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    18 May 2004
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    Why own up when you can blame others?
    Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    By Reg Henry

    For those of strong moral character, a sense of personal responsibility has always been indispensable. In the best sense, this is a fundamentally conservative virtue. It insists that honorable people stand up and accept the consequences of their actions.

    Unfortunately, personal responsibility -- taken together with accountability -- is a stern and unforgiving master, which is why I have always tried to avoid this in my own life. When faced with accusations of incompetency and sloth, I have found the phrase "What, me?" especially useful.

    It would be nice to say that I feel guilty that the buck never stops with me, but that would be an admission of wrongdoing -- and that wouldn't do at all. In my view, it is always someone else's fault. Indeed, it is really shocking to me how other people never accept responsibility when I have screwed up.

    Nevertheless, on behalf of that tiny part of me that feels theoretically guilty for being blissfully unaccountable, today I applaud President Bush's support for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

    With the recent reports of abuse of Iraqi prisoners, and the war generally going to hell in a handbasket, the blame merchants have been calling on Mr. Rumsfeld to resign just because he is in charge. How ridiculous! Why, the idea is almost un-American.

    As Mr. Bush said on a visit to the Pentagon the other day, the defense chief is "doing a superb job."

    Obviously, that is true. I say so not just because I am doing a superb job myself in the face of grumbling by certain readers. It is not just because if (heaven forbid) Mr. Rumsfeld were fired, the president would have one fewer person to tell him what to do. And it certainly isn't just because there is no buck to stop anyway, since the last one was given to rich campaign contributors.

    No, I think the president's praise for his defense chief is liberating to those good people like myself who find personal responsibility and accountability a huge bore. After all, President Bush is a conservative fellow, and if he indicates that individual character doesn't require such stern traits in today's happy-go-lucky world, well, he is undoubtedly right.

    Let us not forget the others in the administration who are doing a superb job. That George Tenet over at the CIA is one. There is only one word to describe the intelligence both pre-9/11 and pre-the war in Iraq. Superb.

    Well, a few things may have been missed, but that sort of thing happens, and it doesn't diminish one bit the superbness of the work done.

    Because the president is an important role model, we in the media should follow his lead. I am suggesting newspapers abandon their corrections/clarifications sections -- which, after all, are an admission of mistakes and hurtful to the self-esteem of the sensitive reporters and editors. Instead, there could be a Superb Corner, which would still list errors, but in a way that would show that various little slips were someone else's fault.

    In the political arena, who can be blamed for all that has gone wrong if not the current administration? Thanks to my conservative readers, I know the answer to that one: Bill and Hillary Clinton.

    I never cared for them, but I did not realize how much mischief those two rascals had gotten up to. They are responsible for everything that has gone wrong with America, from international disasters to the obesity crisis, from the deficit to the incidence of flat feet. When in doubt, blame them -- that is what I have learned from my conservative friends.

    It is a good plan because if those who are actually responsible for things started 'fessing up, the enemies of freedom would only be emboldened. As it is, there's no way our leaders can be superb if they are restricted by absurdly old-fashioned notions of accountability.


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