“I Take Responsibility” – Meaning Exactly What?

By | October 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Attorney General Janet Reno
“I take responsibility.”


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
“I take responsibility”


Secret Service Director Julia Pierson
I resign.”

If you ask a child, “What happened to the orange juice?” he will probably not say, “I spilled it.” He probably will say, “It spilled,” as if the juice spilled itself. Regrettably, avoidance of responsibility is not limited to children. The concept of personal responsibility does not develop spontaneously – it must be taught. Some people never learn it.

What does it mean to “take responsibility”? For a child, it means saying, “I spilled it.” But for a high official, it may also mean, “I am tendering my resignation.”

In the British and European parliamentary systems, when a cabinet minister presides over a debacle, he or she will usually resign. Cabinet ministers are usually also members of parliament, so the politicians’ career is damaged but not necessarily ended.  They can remain in parliament, can stand for reelection, and can even return to high office in the future.

In our system, being forced to resign from office is often a career-ender. Still, it is reasonable to ask that a debacle result in resignation of the responsible official.

In the Navy, if a ship runs aground, the captain is almost always relieved – that is, fired. He may not have been on the bridge at the time, but he was still responsible for training and supervising those who were on the bridge. The same principle should apply in civilian life. It rarely does.

The Waco massacre.

Remember Janet Reno, Bill Clinton’s attorney general? Remember Waco? A bizarre but nonviolent cult, the Branch Davidians, lived in wooden buildings near Waco, Texas. The media referred to it as a “compound,” as if it were fortified. They were accused of having illegal weapons. The local sheriff knocked on the door, asked to look around, found nothing illegal, and went on his way.

But that didn’t satisfy the feds. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms wanted a media event to support increasing their budget. That’s the same BATF that caused Randy Weaver’s dog, son, and wife to be shot (in that order). That’s the same BATF that illegally ran hundreds of guns across the border to Mexican drug cartels, resulting in the death of at least one Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, as well as the deaths of many – perhaps hundreds – of Mexicans.

The BATF didn’t knock on the door. They didn’t detain David Koresh, the Davidians’ leader, on one of his frequent trips to town. They costumed themselves in black ninja clothes and ski masks, then burst through a second-floor window. As a result, four federal agents and six Davidians were killed.

The FBI took over the case. After a 51-day siege, an assault was made with tanks. CS tear gas was discharged through breaches in the walls. The electricity had been shut off, so candles and lanterns were in use. Concentrated CS gas is flammable, and fire broke out. When heated, CS degrades into cyanide gas.

In the end, 84 Davidians were killed – including 26 minors who were by definition innocent hostages. Note that the Davidians used a flag with the Star of David, they observed the Sabbath on Saturday, and they did not eat pork. If gassing with cyanide and incinerating an unpopular religious group does not remind you of the Holocaust, you need a history lesson.

Attorney General Reno appeared before Congress and tearfully “took responsibility.” She remained in office and suffered no negative effects. A decent person would have taken responsibility. She would have resigned, withdrawn from public life, and devoted her remaining years to raising money to help the families of the 84 dead.

Still, Janet Reno’s “taking responsibility” was not entirely useless. It took the blame off President Clinton, who gave final approval for the murderous assault. In fact, Janet Reno’s “taking responsibility” meant evading responsibility – or even worse, denying that responsibility exists.

The Benghazi attack.

After four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens were killed in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also “took responsibility” – and remained in office. Like Reno, she suffered no decline in support by the liberal media.

Yes, repeated requests for more security had been denied. Yes, a message of “Ambassador in danger” goes flash priority (the highest) to the State Department, the Situation Room at the White House, and the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon. Yet somehow, neither Secretary Clinton nor President Obama knew about it, much less was responsible for not sending help. “Taking responsibility” meant that no one was responsible.

The romp through the White House.

Director of the U.S. Secret Service Julia Pierson appeared before Congress and, like Janet Reno and Hillary Clinton, “took responsibility.” The problem here is that Omar Gonzalez, a 42-year-old man, jumped the White House fence and ran unopposed about 70 yards to the door, which was unlocked.

Gonzalez looks to be in reasonably good shape, but he is not an Olympic-class sprinter. During the time he was running across the lawn, dogs should have been released – but were not.

Two excuses were offered: (1) The dogs are trained to attack anyone on the lawn and might have attacked Secret Service officers. But there were no officers there. (2) The man appeared to be unarmed. In fact, he had a 3½-inch folding knife in his pocket. And he could have had a small handgun in each pocket, with another two in ankle holsters. Clearly, the dogs were not released because no one was alert enough to release them.

Gonzalez then entered the unlocked door. According to one report, he passed an officer who had drawn a handgun. But why draw a gun, or even carry a gun, if you are not prepared to use it? Perhaps the officer was mentally reviewing the multiple regulations on when guns could be used, and by the time he or she had done so, the intruder had passed.

The intruder then ran by the stairway leading to the First Family’s living quarters. Fortunately he did not climb the stairs, and fortunately the family was not there. But “fortunately” is not something to be relied upon.

The intruder then “overpowered” a female Secret Service agent. This is a commentary on why large men are used as bodyguards for celebrities or bouncers in nightclubs – but not to guard the president, where political correctness and “diversity” take precedence over effectiveness. Is Lady Gaga or the Rolex store really more deserving of protection than the president and his family?

Finally the intruder ran into the East Room, where official receptions are held. There he was subdued by an off-duty agent who happened to be walking by. Luck is a blessing, but it is not a policy.

The only bright spot in this sad tale is that Secret Service Director Julia Pierson took the word “responsibility” seriously and resigned. That is the charitable interpretation. The uncharitable interpretation is that the deaths of 84 people at Waco, and the deaths of four people including our ambassador at Benghazi, were shrugged off. But endangering the president and his family, even if they were not there, now that’s unforgivable, so Pierson was forced to resign.

If the White House is not secure, why should we be surprised when our borders are not secure? Unknown persons enter from unknown places, where they were exposed to unknown diseases or unknown ideologies. Ebola? Enterovirus D68? Joining ISIS? Theologically motivated beheading? Who knows? Surely not our government.

But will our borders, or even the White House, receive the protection we so lovingly accord to the delta smelt and Stephens’ kangaroo rat? Don’t bet on it. Stephens’ kangaroo rat , Ambassador Chris Stevens no.

With the notable exception of Julia Pierson, our current notion of “taking responsibility” is to mumble a few nice-sounding words, but then to slough off responsibility and go thoughtlessly on our way. Can we survive as a nation if few in the government are responsible, or even competent? Don’t bet on that, either.

We must choose which life is more worthy of protection: the life of the Stephens’ kangaroo rat, or the lives of our president and our citizens. Our leaders have made their choice. And this November, we will make ours. If our current leaders do not take seriously their responsibility to protect American lives, we must replace them with leaders who do.

That is our responsibility.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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