Do you believe that government should reflect your moral values?
I do, in a sense. A good government is, by definition, a just and moral government.
I also believe in an objective right and wrong, and that I am not the master of all wisdom. Therefore, I can make mistakes. If I am wrong about the morality of something, I hope that the government ignores me and reflects what is right, rather than what I (falsely) think is right. This is still consistent with the claim that a good government must be a just and moral government.
If you agree with this, then I have a question. What moral value do you place on lies and deceit and other forms of "bearing false witness", and on breaking the law? Do people who engage in or defend these things reflect your moral values?
I ask this because the Republican National Committee has released a new radio advertisement that only those who value deceit in defense of criminal acts could embrace.
This advertisement claims that the Democrats are attempting to censure President Bush for fighting terrorism.
This is a lie. This is "bearing false witness."
The truth is that some Democrats are attempting to censure President Bush for breaking the law and acting in ways that are destructive of the Constitution. The Bush Administration and the Republican National Committee are not even trying to defend themselves against these charges (because they are so clearly guilty). Instead, they lie. They claim that they are being charged with 'something else' that they can defend themselves against, and thus try to hide what they have done behind a smokescreen of deceit.
A Crime in New York
Imagine this scenario:
On the streets of New York, Sergeant George Bush of the NYPD is running after a purse-snatcher. The purse-snatcher runs into a subway station and onto a crowded subway car. Officer Bush, knowing that he cannot make it onto the subway before the doors close and the train starts to move, takes out a grenade and throws it into the car. The resulting explosion kills the purse-snatcher and 12 other passengers, and wounds 36 others.
Later, back at the police station, Sergeant Russ Feingold suggests that Sergeant Bush should be reprimanded for excessive use of force. In fact, Sergeant Feingold and others believe that Sergeant Bush's actions constitute murder -- a criminal act. However, for some reason (which I fail to understand and cannot explain) Feingold is suggesting a reprimand rather than formal criminal charges.
As an asside, I would insist on formal criminal charges in such a case and condemn Sergeant Feingold for codling and even sanctioning murder. However, that is not the way the story went.
As it turns out, Sergeant Bush has powerful friends who have decided that they are going to defend him no matter what he does. Sergeant Bush could have thrown the grenade for the pleasure of watching people die, and many of these "Friends of Sergeant Bush" would have still rushed to his defense. In this case, they take out advertisements in the New York newspapers and on its radio and television stations that say, "Sergeant Feingold is attempting to reprimand Sergeant Bush for stopping a purse-snatcher."
Those "Friends of Sergeant Bush" would be liars.
It would be absolutely and categorically false to say that Sergeant Feingold is attempting to reprimand Sergeant Bush "for stopping a purse-snatcher." There are countless ways in which Sergeant Bush could have stopped a purse-snatcher that would not have resulted in a reprimand. Sergeant Feingold's reprimand is for the wantonly destructive way in which Sergeant Bush pursued his goal - the fact that by throwing the grenade he did something far worse than the purse-snatcher could have done. His "end justifies the means" morality made him a far more dangerous to others than the purse-snatcher was.
Those "Friends of Sergeant Bush" who would pay for such a campaign are people who have decided to lie in defense of a criminal act. Not only are they liars, not only are they defending a criminal act, but they are also saying that the wonton murder of innocent people in a New York subway does not even deserve an official reprimand.
Would you say that these "Friends of Sergeant Bush" represent your moral values?
If anybody misses the analogy, let me be explicit. Sergeant Bush's wonton destruction of life in stopping a purse-snatcher is comparable to President Bush's wonton destruction of the Constitution. If we were to get into a debate over which is worse, I would like to remind the reader that there are a great many people who have given their lives to defend the Constitution, and others who have already given their limbs and their well-being in a number of ways. Of the two options, there are many who would volunteer to be in the subway and take the blast if doing so would save the Constitution.
