led Georgia Tech to five straight bowl games, had a 52-33 record over seven
years, was a popular coach and a decent man–yet when it emerged that he
had puffed up his resume, Notre Dame saw fit to end his services after only
five days. Does inventing a curriculum vitae constitute a breach of trust? Of
course it does. Should O’Leary be hired in the future by some university?
Of course he should. He was caught lying and it cost him the greatest coaching
job in the world. He has been punished enough. Was Notre Dame right in accepting
his resignation? Absolutely.
is a great university with a great academic and athletic tradition. It could
not be seen condoning a lie. If it did, the place would have reeked of the Clinton
White House. The president of the United States is the standard bearer of morality.
As is the head of a university, and so on down the line. What I found interesting
was the reaction of many people who thought it was much ado about nothing. One
Notre Dame student called the university stupid, and said that 20 years later
the issue of not having played football does not matter. This particular student
is obviously a Clinton fan, or has learned from the Draft Dodger. Depends on
the meaning of the word not. A friend of mine agreed: "What’s
the big deal?"
tell you. Invention, the withholding of information, fabrication of fact, or
whatever one chooses to call it, makes the perpetrator more comfortable. It
doesn’t necessarily hurt the object of the deceit, and that is why so many
choose to ignore "white lies." When Larry Lawrence invented that he
had been a Merchant Marine sailor in the Murmansk run–almost a suicidal
mission–he obviously did not hurt anyone. In fact, to the contrary. He
brought attention to the sacrifices of those who had perished in the frozen
North Atlantic. So Bill Clinton had him buried in Arlington–Lawrence was
a big contributor to the Clinton campaign–and then had to disinter him
when it transpired that Larry the Liar was inChicago, and that the closest
he ever got to the North Atlantic was watching the movie starring Humphrey Bogart.
It also transpired that Lawrence was a ghastly man, a bully, a tax cheat and
I mean about people who embellish their pasts? David Begelman, a Hollywood biggie
in the 70s, was a compulsive gambler (a good trait) but cheated friends and
clients to pay his debts. When he was exposed as a fraud, it emerged that he
had also lied about having gone to an Ivy League school, Yale I believe. Begelman
eventually had the decency to kill himself. Begelman’s invention of an
Ivy League education hurt no one. It was just part of the pattern of deception.
face it. Liars leave a lot to be desired. Joseph J. Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning
historian, was suspended for a year without pay from Mount Holyoke College earlier
this spring when he was caught lying about having been a combat soldier in Vietnam.
Unlike Larry the Liar, Ellis did spend three years in the Army–teaching
history at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Which in a way
makes it worse. West Point operates under the honor system, and having spent
three years among officers and gentlemen who do not lie, Ellis should have known
better. The president of Mount Holyoke, Joanne V. Creighton, described Ellis
as "one of the most respected scholars, writers and teachers in the nation…
[H]e has earned a reputation for great integrity, honesty and honor." Some
honesty. Some honor. It is also an insult to those brave men who risk their
lives in combat. The head of a university should not call liars honorable men.
They are anything but.
I’m being too hard on Bill Clinton, but it was he who made lying almost
acceptable. Caught with his pants down, both metaphorically and literally, he
lied and lied, and the media went along with it. How does that make us different
from, say, the Arab press that knows full well who bombed the WTC but continues
to insist it was Mossad that did it? After the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi
Arabia, Clinton had Dick Morris take a poll: "peacemaker" or "toughness"?
The poll came out for the latter. So Clinton talked tough and did absolutely
nothing about it. Again, see what I mean about liars? It’s as if a moral
cancer interdicts them from doing the right thing. Lying is the easiest thing
in the world to do, and weak, self-obsessed men like Clinton will choose it
the University of Virginia, where belief in the honor system is unquestioned.
One does not cheat and does not lie. Every once in a while a notice in the university’s
newspaper would announce that a student had been expelled for breaking the honor
system. No names are published, but word does get around. Perhaps if Larry Lawrence,
David Begelman, Bill Clinton, Joe Ellis and countless others–even George
O’Leary–had attended the university, as UVA is known, they
would have learned their lesson earlier rather than later. Such was the influence
of the honor system to yours truly that when a customs officer at Heathrow airport
18 years ago asked me what I had in my back pocket, I answered, "Nothing
legal." I did my three months in the pokey, but it felt better than getting
caught a la O’Leary. The prosecutor asked the judge not to give me a custodial
sentence because I had more or less turned myself in. The judge ruled correctly.
The law is the law. And lies are lies. O’Leary should be hired by UVA.
He’ll learn a thing or two.