9 Jul '16     home | previous

Temperament and Intemperance

This week's major story is about temperament and intemperance. It's about candidacy for the President of the United States, the temperance needed in conducting the nation's affairs, and it's about the death of Philando Castile and five Dallas policemen.

Philando Castile was driving a woman friend and her four-year-old daughter through Falcon Heights Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul. Two officers in a squad car had him pull over for what would be described as a broken tail light. Castile had a pistol in back pocket and, it is said, a license to carry it. One of the officers spotted the pistol and shouted "gun!" The officer at the driver's window of Castile's car ordered him to keep or to put his hands on the steering wheel. Instead, Castile reached for his wallet. The officer, an Asian-American, didn't wait to see whether Castile was being so foolish as to be drawing his gun on two policemen. The officers would have been able to shoot Castile before he moved his pistol just a few of inches from his pocket. The officer next Castile didn't have the nerve, or cool, or temperance, to wait. He was nervous and shot Castile multiple times.

Protests followed the shooting, the second killing of a black man by police this past week. There were protests against the shooting across the nation, including Dallas. At the Dallas protest was an army veteran, age 25, with a rifle, Micah Johnson. He murdered five officers with a rifle and wounded seven before the police killed him. Speaking to a negotiator before he was killed, Johnson is reported to have said that he was upset about the recent police shootings and that he wanted to kill while people, especially officers. Micah Johnson wasn't crazy. He was an extremist. The media describes him as linking himself with the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers says it had nothing to do with him. This reminds me of a leader of the Communist Party in Los Angeles telling me that the Party was rejecting a few people who wanted to join the Party but were rejected because of they were emotionally unstable. Today many of them are with us. We are not going to be able to sweet talk them all into rejecting what we consider senseless acts.

Now, staying on the subject of temperament and intemperance, let us turn to FBI Director James Comey, a Republican, not pressing criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. Comey defended himself yesterday before a House Committee that questioned his integrity. Comey described himself as doing his job as he should, without regard to partisan politics or political favors. He said:

I did not coordinate with anyone. The White House, the Department of Justice, nobody outside the FBI family had any idea what I was about to say. I say that under oath. I stand by that. There was no coordination. No.

The day before he did describe Clinton as careless in handling classified information but that although "there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case." Clinton's case has been described as different from the David Petraeus, who was charged with a misdemeanor for intentionally giving classified material to his mistress and then lying to the FBI about it.

Clinton was sloppy in handling her e-mails. She admits it. And there was Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice's immediate staff who handled classified material on unclassified email systems. And members of the House Judiciary Committee who questioned Comey yesterday are themselves accused of mishandling government secrets. Writes the Washington Post:

In the same hearing room four years ago, [congressman] Caffetz publicly exposed the existence of a CIA facility in Benghazi, Libya. The Obama administration has repeatedly complained that members of the committee have divulged the names of U.S. government informants, airport-security details and information from a sealed wiretap warrant.

The Republicans have a political ax to grind, and is it unfair to claim that they are letting their politics affect their judgment regarding whether Clinton should be prosecuted? Are they exercising judicial temperament better than Comey did in his decision?

And we have the temperament of Clinton's rival, Donald Trump to consider. Trump has suggested that the FBI's decision regarding Clinton's emails was the result of a pledge made to Attorney General Loretta Lynch that she could stay on as head of the Justice Department if Clinton were elected this fall. Mr Trump said that what was happening regarding Clinton and the FBI "smacked of bribery." Trump told his audience: "It's bribery, folks."

This was Trump exercising his ability at judicious thinking. NBC News – a news organization Trump has denounced – has written:

For all the attention on Hillary Clinton's honesty and trustworthiness, Donald Trump has maybe even a bigger problem – temperament.

Indeed, temperament affects our ability to interpret events and to make good and quick decisions.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.