03/04/08 — Stand-up ‘guys’: Being a politician doesn’t mean never having to say ‘I’m sorry’

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Stand-up ‘guys’: Being a politician doesn’t mean never having to say ‘I’m sorry’

Wouldn’t it be nice, just once, for a North Carolina politician — or any politician for that matter — to pull him or herself up, stand tall and look the public square in the eye and say: “Gee, I’m sorry. That was wrong. I did make an error in judgment.”

Wouldn’t it make you think that perhaps there are a few of them out there whom you can trust — at least when it comes to the culpability department?

But even if that dream were to become a reality, it doesn’t look like it is going to be one this week.

Now, embattled Rep. Thomas Wright has turned to his next line of defense in his ethics hearing before a committee of the North Carolina House of Representatives.

His new battle cry — as communicated through his legal team — is: “You only called this ethics hearing because I am black.”

No, Mr. Wright, the state legislature called this ethics hearing because you seem not to understand the difference between your personal bank account and that of your nonprofit organization.

It has absolutely nothing to do with your race. It is really about honesty, integrity and doing the right thing. Just ask your past ally, former Speaker of the House Jim Black.

It also has a whole lot to do with following the rules.

There seems to be a rise in the number of legislators who seem to be playing fast and loose with the rules in the General Assembly. And that certainly does not do much to shore up the confidence of the residents of this state that their representatives are really out to protect the state’s interests.

It seems much more like they are out to protect their own.

Stay tuned to the Wright mess. It is going to get a lot more interesting as the hearing continues and the criminal trial approaches. You can bet this legislator is going to stick until the bitter end — or until someone throws him out, whichever comes first. It will be interesting to see which defense he comes up with next.

And while we would hope that this is the last round of scandals North Carolina has to endure, rest assured there are probably a couple more waiting in the wings.

Makes you kind of glad you pushed for increased oversight of ethics rules in your government, doesn’t it? Looks like the stick approach works better than the carrot here. No one seems to be rushing to do the right thing.

Ethics rules and penalties make keeping everyone honest just a but easier.

Perhaps now we can think of a way to get some more conscience in the national political scene, too.

That stick, however, might have to be a whole lot bigger if it is going to have any effect at all. That’s the Major League of double talk.

Published in Editorials on March 4, 2008 1:24 PM