Ruth Gadebush

Integrity

Integrity! What a beautiful word. Not the word. Its meaning.

Random House Dictionary: “soundness and adherence to moral principle and character: uprightness: honesty.” I believe without integrity all else is compromised.

Citizens have watched with increasing fear the many breaches of integrity in our government, but never was such expected from the Supreme Court. Undiluted discussion can develop thoughtful modifications necessary if the court is to discern the exact meaning of the law.

Secret sessions hiding egregious action are never acceptable, but there are appropriate occasions including court deliberation. Remember in World War II the admonition “loose lips sink ships”?

It is common for those “unauthorized to speak” to leak information that they think makes them important but is more likely to cause some sort of damage to a strategy designed to protect the nation from danger. We have communication technology that sends misinformation, be it by design or accident, to reach a massive audience increasing the harm. It would appear this leak from the court was purely an unacceptable action meant for political influence.

When I was a naval officer working in cryptography, it was ingrained in us that we did not even indicate we had knowledge of important matters that some enemy might find valuable because such knowledge made us vulnerable to blackmail. I have often wondered just what I would do with classified information on action that I deemed seriously detrimental to the principles of our nation.

How and why do we decide just what “the public need to know” is? How do we justify revealing secrets, and are we willing to pay the price of disclosure? Does one person have the right to overrule the wisdom of the group? What is the role of a journalist?

In recent years, we have had many serious breaches of integrity in our government with many having thought that we had reached about as far as we could go with the Jan. 6 Insurrection. Unfortunately, it has now come from the Supreme Court with an unprecedented leaked draft decision. It matters not that it regards an extremely controversial decision. It is wrong in any case.

Actually, it should not be surprising as we have watched the process of selecting and confirming the justices deteriorate into a pure power play on the part of one political party. That is not to say that the Democrats are pure, but relatively speaking they can’t hold a candle to the Republican Party’s breach of ethics—a total void of integrity. In fact, the Republican Party has departed so far from any honorable principles that it needs to change its name to the Trumpian Choir.

The party has not even had the grace to soften its practices. It has blatantly expressed its intent to seize power no matter what it takes, for example, moving into high gear with the refusal to confirm Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland just a few months before the end of the presidential term. They held no such “principle” for Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett upon the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Trump’s nominees seemingly were chosen for almost guaranteed support of conservative beliefs rather than for any judicial temperament or knowledge.

To give the devil his due, it must be noted that they have an excellent talent for parsing their words in answering questions in the confirmation process.

Then there was a previous nominee who when accused of rape proclaimed that he had been pure all his life and that the heretofore woman in question was a liar. Had he admitted that he did things in a wild youth, even though not an excuse, and that he would not do so now would he have been more believable?

Humans are expected to grow and mature as they age and, most especially, we would hope that our court justices will do so. Confirmed nevertheless, he now sits on the court expressing in his votes just what his conservative history predicted. Few would see it as an impartial interpretation of the law.

We have another justice confirmed under questionable circumstances whose wife is receiving payment for publicly advocating on issues before the court. He does not excuse himself in these cases. If that isn’t a lack of integrity I don’t know what is. When one serves in public office, there are responsibilities that fall on the person and the family requiring some restraint.

The chief justice, while not the purest candidate ever confirmed to the court, has on several occasions attempted to keep or restore the court to a position of respect. He has vowed to find and prosecute the villain who set this latest brouhaha into motion.

Be it the lowest clerk or a supposedly honorable justice, it was wrong to leak the incomplete document. Nor do I consider this a legitimate role of the press to expose an incomplete document with such political implications. I think it portends a wrong decision, but the justices were correct in using the prescribed process in deliberations. There is a time for the press to use restraint also.

In my opinion, the majority on this court needed no help from the press to sink to politics of the worst sort.

This nation has been the light of the world. Even with its weaknesses, it has been the best but is not free of tarnish. These two events, the January Insurrection and this court leak, are so egregious that we simply must not let them slip by.

Yes, I know there are different views on just what constitutes failure but neither of these leaves much room for imagination. Having served in public office, I asked that my fellow/sister citizens question my judgment but not my motive, not my integrity.

I appreciate that many refused to believe that my values prevailed. I recognize I was sometimes inarticulate in my statements, that others’ suspicions had more audience opportunity, that cynicism prevailed in the audience, but the Jan. 6 event and the recent court leak have no room for excuses. The attack on the Capitol and the leak are raw actions apparent as anything but integrity.

We often fail to credit the majority serving with honor. As we go to the polls this season, let us carefully evaluate with reliable information, not the hoopla of the opposition. We will make some mistakes, but more will be right than wrong if we do not play to the lowest common denominator.

My motto was and is: It does no good to be there if you don’t do the right thing.

There is a big world out there crying for integrity for the good of all. It is still invaluable. Absolutely nowhere is it expected and needed more than on our Supreme Court, a once venerated body. Its decisions are the final word. It sets the tone for our lives for years to come.

Regardless of our hopes and desires for the decision in regard to this leak, we should be concerned. Such breaches are damaging enough in other government agencies but totally intolerable from the court. We cannot vote for the justices, but we do vote for those who decide the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court. Use that vote well and integrity will be served.

  • Ruth Gadebusch, a former naval officer, was recently recognized by the League of Women Voters with its Lipton Award for volunteer work in various community endeavors. She was elected four times to the Fresno Unified School District Board, appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and is an emeritus member of the Board of the Center for Civic Education.

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