell four grade points from 75 to 71 on the Corruption Perceptions Index falling out of the top twenty. A score of 100 means a country is very clean and a score of zero means it is very corrupt.

Per an AP articles called “US Rank on corruption index seen as a ‘red flag,'” The “ratings reflect a deterioration of rule of law and democratic institutions, as well as rapidly shrinking space for civil society and independent media,” the Berlin-based organization said.

The organization also said, “A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balance, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.” Full democracies scored an average of 75 on the CPI, meaning we have fallen beneath the curve.

This is not a surprise and is confirmation of what I have been asking of Senators and Congressional representatives to do. My questions have been two-fold. (1) What will it take for you to remember to whom you swore an oath and do your job pushing back on a President who is damaging our relationships with our allies and demonizing the free press and anyone who dares criticize him. (2) Is this the man you wish to spend your dear reputation on?

To be brutally frank, I am at a loss and I tell them so. Unfortunately, the staffs are the only people who hear my concerns and emails get a boiler plate response. It truly saddens me to say I don’t believe a word the President says, as the odds are in my favor. It further saddens me that so-called leaders of our country have looked the other way when simplistic solutions to complex problems are deployed as panaceas. It is hard enough to govern with truth and facts, but nigh impossible when the man in the White House has run off his advisors and wasn’t really listening to them in the first place.

Please join with me and ask our leaders to remember their oaths. Doing the right thing should not be as hard as it has become, but we must go down that path. We have some hard truths that continue to evolve about this President, with six of his relationships pleading guilty or being convicted and one under indictment. As the 37th President found out, when people are going to jail it is no longer a witch hunt. And, it is not ironic the man under indictment also worked for the 37th President.

We are better than this. If we told the US soldiers, that freed the remaining Jews from the death camps at the end of WWII, the leader of the free world in less than 75 years would be Germany, they would not have believed you. It is hard to fathom, but it is true. That is what is at stake. Is this what MAGA means?

Wise men say…

If you are any semblance of an Elvis fan, you know the next phrase of this song is “…only fools rush in.” While this song is about not listening to your head and what others say, but rushing ahead with what your heart says, it does apply well to legislation. When legislators rush into anything, they will make mistakes. You can take that to the bank.

I cite four examples, two at the federal level and two at the state level. In North Carolina, our legislators called a special session last spring to pass the HB2 Law, henceforth known as the Bathroom Bill, in ten hours. They did not ask what others thought of this legislation. The transgender discrimination part of the bill was sold on fear, and when that is done, it is hard to back off. Yet, the part that ruffled the feathers of the NCAA, NBA and ACC as well as businesses and musicians, was the part that denied protection for LGBT members under the law. This is flat out unconstitutional, but since they passed it so quickly, they did not take the time to know this.

You would think our General Assembly would learn this lesson, but last month after it was official the new governor would be a Democrat, this impatient and power-hungry assembly met to address something more than hurricane assistance, which was the purpose for the gathering. They decided to strip powers away from the new governor. Mind you, the General Assembly already had a super-majority, but they had to flex their muscles and use a coup to grab more power. Even Republican voters thought this was poor form. Yet, our leaders in the General Assembly seem to not care what people think. As an Independent, I find this to be horrific legislation, an abuse of power and poor stewardship.

Not to be out done, the first measure our Republican friends in Congress wanted to change was the nonpartisan Ethics Committee. Over the chagrin of their leaders and after meeting in secret, they decided to restrict this ethics review process. After backlash from the public and with the President-elect piling on, they repealed the bill in less than 24 hours. When the President-elect, not known for his ethics, calls you on the carpet for ethics, you really screwed up. In my view, this may have been one of the more idiotic bills ever passed. The fact that this measure was the first thing that was done is outrageous and sets a tone of poor governance.

Which brings us to the rush to repeal Obamacare. This law is imperfect and complex, but is working pretty well. It does need to be improved and there are ways to do that leaving the framework in place. The administration is already built to accommodate some needed changes, so it is only for political reasons that it must be repealed first. I have written many posts, including the previous one, which shows how we got to this place, adds some needed truths, and asks for a data-driven change. Yet, if you govern off rhetoric, you suffer the consequences. The President-elect said he’s going to make benefits more generous and cheaper at the same time – that sounds like a TV ad for a new product, so good luck with that.

Wise men say, only fools rush in. These are four examples of foolish behavior that led to or are leading to poor legislation. The sad part is there are many more. Legislation is hard enough without rushing into it. When you do, mistakes will happen. I also believe, legislators don’t want citizens to take the time to see the real story. And, if you govern by tweet without input from advisors, you are being foolish.