During last week's Women LEAD Summit, IWF hosted a panel on something that should intrude more and more into our thoughts these days: character and political leadership.
We're talking about ways to make this all-star (Mona Charen, Peter Wehner, Jane Hampton Cook, and James Rosebush) panel available to an even wider public. But meanwhile, this morning there is a germane piece in USA Today headlined "Secretary without Honor: Voices."
In it, Phillip Jennings write that, when he hears people say that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's emails don't matter, he thinks of a young Marine who admitted to a career ending mistake. The real issues, writes Jennings, is how Mrs. Clinton responded to being found out about her emails.
Mrs. Clinton and the young Marine had very different codes of behavior.
Jennings and the young Marine, the son of a high-ranking Marine, were in the Mediterranean in the mid-1960s, and they had shared responsibility for the nuclear code book. One day, on duty, near Gibraltar, the young captain went to pick up the code book. Alone in the office, he removed the code book. Suddenly, he remembered something and dashed across the hall to retrieve it. He came back seconds later, to find the operations officer, who had just entered the room, looking at the code book.
Here is the story:
Against all regulations, the code book had been out of the safe and unattended. It mattered not that it was unattended for only seconds, that the ship was 5 miles at sea, or that it was certain no one unauthorized had seen the code. The captain could have explained this to the operations sergeant. He could have told the sergeant that he “would take care of it.” He could have hinted that his high-ranking dad could smooth it over.
But the Marine Corps’ values are honor, courage and commitment. Honor is the bedrock of our character. The young captain could not ask the sergeant to betray his duty to report the infraction, no matter how small. Instead, the captain simply said, “Let’s go see the colonel.”
That captain had wanted to be a Marine officer all of his life. It was the only career he ever wanted. When he reported the incident to the colonel, he knew he was jeopardizing his life’s dream. But he did it.
The results went by the book. The amphibious squadron stood down. Military couriers flew in from NATO. The codes were changed all over Europe. The battalion was a day late in leaving the Mediterranean. The captain, Leonard F. Chapman III, received a letter of reprimand, damaging his career. He stayed in the corps and died in a tragic accident aboard another ship.
I saw some heroic acts in combat in Vietnam, things that made me proud to be an American and a Marine. But that young captain stood for what makes our corps and our country great.
Contrast that with the behavior of a woman who would be commander-in-chief.