Bad Pundit.Com

Friday, February 17, 2006

For Presidents' Day: The Top 10 Moments in Public Honesty

In observing Presidents' Day, we celebrate two men best known for their candor in communicating with the public -- Abraham Lincoln, dubbed "Honest Abe" after paying off his debts when a store he owned went bankrupt, and George Washington, who according to legend confessed that he "could not tell a lie" after chopping down the family cherry tree.

In honor of George and Abe, Bad Pundit's sister blog, Media Orchard, today unveiled its second-annual Top 10 Moments in Public Honesty -- which serve to prove that honesty, indeed, is still the best policy when dealing with the public.

1. James B. Comey puts honesty above politics at the Justice Department. Although most Americans don't know his name, Comey is the true hero of both Plamegate and the NSA spying scandal.

First, he persuaded John Ashcroft that a Special Counsel was needed to investigate the Plame leak, and selected the tough-minded Patrick Fitzgerald for that role. Later, while serving as Acting Attorney General for a hospitalized Ashcroft, Comey refused to certify central aspects of the NSA program. He left the DOJ in August 2005. As he said in his farewell address to the department:

The gift that makes possible so much of the good we accomplish is a reservoir of trust and credibility -- a reservoir built for us, and filled for us, by those who went before ... They were people who made sacrifices and kept promises to build that reservoir of trust. Our obligation, as the recipients of that great gift, is to protect that reservoir, to pass it to those who follow, those who may never know us, as full as we got it.

The problem with reservoirs is that it takes tremendous time and effort to fill them, but one hole in a dam can drain them. The protection of that reservoir requires vigilance, an unerring commitment to truth, and a recognition that the actions of one may affect the priceless gift that benefits all. I have tried my absolute best -- in matters big and small -- to protect that reservoir and inspire others to protect it.

Amen. Here's a man who stood by his principles -- and stood up for the greater good.

2. The Smoking Gun and Oprah force James Frey to come clean. In a media world where every public issue is reduced to a pallid he-said/she-said, it's refreshing when -- at least occasionally -- a liar isn't allowed to walk away scot-free. Prosecutor Oprah, using ammo from The Smoking Gun, put on a morality play that we all needed to see.

3. Aaron Broussard meets the press. In a stunning departure from the usual studied politispeak on Tim Russert's Sunday morning forum, Broussard, president of Louisiana's Jefferson Parish, displayed raw emotion in his Sept. 4 Meet the Press appearance. Broussard touched off a firestorm and has since been accused of all manner of Louisiana-style corruption. But his Russert run-in will be a lasting reminder that Katrina wasn't just another inside-the-beltway debate topic; it was a human tragedy.

4.John McCain has his day. The Abramoff scandal has exposed exactly the kind of Washington influence-peddling that McCain has long fought against. As usual, McCain has shown remarkable political courage in his handling of the aftermath. Testifying before the Senate on the subject of earmarking, McCain stated: "In 1994, when the Congress was taken over by Republicans, there were 4,000 earmarks on appropriations bills. Last year there were 15,000. It's disgraceful." We'll overlook the silly feud with Barack Obama; America needs more politicians like McCain.

5. Capote sheds a candid light on journalism's ethical quandaries. Unlike the simplistic Good Night, and Good Luck, which portrayed journalists (literally) in black and white, Capote depicted the scary gray areas where reporters must sometimes tread in pursuit of a story. A remarkable achievement.

6. Irshad Manji shows Muslims a path to tolerance. Described by The New York Times as "Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare," Manji -- a Canadian Muslim author and activist -- has been fearless in challenging Islamic fundamentalists and embracing the Muslim concept of "ijtihad," or independent thinking. As she pointed out in the wake of the Mohammed cartoon riots, "There are no shortage of books in the libraries about the problem with Christianity, no dearth of books about the trouble with Judaism. It seems to me that we Muslims have a lot of catching up to do in the dissent department." If the riots (along with the murder of Theo van Gogh and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie) have taught us anything, it's that Manji is a brave woman.

7. Craiglist provides a forum for honest interaction -- sometimes too honest. Forget the stale old newspaper classifieds; Craigslist lets it all hang out -- one of its less-talked-about advantages. Of course, this guy shows it is possible to be a little too honest.

8. Minnesota gubernatorial candidate admits "evil side." Jonathon Sharkey, a self-confessed vampire nicknamed "The Impaler," has drawn quite a bit of attention for his bid to win the Minnesota governor's race. His biggest appeal, apparently, is his honesty; proclaimed Sharkey: "Unlike other candidates, I'm not going to hide my evil side." As the AP reported in January:

Sharkey launched his campaign last month. His platform includes an emphasis on education, tax breaks for farmers and better benefits for veterans, but he also said he favored impaling certain wrongdoers in front of the State Capitol.

Before you laugh too much at The Impaler, remember -- Minnesotans elected Jesse Ventura.

9.Russell Tice blows the whistle on NSA spying. Tice has been dismissed as a paranoid with an ax to grind, but as a key source for New York Times reporter James Risen's investigation, he has done a service to the American people.

10. Rafael DeGennaro crusades for government transparency with Who can forget the moment in Fahrenheit 9/11 when Congressman John Conyers [pictured] proclaimed -- with admirable candor -- "We don't read most of the bills we pass." Now the nonpartisan DeGennaro is trying to do something about it; he is working to persuade Congress to establish the "72 Hours of Online Sunshine Rule" and post proposed legislation online for 72 hours before it comes to the floor. Good luck, Rafael.

We appreciate those of you who contributed suggestions for our list. Thank you!

(From our sister blog, Media Orchard.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm particularly apalled by the James Frey deception. Who does he think he is-- a congressman or andministration official or what?

12:59 AM  
Blogger steven edward streight said...

Very interesting post, however I hate and despise John McCain.

Remember: he and asshat Feingold want to pass a law that considers blog posts about political candidates a FINANCIAL contribution, and if you post too many "financial contributions" to a candidate, you violate Federal Election Laws and go to prison.

Miserable chump.

12:05 PM  

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