The Ethical Take

Published: May 13, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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Lots to discuss, so let’s get to it.

The Straight Dope –

Years ago, I was given a book with that title by a close friend. It offered straight-forward answers to straight-forward questions. Based on the recent release of e-mails between the White House, CIA and State Department, it’s abundantly clear that we need that straight dope more than ever. What’s also clear about the Administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks in Libya is that too many people had too much input at a time where the President should have relied on the expertise of intelligence and first-hand reports from State Department people in Tripoli.

What is needed now is for the President to address the people with a full and accurate accounting of what is known, who was responsible for the attacks as well as for any informational and actionable lapses, and more importantly, what we can do to prevent this from happening again.

What is not needed are statements like those from Republican Representative Steven King: “I believe that it’s a lot bigger than Watergate, and if you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it times maybe 10 or so, you’re going to get in the zone where Benghazi is.”

Mr. King and others are engaging in “enhanced political techniques” where any attack, every governmental flaw can be summarily categorized as a cover-up by the White House in need of instant and comprehensive investigation.

Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, respected on both sides of the isle, who co-chaired the State Department’s Accountability Review Board on the Benghazi attacks said, “I think the notion of a quote, cover-up, has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it.” Pickering also took issue with claims that the ABR tried to protect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I saw no evidence of it,” Pickering said. “[Secretary Clinton] did publicly take responsibility for what happened below her and indeed one of the things the Congress did in preparing the legislation that established the Accountability Review Board was to say we don’t want a situation where heads of agencies take responsibility and then nobody who made the decision in the chain has to suffer any consequences for failure for performance. I believe in fact the Accountability Review Board did its work well.”

What is also needed is for both parties to hold investigations and hearings that are scrupulously impartial and fair-minded without political orations that only succeed in fueling conspiracy rumors leading to more inaction. Both parties need to stop the incessant need to engage in political bluster when at the core of this issue is the death of four Americans.

President Obama needs to take the lead, gather the full and complete facts on the situation and give the American public the straight dope.

The Jodi Arias Trial –

As originally conceived by Ted Turner in 1982, Headline News used to be a 24-hour program that gave us a distillation of the news every half-hour. “You give us 30 minutes and we’ll give you the world.” HLN has now been fractionated into a variety categories covering some news, a lot of entertainment, opinion and now, shameless, tabloid-style crime.

Ever since the ratings pop of Casey Anthony where the “news” channel covered the trial “gavel to gavel,” the station has offered us Jodi Arias as a stellar follow-up with Panderer-in-Chief Nancy Grace. I’m all for a free-market media, except CNN bills this as news and it’s really not. Worse: when the Arias verdict was announced, the network cut to a reaction shot of hundreds outside the courtroom cheering wildly at her conviction. While I cast no doubt on the verdict of the jury, the reaction shot was unnecessarily exploitive and serves no other purpose than to reinforce bad behavior.

Memo to HLN Honchos: Go back to giving us the news — a wide variety of news. Want to keep Grace, great! Set up her own channel, maybe marketed as NGN — “You give us 12-hours and we’ll give you Nancy Grace pandering her heart out!”

The IRS Mess: The Good, the Bad…

As if Washington credibility isn’t low enough, now comes a report which says that during the last two years, IRS officials “singled out for scrutiny not only groups with ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their names but also nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.” (That’s the good news, considering that they caught it early, by Washington standards.)

“The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that the IRS field office in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status decided to focus on groups making statements that ‘criticize how the country is being run’ and those that were involved in educating Americans ‘on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.’ ”

According to the report, “staffers in the Cincinnati field office were making high-level decisions on how to evaluate the groups because a decade ago the IRS assigned all applications to that unit. The IRS also eliminated an automatic after-the-fact review process Washington used to conduct such determinations.”

The incident only adds to the reality that government is not only too big, but the left hand doesn’t even remotely know it has a right hand, much less know what it’s doing.


… and the Ridiculous –

And you can guess what Republicans have called for as a result of the IRS mess. You guess it, more investigations and hearings.

It’s astounding to me that a duly elected group of individuals charged with solving problems on such issues as… oh, say the budget, the deficit, etc. — places dealing with an IRS lapse ahead of passing a budget or passing a viable plan for the deficit.

Military Sexual Assaults Up –

Last February, I was sickened to read this report in The New York Times.

“After her Air Force training instructor raped Virginia Messick, a young recruit, he told her it was fun and they should do it again, she remembers. Then he threw her clothes at her and ordered her to take a shower.

“Ms. Messick was unable to move, cry or scream. She was a 19-year-old from rural Florida, in her fifth week of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, and she had just been assaulted by the man the Air Force had entrusted with her life.

“After the April 2011 attack, Ms. Messick completed basic training, following orders from the instructor for nearly a month more. Afraid of the consequences, she did not tell anyone what he had done. ‘How am I supposed to go about reporting something,’ asked Ms. Messick, ‘when the person I’m supposed to report to is the person who raped me?’ ”

Every time we hear of another story of sexual abuse in the military it is usually followed by some military general saying something like, “We have adopted a zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.”
Based on increasing incidents, it would appear that their definition of “zero” is not the same as the rest of us.

Clearly, there is not only no excuse for this, but there’s no excuse for meaningless rhetoric without specific consequences for those involved, most notably, the immediate commanders under whose watch the abuse took place.

If ever an issue demanded action from Congress, this is the issue, and it should be unanimous from ALL political perspectives. First step: legislation that would take both the investigation and punishment out of the hands of the military.

With a reported 36 percent increase in sexual abuse incidents in the last several years, the military is sounding more and more like the Catholic Church: put out the right-sounding press release and hope it goes away.

It isn’t and all of us need to tell them that swift action is required, now!

Serve up another one of those, Soc!


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