“Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?”

I got to thinking about that famous quote this week as I read about the fawning reception for Rudy Giuliani at the Civitas Institute and about George Tenet’s 4 million dollar book advance.  Here’s what I wonder about.  Since when is it OK for a public official to preside over a disaster and then be paid millions of dollars to tell us about it?  Giuliani received 8 million dollars in speaking fees in 2002 after 9/11.  Now his business group, Giuliani Partners, makes millions “consulting” on security matters.  I mean, who declared him a security expert?  Now I don’t blame Giuliani for 9/11, but does anyone think New York City was well prepared for the disaster from a security standpoint?  Wasn’t it Rudy who stubbornly decided to put the new emergency command center in one of the World Trade Center buildings?  We all know how that worked out.


9/11 has often been called our generation’s “Pearl Harbor.”  Here’s one difference.  Both senior commanders at Pearl Harbor, Navy Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, and Army Lt. General Walter C. Short, were relieved of their duties following the attack.  Subsequent investigations faulted the men for failing to adopt adequate defense measures.  Both men are demoted and retire in disgrace.


Neither man went on a book tour.  Neither man was asked to give a primetime speech at their party’s political convention.  Neither man was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  I guess FDR knew a thing or two about leadership and accountability in wartime. 


Now, back to the attendees at the Civitas Institute for Giuliani’s speech.  How many of the conservative members, do you think, have called John Edwards a greedy “ambulance chaser?”  Let’s think about Giuliani and Edwards for a moment.


Giuliani presides over a disaster, where a plausible argument can be made that he bears some responsibility.  3000 Americans die.  Rudy decides to work within our capitalist system to maximize the tragedy for his own financial and personal gain.


Edwards, on the other hand, works with families who have been injured through medical negligence or defective products.  He helps them navigate our judicial system as they seek due process for their injuries. True, there is significant financial reward for Edwards, but there is societal good in his role as advocate for those who are less powerful, so that they may seek justice within our legal system.  After all, are we not a nation of laws?


Which man has faced adversity and acted with greater honor?  Which man has exhibited greater character?  Which man has acted with a greater sense of decency, sir?  These are the questions we must honestly ask of ourselves and our public servants.




  1. krm0517

    May 4, 2007 at 8:32 am

    I am no fan of Giuliani and will not defend him. The problem with Edwards, though, is the blatant hypocrisy. He spends $400 on a hair cut and then expects us to believe him when he says he can relate to the poor!?! He makes poverty his #1 issue and lives in the largest estate in his county!?!

    Come on now :-/

  2. sturner

    May 4, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    The $400 haircut was definitely an error in political judgement. Edwards should have known better since some version of this comes up every election cycle. I am less quick to judge his housing choice (his house in Raleigh during his peak earning years, for instance, was almost modest by current Wake County standards).

    At any rate, this has nothing to do with a candidate’s ability to speak to an issue. Using FDR as an example again, there was no president more patrician than Roosevelt, yet there is no American who has done more to alleviate the effects of poverty. Besides, using that criteria, none of the leading Presidential candidates could make poverty an issue since to a person their net worth is in the millions.

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