Mark O’Brien: GM, Obama, Blue Angels should heed standard parental warnings

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Frustrated parents often ask their misbehaving children this question, “When are you going to learn your lesson?”

It’s the lesson that philosopher George Santayana phrased so eloquently, “People who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Let’s start with General Motors, where apparently no one ever learned the lessons of Watergate, which include the adage, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” which dooms you to public contempt.

GM executives knew about a fatal problem with an ignition switch on the Cobalt. But instead of correcting it, they kicked the problem around various echelons of the manufacturing giant without addressing it in public and perhaps averting some of the deaths.

Then we have Barack Obama, who seems to have taken his eye off the ball for his second term. Amidst much manufactured fanfare, Obama traded five terrorists in Guantanamo for Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier who left his post as a sentry in Afghanistan.

I have no problem rescuing Bergdahl. He’s one of ours, even if he proves to be damaged goods; we Americans try to never leave one of our own behind enemy lines. And remember President Ronald Reagan trading arms to Iran for hostages 30 years ago? Ransom deals seldom are pretty. I’ll let the military and others sort fact from fiction and then make a judgment about Bergdahl. I also will wait to see what, if anything, the freed terrorists do in the future.

Still, Obama had no sensible reason to hype the situation. Doesn’t he remember the irony of the “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background when President George W. Bush erroneously claimed an end to fighting in Iraq?

Closer to my home, Pensacola, a former head of the fabled Blue Angels was reprimanded recently for promoting an unprofessional atmosphere full of sexual innuendo in the Navy’s flight demonstration team.

Has no one heard of Tailhook, the scandalous 1991 Las Vegas gathering of Navy and Marine aviators, when dozens of women were pawed, leading to the end of many offenders’ military careers?

Apparently not Capt. Greg McWherter — until recently the president of the Tailhook Association, no less. McWherter let Blue Angel pilots keep pornography in their taxpayer-bought, $19-million aircraft and allowed a homophobic, lecherous atmosphere at work, investigators alleged.

These blunders — GM, hostages, Blue Angels — were perpetrated not by rash teenagers but by people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.

This brings to mind another saying that parents often shout at their children: “You’re old enough to know better!”

Mark O’Brien is a writer who lives in Pensacola. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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