For eighteen years, the University of North Carolina has had a “shadow curriculum” in which students didn’t have to attend classes or do any work, and yet received A’s. Over three thousand students took advantage of this program, only half of them athletes. [Read more…]
General David Petraeus’s affair with Paul Broadwell, which led to his resignation as head of the CIA, became known when Ms. Broadwell sent threatening jealous e-mails to another woman, Jill Kelley, whereupon the FBI began its investigation. Now it turns out that Ms. Kelley was exchanging e-mails with the current head of military operations General John Allen, Petraeus’s successor. Gen. Allen insists that he had no affair with Ms. Kelley, but the 20,000-30,000 pages worth of e-mails they traded have been described as the equivalent of “phone sex.”
What is going on? For one thing, 30,000 pages of e-mail over two years breaks down to 41 messages a day. Didn’t Gen. Allen have anything more to do than trade e-mails–of whatever nature–with a civilian? Didn’t he have a war to fight?
The two previous commanders in Afghanistan before these two were ousted. General Stanley McChrystal, was fired because of an undisciplined drinking party with some Rolling Stone reporters. And the commander before him, Gen. David McKiernan, was fired, though apparently for differences in strategy from the Pentagon rather than for personal failings.
Oh, yes, lest we think these are purely personal vices unconnected to these men’s professional duties, investigators are reporting that they have found classified material in the possession of Ms. Broadwell.
What happened to military honor in the top brass? Or, at the very minimum, military discipline?
Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the burglary of the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate office complex. That event on June 17, 1972, would bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon.
I remember news of the burglary and the subsequent dripping out of details and the final whole cascade vividly. I was a college student at the time. I realize many of you weren’t even born yet. So I first ask those of you who remember it: What has changed since the Watergate scandal? Did it change the way you view the office of the president or our government or journalists? Did it make you the cynic you are today?
To the rest of you and to anyone, what, to use grandiose language, is the legacy of Watergate? It was uncovered largely by old-fashioned investigative journalism, as well as bipartisan Congressional investigation. Do you think if an event like this happened today, in our media environment of 24-hour news, the internet, and yet cash-strapped newspapers, that it would be that big of a deal? Are we in a state of scandal overload, so that the serious gets lost in the trivial?
More from that brilliant column by Peggy Noonan, America’s Crisis of Character:
There is the General Services Administration scandal. An agency devoted to efficiency is outed as an agency of mindless bread-and-circuses indulgence. They had a four-day regional conference in Las Vegas, with clowns and mind readers.
The reason the story is news, and actually upsetting, is not that a government agency wasted money. That is not news. The reason it’s news is that the people involved thought what they were doing was funny, and appropriate. In the past, bureaucratic misuse of taxpayer money was quiet. You needed investigators to find it, trace it, expose it. Now it’s a big public joke. They held an awards show. They sang songs about the perks of a government job: “Brand new computer and underground parking and a corner office. . . . Love to the taxpayer. . . . I’ll never be under OIG investigation.” At the show, the singer was made Commissioner for a Day. “The hotel would like to talk to you about paying for the party that was held in the commissioner’s suite last night” the emcee said. It got a big laugh.
On the “red carpet” leading into the event, GSA chief Jeffrey Neely said: “I am wearing an Armani.” One worker said, “I have a talent for drinking Margarita. . . . It all began with the introduction of performance measures.” That got a big laugh too.
All the workers looked affluent, satisfied. Only a generation ago, earnest, tidy government bureaucrats were spoofed as drudges and drones. Not anymore. Now they’re way cool. Immature, selfish and vain, but way cool.
Their leaders didn’t even pretend to have a sense of mission and responsibility. They reminded me of the story a year ago of the dizzy captain of a U.S. Navy ship who made off-color videos and played them for his crew. He wasn’t interested in the burdens of leadership—the need to be the adult, the uncool one, the one who maintains standards. No one at GSA seemed interested in playing the part of the grown-up, either.
Why? Why did they think this is OK? They seemed mildly decadent. Or proudly decadent. In contrast to you, low, toiling taxpayer that you are, poor drudges and drones.
HT: Doug Reynolds
Still more from that brilliant column by Peggy Noonan, America’s Crisis of Character:
There is the Secret Service scandal. That one broke through too, and you know the facts: overseas to guard the president, sent home for drinking, partying, picking up prostitutes.
What’s terrible about this story is that for anyone who’s ever seen the Secret Service up close it’s impossible to believe. The Secret Service are the best of the best. That has been their reputation because that has been their reality. They have always been tough, disciplined and mature. They are men, and they have the most extraordinary job: take the bullet.
Remember when Reagan was shot? That was Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy who stood there like a stone wall, and took one right in the gut. Jerry Parr pushed Reagan into the car, and Mr. Parr was one steely-eyed agent. Reagan coughed up a little blood, and Mr. Parr immediately saw its color was a little too dark. He barked the order to change direction and get to the hospital, not the White House, and saved Reagan’s life. From Robert Caro’s “Passage of Power,” on Secret Service agent Rufus Youngblood, Nov. 22, 1963: “there was a sharp, cracking sound,” and Youngblood, “whirling in his seat,” grabbed Vice President Lyndon Johnson and threw him to the floor of the car, “shielding his body with his own.”
In any presidential party, the Secret Service guys are the ones who are mature, who you can count on, who’ll keep their heads. They have judgment, they’re by the book unless they have to rewrite it on a second’s notice. And they wore suits, like adults.
This week I saw a picture of agents in Colombia. They were in T-shirts, wrinkled khakis and sneakers. They looked like a bunch of mooks, like slobs, like children with muscles.
Special thanks to the person who invented casual Friday. Now it’s casual everyday in America. But when you lower standards people don’t decide to give you more, they give you less.
HT: Doug Reynolds