It takes greater courage to resign power, when appropriate, than to cling to it. Pope Benedict XVI may be the first to resign since the 15th century, but his example reminds us that resignation need not mean defeat.
It is a lesson our American politicians have forgotten. The only notable recent resignation was that of CIA Director David Petraeus, over an affair. No one resigns on principle any more, never mind because of actual failure. White House adviser Dennis Ross could have resigned over Obama’s ill treatment of Israel. Speaker John Boehner could have made a powerful statement by resigning when “Plan B” failed in December.
The entire Dutch government resigned in 2002 over a report about Srebrenica, a massacre that Dutch troops arguably could have acted to prevent. The entire Obama administration could have resigned, and should have, over the Benghazi scandal, in which the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the National Security Council, the CIA Director, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff not only failed to anticipate an attack but failed to respond to it. Resignation would have reinforced the principle of accountability. It would have hurt individual careers, but strengthened our democracy.
By the Pope’s example, he has elevated the Church. Alas, our leaders yet lack his moral integrity and courage.