Got To Do What You Got To Do
By Bill King
I returned to teaching high school fourteen years ago, I was
as green as a first year novice. The kids were constantly
"laying" for me. I had to stay on my toes; eyes wide open.
I learned a lot of lessons that first year back, but the one
that I most distinctly remember involved a boy named Billy.
One day as I was instructing a class on the finer points
of something they cared nothing about, I sensed an incessant
murmur in the back of the room. It was Billy mumbling to a
buddy about one thing or another. After a couple of futile
attempts to silence him, I moved him to the front of the room.
As I seated him at a separate table, he murmured in a barely
audible whisper, "You better watch your car, man."
Had I then been running on fourteen years of experience,
I would have handled this little problem by myself with a
brief but serious one-on-one talk after class. But I was a
second-time rookie. This was a clear threat, and the principal
needed to know about it.
Once we were seated in the principal's office, I recounted
the episode, concluding with Billy's direct quote. The principal
looked seriously and sternly at the young man. "Billy, did
you threaten to do harm to Mr. King's car." To which Billy
replied with a masterfully sincere conviction. "No sir! He
must have misunderstood me. I would never threaten a teacher."
Alas, it was his word against mine. With a faint warning from
the principal about the seriousness of issuing threats, we
were both dismissed.
As we were returning to the room, I stopped Billy in the
hallway and asked him, "How could you lie like that?" He looked
at me with wide eyes and a gleeful smirk and replied in a
slowly measured cadence, "Hey, you got to do what you got
I wanted to strangle the kid. The nerve of that punk. A
bald faced lie and no remorse.
Several years later, when Bill Clinton was caught in his
infamous lie, believe me, I could empathize with all of those
conservative experts who wanted to throttle him as well. That
the man had been weak and that his weakness had led him to
disgrace himself, his family, and his country was bad enough.
But to lie about it. That was the ultimate crime.
I must admit that I have learned a lot about morality from
conservative experts. It seems to be their specialty. One
thing that conservative experts know well is that telling
lies are the acts of desperate scoundrels. No wonder they
tried so hard to impeach Bill Clinton.
Conservative expert author, Bill Bennett was one of the
leaders of that impeachment chorus. Bennett was the guy who
wrote that bestseller The Book of Virtues. It was a
tome full of aphorisms and anecdotes about living well with
integrity and fortitude that inspired so many of our young.
Just about every school library in America has a copy.
Rush Limbaugh was also a member of the virtue posse. He
lambasted Clinton for years, indeed, is still lambasting him
for telling that whopper. With moral clarity and conviction,
Rush has been faithful in maintaining America's chasteness
and purity during his fifteen years of self-proclaimed broadcasting
excellence. Thank goodness for the likes of these two.
And remember that triumvirate of virtue, Bob Livingston,
Newt Gingrich, and Henry Hyde. They led the charge in the
House of Representatives to rid the nation of that "lying
liar" Clinton. If it were not for those namby-pamby relativistic
whacko liberals, they may well have succeeded.
Now some may want to rain on my little parade of praise
and adoration for these honorable experts. Some of those killjoys
might try to remind us that Bill Bennett was recently exposed
as a compulsive gambler. Seems he dropped $8 million in casino
slot machines over the last ten years. But, hey, while he
may have made a living condemning the weaknesses and abominations
of druggies, unchaste teens, and liars, he never once condemned
gamblers. He may have been a compulsive gambler, but he was
no hypocrite and, above all else, he was not a scoundrel liar
like Bill Clinton.
Others might mention Rush Limbaugh's problem with prescription
drugs. But at least he came clean on the issue. So what if
it took the threat of public exposure and jail time to bring
it out of him? So what if he was known to have had no sympathy
for fellow "druggies" convicted of and serving time for similar
drug offenses? So what if he agreed that they all ought to
be "sent up the river?" At least you can't say he was a liar.
As for the three congressmen? All three of them, like Bill
Clinton, were guilty of adultery, and may not have admitted
to it until they were exposed in the press. They may even
have been hypocrites, but at least they didn't lie about it.
I have learned a lot from conservative experts. We are all
human and we all are sinners. We all fall short on occasion.
But if you hold the office of the President of the United
States, one thing you can never, ever do is lie. All of these
fellows that I have mentioned may have "lived" a lie, but
that's not the same as "telling" a lie. It's high time that
we fuzzy headed liberals learned the difference.
This lesson, courtesy of so many conservative experts, however,
has recently presented me with a dilemma. I am having a hard
time rationalizing the many prevarications of George W. Bush.
Teddy Kennedy (no saint himself) outlined them the other day.
In the lead-up to the war, Bush told the American people that
Saddam was building nuclear weapons, stockpiling massive amounts
of weapons of mass destruction, was involved with the 9/11
attack, and was attracting terrorists from Al Qaeda. Kennedy
continued, "We were told our soldiers would be viewed as liberators.
They were not. We were told Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction.
It cannot. We were told that the war would make American safer.
It has not."
You see my problem, don't you? All of these assertions were
(how shall I say it?) lies. Where are the conservative experts
now when I need help with this moral dilemma? Where are the
crowds calling for impeachment for these serious lies that
have had such a devastating and, in many cases, terminal impact
on so many? Where are the conservative moralists to sort it
all out for me?
Then rises again the memory of Billy. Then echoes again
the words of his youthful indiscretion. For it is Billy's
strange brand of "moral" clarity that rises now above the
din of pathetic excuses. It provides an answer that the conservative
experts wouldn't want to trumpet as moral or even as their
own, but to which in private they all seem so sadly resigned.
I can hear it now, "Mr. President, how could you lie like
that?" And the President's reply with that characteristic
gleaming eye and ever-present smirkiness? "Hey, you got to
do what you got to do."
Bill King teaches high school in Kingston Springs, TN.