A terrorist cannot destroy our Constitution. He does not have that power. Only our elected representatives can do that. In this regard, they are far more dangerous than any terrorist.
Terrorism Equals Purse Snatching
I can count on at least one person complaining that in this essay I am somehow comparing a purse-snatcher to a terrorist. That also would be a lie or, at best, intellectually reckless. I am illustrating the fact that the RNC is lying with its claim that Democrats are seeking to censure Bush for fighting terrorism by showing that it would be a lie for the Friends of Sergeant Bush to say that Sergeant Feingold is attempting to reprimand Bush for stopping a purse-snatcher. Lies are lies.
There is nothing in this argument that depends on the claim, "terrorism equals purse snatching". The person who says otherwise would be making false claims and, themselves, be guilty of embracing fiction in defense of criminal acts.
A Pattern of Abusing the Truth
This is only the most recent example in which the Bush Administration and the Republican National Committee embrace deception as if honesty has no moral value and "bearing false witness" is not immoral.
President Bush repeatedly said that his administration would not spy on Americans without a warrant, while at the same time he was repeatedly renewing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to spy on American citizens without a warrant.
President Bush has his advisors rewrite papers produced by government scientists, turning those documents in a pack of lies then using those lies to defend administration policies.
President Bush said that nobody could have foreseen the destruction to New Orleans just days after he was told to expect the possibility that Hurricane Katrina would flood New Orleans.
These are not "gray areas" that are open to interpretation. Saying that he will always get a court order before spying on Americans while he has staff members spying on Americans without a court order is a flat-out lie. Taking a scientific paper that says "A = B" and rewriting it to say, "A might not equal B" is a lie. Saying that he was not told of the potential flooding of New Orleans when video tapes show him being told of the potential for flooding is a lie.
Not only is Bush lying, but he is doing so with the full knowledge and support, and even the assistance, of the Republican National Committee, which has decided to back up Bush's lies with its own lies.
Not only do the members of the Bush Administration and the Republican National Committee lie, they seem to do so with no conscience whatsoever. Sometimes they tell the truth. Yet, this never appears to be motivated by a sense of right and wrong. It is motivated entirely by a sense of convenience. If these people tell the truth, it is because, this time, they happen to find the truth to be useful.
These people have no respect for truth and honesty. It is completely absent. They have no respect for the law. They assert the right to break the law whenever it is convenient for them to do so.
The question remains: Do those who lie so freely and flaunt the law so openly actually reflect your moral values?
Lives vs. The Constitution
Before I close, I would like to expand on a point that I made above.
Above, I wrote that, if you compare Sergeant Bush's destruction of lives to the President Bush's destruction of the Constitution, that destroying the Constitution is the greater evil. The mere fact that there are so many people who would risk their lives to protect the Constitution is evidence of their relative value.
Apparently, President Bush and the Republican members of Congress do not believe that the Constitution is nearly as important as this. While they run the Constitution through the shredder, the argument they give over and over again is that shredding the Constitution is necessary to save lives.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died to protect that Constitution. This claim that we must shred the Constitution to save lives tells those who gave their lives to defend the Constitution that they were wrong – even foolish.
The Bush Administration has weighed lives against preserving the Constitution and found lives to be more important. Generations of soldiers have weighed their lives against defending (the principles embodied within) the Constitution and found the Constitution and its principles to be more important.
Who is right?
When you answer this question, ask yourself if the Bush Administration and its defenders represent your moral values?
While you are at it, remind yourself of the other moral values that this administration represents.
Wars under false pretenses
Imprisonment without trial
The destruction of the life, liberty, and property of others through environmental damage for profit.
The criminalization of protest by confining protesters to ‘free speech zones’ where they will not be heard or seen.
These are also values that this Administration and the Republican National Committee have decided to promote and defend. These are values that can be added to the value it places on lying and deceit, criminal acts, and destroying the Constitution.
Now, let me ask one last time:
Are these really your moral values?