Today on CBS's Face the Nation Peggy Noonan, a Wall Street Journal columnist and former speech writer and Special Assistant during the Reagan administration, commented on the sex scandal surrounding the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus by saying that he shouldn’t resign after having such an illustrious career. “And I just have to ask why do we have to lose him over this? That actually makes no sense.” She further called his resignation “mysterious” and “strange.”
Her comments are yet another symptom of how far moral standards have degenerated in the pundit circuit. Former General David Petraeus tried to live according to the high standards of honor required by the Army he spent decades serving in, even going so far as to propose a counter-insurgency strategy that required our soldiers to adhere to an astoundingly challenging code of conduct in combat, to show restraint in battle to preserve civilian lives and win the battle for hearts and minds. And for most of his life, Petraeus succeeded in living by this code.
Past success does not excuse current transgressions however, and he failed to abide by the behavior demanded of him by himself, his peers, and his family. He has taken responsibility for his actions and is doing his best now to repair his apparently failing family life. But what do the pundits say? He shouldn’t resign? Ironically, by asking him to stay on and second-guessing his choice these pundits only further dishonor him by undermining the moral basis of his decision and the strength of his personal integrity. Even worse, they are essentially encouraging others to be even more irresponsible in their private life and public duties.
That this comes from Peggy Noonan, who has written a book on Reagan called When Character was King and who you would assume has a healthy respect for virtue and honor, simply demonstrates once again how the pundit class in general is out of touch with the values that sustain our republic.
Integrity and personal accountability mean nothing in the day-by-day political gamesmanship that they play. Public figures can be utterly dishonest, corrupt, or adulterous so long as they help their team gain extra points. It is time that commentators start applying universal moral standards to public figures and hold them accountable for them. They should be ashamed to do otherwise, and leaders who recognize that they are not above the rules and must suffer the consequences of their actions praised for doing so.