“Fame is a vapour, popularity is an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow and only one thing endures – character.”
– Harry S. Truman
As I reflect on events of the past months, and especially on the events of the past week the above quote rings especially true in my view.
Mr. Bush faced a test of character after his arrest and failed miserably when he did not stand down of his own volition. Admittedly few of us thought he understood that the right thing to do was to stand down, but we hoped non-the-less. He made this failure worse when, after being asked to step down by the colleagues who stood by and defended him over many years, he selfishly refused to listen to their counsel and pleas. Happily they finally realised, even if Mr. Bush did not, that it was in the best interest of their party, their government, possibly their political careers, and in the best interest of the country that Mr. Bush should leave the post of premier after being arrested.
His refusal to do the right thing by the people of the country left his cabinet and backbench members with two choices; either to continue to blindly support Mr. Bush staying in office and risk further harm to the country’s reputation; or to support the Progressives (PPM’s) Lack of Confidence Motion and thereby join the Opposition members in voting down the government – and in so doing to send a message to the world that the Parliament and people of the Cayman Islands would not stand by and ignore the arrest of a sitting premier on suspicion of serious offences.
Fortunately for the country, five of the UDP’s elected members finally stopped blindly following Mr. Bush. Three, sadly in my opinion, decided that loyalty to Mr. Bush came before loyalty to country. These three helped embolden Mr. Bush and helped create the events that unfolded in the Legislative Assembly. I suspect that history may be kinder to the five than it will be to the three.
Few politicians in Cayman’s history have been as divisive as Mr. Bush. Indeed, in my opinion, he has been a destructive political force for too long and with his recent actions he may end up destroying his own party. If Mr. Bush had stepped aside he could have done so while still confirming his innocence but stating he was doing this for the country. There would have been an orderly transfer of power to the deputy premier, with perhaps Cline Glidden (given his experience) taking a ministry position and Mike Adam remaining in Cabinet. Mr. Bush’s party would be intact, the country would have been saved the drama, and perhaps Mr. Bush and his supporters could seek to claim a high moral ground with his ‘sacrifice’ for country. Instead, the events played out as they did this week and with a new government now being formed with the “UDP 5”.
Whilst I am happy that the “UDP 5” finally did the right thing and help the Opposition evict Mr. Bush from office, I cannot forget that they, and others, helped to prop up Mr. Bush through all these years, despite the many issues that surrounded Mr. Bush and his UDP administration. The “UDP5” should also not forget the part they played in helping support and embolden Mr. Bush and I pray that they think long and hard on the lessons learned. Hopefully the tone of their first press conference along with a promise to act more transparently, and follow correct process, is an indication that they have learned those lessons. Alas the “UDP 3” have shown that no lessons were learned and as such I suspect that their political futures will end in May 2013.
I will end by returning to the theme of character and give Mr. McLaughlin his due. I listened to his debate in the LA and again later that night on TV. He continued the approach he took after the arrest. His comments were appropriate and measured and he repeated that he preferred that the UDP had resolved this matter quickly without the Legislative Assembly needing to. His tone and approach to this serious matter was statesmanlike in my view and in the end he and the Progressives played a huge part in assisting this matter to come to a productive end. He has not gloated nor rejoiced, nor looked to take any huge credit; and this has helped cement in my mind, and I am sure in the minds of many, the character of the man.
Further cementing the view of Mr. McLaughlin’s character is the manner in which he has steadily moved forward putting together a team of quality, capable new candidates with varied backgrounds and good reputations, to compliment the current sitting MLAs. The fact that these individual are also willing to work with him, some choosing the Progressives even after approaches from the UDP and the C4C, is also an indication of the character of the man.
Since taking on the leadership of the Progressives the arrows sent his way have increased but he has stood steadfast and continued moving forward. Those who say they prefer someone more flamboyant than Mr. McLaughlin need only look at where Mr. Bush’s flamboyancy got us. I will take thoughtful and steady leadership any day over brashness and flamboyancy. In my view Mr. McLaughlin, and his team of Progressive candidates, understand what President Truman meant by:
“… only one thing endures – character.”