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Confronting loyalty

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It can be hard to confront a colleague with their misbehavior. I’ve done it a time or two and it sure got me to thinking about my loyalties. When I chose to act, it was out of a sense of loyalty to a purpose, a profession, a greater good that deserved my service. There were also times in my life I passed on the confrontation. I have some regrets.

Ronnie was a gifted high school athlete. He hit the goal post upright from forty yards out with a perfect spiral once at the end of a workout. “You lucky dog.” I said. “Bet me.” he said. He did it again 3 out of four times. He went off to a college career. For a while he led the nation in total offense and punting. I was at home for the summer visiting him when he got a call from his coach to come back for summer school to remain academically eligible. He hung up quietly. “You going back?” he shook his head. I wish to this day I’d confronted him, my friend.

Professions and the higher calling they claim can inspire loyalty in some. But confrontations can become messy; when the dirty laundry airs, some splashes on you and soils the profession. As a doctor, those were the hardest things I had to do, confront a colleague on their behavior. But I tried to be true to the ideals of the profession. I believed we all should be serving higher ideals.
In the political sphere confrontations are even more fraught. Loyalty to a greater good may just become loyalty to a party.

I served on an ethics committee as a freshman state Senator. The ethics complaint was lodged by my caucus leadership, Democrats. A Senator had chaired his committee that heard and voted on regulations that actually affected the Senator without revealing this conflict of interest. After days of adversarial testimony, it became clear to me the Senator had indeed violated Senate rules.

But he had not broken any laws and we were not going to be able to prove he had any substantial monetary gain from his actions: thus, no crime. On the third day of testimony I seconded the motion to dismiss the ethics complaint. This was over strong objections of fellow Democrats who wanted the hearings to keep going. I got a sense they saw political benefit in the proceedings. But when I voted to dismiss, I did not want my vote to mean he was not guilty. I said on the record that he had broken Senate rules but more, he had violated the public trust that makes representative government work.

As it turned out, though there was no official Idaho Senate censure or sanction, the Senator was beat in a primary election the coming spring. Maybe there is some wisdom in the voting electorate.

So, I’m wondering about our Idaho Senators, both loyal Republicans, who serve us in Washington. Just what is their loyalty? Does having this partisan conflict that has shuttered our government serve Idaho, our Union? Do you honestly believe spending $5B for a steel wall on our southern border is the proper use of our dear tax dollars?

To my father’s dying day he thought President Nixon had done no wrong and his resignation was a travesty, the fault of an over zealous press. He was a loyal Republican. Me, I was impressed that our Union could survive the scandal, the turmoil and come through; a nation with a loyalty to the rule of law. May we so be.
 

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