“The ‘everyone does it’ defense eradicates the higher level of conduct we should expect from those in powerful positions. We really should hold news anchors and presidents to a higher standard; they are invested with an extraordinary amount of trust and power.” – Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
“Everyone does it … “
There is probably not a parent anywhere on the fruited plain, who has not heard some variation of these overused words.
Thought I had dispensed with that phrase, until I heard: “All my other professors are (i.e., changing my grade, giving me more time on a required paper, providing for extra credit, excusing unexcused absences …), why won’t you?”
During the 1970s-era regime of Tricky Dick and the ensuing Watergate break-in and cover-up, Richard Nixon diehards, and there were literally millions of them, would gamely try to deflect attention from the rampant paranoia of their champion by lamely bringing up the tiresome, “All politicians do the same thing …”
Nixon resigned in disgrace in 1974, and yet there are some, who are getting long in the tooth, to this very day who will contend that all politicians are crooked and therefore Tricky Dick was unfairly persecuted by the history of his own making.
We went through a similar exercise in the 1990s with Bill Clinton and his scandal du-jour administration (i.e., Whitewater, cattle futures, Paula Corbin Jones, Starr Report, Marc Rich pardon…) only to be told repeatedly in a transparent effort to change the subject that “All politicians do it.”
By the time the turn of the new century was upon us we as a nation were in a state of exhaustion when it came to the seemingly endless sordid accounts emanating from the Lincoln Bedroom to the Oval Office.
And now we are on the precipice of being treated to Darwin-forbid 11-more years (2015-2025) of integrity vs. money decisions with money always prevailing. And in response, we will be told by the Kool-Aid drinkers that all politicians and by extension supposedly “objective” journalists that they all engage in similar behavior.
The plethora of stories of deleted emails, high-six-figure speaking fees, lying to the New York Times, failure to report contributions, negotiating Russia’s takeover of some of our uranium deposits are all being dismissed as conduct becoming any politician.
What an incredibly weak argument.
Begging to Differ
Some members of the Sacramento Capitol Press Corps used to joke that my boss, Governor George Deukmejian’s favorite color was gray. They were not exactly right, but they were correct that Governor Deukmejian was as straight-arrow as they come, retiring each evening to more work, Gloria, the kids, the beagles and his beloved Jamoca Almond Fudge.
As a press secretary, I never had to worry that my governor would be a late-night John Edwards visiting his mistress, Rielle, and love child, Frances, at the Beverly Hilton, while his wife Elizabeth was back home dying of cancer.
Think of it this way: Even though the partisan wars have continued unabated during the past 14 years, the last two presidents have not been ensnared in personal transgressions.
Yes there are hundreds upon thousands who vehemently oppose the Iraq War, but George W. Bush could be counted to love and support his wife, Laura, be a good father to his twin daughters, and a role model of a solid citizen and one committed to exercise and good personal habits.
The same is true about Barack Obama. Once again there are hundreds upon thousands, who oppose mandatory redistribution of hard-earned income and Obamacare, but at the same time you know he loves Michelle and his two daughters. He and Michelle have been superb role models for healthy eating and exercise.
George Deukmejian, George W. Bush and Barack Obama are all examples that fly in the face of the “All politicians do it” chorus.
Yes, there are those who cheat on their spouses, conceive love children, tweet their private parts, pound on bathroom stalls, fail to report income, destroy physical or digital evidence, receive oval sex in the oral office, obstruct justice, and the list is seemingly endless.
Alas, this behavior extends to supposedly objective media elites who fail to disclose donations to less-than-charitable causes, fabricate war stories, attach igniters to trucks, deliberately ignore fabricated documents, practice checkbook journalism by hiring a presidential daughter for $600,000, keynote party fundraisers, and trigger conflict of interest questions.
Is there going to be an “all news anchors do it” chorus in weak defense of those who have an obligation to fair-and-balanced reporting?
Parents have long rejected these arguments from their children. Mumsy used to tell the author of Almost DailyBrett, “If everyone is jumping off the cliff, does that mean you have to jump off the cliff too?”
Jennifer Rubin raises a salient question: Shouldn’t we be holding those in power and trust to a higher standard than everyone else? National politicians and elite journalists have risen to the apex of the most powerful nation on earth. They have asked for our trust. We may or may not give them the reins of power. Shouldn’t they perform with integrity without even the perception of wrongdoing?
Reports indicate that Millennials are turning away from government and politics in droves. Can we blame them when they see nothing but gridlock, name calling, deflections and obfuscation? How can we promote public service to Millennials in the face of widespread scandal by those who would serve us and those who inform us? This problem is magnified when we justify their disgraceful antics with overused one-liners.
Instead of dismissing unacceptable behavior, shouldn’t we be demanding a restoration of universal decency, integrity and honesty?
It all starts with rejecting the Mother of All Weak Arguments: “Everyone does it … “