Carville’s Misplaced Loyalty

Hyperbole is a customary part of politics. But calling Bill Richardson a Judas for endorsing Obama is way over the top. Carville defends his commentary in an op ed today  by asserting, essentially, that Richardson fails to show sufficient appreciation for the Clintons making him the man he is today. Firstly, it was Bill, not Hillary that appointed him as UN ambassador and later Energy Secretary during Bill’s tenure in the White House. More importantly, loyalty to country comes before loyalty to president–an important distinction apparently lost on Carville.

Perhaps it’s his wife that influenced him to forget the sad examples of loyalty to presidents from prior administrations. Raise your hand if you remember the “Saturday Night Massacre.” That’s when then Eliot Richardson (ironic isn’t, same last name as the governor but no relation) refused to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at President Richard Nixon’s request, as Cox continued to insist on getting the White House tapes that would implicate Nixon in the Watergate coverup. Richardson placed his loyalty to the American people above loyalty to the president and resigned (effectively fired) on the spot. His deputy, William Ruckelshaus, also refused to fire Cox and he was fired. Finally Nixon found the loyalty to him that he sought in a man named Bork. The same man kept from being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justifiably, in my opinion, for placing loyalty to a president above loyalty to America.

Misplaced loyalty doesn’t stop at the White House door, it extends anywhere people place persons above the law or the position in which they are entrusted. Is the loyalty of the board of directors to the management or the stockholders? Is the loyalty of the general counsel to the CEO who hired him or to the board and stockholders? In Nichiren Buddhism, we are encouraged to follow the law, not the person. People are fallible; the Mystic Law is universal. Likewise, when looking at loyalties, look at to whom or what loyalty is due. Presidents are elected by the people to execute the laws of the land, which depend on the U.S. Constitution. When someone is appointed to office, they swear to uphold that constitution–not the person to whom they report.

It is critical to not confuse gratitude or appreciation with loyalty. Assuming Bill Richardson owes Bill Clinton some gratitude, neither logically nor sensibly does it follow that years later that means he owes it to Clinton to support Hillary for president. It is critical to uphold principles and remember whose interests are being served. Upholding a president’s policies, supporting his or her initiatives, keeping confidences secret to the extent it doesn’t violate legal principles or loyalties of higher order–fine. But keep loyalty to people within appropriate limits. Jim, get yourself to New Orleans and fill your face with blackened crawdads with some humble pie for dessert.