He who is not ruled by the rudder will be ruled by the rock, according to an old nautical expression.
Rudderless Navy Capt. Owen Honors ran into a career rock Tuesday when he was relieved of duty as commander of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.
The Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported last weekend that Honors produced a series of raunchy videos for the ship's crew while deployed in 2006 and 2007 as part of the U.S. war in Iraq.
The Enterprise is the oldest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the Navy fleet and carries about 5,000 personnel. The videos were shown on "movie nights" through the ship's closed-circuit TV system and were intended to boost morale and break tension.
Honors starred in the videos featuring gross toilet scenes, masturbation, animal sex and even a mock rectal exam.
Most disturbing, however, was the disdain shown toward gays in the videos and the open way Honors mocked and dismissed the complaints of female sailors who objected to his obscene videos.
The revelations are particularly embarrassing for the Navy in light of Congress' decision last week to repeal the "don't ask don't tell" military policy that had been in effect since the Clinton administration.
But this is clearly not a case of a man trapped by changing public attitudes toward homosexuality.
This behavior from a commanding officer would long have been objectionable in any organization that valued leadership and discipline.
It would be naive to think this sort of humor doesn't occur in many large organizations, particularly the military.
There is always a temptation for the boss to be "one of the guys," and there are always constructive ways for doing that.
But the commander of a nation, the captain of a ship or the CEO of a large company sets the tone for the entire organization.
Having the boss show sexist and homophobic attitudes gives a green light to those below him or her do the same.
There is a certain amount of decorum and distance any leader must maintain to set an example for those under his command.
Honors may be an excellent officer in all other respects. But he failed this key test of leadership and must suffer the consequences.