Out west here, our first stop will be in Montana, where a plagiarism dust-devil has driven 53-year old Democrat John Walsh from this fall's US Senate race. He replaced hardy perennial Max Baucus in February, as Baucus was named Ambassador to China. Walsh was trailing in the race for a seat that has been held by Dems since 1913.
Now, pols are forever cribbing the ideas of others, especially in their speeches ? right Mr. Veep, Senator Paul? This one stands apart from that sordid crowd. It seems that Mr. Walsh lifted whole sections of his 14-page Master's degree thesis on Mideast affairs from other authors, without so much as source attribution. Those sections included all six recommendations that conclude the paper, verbatim.
A youthful indiscretion, perhaps, that can be tolerated when weighed against a career of distinguished service? Nope ? it happened seven years ago, at the US Army War College, in Carlisle, PA, which awarded him his degree.
It's hard to know which disbelief to express first: he got his degree anyway? At the War College?? For a 14-page thesis??? (Hell's bells, I've written a few of these Raucous Caucae that verged on that length, and were better attributed, to boot! Kindly address me as Colonel).
As it happens, the fact that he got his degree may be the very worst 'Fail' in this sorry incident. The War College did not catch the fraud ? the New York Times did. The academics did not use even the most basic of anti-plagiarism tools freely available on the market.
At GGU, for example, we routinely use a software app called TurnItIn, as one line of defense against academic dishonesty. I have also discovered plagiarized work via routine google-search of an odd phrase. There is no joy in that, but academic integrity standards need to be patrolled if the degree is to have meaning, and out of respect for the hard, honest labor of classmates. This incident begs the question: just how cunning would an enemy need to be to put one over on the Army War College?
Confronted with his actions, Walsh first blamed stress, as well as the later suicide of a comrade from his tour in Iraq ? apparently forgetting that the Montana state animal is not the weasel (it's the grizzly). Under pressure from other Dems, he finally dropped-out of the campaign this week. The War Collegians, scrambled egg on their faces instead of their chests, have opened an inquiry. The MT GOP Senate candidate enjoys a double-digit lead.
Back East, VA Governor Bob McDonnell and his First Lady Maureen stand accused of taking bribes in the form of some $169,000 of gifts from local businessman Jonnie Williams. This prosecution is notable for several reasons: first, it is apparently still possible to give money illegally to a public official (who knew?). It's also a 'family values' politician embroiled in a sex scandal, a heterosexual sex scandal. And, charged with conspiracy, Gov and Mrs. Gov are defending on the basis that their family-values marriage is so irretrievably broken that they never even speak (much less 'conspire').
But wait ? there's more! "Anatabloc," the tobacco-based product the Governor is alleged to have hawked on Mr. Williams' behalf, is marketed variously as a pharmaceutical and a health supplement (The FDA begs to differ). Its label graphic uses the wrong chemical symbol, its health claims were even rejected by various cigarette companies, and its R&D involved novel means of curing the tobacco leaves ? in Maytag dryers, and Walmart microwaves. They apparently hoped to thereby render their healthy-pills non-carcinogenic. It is not clear that they succeeded.
Further, Mr. Williams may not be the best of government witnesses. He has been fired from the company he ran as CEO ? the Chairman and COO(!) pronounced himself shocked at Williams' various 'egregious errors.' He has been in hot water with the SEC at various points in his career, and is not famous as a details guy. He also does not believe he shares a romantic relationship with Mrs. McDonnell, despite her indication of a "huge crush" on him -- or the 1200 texts and emails exchanged between them (I will proudly cop to a mad romance with My Intended, but not to 1200 emails. How about you?). It may help him (or not) that her personal secretary characterized First Lady Maureen as: "a nutbag."
These incidents are long on head-shaking disbelief, but do they let us all off-the-hook? They do beg the Margaret 'Hotlips' O'Houlihan question: how did these people manage to get themselves into such positions of great responsibility? The Answer (akin to Hawkeye and Trapper John): they were elected (Walsh was Lt. Gov. when appointed).
To further paraphrase Major O'Houlihan: Our will be done.