Smith: Expectations creep lower

Smith: Expectations creep lower

November 26th, 2012 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith, former Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and congressional candidate.

Recent headlines have shared a common theme.

See if you can spot the pattern: "Petraeus faces CIA investigation into whether he abused official perks," "FBI probes Gen. Allen emails in Petraeus scandal," "Scott DesJarlais approved wife's abortion, slept with co-workers, patients."

The common threads in these reports are deceit, broken commitments, arrogance, poor judgment and hypocrisy.

Men and women who seek leadership positions are human. Still, they take on a responsibility to be honest and accountable. Otherwise, they risk losing the respect and trust needed to govern effectively.

History is full of accounts of the frailties of men and women and the indiscretions that serve as their gateway into trouble.

Those who seek power should ask themselves a simple question: Do I believe that deception, lies and hypocrisy should go unquestioned?

Think about these role reversals.

For the sake of fun, let's say rather than a member of Congress making about $175,000 annually, it was a church pastor making $50,000 who advocated protecting the unborn and honoring the traditions of covenant marriage, then lived a life that conflicted with those beliefs.

Then, let's pretend that instead of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a leader of our armed forces in the Middle East theater of war, David Petraeus was the CEO of a major software and computer device company, like Apple, whose shared G-mail account with his mistress led to leaks of proprietary, confidential documents. Then say this adulterous relationship also ensnared another high-profile executive within the same company engaged in "embarrassing" communications with a female in the same drama loop.

Most likely, these situations would end in more than simple headlines. Termination, severe legal demands, if not criminal actions might result from the poor choices, "indiscretions" and lapses in judgment.

"Oh, but Robin, we shouldn't judge people," some might ague.

Simple discernment leads to the obvious: If you say one thing and do the opposite, there's a problem.

A recent New York Times article, "The Truth About Lies," notes "by the time most children are 4, they have acquired the ability to deceive others ..."

But must we have leaders who lie? Do we have to tolerate those in leadership whose character reflects a lack of integrity?

A University of Alabama-Birmingham professor of psychiatry, Charles Ford, has written about "intentional dissimulation." He says that "to lie effectively, one has to have a notion that other people have minds that can be deceived."

As a society, we've lowered our expectations to compensate for the failures of people we like.

Robin Smith, a consultant at Rivers Edge Alliance, is a wife and mother living in Hixson. She served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party from 2007 to 2009.