There was a time in America when our politicians put the integrity of our government above politics. That day is long gone. Now political viability seems to dictate nearly every action taken by those in leadership. The action taken, or lack thereof, by the Obama administration in Benghazi is the most recent episode where decisions were made not based on what was best for American citizens, but what was politically expedient for our president.
When did our political leaders begin to destroy the integrity of our government?
During the presidential election of 1960 there was a very close race between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Charges of voter fraud were rampant in Illinois and Texas. The vote in these states gave a narrow margin of victory to the eventual winner, John F. Kennedy, but most agreed that the presence of voter fraud in both states likely tipped the balance in his favor. Many in the Nixon campaign thought he had a good case to make that the outcome of the election would have been different absent the voting irregularities in these two states. But, in spite of clear evidence of voter fraud, the advisers closest to Nixon recommended he accept the outcome of the election in the name of preserving our democracy. And so it was .. John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States.
In June 1972, a break-in occurred at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. The perpetrators worked on behalf of a fund-raising group for President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. The subsequent cover-up by the Nixon administration led to his eventual impeachment by the House of Representatives, and this was likely to be followed by a conviction in the Senate. Many of those close to Nixon suggested that he fight the battle in the Senate to remain in office, but Nixon believed his resignation was necessary to preserve the democracy. And so it was .. President Richard Nixon resigned the office of the presidency in 1974 and Gerald Ford was sworn in as our 38th president.
My how these two episodes differ from the politics of today.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice because of his failure to testify truthfully about a scandal involving an illicit affair with a former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Clinton’s run-in with a special prosecutor, Ken Star, began over allegations of sexual harassment by former government employee Paula Jones. During sworn testimony about these allegations, President Clinton lied about his Lewinsky affair which led to his impeachment. Unlike Nixon, Clinton was determined to fight the battle in the Senate and in 1999 fifty out of one-hundred senators voted to uphold the charges filed by the House. This was below the two-thirds threshold required for conviction, so Clinton was acquitted.
Many thought that it may be in the best interest of our democracy for Clinton to resign his office not only because of his impeachment in the House, but because of his behavior in the Lewinsky affair. The scandals that plagued Clinton were an embarrassment at home and abroad. But, in spite of this, those within Clinton’s inner circle and President Clinton himself stubbornly refused to entertain the idea of resigning. Thus began the destruction of our integrity.
In 2000, we had a very close election between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush for the office of the presidency. The race was so close, in fact, that the votes in just a few counties in the state of Florida determined the outcome of the race. On election night, the vote totals, as reported by the election commission in the state of Florida, gave George W. Bush the edge and the 25 electoral votes needed to seal the victory. Initially Al Gore made a phone call to George W. Bush to concede the race, but after campaign staffers alerted Gore to the close counts in several counties in Florida, Gore made a second phone call to rescind his concession. Thus began a long battle in the courts that eventually landed in the Supreme Court on December 12th who decided in favor of George W. Bush. And so it goes .. George W. Bush was sworn in as our 43rd President.
Many thought that is would be in the best interest of our democracy for Gore to initially accept the outcome of the election. In fact, there was great concern that the controversy would undermine the integrity of our electoral process both here and abroad. But, in spite of these concerns, Gore pressed ahead with the legal challenges that delayed the outcome of the election for over a month. A subsequent recount that had been demanded by the Gore campaign showed that Bush had an even larger margin of victory in the disputed precincts.
Now we come to the latest Benghazi scandal.
We find out this week that our government officials sat idly by while American citizens were being murdered by Al Qaeda terrorists in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. Even though calls for reinforcements had been requested weeks in advance and calls for help occurred during the attacks, it appears the Obama administration made the decision not to intervene, but to allow the violence and killing to continue for several hours. Ironically, a mob, that was initially blamed for the killings, took a severely injured ambassador Stevens to the hospital where he would later die. As our ambassador lay dying on the ground in Benghazi, our government made no attempt to save him. Many others were killed and injured during the attacks, but thanks to the heroism of two former Navy Seals (Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods), at least thirty victim’s lives were spared. Sadly, the two Seals lost their own lives as they worked to save others. According to the father of one of the Seals, these men disobeyed orders to save lives. Why would anyone order these Seals to stand down?
Many think that the decision to not send help to the victims of the Benghazi attack was to avoid political fall-out because of the presidential election coming up in November. Some thought that fighting terrorist attacks would force Obama to admit he’d done little to stem the growth of Al Qaeda. Perhaps they were afraid to showcase conflict in the middle east during the election season .. or perhaps intervening in the Benghazi attack would indicate that the toppling of Qaddafi had not been handled correctly by the Obama administration. Whatever the reason, there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate reason for refusing to aid American citizens under attack.
The dignity of the office is no longer respected by our elected officials. In order to preserve their own political skins, politicians will say and do anything to hold onto power. It is time for us to look more closely as the character of those we choose to lead us. Politicians who are willing to undermine our entire system of government to cover up their own failures are destroying this country. We need to choose honorable people to lead us again, before we have nothing left to lead.