Our problem isn’t a lack of “educated” leaders. We elect too many unethical ones

By Mabel Doge Luhan

Oh my, the CNMI is in fiscal crisis, just as it has been ever since! The vocal know-it-alls propose the same diagnosis, and solution, as they’ve always proposed: leaders who are “educated” or “smart.”

Well, we all know what “educated” means when it’s said at Godfather’s: the same thing an Atlanta real estate listing means when it touts “good neighbors.” But let’s just take the statement at face value, and analyze this evergreen claim: that if we in the CNMI just got ourselves some educated or “smart” leaders, everything would be better.

But that is just simply not true. There is no concept of good governance or ethics that is beyond our leaders’ educational background. There is not a single egregious act of misgovernance of the CNMI that can be attributed to a lack of education. Not a single one. Unless by education we mean moral bearing and ethical principles.

Ethics and principles are what set your goals. Education and intellect are what help you achieve those goals. 

But does anyone really think Ralph Torres had a goal of helping the entire CNMI, and it’s only because of his lack of education that he ran us into the ground? His problem was in his principles, which were pathological from the start. Better education and a better work ethic would only have helped him achieve those fundamentally corrupt goals.

It’s the same reason DeSantis and Ramaswamy are more dangerous than Trump: because unlike Trump, they’re not buffoons. They’re highly educated and erudite, and wield that knowledge as weapons — against the people.

Ridding ourselves of the constant cycle of corruption is a lot more difficult than electing people who have advanced degrees or read books. Ralph Torres lacked both attributes, but that wasn’t his problem. And indeed, advanced education and deep academic erudition are not prominent traits of the best, most ethical leaders the CNMI has had. Kilili doesn’t have a college degree, and neither do many of our very best and brightest. 

Here in the CNMI, the very ethically questionable Froilan Tenorio had a legitimate engineering degree from Marquette. The equally — or even more — questionable Ben Fitial had a real college degree, plus a lot of business experience. A whole lot of good that did us, the people. It did Froilan and Fitial a lot of good, however: the skills to achieve their goals.

The recently deceased, widely reviled Henry Kissinger was one of the most brilliant students to ever attend Harvard. Bashar al-Assad was an eye surgeon, Robert Mugabe attended Oxford, Alberto Fujimori was a math professor, Richard Nixon was an outstanding lawyer, and Osama bin Laden was a civil engineer. That didn’t give them ethical bearing. It only made them more skilled in pursuing their nightmarish goals.

Operational skills and knowledge are learnable, or at least outsourceable. Governor Palacios may not know how to run a hospital, but, we can hope, he knows how to hire people who can do it. Moral bearing can’t be learned. Send Ralph Torres or his BFF Donald Trump to all the ethics seminars you want, and they’ll come back still smelling the same.

So let’s focus on what matters for governance: ethics, morals, and integrity. Unfortunately, those can’t be measured with degrees or aptitude tests. They can only be measured, ascertained, and opined upon by a watchful public — and a free press.


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.


  • If Mable for Table continue on this path, we will have bad characters into good individuals. Unless of course, they are rooted deep like some of those that she mentions. I wonder if Ralph and his family especially their children are not feeling the pinch every time someone mentioned his misdeeds. I hope it’s worth every penny he squandered. Thank you, Mable.

  • Good Job Ms. Mabel they elected more corrupt self interest idiots to run our US education in CNMI what a bunch of low life abusers of our US-CNMI students its better to exposed the truth 24/7.

  • There’s a line in The Godfather Part II, where Sonny berates his younger brother, Michael. “What did you do? You went to college to get stupid?”

    The problems of our lovely islands are simple: people are hired because they’re someone’s neice, nephew, or friend. No resume required. If your last name is Camacho, Sablan, Tenorio, Corleone, or Barzini, you’re covered. Make your own hours, look presentable, and one day you’ll feed from the Retirement trough. It truly is a mafia here, and has been for decades. So watch your step, Haole.

    This explains why there are four THOUSAND people on the CNMI payroll, and many of the jobs are considered “non-essential.” So we’re paying somebody’s relative for a job that isn’t needed or requred.

    When Arnold Palacios won the election in 2022 I hoped there would be a new sheriff in town. Never occured to me that he was a pleasant looking airhead, incapable of original or appropriate solutions. Instead of David Apetang, Palacios ought to have hired Moe and Curly. At least there would be a few laughs around here.

    OK, no laughs. But that still leaves us with a ring-side seat to the eventual deterioration of our Commonwealth, complete with disarray and Desperate Mode.

    So I ask again, how about “Doom” mode? Does that work for you? Brace yourself fellow islanders, because that’s where this foundering ship is headed.

    When the CNMI House of Representatives called in John Arroyo, President and CEO of the Bank of Saipan, Arroyo decided to “recuse” himself. In his testimoney he proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he’s not only a creep, but a shuck & jive artist, probably missing a few chromosomes. As a New Yorker, I can only say, “Da noive!”

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