“TO ERR IS HUMAN; TO FORGIVE, DIVINE.”
Most of us, I suspect, have lived our lives usually honoring those wise words. With the possible exception of serial killers, terrorists, school shooters or a Trump presidency, that old maxim holds pretty true. Few of us have led such exemplary lives that we can’t use a little forgiveness now and then.
But, something’s happened in the world of politics to push such advice to intolerable limits. “Erring” has become so despicable that “forgiving” is damned near impossible. Yet millions of voters keep buying in.
There were times when politicians, asking for our support, knew that support carried with it a high level of expectations of proper behavior. And, if one turned out to be a miscreant - or worse - they paid the penalty of being ostracized by the electorate and were most often shoved off to some lonely, deserted place. They paid for bad behavior with the loss of both job and our respect. Today, not so much!
In 1987, Colorado Senator Gary Hart was an odds-on favorite to be the next shining star of the Democrat Party. Good looking. Reasonably middle-of-the-road outlook. A good bet for future political success. Until 1987. Media reports began popping up linking the married Hart to blond - and single - Donna Rice. Hart responded with the expected denials. Then he said something to the national media that was really stupid. “If you think I’m messing around, follow me and see how wrong you are.”
Follow they did. And right they were. Hart was photographed living the “single” swinging life with Ms. Hart. Career ended on a boat dock and he rightfully disappeared from public life.
Over the years, a few other “bright lights” suffered the same two-timing fate as Hart. Some cheating on their spouses. Some with criminal activity. Some with misusing political funds. And who can forget the night a prominent Texas Senator frolicked in a D.C. fountain with his mistress - Fannie Flagg. Career ender.
Today, it seems, nearly anything goes and, whatever deviant behavior an office-holder prominently exhibits, often seems to have no negative effects on his/her career.
Mark Sanford is exhibit one. A few years back, while governor of South Carolina, he lied to his staff, the media and wife about disappearing to “hike the Appalachian Trail.” What he really did was fly to Argentina to shack up for a week with his mistress. He was “forced” to take a break in his political life. Then, he resurfaced, ran succesfully for the U.S. House and is now a Republican candidate for President. Wha Hoppen?
In Arizona, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of ignoring a federal court order, is trying to get his old job back. Two years ago, he wanted us to send him to the U.S. Senate. We didn’t.
Arizona also has two members of Congress found guilty of behaving badly with state campaign funds. One was subsequently elected to the Senate and other, after losing that Senate race, was appointed to the same job voters said she shouldn’t have.
One of Florida’s senators was elected governor - then to the Senate - even after being nailed by the feds for ripping off federal health care dollars in the millions. Last year, California re-elected a member of Congress even though he and his wife had been indicted for using campaign accounts for luxury living he obviously couldn’t otherwise afford. Before him, they repeatedly elected his crooked father to the same office several times.
Two members of Congress are enjoying the high life of national politics even as both are under current indictments for insider trading. Both re-elected AFTER the charges were filed.
In Idaho, former Boise Mayor Brent Coles, forced out of office for misusing public dollars, did time in the slammer. Now, he’s running for mayor again. Former State Senator John McGee of nearby Canyon County fame, forced out of office for improprieties with female staffers and stealing a car. Now, he’s running in a new election.
“To err is human.” I got that. But, in every field of endeavor, there’s a whole lot of “erring” going on. Lawyers, doctors, firemen, the clergy, politicians and hookers. We’ve got that “erring” thing down pretty good. And, in many cases, we also do pretty well in the “forgiving” department.
But, politicians have pushed the “forgiveness” envelope all out of shape. Scott, Rorabacher, Sanford, Coles, McGee, Arpaio, McSally, Trump and a bunch of others. They “erred” and kept right on going. Public trust be damned!
Those who’ve “erred” and seemingly ignored the consequences of such behavior will not be getting my vote in 2020. Nor should they be getting yours.