April 16, 2005

Word strength ethics

From the "[t]ranscript of an interview between editors and reporters from The Washington Times and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, [Apr. 12] at his Capitol office:"

Mr. Hurt: Have you ever crossed the line of ethical behavior in terms of dealing with lobbyists, your use of government authority or with fundraising?

Mr. DeLay: Ever is a very strong word.

Mr. DeLay continues:

Let me start out by saying, you can never find anything that I have done for personal gain. Period.

It seems to me that never is a pretty strong word, too -- at least as strong as ever, and it is only further strengthened in this context by the added Period.

Then Mr. DeLay adds:

What I'm doing is what I believe in, I'm doing it the way I believe in it.

What does this all mean? In the context of Mr. Hurt's question, ever is apparently too strong for Mr. DeLay, which appears to mean that Mr. DeLay is admitting to have "crossed the line of ethical behavior" once or twice. But, Mr. DeLay would like to "start out by saying" (by which I assume he means "emphasize") that any ethical line-crossing that he's done has never been "for personal gain" (never ever even, given that added Period.), and that ethical line-crossing is one of the ways he believes in doing things for things he believes in.

So, what we are to learn from this is that Mr. DeLay is of the opinion that it's OK to (occasionally) cross the line of ethical behavior as long as it's for something you believe in, and not for personal gain. It's an admission of wrong-doing, but one that's safely couched in a complicated little ethics lesson for the kids watching at home.

For the record, the rest of Mr. DeLay's response to Mr. Hurt's question runs as follows. Or if you prefer, read the whole interview here.

Yes, I'm aggressive. I'm passionate about what I believe in, and I'm passionate about winning and accomplishing our agenda. I know since 1995 that everything that we have done has been checked by lawyers, double-checked by lawyers, triple-checked by lawyers, because I know I have been watched and investigated probably more than even Bill Clinton. They can't find anything, so they're going back to my childhood, going to my family, going to things that happened eight years ago. There's nothing there. And they can keep looking. There's nothing there. I have tried to act ethically, I have tried to act honestly. I have tried to keep my reputation - to fight for my reputation - while it's been besmirched, and I have tried to do it in a way that brings honor to the House.

[From my Cognitive Science colleague Seana Coulson, by way of my Linguistics colleague Robert Kluender.]

[ Comments? ]

Posted by Eric Bakovic at April 16, 2005 05:19 PM