by Andy Weddington
Thursday, 21 February 2013
"One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised." Chinua Achebe
Down hard with the flu the past week (feeling better today), during short periods of lucidity I watched television for lack of energy and concentration to do much else. What a wasteland television - deserving of comment but another day.
The other evening, may have been Tuesday (days are fuzzy when this ill), a segment on Bill O'Reilly's 'The Factor' caught my attention. It was a chore to stay awake and attentive but mission accomplished.
O'Reilly, with regular 'analysts and commentators' Monica Crowley (somewhat conservative) and Alan Colmes (a left loon) - for "fair & balanced" entertainment, discussed Mark Sanford's run for congress.
Mark Sanford is running for congress?!
Are you kidding? Dumbfounding is the only word that came to mind.
As reminder, Sanford, not quite four years ago, while sitting as the 115th governor of South Carolina, disappeared for four days. His staff did not know his whereabouts, and could not reach him by means of computer nor cell phone. Nor did his family - wife and children (four sons) - know where he was (though it came out after the fact, his wife probably knew).
In short, and no matter how rationalized, the governor abandoned his state.
His tale was he was hiking the Appalachian Trail - to clear his head. But to put it bluntly in Marine parlance, the reality was he was not on a task force state-sanctioned fact-finding mission rather he was on a solo unauthorized tail-chasing covert expedition in South America. And then he got caught at the airport in Atlanta trying to discreetly hightail it home.
Soon thereafter he publicly confessed to his adulterous ways. The governor had a 'soulmate' in Argentina.
Which brings us back to the O'Reilly segment and their mini panel discussion as to integrity and should Sanford be given a second chance. Crowley said yes - which seemed to surprise Colmes (who's typically defensive and says something dumb) who concurred and the program's host ho-hummed and moved on to the next segment. Consensus.
For starters, the definition(s) of integrity per Mr. Webster: 1) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility; 2) an unimpaired condition : soundness; 3) the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness. Synonyms see honesty.
That is, integrity is one of those traits that you either have or do not have. Black and white. And that's the way integrity - one of 14 leadership traits - is taught to and practiced by Marines. Integrity being defined as: you are honest and truthful in what you say and do - you put honesty, sense of duty, and sound moral principles above all else. Simple. And clear - crystal clear.
Mzz Crowley justified support for Sanford's run for congress on the premise that it was Sanford's personal life at issue and therefore a second chance warranted. In other words, Mzz Crowley believes integrity is a trait that can be compartmentalized - that it is not a trait of completeness, of wholeness.
But it wasn't just his personal life. Sanford was censured by South Carolina's General Assembly following a State Ethics Commission investigation as to allegations he'd wrongly used state travel funds to carry on his affair. So, a private and public breach of trust - of integrity. His was not a mistake but deliberate maliciousness and malfeasance.
I don't understand.
Had Sanford been a Marine, his absence would have been considered UA (Unauthorized Absence) and there would have been hell to pay upon return. And the cockamamie 'hiking the Appalachian Trail' tale earning his tail more wrath still - for lying is more serious than the offense committed. And the more senior the Marine the more harsh the consequences. Had he been an officer in command, he'd have been relieved of duty and told to stand by while an Article 32 (investigation) sorted out fact and the convening authority determined whether or not a courts-martial was in order. Whatever the outcome, a career ruined - over.
I lived in South Carolina, down in the southeast corner - the beautiful, historic Port Royal - for three years back in the mid-80s. I worked aboard a quaint little island - the Marine Corps Recruit Depot named Parris Island - a few miles away. On that little spit of barely inhabitable ground surrounded by tidal swamp, active with alligators and monster rattlesnakes and other dangerous creatures and bothersome pests (e.g., sand fleas; horseflys; deer flys), integrity was a cornerstone of what drill instructors seared into the heart and soul of recruits - who aspired to be Marines. To this day, that is happening.
For Marines, integrity is one of the core traits around which all else revolves. It goes to honesty and trustworthiness and dependability and so much more - all of the time (from training fields to battlefields to bars), not some of the time. There is no such thing as integrity being applied as convenient. One cannot sort of have integrity.
I got to know some of the local folks in the greater low country area - a no nonsense bunch, for the most part, as I recall.
Unless things have changed, and drastically so, in South Carolina, I can't imagine Mark Sanford having a chance in hell of being elected.
Mark Sanford already offered South Carolinians more than a glimpse of his integrity, or lack thereof. Whatever he offered in extenuation and mitigation is moot. He may have once earned the public's trust but he no longer merits it. At the top levels of "leadership" a breach of personal and public integrity is a serious matter. And it merits serious consequences. Just ask a couple of senior military officers, one Army one Marine, who made recent headlines - and the Marine (unfairly smeared by media), after investigation, was exonerated but the damage done and career over.
Interesting enough, Sanford once held a commission (may still) in the U. S. Air Force Reserve.
From page 22 Air Force Officer's Guide...
"Integrity. Integrity is a total commitment to the highest personal and professional standards. As a leader, you must be honest and fair. Integrity means establishing a set of values and adhering to those values. Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Gabriel said, "Integrity is the fundamental premise of military service in a free society. Without integrity, the moral pillars of our military strength - public trust and self-respect - are lost." (Note: Date of publication is unknown. General Gabriel died in 2003. But it's a safe wager the U. S. Air Force has not changed its position on integrity.)
I wonder what actions, if any, the Air Force took against Captain Sanford?
So when there are so many other good, qualified citizens who seek public service, why would anyone place their trust in someone who recklessly demonstrated they're not trustworthy?
I know what most everyone is thinking at this moment. But I'll not bother mentioning that person nor the office. Make that people and offices. Understood.
ntegrity is missing something - the "I" - (I)ntegrity.
The public deserves the best. Mark Sanford proved he's not the best. So come Election Day (should Sanford even get that far), we'll see if sanity prevails in the land of Tigers and Gamecocks, and swamps filled with gators and snakes - where Marines are made.
In today's goofy America - a land of vanishing principles; morals; ethics; values; and all good traits of character, including integrity (of which the wasteland of television shares responsibility for fostering) - who knows.
To close with an 'old Corps' bumper sticker:
To Err is Human. To Forgive Divine.
Neither of Which is Marine Corps Policy.
Ironically, Webster provided an example: a politician of great honesty and integrity.
I was not aware such a being existed.