Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Post No. 125: Something for Gov. Sanford to Consider: Parents with Minor Children Should...


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

During recent weeks, the court of public opinion questioned the judgment of numerous prominent individuals.

In the case of several politicians, the talking heads debated whether they should resign.

We asked ourselves whether there is a principle potentially applicable to all such cases when the resignation issue arises.

Some urged resignation, others “staying the course.” Some characterized it as a “personal decision,” and still others said it should be left to the voters.

Pundits will debate for years whether Bill Clinton should have resigned before commencement of impeachment proceedings, and the long-term ramifications of his decision not to do so.

More recently, Alaska’s Gov. Palin resigned before anyone suggested that she do so, and she still caught flak for that!

In each instance, many spoke of the judgment of the politicians involved (before and after the revelations of their questioned conduct), and whether their actions bear, in any way, on their ability to make “good judgments” while in office and on behalf of those who placed faith and trust in them.

In the recent cases of Nevada Sen. John Ensign, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, and now Gov. Sarah Palin, we listened to all of the views, and still did not have a concrete position. We debated the gravity of the conduct, whether the person still had something to offer to society, and whether his constituency might actually be the loser should they resign.

We thought about how society defines “judgment,” or more appropriately perhaps, “good judgment.” Whether it is situational and transient in nature, or permanent, and black and white.

Earlier this week, a friend sent us the following, purportedly a question used as part of a job application, which made us think further about “judgment:”

“You’re driving down a winding, rain-slicked road on a dangerous, stormy night. You pass a bus stop where 3 people are waiting for the bus. One is an elderly woman who appears to be very ill. The 2nd is someone you recognize as a friend who once saved your life. The 3rd is someone who you, in hindsight, recognize you should have married years before. (They later revealed that given the opportunity, they would be now open to your entreaties.)”

“You have room in your sports car for only one other person. Which one would you offer a ride?”

Before sharing the answer of the successful applicant, we have another short story which might bear on whether politicians should resign after embarrassing conduct, which calls into question their judgment.

A regular reader recently found herself in dire straits. Most of her life, she had the very best of everything: food, wine, education, exposure, homes, travel, and friends. However, during the last several years she found herself estranged from her family and struggling to make ends meet.

During a recent exchange, she confided that she was initially confused as to what she should do in terms of her relationship with her minor son, and then she offered this:

“I’ve been flying in private planes since the age of 7. In thinking about my predicament, I recalled something said at the beginning of every flight. ‘Adults flying with minor children should put on their oxygen masks first, before trying to assist their children.’ I realized that I had to get my personal act together first before being able to assist, or be involved with, anyone else.”

It seemed like such a simple concept, and Common Sense. The more we thought about it during the week, the more applicable it seemed to disgraced elected officials in the court of public opinion. At least it is something they should consider.

Back to our job applicant, you could justifiably pick up the elderly lady since her condition is the most precarious. Or you could pay back the friend who saved your life. Or you could pick up your mate and live happily ever after.

Our friend claims that the successful candidate, out of 200 who applied, indicated that you should give the car keys to the old friend and let him or her take the sick woman to the hospital, while you sit with the love of your life awaiting the bus.

One of the Senior Fellows here at the Institute suggested the driver run over the elderly woman, put her out of her misery, fulfill any unrequited desires with the love of your life, and then drive off with the friend who saved your life for some strawberry margaritas at Pancho’s on the Strand.

We haven’t advanced the discussion of what constitutes “good judgment,” have we? Hmmm, we imagine that it is open to debate.

30 comments:

  1. There are something interesting parallels between the lives of Michael Jackson and Judy Garland. Those fans of Judy Garland will enjoy the story of her life on Turner Classic Movies being aired right now as we type this at 6:15 pm EDST.

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  2. Actions have consequences.

    Had "Billary" had the decency to resign after lying to us all, Al Gore would have run as an incumbent, unburdened by the sins of his predecessor, and we would have approached our oil addiction with a saner strategy than our ultimately unsuccessful invasion of Iraq...and the trillion or so it has added to the ultimate deflation of the dollar, and the subsequent rise in gas prices.

    We would be at least five years farther down the road in curbing our oil consumption and developing viable energy alternatives, and we wouldn't have politicians thinking, "If the Clintons got away with it, I can too.

    Instead, the Clintons are making millions, the bankers are making billions, the oil companies are exempt, unemployment is pushing 10%, many of our major manufacturing icons are bankrupt, with no reasonable expectation of recovery, our economy is teetering on the cusp of depression, our consumer confidence and international respect are both hovering just below all time record lows, most of our homes are now worth less than we owe on them, the better part of a generation of Americans are going to be dependent on the government for their entire retirement income, and we have elected the "Why Not Me" comic from Saturday Night Live as a US Senator....

