THE BLOG
10/07/2006 09:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Men Without Chests

As I read Wesley Pruden Jr.'s October 6 "Pruden on Politics" column in The Washington Times, headlined "There's trouble in a school for scandal," I thought of one of my favorite presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, who said the person who really counts in the world is the doer who actually does the work, not "the mere critic who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done."

Pruden's column lacked a single original thought and was the same old hash one comes to expect from aging pundits in Washington, D.C. This sentence no doubt sent shivers down the backs of his probable 54,000 (no doubt a high estimate) daily readers:

"Mr. Hastert and his allies, the ones who knew that Mark Foley sees young boys as tasty appetizers on the congressional menu, are themselves 'feeding the monster.' It's true that George Soros, Nancy Pelosi and 'Democratic operatives' are enjoying this immensely, but there would be no allegations if Mark Foley and his Republican enablers had not given the allegators so much to allegate. That's the point they ignore inside the Beltway, but it rarely escapes the folks in flyover land."

Well, Wes Pruden and his managing editor Fran Coombs have hardly been leaders of moral righteousness as chief editors at The Times. They had a human resources director, Randall Casseday, now sitting in prison because he used the company's computers to solicit sex with a 13-year-old girl. (I can hear Pruden and Coombs saying, "At least his solicitation was heterosexual.")

Casseday received a formal complaint two years ago from Melissa Hopkins, a public relations contractor for The Times, who accused Coombs for sexually abusing her in a taxicab in New York City during the paper's coverage of the 2004 National Republican Convention. Coombs no doubt had consumed his usual share of booze and possibly marijuana before coming on to Mrs.
Hopkins, and then getting Pruden's and Cassidy's support to hose down her sexual harassment complaint.

How can Pruden ask House Speaker Dennis J. Hastert to resign over the Rep. Mark Foley incident, when as editor-in-chief of The Washington Times he helped cover up a terrible sexual harassment incident involving the paper's managing editor? No justice was received by Mrs. Hopkins, whose sexual abuser still serves as The Times' No. 2 editor, supported by editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden, who has the gall to ask Speaker Hastert to step aside after the speaker has done everything conceivable to make sure justice and ethics are served in the unfolding Rep, Mark Foley case.

A stark contrast to Pruden's two-year cover-up in the Coombs-Hopkins sexual harassment case.

C.S. Lewis, in his wonderful book, "The Abolition of Man," took apart pseudo-intellectual critics for their
disdain of principle and honor, saying they were responsible for a new a culture of "men without chests" -- people lacking commitment to bravery and self-sacrifice and "laugh at virtue," mock patriotism.

Pruden and the critics of President George W. Bush, House Speaker Hastert, and President Ronald Reagan before them are not distinguished by any unusual skill in finding or fighting for truth because, when you get right down to it, they lack any true devotion to truth and intellectual honor to begin with.

Unfortunately, people like Pruden and Coombs, who lack true intellectual development, social refinement, grace, and wisdom, are able to succeed in a newspaper environment as workplace blowhards and bullies. They set the standard in the workplace, and if the corporate owners go along, their positions and huge compensation packages are guaranteed, unless they make a big mistake.

As C.S. Lewis said of such people, "Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the
chest beneath that makes them seem so." And the tragi-comedy of the situation is that we clamor for
leaders whose very qualities we render impossible: More intellectual and personal honesty, religious faith and family commitment that helps build a better culture, more drive or dynamism, self-sacrifice, and creativity to build better communities.

Our institutions encourage and build men without chests, yet expect virtue and enterprise. We ridicule
honor, are shocked when we find thieves, traitors, and terrorist underminers in our midst, castrate good men, yet expect men without chests to build a better society. How foolish can we be?

George Archibald was an investigative reporter for over two decades at The Washington Times. He was nominated four times by the newspaper for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism. This article is taken from a chapter in his forthcoming book, "Journalism is War: Power Politics, Sexual Dalliance, and Corruption in the Nation's Capital."