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Responsibility without Accountability

“The Buck Stops Here”. This is a well known phrase coined by Harry Truman and used by just about every politician since who wants to look and sound like they will take responsibility for whatever issue causes them to use the phrase. Today, J. Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress uttered those words. What exactly does Mr. Hastert mean? Will we see a change in Leadership in the House? Will Mr. Hastert resign as speaker in the wake of the cover-up of the Mark Foley incident?

In a word, No.

Mr. Hastert was duly contrite during his press conference today. He indicated that he was deeply sorry this happened and that "the bottom line is we're taking responsibilty". What exactly does this mean? What is responsibility without accountability? The Republican's today have mastered the art of responsibility without accountability. George Bush: "I take responsibility for federal failures after Katrina". Donald Rumsfeld: "Utimately the responsibility rests with me" when commenting on the torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners. Evidently there is no consequence to taking responsibility, as evidenced by the continued tenure of the President, Secretary of State, and now presumably, the Speaker of the House.

On January 8, 2005, the USS San Francisco, a Los Angeles class nuclear submarine was steaming back to Guam submerged at a depth of about 525 feet when it collided with an undersea mountain. One seaman was killed and several injured. The navigation chart being used by the crew did not show the mountain. After a review, the Navy relieved Commander Kevin Mooney, a 19-year veteran with an exemplary service record. THAT is accountability folks. In the service, it is pretty well understood that if you are in charge, you are both responsible AND accountable.

Now we have politicians being oh so very contrite and sorry, but then showing up to work the next day as if nothing happened. Regardless of the mess Messrs. Bush, Rumsfeld and Hastert have made with their jobs there will be seemingly few consequences.

Not to ignore the Democrats in this as they've pulled some whoppers in their time also. Remember Representative James Traficant? Even after being convicted of bribery in 2002, he refused to step down from his seat when asked to by House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt. Also, more recently, we have Mr. William Jefferson, he of the $90,000.00 of "cool cash" in his refigerator maintaining that he is innocent and will not step down even when there is videotape of him accepting the cash. And then whopper of all whoppers, President Bill Clinton who was "deeply sorry", but stayed put during the whole Lewinsky affair when many people had suggested he step down.

The point of this screed is that we have politicians with an acute sense of theatrical contrition and assumption fo responsibility, but then aren't honorable enough to know when the game is over and it's time to step down.

Mr. Hastert should have resigned today. It would have been the honorable thing to do. Politically, it would have been the smart thing to do as it would have given the Republicans a talking point that would have served them well during the run-up to the election. "Yes indeed, we walk the talk. We are the party of personal responsibility and sound moral values." Mr. Hastert was not planning on staying in Congress much longer anyway. He could have dramatically and gracefully fallen on his sword for the party and be seen as someone noble and forthright. By the way, it was the right thing to do from an ethical perspective. The Washington Times columnist, Tony Blankley wrote that "Although the hour is late, it is never too late to do the right thing. At this point, there is nothing left worth defending but our honor. And who knows, as an added bonus, it might also be the smart thing to do. But either way, it is the right thing."

Mr. Blankley was absolutely right. However, the geniuses in Washington won't pay heed to such good advice. The result, a continued existence of slimy, sleazy, dis-honorable politicians not only members of our Congress, but running it as well. Mr. Hastert, you could have been someone special. Now your just someone "who takes responsibility".

I'm gonna go take a Maalox now.

Posted by Dennis at October 5, 2006 5:55 PM
Comments
Comment #186545

I like the way Hastert said someone once said “The Buck Stops Here” and did not say it came from President Truman a democrat. The republicans seems to want to pass the buck, instead of standing up and taking the heat. Sweep everything under the rug and when the dirty comes out deny any knowledge.

Posted by: KT at October 5, 2006 7:20 PM
Comment #186546

It is amazing how many irresponsible incumbent politicians, when finally faced with their incompetence or corruption, simply says:

  • I take full responsibility.

  • or, The buck stops here.
Politicians are giving new meaning to those phrases. In time, people will equate those phrases with others like:
  • Trust me.

  • Would I lie to you?

  • I feel your pain.

  • Read my lips.
So, if these politicians that say “I take full responsibility” really meant it, shouldn’t they be making some sort of restitution?

