Most of us grew up with every adult in our lives telling us to "make smart choices" — sometimes that came out as "don't be stupid," but we knew what they meant.
Last week, Montana's Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull did not make a smart choice when he passed along a now infamous, anti-Obama, pro-racism joke from his official email account to six of his friends. That incriminating email made its way to the newspapers, and now there's a great hue and cry from the public for him to be punished or to retire from office.
Admittedly, not everyone thinks Cebull should step down, or that the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals should consider disciplining him. There is a faction who feels that Cebull might have expressed himself a little crassly, but hey, they say, who of us hasn't, so cut the judge some slack and don't be so quick to cast the first stone.
At the risk of getting a few stones chucked this direction — the pro-Cebull faction has a point. Certainly, since George Washington was elected to serve as our first president of these United States, at least once a week something worse has been said about each president by someone better than Cebull.
Why? Because the president is our number one public figure and, therefore, sworn to take it like a hero as the butt of all jokes, verbal jabs and open criticism. In fact, I think it's in the official government job description.
"The president shall, at all times, metaphorically wear a prominent 'Kick me' sign (of no smaller than 3-inch letters on 8-1/2 by 11 inch paper) on his or her back with an arrow pointing to his or her buttockal area. The president shall also consider that his or her facial features have been replaced by a red-and-white ringed target (8-inch outside diameter) that is clearly labeled 'Throw tomatoes here.' And the president at no time shall retaliate or respond in kind."
And that would be the end of the matter, except that Cebull is a public figure himself, appointed to office, swearing an ethical duty to avoid intemperate conduct that suggests racial and political bias and impropriety or the appearance thereof. Therein lies the rub, right?
Cebull's email — sent from his judicial chambers, using his official, public-has-the-right-to-know email account — broke all the rules by which he agreed to abide while in office. Even his initial explanation for his actions, made to the Great Falls Tribune which broke the story, that "I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. I sent it out because it's anti-Obama," still demonstrates political bias.
Then to top this whole situation off, he clearly showed that he was incapable of following one of the prime directives to every child, as handed down from parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy, law enforcement and random concerned adults: Make smart choices.
Forwarding that email was not a smart choice.
Cebull told the Tribune reporter that the email was intended to be a private communication and that he was surprised the friends he sent the email to would pass it along with his name still on it. Really?
Obviously, he feels that his friends betrayed him, threw him under the bus — like they changed the fraternity's secret handshake and password without him, and kicked him out of the he-racist Obama-haters club.
But after forwarding an email without thought of the possible consequences to himself and his official position as federal judge, Cebull expected different, better, more professional actions from his good ol' boys?
C'mon, don't be stupid. Go back to the private sector where this behavior is allowed.
(Welcome to my world at http://viewnorth40.wordpress.com.)`