When I read those stories about the military secretly paying Iraqi journalists and their newspapers to print American propaganda it made me think of a man named Garrett Morris.
Garrett is well into his eighties now and his name won't mean anything to you unless you're from Fort Worth, Texas, but he is one of the wisest men I've even known.
Thirty three years ago, my younger brother, all of 24 years old and still in graduate school, decided to run for a seat in the Texas State Legislature. He was an underdog and a friend suggested a real dirty trick to use on his opponent.
He went to Garrett for advice, and I'll never forget Garrett's answer: "Never do something in a campaign that you'll be ashamed of if you're found out, and besides that wouldn't be effective."
So why in the world, when we are trying to convince the Iraqis of the strength and efficacy of Democratic institutions would we try to do it by corrupting their press, one cornerstone of Democracy? The government writes the stories for a totalitarian press, not a democracy's press.
This administration has never had much use for reporters, and that is their privilege. But speeches about democratic values ring hollow when the speechmaker gets caught trying to undermine democratic institutions.
We can do better than that. If this is a war over values, we can best demonstrate the strength of our values by practicing them. To do otherwise, after all, is just not effective.
My brother, by the way, took Garrett's advice. He was elected that year and two times after.