Sunday, July 09, 2006

Integrity

In an earlier post, I mentioned Integrity. It’s not a common word, and when it is used, it is most often used incorrectly, to praise someone using a word which means something other than what they think. Integrity is basically defined as wholeness, as in you maintain the identity of who you are. It is a critical component not only to honorable action, but to personal development. That is, as one teacher put it, Integrity is not that you do no wrong – everyone makes mistakes – but that when you do make a blunder, you own up to it and make things right. That is rare, and that is precious.

Fame is a terrible thing. I don’t mean ‘terrible’ as in bad or really poor, but in the sense that it changes a person, not often for the better. And famous people are very unwilling to admit they have made mistakes, and even less willing to change course in their stated opinions and decisions. I did a lot of reading about what happened at Enron, Worldcom, and other famous business disasters, and one common trait was the refusal at the top to admit there was a problem. And it just gets worse when you look at Politics.

Up to this point, I don’t think I have written anything which would strike folks as unreasonable, but don’t worry I am getting there. What I mean is, when people think about ‘stubborn’ and ‘unreasonable’, they usually have someone else in mind. And that means, of course, that the President is inclined to believe that Congress and the Courts are the problem in accomplishing significant progress, while Congress is inclined to blame the President and the Courts, and the Supreme Court’s latest flight from rational deliberation shows that they, in their turn, believe that the White House and the Congress are the problem. And all three branches possess massive resources and power to pursue their opinion to great lengths. It seems almost an impossible logjam, and there are numerous historical examples where just such conditions have existed. To my mind therefore, the signal indicator of moral superiority and personal integrity is the willingness to work with the other branches. And the sole branch which has exhibited this indication is focused on one man, President George W. Bush.

Maybe you won’t believe it, but this President is one of the best in our history. I say this, because greatness in a President often shows up in how he handles a crisis. Washington accomplished a great deal as President, but he is forever remembered first as the man who won the Revolution. Lincoln is not hailed for how he addressed fiduciary concerns or interstate commerce, but as the man who held the nation together during the Civil War. And President Bush will be remembered for how he responded to 9/11, long after the spittle-laced stories spread by his enemies have been forgotten. This is not say that being a ‘War President” is a sure ticket to greatness; Eisenhower did a fine job during World War 2, but is not commonly thought of as a great President, and none of the three Presidents connected with Vietnam saw glory because of it. But those Presidents who handle the crisis well, show character and leadership which is present in their other decisions.

Bush has come under fire in his second term for a variety of controversies. These were generally thrown out from the Left, but more recently he has found himself isolated because he thought further than the common mind, and reached a different and better decision. In the cases of the Miers-then-Roberts SCOTUS pick, the Dubai Ports deal, and the Immigration issue, Bush was far more amenable to discussion and considered evaluation, than anyone else involved in the process. Both the Congress and the Courts may be said to have made “knee jerk” reactions, especially in their public statements. In all three cases, the virtue and wisdom of Bush’s course was roundly rejected, so he regrouped and applied efforts to reach a consensus. Where that effort was successful, it is interesting to note that the groups so approached by the President accepted his flexibility, but claimed credit for it themselves. It is again telling that the President has shown no desire to feed his ego, but simply moves on to the next task at hand.

The President is a man of integrity. He is certainly not perfect, but he is whole, which is more than many can claim.

1 comment:

J Edholm said...

Your points are good. I hadn't thought about them because I largely agree with W on most items, so it was easy to accept -- and then dismiss -- the media characterization of W as inflexible, incapable of change or admitting error, etc. But your examples of his flexibility in some key crisis points shows that I was giving him short shrift.

Jim