Brian Mulroney was done in by pride

  • May 28, 2009
{mosimage}At one point at the Oliphant commission, former prime minister Brian Mulroney shamelessly harrumphed: “I have never knowingly done anything wrong in my entire life.”

Sadly, he may have been telling the truth — not that he has never done anything wrong, but this vainglorious man, apparently lacking a civilized notion of propriety, may genuinely be unaware that egregious unethical behaviour is wrong.

Thomas Aquinas taught that pride was the first sin and the source of all other sins. Pride, said Aquinas, is rejection of God’s authority and plan in favour of an excessive desire for one’s own excellence. It is the worst among the seven deadly sins and is revealed by narcissism, arrogance, vanity and greed.

Mulroney’s mirror apparently does not reflect the face of sinful pride. He seems incapable of seeing what others see and knowing what others know. A former prime minister should know it is wrong to accept envelopes stuffed with $225,000 in cash from a shady businessman and hide the cash in vaults where the taxman can’t find it.

He should know it is wrong to fleece Canadian taxpayers for a $2.1-million settlement from a defamation lawsuit in which he testified under oath to barely knowing the shady businessman who had given him $225,000 in cash.

He should know it is wrong to manipulate the tax system — and Canadian taxpayers — by hiring a lawyer to hastily arrange an anonymous tax settlement on undeclared income only after his skulduggery was to become public, and even then paying tax on only half the ill-begotten cash.

Mulroney’s defence to all this is two-fold: to claim he has broken no laws and, in his best “woe is me” baritone, to blame everyone but his barber for his misfortune.

With respect to his criminal virginity, that’s for others to determine, but Mulroney has offered no plausible explanation for why an honest man requires protection of an anonymous amnesty program before fessing up about large sums of cash brought undeclared across the border and about years of incomplete tax returns.

The blame for all these peculiar money matters, says Mulroney, rests with many people, including the shady businessman, the skilled lawyers who hoodwinked the taxman and the chump government lawyers who failed to ask the precise questions that might expose Mulroney’s duplicity. He even blamed the secretary he didn’t hire leaving him with no one to record his secret payments or buy him a pencil so he could do it himself.

Mulroney hoped the Oliphant inquiry would salvage his reputation. Given the extent of the flim-flammery, that outcome was unlikely. He might have softened the damage, however, by admitting wrongdoing, accepting responsibility, expressing remorse and offering apologies — and then paying back settlement and tax windfalls he finagled from Canadian taxpayers.

But that about-face would have required a conversion to Christian humility, a virtue that is rare today in general society and, apparently, extinct in some circles.

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