2009-06-25 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

That's Right, Elected Officials, Set Another Example
By Charles Rogers

Aren't you just about fed up with it? No sooner did the Governor of the State of New York admit that he's guilty of foolin' around with a bimbo and the Governor of Illinois is running around supposedly trying to pick up a few bucks in choosing a person to take over a senate seat, but the South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, admits that he went all the way to Argentina to cheat on his wife and four sons. But it seems we look the other way when corruption and outright incompetence faces us from every other corner of government.

"It's just part of the game," we say, laughing it off as "the wages of war" and let it go, like an old Western movie where it's accepted as a way of life until the good guy comes along. Nowadays, just look around and you'll see instances of political corruption — not to mention the circus in Albany right now — that would make you sick.

Far be it for me to take advantage of this podium to preach, but, c'mon. It's getting worse by the day. And my latest gripe is how it's affecting our youth by its example of how our values have changed. I mean, everybody's so used to it that it's being taken as commonplace, like a misdemeanor that has little affect on anyone, especially those youngsters.

The recent case of the diminished character of a man who at one time was listed high on the scale of possible presidential candidate, of course, is just about the worst when it comes to hanging a millstone around his neck: the senator from Nevada, John Ensign, who admitted last week that he'd had an affair with a campaign aide — a married campaign aide — a couple of years ago. What lends more stomach turning to the episode is that Ensign has been known for years as a strong critic of the peccadilloes of others, especially those in the political arena. The same goes for Sanford.

The Associated Press said Ensign is in his second term and is a member of the Christian ministry "Promise Keepers" and "has championed causes pushed by the Republican conservative religious base while seeking to raise his profile for a possible presidential campaign."

The woman with whom Ensign had the monthslong affair has also admitted to it and it was noted that her husband worked for the senator, as did their teenage son. A spokesperson told reporters that the politician went public because he was confronted with a demand for money from a former friend, but that was not confirmed and, so far, no extortion charges have been filed.

Of course, this just adds to the perception by the public of how politicians feel like they are holier than everyone and can get away with anything. There have been countless episodes of corruption in American politics, not the least of which was Tammany Hall's Boss Tweed — the very symbol of political corruption now — who ruled the New York Democratic Party before, during and after the Civil War by granting patronage and accepting graft from practically anyone who wanted it by cutting in on city expenditures. He was finally caught when the MEDIA (It wasn't called media at the time. I just thought I'd throw that in to make the point that we're not all that bad. It was actually The Times) investigated him and disclosed that Tweed and his City Hall friends defrauded the city of more than $30 million. He died in jail.

Ever since then, it seems politicians have been trying to out-do each other in the corruption department, not just for the money, but to show how they can out-fox the very people who voted them into office in the first place. We can't say the big guys (or gals) have to be pure as the rising sun. After all, they are human and have their faults, as we all do (even me!). But these people are supposed to be our leaders, and their character should be shown as an example to others, chiefly our youth.

Can you imagine what our children must think about what's going on? Those who are old enough to use their own judgment actually must be laughing at those who are trying to form some good character traits in them. We can't help but be cynical when we see the immaturity and lack of character shown by a president who dallied with a White House intern or an assemblywoman serving jail time for taking bribes.

The Massachusetts statesman R. C. Winthrop wrote: "The noblest contribution which any man can make for the benefit of posterity is that of good character. The richest bequest any man can leave to youth is that of a shining example."

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