March 06, 2009

A Very Palpable Hunger

This wasn't damage control, it was taking honest responsibility. And as such, in any modern American institution, it was stunning. --Peggy Noonan
There's nothing that so easily provokes a craving for something good as experiencing its prolonged absence. And I think lately there's been a critical mass achieved in this country towards the desire for responsbility.

The Weekly Standard recently printed a piece titled The Age of Irresponsibility; the author Matthew Continetti was interviewed by the sainted, mostly-retired Brian Lamb on C-Span. It felt like Ted Williams interviewing a new young kid pitcher.

Lamb asked the toughly innocent (or innocently tough) questions: how can someone purportedly religious like Jack Abrahmoff, who was said to be inspired by "Fiddler on the Roof" and wanted to become an Orthodox Jew, be so corrupt? How could the party devoted to spending control, the Republican party, be so free spending? Continetti said it was human nature, and human nature doesn't change. All you can do is have the standards, preach the standards, and try to honor the standards.

Peggy Noonan feels it too. Her latest column talks about a military jet crash which killed four civilians, and about the accountability that ensued:

The crash, said Maj. Gen. Randolph Alles, the assistant wing commander for the Third Marine Aircraft Wing, was "clearly avoidable," the result of "a chain of wrong decisions." Mechanics had known since July of a glitch in the jet's fuel-transfer system; the Hornet should have been removed from service and fixed, and was not. The young pilot failed to read the safety checklist. He relied on guidance from Marines at Miramar who did not have complete knowledge or understanding of his situation. He should have been ordered to land at North Island. He took an unusual approach to Miramar, taking a long left loop instead of a shorter turn to the right, which ate up time and fuel.

Twelve Marines were disciplined; four senior officers, including the squadron commander, were removed from duty. Their military careers are, essentially, over. The pilot is grounded while a board reviews his future.

Residents told the San Diego Union-Tribune that they were taken aback by the report. Bob Johnson, who lived behind the Yoons and barely escaped the crash, said, "The Marines aren't trying to hide from it or duck it. They took it on the chin." A retired Navy pilot who lives less than a block from the crash and had formed, with neighbors, a group to push the Marines for an investigation, and for limiting flights over University City, said after the briefing, "I think we're out of business." In a later story the paper quoted a retired general, Bob Butcher, chairman of a society of former Marine aviators, calling the report "as open and frank a discussion of an accident as I've seen." "It was a lot more candid than many people expected."

This wasn't damage control, it was taking honest responsibility. And as such, in any modern American institution, it was stunning.

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