Perception, intention, power, arrogance, authority and many other character qualities become a part of actions that, to one person, cross the line yet to another do not. Richard Nixon proclaimed he was “not a crook” many years ago from the White House after he was confronted with accepting blame for the actions of staff in his administration.
This last week we saw members of the Internal Revenue Service flaunt their character flaws in an attempt to shield the truth. Not unlike the twisted version of the truth coming out of the Jodi Arias trial, the House Oversight Commission asked former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman why he visited the White House 118 times during the period in question — his wise crack response was “for the annual Easter egg hunt.”
When IRS Supervisor Lois Lerner, the administrator at the center of the scandal, made her “I’m not a crook” statement then took the fifth it felt like government thumbing its nose at the people who should be able to get to the truth. Lerner earns $177,000 per year and when asked for her resignation refused to resign. At the time of this writing she was put on “paid” administrative leave.
It’s difficult for me to understand or accept the excuses coming out of Washington regarding these big scandals. It seems completely unbelievable and unacceptable that department leaders, cabinet secretaries or the President can brush off these events simply by claiming they have no knowledge of the activities and so it’s time to move on past these minor bumps in the road.
In our publishing business we employ more than 100 individuals. When one of those employees makes a mistake, and mistakes do happen, I am the person who must accept responsibility and make restitution. Additionally, if I don’t determine what happened, chances are good it will happen again. If an employee, through their own fault causes damage to equipment, hurts another employee, or even themselves I am the person who is responsible. I can not force that employee to pay for damages caused even if I directly told the person not to do what they did or they demonstrate careless behavior. Sure, I can terminate their employment but in the end I’m still responsible for their actions.
If an employee, unbeknownst to me, harasses another employee, I’m the person who is made to accept the responsibility for those actions. If a reporter reports the wrong facts, misspells a name, or forgets to cover an event it’s a direct reflection on the company and it’s my phone that rings. If one of our sales staff forgets to run an ad, charges the customer the wrong price, schedules it to run the wrong size or forgets to have it designed with color or the graphics person who creates the ad misidentifies the picture or product, I’m the person who must accept responsibility for those errors.
Even if the postal service is late with delivery or misses delivering the paper to a home, they won’t make restitution to me or the company, yet I must cover the cost to get a replacement paper to the customer and offer my apologies.
Any error or accident made within our organization mandates that I as the owner of the company am ultimately responsible. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I believe our readers and customers should expect nothing less then having the buck ultimately stop at my desk. It just comes with the territory — like it or not.
So why do the folks in government think they can simply side step major blunders and deliberate illegal actions and not be held accountable? Why do we have these double standards, after all these elected officials and public servants work for us … at least that’s what they want us to believe. As always it will be interesting to watch these events unfold as the truth trickles out and we discover who gets blamed (thrown under the bus) and who is really responsible for the actions of our government officials.
We will see just who steps up to the plate.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.