I grew up in a household where every penny mattered. My parents scraped together money at the end of every month in order to pay the mortgage. I didn't want for anything important, but I grew up in a poor household. When I was about 12, I was playing at a much wealthier neighbor's house, running around the living room with my then-best friend. I accidentally knocked over a beautiful glass vase, shattering it into a thousand pieces.
His parents were upset, but also recognized it was an accident. So they told me everything was okay and I returned home chastised, but thankful. Until my father came home. He listened to the story and had me return with him to their house with the contents of my piggy bank - $5.47. He asked how much it would cost to replace the piece and told them I would mow their yard for them all summer until the entire $50 replacement price was covered.
I was upset and embarrassed, but when we returned home, he told me something I've never forgotten. "All a man has in this life is his family, his word and his honor. You protect your family, you don't lie and when you do something wrong, you stand tall and take responsibility. Even if it's accidental, even if others contributed to the mistake. Your friend might have been running around too, but that is between him and his maker. All you can do is make amends for your mistakes."
I was reminded of that conversation tonight as I watched Sean Hannity's softball interview of Donald Trump Jr. I didn't expect to learn anything new about the controversial meeting or the email chain Trump Jr. had released on Twitter. But what struck me most about Hannity's TV show on Tuesday was his eagerness to attribute every GOP political setback and every Trump Administration gaffe to someone else.
That lack of personal responsibility has become the overarching theme of Hannity's show in recent months. It's always someone else's fault - always someone else's machinations that stand in the way of conservative success. Lose an election? It's voter fraud, not a bad message or an imperfect candidate. Bad news in the press? It's the leftist press and the manipulations of the deep state. Obama is secretly running a counter-coup and Democratic grandstanding is the cause of the failure of a GOP health care bill. And of course when Donald Trump Jr and other top-level Trump campaign officials are sucked into a meeting with a Russian attorney after being promised dirt of rival Hillary Clinton, it's all the fault of Hillary's associates. Hillary would have done something worse is the default excuse in these situations and Hannity is quick to throw the double standard charge around as a cheap smokescreen.
You know what a real man does? He doesn't make excuses for his mistakes. He doesn't try and deflect the blame or change the subject in order to make himself look less guilty. No matter the legality of this disputed meeting, it was a supremely idiotic and naive decision. Like a lot of decisions we've seen from the Trump Administration and its surrogates, the bad choices are compounded by an eagerness to mislead and obfuscate the details of the decision in order to put the best spin on things.
Conservatives glorify Ronald Reagan and while I didn't agree with many of his policies, he was willing to publicly admit when he was wrong. For instance, contrast these 1987 comments from Reagan concerning his part in the Iran Contra controversy with the flaccid excuses you hear Hannity and various Trump officials roll out on a daily basis:
First, let me say I take full responsibility for my own actions and for those of my administration. As angry as I may be about activities undertaken without my knowledge, I am still accountable for those activities. As disappointed as I may be in some who served me, I'm still the one who must answer to the American people for this behavior. And as personally distasteful as I find secret bank accounts and diverted funds -- well, as the Navy would say, this happened on my watch.
Let's start with the part that is the most controversial. A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages. This runs counter to my own beliefs, to administration policy, and to the original strategy we had in mind. There are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. It was a mistake.
Can you imagine any member of the Trump Administration - including Don Jr. - making this statement? Do you think there is the slightest chance that Sean Hannity would ever expect this level of personal responsibility from the Administration he has publicly supported with a blind eagerness that would have made Baghdad Bob squirm?
As my father said, in the end all a man has is his willingness to take responsibility and admit that he was wrong. Donald Trump Jr. illustrated on Tuesday that he's not capable of that level of self-reflection. And Sean Hannity showed that he is incapable of asking the Trump family for the same level of personal responsibility he would demand from a waiter who screwed up his order at dinner.