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Auditing America's Political Integrity

May 20 2013
The IRS scandal, Benghazi incidents, and the disappointment of dishonorable leadership.

The recent scandals swirling inside the beltway seem to have come one after another—Benghazi, the AP records seizure, the IRS audits. While investigations continue about the details of each, the incidents have been enough to raise bigger, broader questions of responsibility, moral integrity, and creditability of those in power.

This kind of questioning is more signficant than just cynicism. After all, public faith in governance is key to a democracy like ours. Once that faith has been lost, how can it be restored? Or, as Publilius Syrus, a 1st-century Roman-slave-turned-Latin-writer, asked, "What is left when honor is lost?"

It's a concept that has thundered down through the centuries: Moral integrity is foundational for truly successful leaders. Socrates advised, "Let the man who would move the world first move himself." Confucius asked, "If he cannot put himself aright, how can he hope to succeed in putting others aright?" From beginning to end, what matters the most about leaders is who they are, not simply what they do. And right now, there appears to be significant flaws in the characters of our government officials and politicians.

Take the case of the Islamist attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi back in September, where we're left with conflicting reports over whether the assault was spontaneous or, as critics argued, a premeditated act of terrorism. While it's worth investigating whether such an incident could have been avoided, the bigger question in America's minds is one of integrity, of whether people in power deliberately covered up the facts. We cannot expect our leaders to foresee and prevent every tragedy, but we can—and should—expect them to respond truthfully. We can expect them to uphold a sense morality and doing what's right.

The character of those involved has come into question as e-mails released last week revealed that Democratic talking points following the Benghazi attack were revised 12 times, expunging references to intelligence that indicated the assault was a terrorist attack. Earlier this month, U.S. officials testified that "everybody in the mission" knew it was a terrorist attack "from the get-go." At some point, the truth stopped becoming a priority (perhaps to protect Obama's popularity headed into re-election).

Last week, in the midst of the Benghazi coverage, the Associated Press revealed a scandal of its own, reporting that the Department of Justice secretly seized the records of more than 20 separate telephone lines in April and May of 2012 in what an AP top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion." The DOJ maintains that the move was necessary to identify who provided information regarding a May 7, 2012 story on a foiled terror plot, but the White House said there was no credible threat to the public at that time. Again, our integrity slips. It's no longer important whether or not an action is right as long as it's expedient and legal… or simply permissible, since the secrecy and "chillingly broad" scope of the DOJ seizure seems like such a blatant disregard of the constitutional rights of the press.

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