    The last 16 years of our political leadership has pushed the ethics bar so low that Senatorial and/or Gubernatorial "slips" have become a monthly routine.

    Personally, I think all of this started when Bill looked us in the eye, waved his finger at us, and lied through his teeth. Instead of lynching the ass hole, as they would have done in South America, we gave him a $10 million book contract.

    Is it any wonder nobody reads anymore?

    At the very least, we ought to put Bill's picture on our food stamps, and maybe Hillary's name on the next trillion buck stimulus package....

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  3. Only one thing you overlooked, anonymous, Al Gore would have been president on September 11, 2001. He would have also inherited a weak economy that was teetering on recession (if not already in one). It would have been (and would be) an entirely different world upon which to base your present assumptions.

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  4. And if you take the unnecessary and illegal invasion of Iraq out of Gore's picture, how does that affect the U.S. economy during his presidency?

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  5. Douglas, are you assuming that the attacks on September 11 were unavoidable? I'm not sure that is the case. I think there would have been a chance that President Gore might have taken the August report, "Al Quaeda determined to strike within the U.S.," a little more seriously.

    Then again, if Bill Clinton had resigned, it's entirely possible Al Gore wouldn't have won re-election and we'd still have been stuck with W.

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  6. What if you take a recovering economy (prior to 9/11/01) out of the supposed Gore presidency? Gore might not have been able to right a weak economy brought on by the Dot Com Bubble bursting at the end of the Clinton/Gore administration. In fact, had he taken the reins in 1998, he may have made things even worse at that point, guaranteeing his un-electability in 2000.

    First assumption is that Gore would have won had he been an incumbent (Ford failed to), second assumption is that a weak economy under Gore would have recovered sufficiently to make it through the economic impact of the 9/11 attacks, the third assumption is that Gore would have done more than toss a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan (as his predecessor did after the first WTC attack in 1993) in response to the 9/11 attacks.

    Way too many assumptions based on way too little thought about the realities of the period between 1998 and 2002.

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  7. Do you partisan types ever give it a break? Someone writes an article about whether elected officials of any party should resign upon making a bad judgment, and you all have nothing to say about that but launch into your own off subject, partisan discussion about which party would have done whatever? Jesus!

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  8. Actually, I think this question is easily answered by comparing partisan positions. First it is widely held that Democrats are godless and morally bankrupt. Therefore any dalliance is excused, if not even expected.
    Republicans on the other hand hold the moral high ground with family values and heavenly beliefs. Therefore when they are caught dallying – Whoa Nelly – Get the bums out-a-there. (Funny it is usually the godless, morally corrupt Dems or their state run media clowns that are most vocal with demands of resignation, but I digress).
    If you think this theory is bunk, just look at the record – Kennedy (John), Kennedy (Ted), Clinton et al.
    Vs. any other Republican (Sanford may be a first but the music hasn’t stopped yet for him).

    And keep Jesus out of it. :)

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  9. Sean, I look at the past behavior to predict possible futures. Was 9/11 unavoidable? Possibly. It wasn't avoided, was it? In spite of the previous attack, in spite of the Embassy bombings in Africa (the actual instigator of that cruise missile response), in spite of the attack on the USS Cole. And, of course, in spite of bin Ladin's "declaration of war" during the Clinton/Gore admministration. The planning and the preparation were done starting soon after the 1993 WTC attack.

    This is not strictly partisan. It is a rebuttal to a partisan presumption. My responses have been to point out that players might be different, and different choices and responses made, and some many variables would add up to something wholly unpredictable. We cannot say the 9/11 attacks would have been prevented, or that we would be well on our way to energy independence, or that peace would reign now, or anything else had one thing different happened in 2000. That is partisan wishful thinking.

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  10. Douglas--
    You are totally avoiding the issue of the war in Iraq, which Bush launched, and which Gore (or any other liberal Democrat) almost certainly would not have launched. Iraq is a neocon war, not an American war per se. Where would the economy be today if we hadn't poured billions into the black hole that is Iraq?

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  11. Sanford and Ensign belong not to a regular Neighborhood Christian church, But a Very Elite Republican Washington Church: "The Family" On C Street. They call themselves the " Chosen Ones" They forgive themselves their Own sins because they are above EVERYONE and must go Forward. ANY SIN and ALL SINS. How Narcissistic! They don't ask US the Public or their God for Forgiveness THEY can do what they want because Being a Chosen ONE ALLows them that latitude. This is the extreme Church that the founding fathers were talking about when they stated: Separation of CHURCH & STATE in the constitution.

