Congress: The “Look and Feel” of Unethical Behavior

Posted on August 3, 2010

In the 1980s, Apple, Inc. (McIntosh) took Microsoft to court for adopting the “look and feel” of the graphical user interface of  their operating systems.  In 1994, the court ruled in Microsoft’s favor but a point had been raised:  Appearance can be everything. Make certain that the “look and feel” of a situation or product does not contain an element that could draw unwanted attention.

Regardless of the outcome, charges against Rep. Charles Rangel and Rep. Maxine Waters, were the result of investigation into behavior that demonstrated or was reported to have had the “look and feel” of power without principle.  They are not the result of racism.  If anything, Waters had said in 2008  she would nationalize the oil industry.  Someone could have been listening.

Senator Kerry is fortunate that he had only avoided a state tax and that he still had time to pay in an acceptable period of time (6 months after the purchase of his $7 million yacht).  But Kerry beware, once the “look and feel” of wrong doing comes to your door, you had better double your efforts to look like a sterling character.

As a Representative or a Senator, you need to remember that you cannot represent others and then be casual about your behavior on or off the floor of Congress.  Above all, you are or should be a model of proper conduct.

Perhaps the oath of office is insufficient these days.  Perhaps we need to add an earlier oath they might have taken:

The Boy Scout Oath

On my honor

I will try

To do my duty to God and my country

And to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. []

In short, the Scout Law has three promises:

  • Duty to God and country,
  • Duty to other people, and
  • Duty to self   []

These promises should be known by all youth; they should be remembered by all adults.  These are the basics for having the kind of character that would be able to support the Constitution.  Power without principle is what Machiavelli’s The Prince was all about.

Congressional oaths, House and Senate demand that the office holder support the Constitution.  This is something more Representatives and Senators have been guilty of abandoning. Unhappily, there is no ethical charge for this. Below is the Senate Oath of Office:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God. []