The Miami Herald’s Steven Thomma has a great Sunday editorial examining personal responsibility in our government and society and concludes that what began in the 60’s is now being fully embodied as our current leaders are leading the pack in side-stepping accountability and that it’s having an impact on business and culture as a whole:
”The Buck Stops Here,” said the no-nonsense sign on President Harry Truman’s desk. Today, it sits in a Missouri museum. And with it perhaps the sentiment it represented.
It was more than a slogan. The notion of accepting responsibility without passing the buck or blaming others when things went wrong was central to the work ethic and moral tone of the time.
By contrast today, leaders of the country’s great institutions infrequently step forward and take responsibility for failure or even honest mistakes. It is sometimes imposed by others, notably juries, but less so by the broader American society and virtually never invoked voluntarily in politics, business, religion or popular culture.
While Bush takes a full dose of scrutiny, thankfully that author doesn’t give Bill Clinton a pass either and posits that the former president is just as culpable in lowering the bar:
Former President Bill Clinton personified the trend.
When first accused of having an affair with a former White House intern, he angrily denied it and then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton blamed a ”vast right-wing conspiracy.” After he was caught lying under oath to conceal the affair, he lashed out at the politics of personal destruction. In his presidential library, he avoids personal responsibility and devotes most of an exhibit on his impeachment to blaming Republicans for trying to unseat him.
Certainly a refreshing analysis of our society’s dismissal of personal responsibility, but a worrying one as well.