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  12. rodak, the Iraq war had little to do, if anything, with the economic troubles of today. A real estate bubble bursting, an extremely fast run up of oil prices (due to speculation primarily), and a host of little things (I will avoid any partisan finger-pointing) converged in time for a presidential election in one year. Prior to that year, the economy was solid, businesses were expanding (not contracting), and unemployment was under 5%.
    That year was 2007, a year after power changed hands in Congress.

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  13. It's sometimes funny how things work out in life. While watching the 2006 thriller, "16 Blocks" earlier today, we heard star Mos Def pose the bus stop question repeatedly to Bruce Willis and others during the film.

    It's on now on USA Network.

    Try to determine if the riddle has some significance during the film.

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  14. Douglas, you mentioned that the Iraq War had little to do, if anything, with the economic troubles of today.

    We would agree with you that the war has not been a drain on business or industrial output, or arguably otherwise negatively impacted business.

    However, expensive wars abroad have been the Achilles heels of many a nation throughout history, because they do not generate income. They are an income drain and there are costs. (Perhaps you do not consider this war to be expensive.)

    So we have this huge outflow of capital resources to benefit some other non-American group financially (with the exception of some American contractors), although an argument might be made that it benefits Americans emotionally and in terms of freedom, which are difficult to quantify financially.

    We recently saw a C-Span program on the history of many financial instruments and of credit, and the need of monarchies to finance their wars were substantial factors. Countries used to have to go to other places to borrow the money to support their wars. The money has to come from somewhere. In America, we just print it.

    When a country spends too much in resources and doesn't get any capital back in return, it is a drain on the entire economy. If war is theoretically an investment, there ought to be some financial return to make up for the expenditure.

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  15. Intersting theoretical points about effects of a war on a country's economy. The Vietnam War, which lasted much longer, and had a wider impact on the social fabric and, arguably, therefore had a greater impact on the economy than a much more limited war in one of two countries might be used as an example. Why, imagine the huge impact that the Second World War had on our economy, and economy that was already ravaged before the attack on Pearl Harbor but was recovering due to our profiteering from the European war we had not yet joined. Yet, in spite of that enormous cost in treasure and lives we suffered in waging the war we were eventually dragged into, we managed to come out on top. And became the financially strongest nation in the world. And fairly promptly embroiled ourselves in another expensive war (Korea). And suffered recessions after each. Hmmm... maybe we will make things worse by withdrawing from Iraq...

    What is my point here? Oh yes, the Iraq War was not the cause, or even a significant contributing factor, of this recession. The factors that would have created the recession were already in place in the 90's. The triggers were a popping of the real estate bubble and the rapid run up in the cost of oil. Some might even argue the rapid drop in that cost was also a trigger or, perhaps, a harbinger of what was to come. The real estate bubble was not created by, or inflated by, the Iraq War. The enormity of the financial crisis dwarfed what the Iraq War was costing.

    The basis for the financial health of a number of institutions was revealed to be worth less than the paper the instruments were printed on.
    And that is the fact of the matter.

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  16. Nobody (or, at least not I) is saying that the Iraq war caused the recession. What I am saying is that the Iraq war is making it more difficult to emerge from the recession and that it will impede the future recovery from the recession. As has been pointed out above, the war is being paid for in part by printing money. It is also being paid for in large part with money borrowed, mostly from China.

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  17. There is definitley a moral and ethical dilemma confronting politicians that present themselves as leaders and persons of high moral character that then proceed to conduct themselves contrary to everything they presented themselves to be. Resignation is certainly high on the list. Using Bill Clinton's situation as an example gives us pause to consider such action carefully.

    Choosing political leaders has become a high stakes gamble. At a time in the country's history when we desparately need strong, thoughtful, intellgent leaders, we find ourselves with far too many elected officials bound up in religion, private social issues, fighting an insane 'war on drugs' and selling their souls and vote to fund their next campaign.

    We are desparately in need of a hugh dose of 'applied common sense.'

    I really like your blog and look forward to tracking the post and comments.

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  18. Steve:

    Welcome and thanks much for providing some insightful comments. Perhaps there is a good side to all of this.

    Just last evening, we watched a piece on the Kennedy clan, and the problems which many of the children had with drug abuse, particularly one of Robert F. Kennedy's kids. One of the commentators featured on the documentary mentioned that America realized this was not necessarily a Kennedy at risk, but potentially this could have been any child of any family.

