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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND . . . POLITICANS

I’m not a conspiracy theory nutcase. No, really, I’m NOT. However, judging from what’s been going on in Washington and various other places this last week would make just about any conspiracy theorist worth of the name cream her/his jeans.

I’d intended to write another WEASLES ON PARADE post. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, I was too sick to write it on Friday, and by the time the dad-ratted sinus infection was on the mend on Monday, so much had happened that I was glad – sorta – to not have finished it up for publication. Over the weekend, two politicians that I always thought were good guys turned out to be in more trouble than the two of them can handle. Former Senator John Edwards was charged with four counts of illegal campaign contributions along with conspiracy and manufacturing fictitious statements concerning his affair, and Representative Anthony Weiner finally came clean about his “sexting” through his Twitter account. Both of them got into the massive amounts of trouble that they currently are being drowned by because they did what they were accused of, tried to “spin doctor” the events, and lied their silly fool heads off about it in order to cover it up.

Doesn’t speak well of their common sense, does it? It also doesn’t speak well to either one of their ethical base, either. From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_ethics):

There is a big difference between personal ethics and situational ethics. Situational ethics, or situation ethics, is a Christian ethical theory that was principally developed in the 1960s by the then Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher. It basically states that sometimes other moral principles can be cast aside in certain situations if love is best served; as Paul Tillich once put it: "Love is the ultimate law." The moral principles Fletcher is specifically referring to are the moral codes of Christianity and the type of love he is specifically referring to is 'Agape' love. Agapē is a Greek term meaning absolute, universal, unchanging and unconditional love for all people. Fletcher believed that in forming an ethical system based on love, he was best expressing the notion of "love thy neighbour," which Jesus Christ taught in the Gospels of the New Testament of the Bible. Through situational ethics, Fletcher attempted to find a "middle road" between legalistic and antinomian ethics. Fletcher developed situational ethics in his books: The Classic Treatment and Situation Ethics. Situational ethics is a teleological, or consequential theory, in that it is concerned with the outcome or consequences of an action; the end, as opposed to an action being intrinsically wrong such as in deontological theories. In the case of situational ethics, the ends can justify the means. There are four presuppositions that Fletcher makes before setting out the situational ethics theory:

Pragmatism - This is that the course of action must be practical and work.

Relativism - All situations are always relative; situational ethicists try to avoid such words as "never" and "always".

Positivism - The whole of situational ethics relies upon the fact that the person freely chooses to believe in agape love as described by Christianity.

Personalism - Whereas the legalist thinks people should work to laws, the situational ethicist believes that laws are for the benefit of the people. Or, in other words, suit your ethics to the situation, since there are no moral absolutes. What I find to be of particular interest is the emphasis on Christian principles. Does this set of “ethics” mean that it’s OK to be a slime and a sleaze because you aren’t really bound by either good sense, good morals or personal ethics?

Also from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics) is this brief explanation of ethics: Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice, etc. Major branches of ethics include:

Meta-ethics, about the theoretical meaning and reference of moral propositions and how their truth-values (if any) may be determined.

Normative ethics, about the practical means of determining a moral course of action.

Applied ethics, about how moral outcomes can be achieved in specific situations.

Moral psychology, about how moral capacity or moral agency develops and what its nature is. Descriptive ethics, about what moral values people actually abide by.

Confusin’, ain’t it? And how do these two descriptive explanations of situational and personal ethics apply to the lies that were told by these two men?

Here’s how I understand the differences, at least. Situational ethics hold that it’s OK to lie, cheat, steal, prevaricate and generally be both obstructing and obfuscating when it’s a matter of the greater good for the greatest number. Personal ethics hold that it’s NOT OK to lie, cheat, steal, prevaricate and so on, simply because your worth as a person who tells the truth is far more important than saving yourself embarrassment and humiliation. There are cogent arguments for both schools of thought, but in the end, I would far rather be remembered as a person that didn’t lie, cheat etc. It’s simply easier that way.

When you’re a politician and a public figure, you don’t have a personal life that isn’t under the microscope of public scrutiny 100% of the time. When you make a mistake, the consequences are far more severe precisely because of this. You’re not even safe in the bathroom fer cry-yi-yi, as Larry Craig found out the hard way.

So, why lie about what’s happening in your life to begin with? John Edwards had a girlfriend, and she had a baby? So what? I’ll practically guarantee that Mrs. Edwards knew about it from the minute that it started. I’d even bet that, when she knew she wasn’t going to beat the cancer the last time, she TOLD him to go out and find himself a nice woman that could be a companion to him after she was gone, and to do it immediately, so she’d at least have the comfort of knowing that he’d be taken care of after her death. One of the details, of course, would have been no children until after Mrs. Edwards had died, a suitable period of time after the death had passed, and they married. Rielle Hunter didn’t do that, of course, although any man in that sort of situation that doesn’t use a rubber regardless of circumstance is a very stupid man. Where the situational ethics come in is that, when he was confronted about the affair and the baby, he lied. He got an old friend to give him money that did not go through his campaign coffers to take care of her, and he bullied one of his campaign workers to say that the baby was his, and that he, Ms. Hunter and his wife were having a merry threesome. Ultimately, of course, he was caught completely out in his lies. This wasn’t anything other than an ethically-challenged man utilizing the principles of situational ethics, rather than a man who was both honourable and decent telling the truth to begin with. There was no “greater good” to be served by his lies – and by branding his child as first not his and then his nameless bastard, he did more harm than anybody will ever be able to undo.

In the case of Representative Weiner, the same thing applies. “Sexting”, which is sexual content text messaging, is not a harmless occupation. Regardless of the supposed fact that Representative Weiner and his online flirts never met, and that everybody that he sexted was of or over legal age, it’s still creepy. It’s also disgusting, in *MY* humble opinion. He’s harmed a lot of people with this little proclivity, and he’s done quite a bit of damage to his image. If he’d ‘fessed up to the silly nonsense that he was indulging himself with, and said, “Yeah, that’s me, and yeah, that’s my penis, and so what?”, I seriously doubt that there would have been the media feeding frenzy that his lies ignited.

The major point for me at least was that, when they had the chance to tell the truth and defuse the situation, they both lied about it, for whatever reason. In Senator Edwards’ case, these lies did a lot more harm than good. In Representative Weiner’s case, there was harm done, but mostly to him and his credibility due to his junior high school attitude.

What I find curious is just how hard the two of them are being swatted, and the timing on the “revelations”. Senator Edwards, of course, will not be convicted because he didn’t use campaign funds to keep his girlfriend in the style in which she desired to become accustomed. He solicited and received a gift from a rich friend. Representative Weiner didn’t do anything that a junior high school kid doesn’t dream of (and in a lot of cases, actually does). So, why now? and why use Andrew BreitBrat to do it? Rumours abound that ABC News approached him, and not the other way around, and that he was paid for what he did. This is the same Andrew BreitBrat whose shading of the truth got Shirley Sherrod fired for something that she didn’t do. This is also the same Andrew BreitBrat whose machinations were ultimately responsible for the demise of ACORN.

It’s both interesting and curious that these two men, who are ardent champions of equality, taking care of the poor and the dispossessed, and who are both personable, fiery and outspoken, have been targeted in this fashion. John Edwards won’t be convicted, but he has no credibility and basically is finished in politics. Anthony Weiner has already been convicted on the altar of public opinion, and, while I don’t believe his career is over, he has certainly been rendered a lot less effective in the public arena. O’course, that means that, from now on, both of them will never, EVER be able to tell another public lie.

Sheesh – HONEST politicians? WhatEVER is the world coming to?

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