Character in the World of Politics?

A couple of incidents came up this week that didn’t cast politics or our politicians in a favorable light. President Barack Obama was addressing Congress recently and stated that his health care plan did not include coverage for illegal aliens.  In response, Republican Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina yelled out, “You lie!”  Earlier–over Labor Day weekend–Van Jones resigned.  He was the President’s Czar of Green Jobs.  Jones was basically forced to resign when it came to light that he signed a petition on behalf of a group that believed the federal government (and in particular George W. Bush and Dick Cheney) was behind the September 11 attacks.

Regarding Representative Wilson, what he is upset about is that there are multiple bills being debated and the language is apparently ambiguous enough that it is possible that health care reform could include coverage for illegals.  An amendment to a bill that would prevent this was actually voted down in the House.  Thus a guarantee from the President that illegals won’t be covered might be a bit premature.  Still, to have a politician calling the President of the United States a liar in the middle of the President’s speech is a little troubling.  Maybe you don’t like this President and you agree with Wilson, but what happens next time when it is your guy in the White House and you like what he’s saying, but he gets drowned out by a liberal politician?  If Wilson wants to argue that the President was wrong–or even that he was lying–fine; Wilson has plenty of opportunities to do that.  But the middle of the President’s speech to Congress was not the right time.

As it turned out, Wilson has apologized to the President, who graciously accepted it, so hopefully such behavior won’t become a trend.

The Van Jones story is another matter.  Conspiracy theorists who are demanding to know the truth about 9/11 (they’re being called “Truthers”) are convinced that Bush and Cheney orchestrated the attacks as an excuse to take away our civil liberties and to make war on Iraq.  This leads me to a lot of questions.  Which of my civil liberties have been taken away?  I don’t feel particularly oppressed.  For that matter, the Truthers have been saying these things about Bush and Cheney for years with impunity, so which rights did the Truthers lose?  Given that Bush served his eight years and went home, what exactly was his incentive to take all those rights away?  If Bush and Cheney wanted to attack Iraq, why would they make things more difficult for themselves by attacking the Pentagon on 9/11?  Wouldn’t they have wanted their military command focused and at full strength?  And finally, if the Truthers are convinced that the media got it wrong during and after 9/11, and the bipartisan 9/11 Commission got it wrong, why do they keep demanding another commission?  What would make one more report on this subject any more credible to them than all the other reports?

Since Jones was linked to such a disreputable group, an outcry ensued and he resigned.  This incident is another needless embarrassment for the Obama administration.  Is it the President’s job to personally investigate people who come and work for him?  No, but his staff’s poor performance in this area (again) reflects badly on his administration.   One explanation floated out by the White House was that since Jones’ job wasn’t that important, he wasn’t investigated too thoroughly.  So, the public is supposed to accept an excuse for irresponsibility or the public could conclude that this was a misstatement since Jones’ role actually seemed to be a pretty high profile one.  Another bit of damage control was that Jones signed one of the Truthers’ documents without being thoroughly acquainted with the group’s beliefs.  If that’s true, perhaps the American people are better off without having someone with such a lack of attention to detail helping us run our country.

Jones himself said that he was resigning because the lies and smears being told about him were a distraction from the President’s important work.  If they were lies and smears, doesn’t he owe it to the causes he cares about to stay and fight for the truth?  Would the President really want the message to be sent that his aides could be run out of office with fabrications?

We live in a great country, but our political world is often murky and mean.  Do you suppose that if we did get health care reform it could include a provision for free character implants for some of our government officials?  If only it were possible.