    In a similar vein, the repeated pattern has to force us as a society to be introspective, and re-evaluate many aspects of our lives here: religion, marriage, adultery, sex, the public's intrusion into our most intimate lives, public trust, the media, and on and on.

    Introspection is always good. Reactionary judgments generally are not.

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  19. "What if you take a recovering economy (prior to 9/11/01) out of the supposed Gore presidency? Gore might not have been able to right a weak economy brought on by the Dot Com Bubble bursting at the end of the Clinton/Gore administration. In fact, had he taken the reins in 1998, he may have made things even worse at that point, guaranteeing his un-electability in 2000."

    Worse, Gore would not have enacted the successful Bush tax cuts in 2003 that DID lift us out of the post-internet-bubble recession.

    Further, it is clear that 9/11, which was planned since 1995, WOULD have happened anyway since the 'walls' put up prevented actionable use of what weak intelligence there was. Clinton admin did not stop embassy bombings or cole bombing and 911 was not different. Thank God gore was not our President on 911. We had a failed approach to terrorism for 10 years prior and 911 was the wakeup call to change it. Gore wouldnt have listened to it.

    Gore's insanely wrong view on climate change could and would have been as big a drain on our economy as any war, since in effect he'd wage war on our own industrial economy.

    Either way, it would end up badly.

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  20. "Nobody (or, at least not I) is saying that the Iraq war caused the recession. What I am saying is that the Iraq war is making it more difficult to emerge from the recession and that it will impede the future recovery from the recession."

    Anyone saying that or thinking that is wrong. Actually beyond wrong and in the realm of making crap up to satisfy their prejudices. The Iraq war is about 0.8% of GDP. Yawn. BFD. NOT. A. FACTOR.

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  21. "As has been pointed out above, the war is being paid for in part by printing money. "

    Wait a sec. We blow a TRILLION bucks in deficit spending in one bill passed in Feb under Obama and that deficit spending from printed money is a STIMULUS.... meanwhile we spend a trillion bucks over 6 years fighting the war on terror and that's bad for the economy and causes recessions.

    That's some freaky voodoo economics ya got there.

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  22. "However, expensive wars abroad have been the Achilles heels of many a nation throughout history, because they do not generate income."

    Welfare systems and social security and medicare do the same thing. Pure drains and do not generate income.

    " They are an income drain and there are costs. (Perhaps you do not consider this war to be expensive.)"

    It's relative. The Iraq war is about 0.8% of GDP and less than 5% of total Federal spending. If you are worried about too much Federal spending, worry about the other 95% as well. Medicare alone is 5X the cost of the Iraq war.

    Obama's budget for the next 4 years: $16 TRILLION. That's 20 Iraq wars worth of spending. ObamaCare? That cost MORE than the Iraq War. Cap-n-trade? A more massive shift in money than the Iraq War.

    Obama is taking one huge new spending programs, huge expansions in Government power, spending money we dont have on programs that dont work to sink our wealth and bail out people who should stand on their own feet. Soon enough "obama lied, jobs died" will be chanted by protesters sick of the bankrupting of the country for a pack of lies.

    ... and it will be said while Obama continues to have our soldiers fight and die in Iraq.

    Oh the irony in bringing up the Iraq war!

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  23. Freedom's Truth:

    Welcome to our forum and thank you for providing us with your thoughts.

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  24. Douglas--
    You are totally avoiding the issue of the war in Iraq, which Bush launched, and which Gore (or any other liberal Democrat) almost certainly would not have launched. Iraq is a neocon war, not an American war per se. Where would the economy be today if we hadn't poured billions into the black hole that is Iraq?

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  25. Do you partisan types ever give it a break? Someone writes an article about whether elected officials of any party should resign upon making a bad judgment, and you all have nothing to say about that but launch into your own off subject, partisan discussion about which party would have done whatever? Jesus!

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  26. Douglas, are you assuming that the attacks on September 11 were unavoidable? I'm not sure that is the case. I think there would have been a chance that President Gore might have taken the August report, "Al Quaeda determined to strike within the U.S.," a little more seriously.

    Then again, if Bill Clinton had resigned, it's entirely possible Al Gore wouldn't have won re-election and we'd still have been stuck with W.

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  27. Only one thing you overlooked, anonymous, Al Gore would have been president on September 11, 2001. He would have also inherited a weak economy that was teetering on recession (if not already in one). It would have been (and would be) an entirely different world upon which to base your present assumptions.

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