Errors in Judgment
Christopher C. Goodfellow
February 12 1999

"The trouble with power is that it eventually corrupts and
makes the once most humble arrogant."

My second thoughts began to emerge when I heard the press conference held by the head of our military, General Baril in which he pleaded mea culpa on behalf of the Prime Minister.

The second thoughts are about the Bill Clinton impeachment trial in Washington. Most thinking Canadians have followed the Monica and Bill story with some degree of amazement that Americans would become so transfixed on the affair as to displace other much more important matters of state. That it could end up in an impeachment trial in the Senate to be decided today appears extraordinary to most of us. We say we don't really care about the sexual pecadilloes of our Canadian politicians. We think we are more mature in our outlook. But there is indeed more to it...and hence my second thoughts.

The lying bothered me and I'm sure it bothered a lot of people...and Bill Clinton clearly is caught up in lies.

One of the great strengths of the American system is the balance of powers in the consitution. I have always taken a great interest in the way this balance has worked to actually strengthen the country at various times and with the Clinton scandal I believe we are witnessing just such a occasion. Just when I thought the whole charade in the senate was pointless, it was all brought into focus for me by Mr. Chretien's and General Baril's charade.

Whether Mr. Chretien has lied to us I cannot tell. But what he is guilty of certainly is a complete lack of judgment. It is unacceptable today for a leader in a modern western democarcy to be caught in a lie. It is a resignation offense. But it is even more unacceptable to have a lapse of judgment and then not be prepared to immediately step forward and admit it forthrightly and seek forgiveness. The electorate can accept lapses in judgment and we can forgive them. But we don't like being treated like complete dolts.

The Great Humiliation that has taken place to Mr. Clinton is a direct result of his lack of judgment in not stepping forward and admitting the affair instead of attempting to cover it up with lies. Forgiveness was there for the asking. What Mr. Clinton is suffering through is good medicine for the Republic and will actually make it stronger in the long run as future Presidents and politicians are on notice. Even the mightiest will be humbled. Bill Clinton who no doubt wished to secure himself a position in history as the last President of the millenium with great social achievements is getting exactly what the Constitution provides for with its balance of powers.

Which brings me back to Mr. Chretien and assorted actors in the PMO who are at the very least guilty of a severe but not irreparable misjudgment. I had read enough to realize that when the CBC said Hussein was being "kept alive" on life support and "brain dead" that in fact an imminent announcement of his "death" was pending once they had all the funeral arrangements in place because even though I am no expert in Middle East affairs, I was aware of the necessity of following the Muslin burial protocol. Does Mr. Chretien wish us to believe that neither he nor anyone else in the PMO could deduce likewise?

I frankly did not think of Chretien's problems in getting there but I knew Clinton would attend and it would take 48 hours to get the necessary security in place for him.

And therein lies my problem with Mr. Chretien and the lapse in the PMO.

It's not about planes and whether it was feasible or not. It is about an error in judgment at the very least.

Once the reaction of the Canadian people to this lapse became apparent, Mr. Chretien and his handlers compounded the error rather than simply admitting it was an error in judgment. If he had initially stepped forward and admitted that it was an error just as if Mr. Clinton had stepped forward initially, forgiveness was at hand. But to say it was a scheduling problem I'm afraid is as lame as Bill Clinton saying what he and Monica were involved in really wasn't sex. To drag out General Baril to disect the missing two hours was unseemly to say the least. In reality we all knew the arrangements were underway 48 hours before the plug was pulled on King Hussein except apparently Mr. Chretien and the PMO.

We have witnessed several suspensions of judgment on the part of Mr. Chretien lately and unlike the American system we do not have a balance of powers alternative here to deal with what appears to be an increasing level of arrogance in the face of these errors in judgment. The comments about the pepper spray and the inability to come out and face the multitude of homeless who had made their way to Ottawa this week and at least show them he was their Prime Minister as well are but two examples in an apparent growing list of detachments...and insensitivity.

The trouble with power is that it eventually corrupts and makes the once most humble arrogant. The framers of the U.S. constitution knew this well. Today the U.S. Senate will not vote to impeach William Jefferson Clinton, but they will condemn him for bringing dishonour upon the Office of the President. What we may have thought was a Hollywood extravaganza in Washington is in fact what makes America great.

Canadians have nothing to be smug about.

It is not necessary for Mr. Chretien to apologize again and again for not attending the funeral; he has already done so.

He should apologize for his total lack of judgment and not try and cover it up with lame excuses. To quote Harry Truman the buck doesn't stop with General Baril, it stops with Mr. Chretien alone.

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