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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Good Man Begins the Long March Back From a Serious Mistake

Doug Bandow is the now-former Cato Institute analyst and syndicated columnist who, in his own words, made the mistake of accepting "occasional payments to write on issues of interest" to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

It happened that Bandow expressed in those columns views he contends he held regardless of Abramoff's interest. Still, Bandow acknowledged today in an op-ed published by The Los Angeles Times and previously in other forums that accepting such payments:

"Created an appearance of a conflict of interest; it made it seem that I spoke for him (or his clients) rather than for myself when I wrote. That was a mistake, and I'm paying a high price. Fair enough."

At the most obvious level, the price Bandow is paying includes loss of his job at Cato and the syndicated newspaper column he had written, I believe, for a decade or more.

Less obvious to the rest of the world are the large and small slights he will now endure from former friends and associates in the public policy world who will act as if they never knew him.

I've known Bandow for many years as we came to Washington about the same time during the Carter/Reagan era and our professional paths have subsequently crossed with some regularity. I've also read his columns for many years and have often found his analyses to be knowledgable, logical and sometimes even prescient.

Being a traditional conservative, I haven't always agreed with Bandow, who is a thoughtful libertarian, but we share similar spiritual perspectives and I believe him to be a good and decent man.

I also believe him when Bandow says Abramoff's money made no difference in what he wrote and that he understands and accepts the consequences of his serious mistake.

That ought to count for an awful lot.