When Is It OK To Betray a Friend?

The lead editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal concerns former Clinton aides, principally George Stephanopoulos, who are now speaking out against their former boss’s transgressions and character. Among the still-loyal Clintonistas, these folks, who go on TV to talk about their disillusionment, are called “commentraitors.”

I bring this up–well, for obvious reasons–but with respect to your good point about integrity being a “complicated” virtue. Is it ever. A Washington friend of mine once shrugged, apropos of a colleague of ours who hung up his policy spurs and went over to the dark side to flack for some glorious cause like Philip Morris: “Well, what’s the point of having integrity if you can’t sell it?”

So here’s my question: Are Mr. Stephanopoulos, Ms. Dee Dee Myers, and Mr. Mike McCurry showing “integrity” now by admitting that all along they harbored suspicions that Mr. Clinton was a bounder–and worse? Good as it is–finally–to hear them say it, there’s just one little problem: They’re being handsomely paid for manifesting, or, worse, marketing, their “integrity” now. George Stephanopoulos got a $2.4 million advance for his book. (Forbes reports that he made $4 million last year.) Ms. Myers comments on TV. Mr. McCurry is busy on the lecture circuit. Shouldn’t they have “snitched” on their friend when it might have made a difference, and when they would have had to pay a price–their jobs, for instance–for doing it? But what a silly question. No one resigns anymore in America. Only the Japanese seem to go in for that outdated ritual, most recently poor Mr. Nakamura, the defense minister, for letting Arnold Schwarzenegger into his country without a passport, and then keeping the signed paperwork as a souvenir. Now there’s a principle worth falling on your sword for!

But how say you: Is it OK to take money for “snitching” on a friend, after the fact?