No Wonder Our Young People Don’t Vote
I wonder if anyone recalls the original campaign promises. Back when George Bush would raise his right hand as if taking a solemn vow and announce he would restore “honor and integrity” to the White House if elected. Sometimes he would alter the phrase ever so slightly, making it “dignity and honor” or other variations of the same three words.
With today’s Internet, we can easily check on some of the original statements. How about Vice President Dick Cheney, August 2, 2000, offering:
“On the first hour of the first day, he will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office. They will offer more lectures and legalisms and carefully worded denials. We offer another way, a better way, and a stiff dose of truth.”
Those were followed by the words of President Bush himself dated September 23, 2000.
“Just because our White House has let us down in the past, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in the future. In a campaign that’s going to restore honor and dignity to the White House……”.
Lack of Ethics 101
By the time 2005 rolled around, those words seemed a distant memory. At that time, the indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice charges had seriously tarnished the view point that Bush might bring a higher level of ethics to the Oval Office. One poll taken at that time indicated that by a 3 to 1 ratio, Americans felt that honesty and integrity had declined under the Bush administration and the president’s 34% rating for ensuring high ethics in government was actually lower than that of Bill Clinton when he left office.
Fast forward to the year 2007 and the vast array of ethical issues that have dominated the headlines. There was Bush nominee Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank President, resigning under the pressure for his ethical lapses including authorizing a $50,000 raise for his girlfriend. Then there was the high profile situation of another Bush appointee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Whether it be the justices relieved of their duties for supposed incompetence or the push at the hospital bed of former attorney general John Ashcroft to sign off on illegal wiretapping, Mr. Gonzales’ oversight of the Justice department was fraught with a frightening lack of integrity.
There was the pardon of Libby, the request for immunity for phone companies that may have broken the law at the bidding of the White House and the latest, the investigation underway into tapes destroyed by the CIA, tapes that apparently showed interrogation techniques that most of the civilized world would express disdain for.
In between there was Matteo Fontana who had to be placed on leave from the Department of Education as leader of the loan office. In that case, Fontana owned more than a $100,000 worth of stock in a student loan company that received financial benefits from federal loans. There were also the convictions of two Bush appointees tied to the behavior of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. J. Steven Griles, deputy interior secretary and former White House aide, David H. Safavian, were both convicted of white collar misconduct.
The Will of the People?
The theory behind our democratic form of government is to elect officials to office so that they will do the will of the American people. These politicians are supposed to put their personal and family interests aside, even their former business connections so as to act in the best interest of the collective whole. Unfortunately what we are witnessing today is a long way from that theory. Conflicts of interest are evident every where one looks and individuals are actually using their elected or appointed position to further their own financial gain. In addition, loyalty to those who stand fast in the face of the scrutiny regarding potential wrongdoing also appears to be rewarded within the current administration. How else could the White House stand behind either Alberto Gonzales or Paul Wolfowitz for as long as they did. And think where the justice department would be at this moment, dealing with the destruction of evidence by the CIA if the department were still somehow under the guidance of Gonzales.
There is of course another critical issue currently at play for the Bush administration. The discussion of competency is one that could perhaps even trump the lack of ethical behavior. Surprisingly, the president actually thinks his tenure in the White House will be judged more favorably by historians down the road.
Given the extreme ethical transgressions, it seems preposterous that there will ever be a time when this presidency will be seen in a favorable light. I am sure that the ethical transgressions that are so troubling to most Americans today will only get darker as the future rolls in.
For teachers, the behavior and decision-making within the current White House makes it very challenging to fairly discuss politics with the next generation of voters. Walking the political line of fairness in a high school social studies class has likely never been more difficult than it is today. That is because the close examination of these ethical transgressions would be seen as nothing more than bashing our president.
However, our democratic process is supposed to lead our great nation in a direction that puts the proper people in the position to further the very ideals our country was founded upon. If we adults are thoroughly confused and shaken by what we are witnessing, imagine how difficult it must be for our children.