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






Engage brain before opening mouth …

It seems like every few weeks one of America’s respected leaders somehow manages to adroitly place foot in mouth and, in the process, annoy, offend or outrage at least a third of the nation.

When our political geniuses realize that they’ve said something that could easily be misconstrued by virtually everybody, they flip their mea culpas to full automatic and spend the next six weeks peppering the country with apologies, explaining to anyone who’ll listen how they were misquoted, misconstrued or misunderstood by their mothers.

This is not good, and it seems to be happening more and more frequently within our nation’s political arena.

What gives?Are these guys:

  • Stupid loudmouths who shoot from the lip?
  • Sniveling weasels who haven’t the courage of their convictions?
  • Stupid loudmouth weasels?

OK, OK, maybe I’m being a little harsh here.

Surely not all of our political orators are craven cowards when it comes to standing up for their beliefs – whatever they may be at any given moment. But a lot of them seem to fold pretty quickly whenever even a hint of controversy is aimed at one of their ill-conceived remarks.

Most recently, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois roundly offended large segments of the public by criticizing the treatment of terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

He, unfortunately, made reference to Nazis, Soviets and Pol Pot, thereby outraging Republicans, Democrats and several retired Siberian prison guards.

Then the senator from Illinois spent the next week or so sedulously apologizing to anyone who’d listen.

He apologized to the military, to the president, to families of the military, to veterans, to Holocaust survivors and, I’d venture to say, dozens of Moose Lodges, bowling leagues and skateboarders.

I wouldn’t worry too much about this situation if we were just talking about Sen. Durbin, but this happens all the time, from the city council level to the White House – say something incredibly stupid, then spend the rest of your term apologizing to anyone you may have inadvertently offended.

This has got to stop.

Our political leaders have to take a good hard look at themselves, square their shoulders and start standing by their statements, no matter how ludicrous. Only then will the electorate know who they’re really dealing with when it comes time to vote.

Sure, we all say stupid things from time to time. I believe that even I may have made a less-than-intelligent observation one time in 1988. And, er, perhaps, 1989. Oh, hell, just ask my ex-wife. I think she still keeps a scorebook…

But most of use aren’t running for jobs in which we may be expected to behave intelligently with things like tactical nuclear weapons and large sums of money.

From now on, reject sniveling apologies and weak-kneed explanations about why our politicans repeatedly say incredibly stupid things. The obvious explanation is that we’ve elected some incredibly stupid – and frequently spineless – politicans.

And we can straighten all that out when November rolls around…

Originally published July 3, 2005