Ethics at every level

Frank Neudecker Editor The Jackson Press

Frank Neudecker
Editor The Jackson Press

Some time ago Trent Seibert with the Tennessean wrote about a ethics bill that had been created behind the curtains, as I might say.

It is not surprising that a compromise ethics bill was pieced together by a compromise crafted out of public sight. That’s how business has long been done on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said as much in his remarks at the Tennessee Bicentennial Celebration in 1996.

“As a young freshman legislator in 1955, I thought I ought to read the governor’s proposed budget before I voted on it,” he recalled.

“I went to the governor’s office and asked if I might see the budget. A list was produced, and I was told my name was not on the list, whereupon I went upstairs, voted ‘yes’ on the budget and went home.”

House speaker at the time Jimmy Naifeh, in his own way provided us with one of the most common of human conditions in regards the weakness of men.

…..House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, was unapologetic about the practice when asked about it at the time. But he did say it’s less common than it used to be, when meetings were held “all over the place.” He said meetings sometimes need to be held privately to work through budget differences.

Naifeh added that “folks in my district” are more concerned with the content of the final budget than the road legislators took to get there.

And he said all meetings in his office are open to anyone who wanders in.

Years ago, Grantland Rice, who was an American sportswriter who lived from 1880-1954, once wrote, “For when the One Great Scorer comes, / To write against your name, / He marks – not that you won or lost – / But how you played the Game.”

Of course not everyone agrees with him or me for that matter:

Grantland Rice, the great sportswriter once said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.’ Well Grantland Rice can go to hell as far as I’m concerned. — Gene Autry

I have never had much sympathy for the point of view, “it isn’t whether you win or lose that counts, but how you play the game.” — Richard Nixon

Winning isn’t the only thing; it’s everything. — Vince Lombardi

I have played the game in sports, politics and business and obviously I don’t always win, in fact in tennis, I have found that 50% of all players lose but I always tried to  win the games I’m played in. And I get annoyed if there’s someone else who isn’t playing to win.

I know during those times in competition I found some truly frustrating elements, such as someone throwing a game so that their spouse can win, and I’ve had partners give up, start pursuing terrible strategies, or push the end of the game even when it’s not in their best interest (or at least not in their best interest in-game, as their reasoning is sometimes, “Well, I’m going to lose anyway, and I just want to get it over as fast as I can”). On a rare occasion, I myself have had to succumb to the fact that I am not going to be able to keep up with the younger competition, but never have I attempted to change the rules, modify the program, or simply ignore correct conduct during battle.

This is why I have been successful in sports (tennis) and business but not as much so in politics. I have never had the Naifeh mentality of winning is everything and the means to win irrelevant. It denotes that cheating, lying, stealing, murder, taking gifts for votes, and adultery is okay if winning is the goal. All of which I have witnessed in the past, present and more than likely in the future as well.

While I have made some terrible mistakes in my life, I have never tried not to trade my values for success. Not always successfully, but I have always tried.

Can others say the same?

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