2007/05/12

Retired General John Batiste fired by CBS

It was unfortunately, an entirely predictable scenario. An on-air analyst for CBS (The station where Katie Couric proved that she's a hard-line, right-wing conservative) came out in an ad done for VoteVets.org criticizing "Dear Leader" G W Bush. Batiste was promptly canned and CBS made a statement saying that their written policies do not permit open, explicit political advocacy.

Well, guess what? Yup, the blogs started searching back through the careers of other CBS on-air analysts and promptly found at least two (As of late May 11) other on-air commentators who openly and explicitly advocated for the "surge" policy in Iraq and for the presidential candidacy of Senator John McCain.

Problem: The rule of law is based on the idea that laws are enforced in a fair, objective and impartial manner (And no, no actual laws are at issue here; with CBS, we're talking about an internal, self-imposed rule). In a democracy, laws and rules apply equally to everyone. When CBS or anyone else enforces rules in a blatantly partisan, unfair manner, that hurts the credibility of all laws and rules. When any large institution applies rules so that they apply in some instances, but not in others, that means people have to get by or get ahead using less-then-clear rules.

That's bad for everybody who doesn't like living under a monarchy or a dictatorship. That's the essential distinction between what they used to call "Rule by law" vs "Rule by men (people)." I saw a column several years ago where an elder, white conservative guy said basically "Hey we shouldn't be so hard on elder white guys who happen to be hypocrites, people who condemn President Clinton for having an affair while having had affairs themselves." Pardon me, but yes, we should! Neither is it much better to have condemned Clinton for his affair while going easy on later public figures who did much the same thing. When a former Speaker of the House criticizes a current Speaker of the House for something that the former Speaker did when he was in office, that's an extremely relevant point that should be taken quite seriously. Of course, not all accusations of hypocrisy are equal. People condemned feminists for giving Clinton a pass on the issue of sexual harassment, but it wasn't clear that he actually engaged in that particular conduct.

For further thought on the issue of hypocrisy, Concurring Opinions reprints a passage from a story involving what appears to be the Right Honorable James Hacker, MP (Member of Parliament). Marvellously dry humor.

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