Scott McClellan and the Public-Sector Privateers


So here we go again. Thanks to Scott McClellan, we now have what we already knew but people like him were afraid to tell us. Everybody lied. No surprise here. McNamara did it, Powell did it -- all these public servants, paid by our tax dollars while working, cashed in by selling books when they got off the payroll. That is the morally bankrupt mess we're in. People of conscience, like Daniel Ellsberg, have been replaced by co-conspirators who only find the truth when they are paid to do so through book contracts. They may refuse to go before Congress while working for us, citing executive privilege, but once they are gone, it's "Sign me up and send me on a book tour!"

While we used to be protected in this country with a system of checks and balances, the only checks seem to go right into the balances of the authors capitalizing on their public service. It might be nice to find a remedy for this seemingly slimy and unethical situation, but we might find ourselves doomed forever from finding out what we thought all along. At the very least, here are a few ways, if not particularly practical ones, to discourage these public servant profiteers.

  1. All proceeds of such books go back to the U.S. Treasury to reimburse the American people for the authors' poor service in upholding the laws and, sometimes, our Constitution.

  2. Be subjected to prosecution for misdeeds they reveal (which in many cases, like the war in Iraq, have cost lives), such as spending trillions of dollars needlessly to enrich their cronies. Forget their claiming the Fifth when they are essentially pleading guilty without being coerced.

  3. Make sure they are unable to use any writing implement for 10 years upon leaving their job, or appear on any broadcast to come clean. (Woops! Freedom of speech and expression gets in the way.)

  4. Encourage the books when they are still in a position to help us find the truth, so perhaps we can stop the deceit. All such books are printed free of charge by the Government Printing Office and sold on, with proceeds split between the authors and us taxpayers. Screw executive privilege when you can actually make big bucks instead.

  5. Automatic enrollment in the Profiles in Courage Award for quitting their job when they realize they are patsies for people committing illegal or unethical activities while serving the public. (I know this is unrealistic, but once in a while, maybe another Ellsberg will surface.)

I'm sure there are realistic remedies, like really enforcing Congressional oversight and having checks and balances that really work. It also helps to make sure we elect people who have the right moral compass to begin with who understand they are actually working for us and are accountable to us.

They shouldn't hide behind executive privilege when they commit illegal acts or knowingly deceive the public. It's time for these great people of faith who get elected or appointed to serve us to find the lights while they still can turn them on and let us see the way before it's too late. And above all, make sure that journalists have the skills and resources to do their jobs and that the media does not become threatened by those in power who hold the key to their financial future. Stop dangling preferences on the media that favor consolidation that create government-dependent media companies, with politics and ideology deciding who can do what, where and how much. Take the politics out of controlling the media, and make sure decisions are made in the public's interest to protect the dissemination of news and information.

Perhaps we can learn from what is happening here and actually change the way our public servants serve the public. Just going to the polls is not enough to ensure that our interests are going to be served. It takes all of us encouraging the dissemination of truth at all times so we can be sure that our public officials understand who they are working for. We can only find the truth by asking the right questions. Many times it means asking them over and over again until we get what we need, before we head down a path that will harm us in all the ways this current administration has. We are all complicit if we don't stand up and make these public officials accountable, every day, every hour, every minute. The truth should not be determined by what finds its way to the New York Times best-seller list.

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