After Katrina, Bush said “I take full responsibility”.
For Iraq, Bush says “I take full responsibility”.
For Mark Foley, Hastert (who knew about it for a long time, but is lying about it), says “I take full responsibility”.

Meaningless words.
But, perhaps that’s enough?
After all, 90% of Congress stand a very good chance of getting re-elected.

Watch Hastert get re-elected. Republicans defend him. Voters care MORE about preserving a seat for THEIR party, than they do about the future of the nation.

Posted by: d.a.n at October 5, 2006 7:23 PM
Comment #186549

These politicians count on the public not using the definition for responsibility: “ability to respond appropriately”.

If the public understood the word that way, the response would be a tumult! But, the public doesn’t understand the word, ‘responsibility’ or, that when one claims responsibility, ACTION MUST FOLLOW to make amends, or have preceded to prevent mishap in the first place, (that’s if the public were paying attention, which most are not.)

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 5, 2006 7:30 PM
Comment #186557

In keeping with this topic, this article is one of the best I’ve come across. See what you think.

http://www.commondreams.org/views06/1005-25.htm

Posted by: Tim Crow at October 5, 2006 8:09 PM
Comment #186614

Tim Crow,

Interesting link. Repression can have bad side-effects.

Posted by: d.a.n at October 6, 2006 1:42 AM
Comment #186622

I always tell my kids that they shouldn’t bother appologizing (besides the little social niceties) unless they actually are responsible AND they intend to do something to change.

When Hastert says he is responsible, what does that mean?

But this is typical these days. We have socialized responsibility. We no longer go after the actual crooks and pervs, but rather spread the blame. If a perv molests little boys, he goes into therapy and the lawyers attack the institution. In fact the perv himself may get a lawyer and sue because the institution allowed him to get out of hand.

The Foley case is interesting. He is no doubt a perv, but it is harder and harder to deal with these sorts of people because we have made such a religion of not being judgemental. You can imagine what will happen. It already is. Foley will start to be the victim. He was mistreated as a child. He has addictions, etc. Pretty soon it will be societies fault. You know that if Foley was not a Republican in an election year, the therapy industry would already have excused him.

Posted by: Jack at October 6, 2006 7:16 AM
Comment #186624

I don’t believe Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky merited his departure, though I’m glad Traficant’s been beamed up, and I hope to see Jefferson take the first National Guard truck home from Washington that becomes available after election day.

Hastert should resign, just like Jefferson. The evidence is there: he knew about Foley’s problem, and yet all he did was hush it up, and even make sure he ran again. Why won’t he resign? Because Dennis Hastert and the other Republicans of this congress are already so cynical about government that the only way they’ll let disgrace remove them from office is if they get the impression that the election situation back home is hopeless.

They fail to see how much they mar the reputation of their party, how much anger they’ve generated with their actions. They will see in November that there is a limit to the cynicism that Americans are prepared to tolerate from their government.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at October 6, 2006 7:39 AM
Comment #186625

Very well written, Dennis.

At this point Hastert knows what he knew and when, and perhaps who else knew what and when; but he and they are gonna make us turn the world upside down to find out.

On a side note, can you believe some are saying “Delay would’ve handled this better.” Talk about having learned nothing.

Posted by: Zebster at October 6, 2006 7:44 AM
Comment #186665

Dollars to Doughnuts Dennis Hastert announced he would not resign because he has worked a deal with the White House to insure that the FBI investigation sidesteps culpable information regarding his inaction or cover-up.

No Worries, Mate!

Democrats lack the subpeonae power, so, Dennis can get off scott free, UNLESS, public outcry demands an independent investigation. Then Dennis’s rather robust posterior may be cooked. However, that will be long after the holidays and that little election on Nov. 7. So, once again -

No worries, Mate!

Posted by: David R. Remer at October 6, 2006 12:38 PM
Comment #186707

Another interesting essay:

http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?itemid=21475

Posted by: Tim Crow at October 6, 2006 3:08 PM
Comment #187009

Responsibility and Accountability starts with Conscience and Education. Otherwise, Corruption grows.

Posted by: d.a.n at October 8, 2006 3:26 PM
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