Experience counts for something…

It seems as if a month doesn’t go by in these United States that one of our elected – and formerly respected – political leaders somehow manages to get caught up in a scandal of epic proportions.

Most recently, six-term Florida Representative Mark Foley was caught sending sexually explicit e-mails to teenage Congressional pages. Constituents were shocked. Colleagues were stunned. And Republicans – most of them – were devastated.

How could this have happened?

Unfortunately, political scandals are as much a part of the traditional American political landscape as bumper stickers and funny hats.

Remember President Richard Nixon’s vehement denial of wrongdoing shortly before he was inducted into the Benevolent Brotherhood of Fractious Felons? Or President Bill Clinton’s whirlwind affair with a White House intern? Or perhaps you remember Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry’s zany crack-smoking adventures (and his subsequent re-election)?

And these are just the Hall of Fame guys…

I think what American voters need to realize – now more than ever – is that politicians with a little beer spilled on their vests are not necessarily a total loss in public office. In fact, a little skullduggery, a pinch of lechery and perhaps a taste of larceny only mean that your elected representative has been around the block more than once and knows which way the wind blows.

Sure, it would be nice if we could trust them but, failing that, why not credit them for their special brand of experience in office and their unique ability to get things done under pressure?

Here’s a quick questionnaire for would-be politicos. Score 10 points for each “yes” answer. Have you ever:

  • Accepted kickbacks for supporting pork subsidies in Santa Monica?• Sent suggestive e-mails to a teenage congressional page, White House intern or Safeway checker?
  • Smoked crack on national television?
  • Gone sidewalk surfing through the nation’s capital with your sports car after inadvertently ingesting sleeping pills before inadvertently ingesting alcohol?
  • Written a bad check to the Salvation Army – and then claimed it as a tax write-off?
  • Been witnessed actually attending a vote of the governing body to which you were elected?
  • Listed your political affiliation as “undecided”?
  • Been the mayor of Miami?
  • Thrown a lavish thank-you dinner for a dozen of your favorite lobbyists and then made them pay for it?
  • Thrown a lavish thank-you dinner for all your campaign volunteers and then made them pay for it – plus tip?

OK, here’s where we separate the real politicos from the wannabes. For each of your “yes” answers, give yourself 10 points. If you scored 70 to 100 on the questionnaire, you’re more than qualified for public office. If, on the other hand, you scored 0, you’re an unmitigated liar. Better start planning your 2008 campaign right away…

Originally published October 15, 2006