One of John Swallow’s primary lines of defense is that he wasn’t aware of the full implications of what he was doing. He claims he was ignorant of the ethical (and perhaps legal) wrongdoing in his relationship with Jeremy Johnson and others who have come forward in recent months.
In an interview with FOX13’s Max Roth that was posted to YouTube on January 14, 2013, Swallow claims at least four times that what 78 percent of Utahns view as an offense worthy of resignation, has instead been an important learning experience for him. You can see the whole video here, but check out these few snippets I’ve transcribed:
John Swallow: “I’ve learned from that experience.”
Max Roth: “You wouldn’t do that again?”
John Swallow: “Uh, no. And I’ve put checks and balances in place in my administration where that can’t happen again.”
John Swallow: “It’s always a judgment call, it’s always a fine line, and I’ve learned this lesson with Jeremy Johnson. I misjudged him.”
John Swallow: “I’ve learned from this and will be more careful going forward.”
John Swallow: “I’ve learned from this experience.”
He sounds like a chastised school boy, employing that all too familiar Utah colloquialism, “I didn’t mean it that way.”
But you can’t take back an ethical lapse of Swallow’s doing like you would an argument on the school playground. Politics is the realm of human accountability. The quality of real lives are at stake while Utahns wait for their attorney general to do remedial work in civics.
Are Utahns asking for too much when they insist that the office of attorney general not come with a learning curve? Shouldn’t Swallow have learned this before working for Shurtleff as his deputy attorney general? (Which speaks to the tangentially-related question about Shurtleff’s own ethical compass).
A commenter on our Facebook wall perhaps said this best:
What do you do with an attorney general that claims to know the difference between legal and illegal, but doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong?