When Voters Seek an Accounting

Monday's federal election in Canada proves once again a universal truth about voters: They don't like government abuse of the public trust.

Knocking the ruling Liberal Party from its majority position for the first time in 11 years, voters punished the party for a financial scandal. The Liberals, now forced to form a coalition government because they no longer hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons, were dogged by reports that they had directed $75 million in taxpayer money to advertising agencies friendly to the party.

The expectation of ethics in government knows no borders, as departing Connecticut Gov. John Rowland and the former Senate candidate from Illinois, Jack Ryan, recently found. The governor was forced to resign as he faced possible impeachment and a federal corruption investigation. Mr. Ryan had to drop from the race in part for lying to GOP leaders that his divorce papers would not be embarrassing.

George W. Bush recognizes the power of integrity. He capitalized on it in the 2000 race, promising voters to return dignity to the White House.

Interestingly, Americans are no longer so confident about his honesty over the war in Iraq. According to a New York Times/CBS News survey released Tuesday, nearly 60 percent of those polled said the president was not being entirely truthful when talking about Iraq. With no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, and with questions about the thoroughness of the Pentagon's investigation of prisoner abuse, these sentiments are understandable, and are reflected to a lesser extent in other polls.

Perception, of course, is not always based on fact, and whether the White House actually misled on Iraq is an entirely different matter. But Mr. Bush, and indeed, any US politician in this election year, need just look north for a reminder of a key voter priority.

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