Ethics Quote Of The Week: The Washington Post


“Resignation Lets Obama Off The Hook”

—Headline on a Washington Post front page feature on Department of Veteran’s Administration Secretary Eric Shinseke’s resignation on Friday, May 30, by reporter David Nakamura.

I almost called this an unethical quote, rather than putting it in the broader, kinder category of a statement that raises ethics issues.

The headline is unethical in the sense that it indicates once again what I have long decided is the case: the news media, journalists, editors and reporters, couldn’t identify most ethics issues if you painted one orange and hung it around their necks. Has anyone at the Post heard of the principle of accountability? That is, accepting that you are responsible for what has gone wrong under your management as well as what has gone right? President Obama has been shameless in taking bows for the few accomplishments his sad administration can legitimately claim, such as the killing of Osama bin Laden, which was the result of an ongoing operation to which his primary contribution was in not lousing it up. Sometimes, as in his  jaw-dropping foreign policy speech at West Point last week, Obama recasts his nonfeasance and misfeasance as success, as he did regarding U.S. handling of the Ukraine, Syria and Iran. When his leadership really produces a pratfall, however, the reflex Presidential response has been to blame Republicans, or George W. Bush.

This has been, in fact, the attempted spin on the VA scandal. The inconvenient facts in making that case: 1) Obama promised to fix the VA ; 2) the scandal involved possible criminal activity on his watch; and 3) his appointed Secretary’s response was Obama-like, in that he acted as if he was a casual, uninvolved bystander in the mismanagement of his own department.

Isn’t it obvious to the Post, the headline writer, everyone, that nothing Shinseke did, from resignation to a self-immolating mea culpa to seppuku could “let Obama off the hook” for a catastrophe of this magnitude,  in his Administration, under his leadership, delegated to a man he appointed? How can anyone who understands anything about accountability, leadership and management think that? Continue reading