Ethics and Honor

Tuesday, September 15, 2009
by Patrick Dorinson

Every summer a new crop of America’s finest young men and women arrive at a place high above the Hudson River in upstate New York. That place is the United States Military Academy at West Point. It is here that they will take their first steps in becoming our nation’s military leaders of tomorrow. Over the course of the next four years they will learn many things.

But on that first day they will learn 12 very important words. "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do."

This is the Cadet Honor Code. It is simple, straightforward and “lie, cheat, or steal” at West Point has a broad definition to cover any unethical or immoral behavior.

Recently here in California we had a video surface that showed two Republican legislators waiting for a formal hearing to begin engaged in a conversation about the sexual exploits of one with a married female lobbyist who has two children. Assemblyman Mike Duvall, the person who made the disgusting comments is also married with two children. It has been replayed too many times to count and I will not dignify what was said by repeating it here.

It gets even worse. The female lobbyist’s employer had critical business before the Assembly Utilities Committee of which Duvall was Vice Chairman. One has to wonder whether any critical legislation was compromised by Duvall’s actions. Duvall resigned the Legislature within hours of multiple media reports that spread like a California wildfire through the Capitol. He then tucked his tail between his legs and slinked home to face his wife. I hope she hired a good divorce lawyer and put his clothes on the front porch.

And like all politicians who get caught doing something wrong the next day he said it wasn’t true. So either he is an adulterer or he just slandered a woman and ruined her career for no reason other than his own high school locker room empty boasts. My guess is that he will be hearing from her lawyer very shortly.

But while everyone has been focusing on the person who made those salacious comments, what about the person who listened and said nothing?

The tape became public on about September 8, 2009 but the conversation took place on July 8, 2009.

Two full months went by before anyone knew of the tapes existence and the person who listened attentively, Republican Assemblyman Jeff Miller remained silent.

Assemblyman Miller said that “he wasn’t paying attention” while Duvall bragged about his sexual romps with a married woman yet the tape doesn’t lie. He is clearly engaged in the conservation laughs a little and comments on one of Duvall’s assertions about a form a sexual activity he engaged in with the lobbyist. He then went on to say that "Anybody who knows Mike knows that he tells lots of stories”.

Really Jeff? Stories like this one? How many times have you heard him tell stories like this?

As soon as he heard this gutter talk he should have gone to the leader of the Republican caucus and told him what was going on and that something needed to be done, lest all Republicans get tarred with the same brush.

 He also sat on the Assembly Ethics Committee and so if he felt he couldn’t speak to his leader for whatever reason, he had a duty, yes a duty, to refer what he had heard to the Chairman of the Ethics Committee. What did he do?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Everyone in the State Capitol in Sacramento is playing the parlor game of who leaked the tape. Whoever did will be revealed at some point, but that is not the question. The question is why did Assemblyman Jeff Miller sit on this information for two months and say nothing to his leadership or the so-called Ethics Committee?

And by the way, for my money any organization that feels the need to have an “Ethics Committee” has no dad burn ethics to begin with.

 If he had been at West Point, under the Cadet Honor Code he would be just as guilty as Assemblyman Duvall because he tolerated someone who had broken the code.

 According to information on the West Point website…

“West Point's core mission is to develop leaders of character for our Army. A leader of character knows what is right, and possesses the moral courage to act on that knowledge. The principles of truthfulness, fairness, respect for others, and a personal commitment to maintaining values constitute that fundamental ideal known as the Spirit of the Code. A leader of character will apply the Spirit of the Code when making decisions involving ethical dilemmas”.

The above is an integral part of the Cadet Code of Honor.

What code do our political leaders follow? That it is OK to cheat on your wife as long as you don’t get caught? That it is OK to be silent when you know full well what you heard is unethical and immoral? That it is OK to keep a member’s constituents in the dark for two months about such disgusting behavior?

Or for these two “family values” Republicans are the Ten Commandments the Ten Suggestions?

My late mother gave me many great lessons and also many great old sayings. If you read my writings you will find them sprinkled throughout. Some were funny but all had a lesson in them. One I will never forget is, “Character is what you do when no one is looking”.

California Assemblyman Jeff Miller forgot that very simple lesson if he ever learned it to begin with.

Because he remained silent and said nothing, he is as equally responsible for unethical conduct. Honor, if he had any, would require that along with Assemblyman Duvall and he also should resign.

And every good Republican should demand no less.