Topic: Government & Politics

Senator McCain: Ethics Hero or Traitor?

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” Unless The Shadow, a.k.a. Lamont Cranston, survived both the cancellation of his radio show and the Alec Baldwin film bomb based on it, the answer is “Nobody.” Thus it is hard to make definitive ethical sense out of Sen. McCain’s defense of John Kerry’s record, to the chagrin of his party, which is attempting to make the case that President Bush’s opponent in November is a defense weenie. `I do not believe that he is `weak on defense,’ McCain said on the Today Show.

By one analysis, this is proof of McCain’s honesty. He is a self-styled “truth-teller,” and his willingness to buck his party and take shots at other Republicans certainly gives him an aura of integrity. There are other ethical issues involved. Loyalty is an ethical value as well, although (in this commentator’s opinion) one that is often misapplied in government service. The loyalty of a public servant needs to ultimately rest with the public, not the party, so Ethics Scoreboard can cautiously endorse McCain’s heresy if it was genuinely aimed at keeping the public from being misled, even if the misleaders were GOP colleagues. But McCain has made a point of emphasizing that Kerry is his good friend. If his statement was motivated by loyalty for Kerry, it is of dubious ethical value. McCain’s loyalties are conflicted. If he’s coming to the defense of a friend against his obligations to his party, then his ethical priorities are open to question. This is politics, not high school.

And if, as some (mostly McCain detractors, to be sure) have suggested, McCain has decided to stick it to Bush in delayed retribution for Bush’s below-the -belt campaign tactics in the 2000 presidential primaries, his actions are not admirable at all. Vengeance is not an ethical motivation.

Because we simply cannot look into Senator McCain’s heart and know if his action is as ethical as it appears on first glance, Ethics Scoreboard is hesitant to elevate him to full Ethics Hero status. So give two cheers for the candid maverick Senator from Arizona.

Only the Shadow knows if he deserves a third.

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