In a column from a couple of weeks ago, one focusing on the excellent call girl adventures of ex-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, I wrote the following:
“It’s the stories like Gov. Spitzer’s that command the headlines and tend to set our national mood about the state of politics in America. That’s a disservice to all those who serve in office honorably and work to make a difference.It would be a pleasant change to highlight the good works done by motivated, hardworking elected officials as opposed to the scandals, dramas and unfortunate incidents that we tend to see as representative of our local, state and national politicians.Do me a favor. In an effort to test this thought, send me any stories you might have highlighting good works done by an elected official in your area. It could be someone in your town, county, city or even at the state level.”
In the above paragraphs I was trying to make the point that the majority of elected officials actually try to work hard and do the right thing.
You just wouldn’t know it because stories about Spitzer, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kirkpatrick and others clog up the headlines and tend to color the way we think about politicians. And of course, in this election year, presidential candidates are spending much of their time telling us just how broken Washington D. C. is, how screwed up our political system is and how only they can lead us down the path towards true change and a brand new political reality.
What a load of crap.
Senators Clinton and Obama, political opportunists of the highest order, continue to slug it out in their steel cage matchup. It’s a toss up over which of them drones on more about just how broken our political system is … although I think Obama might have the edge.
Regardless, I thought it might be worth pointing out that perhaps, just perhaps, things ain’t as gloomy as our candidates would have you believe. According to my theory, dubbed by the dedicated and loyal PWB staff “Mike’s Fairly Stupid Theory on Elected Officials”, all around the country public servants work hard to do the right thing while never getting any recognition.
In fact, much like lawyers, elected officials from all levels of government tend to get thrown into the same pool occupied by characters such as Spitzer, William Jefferson, Mark Foley and others who may have strayed somewhat off the path of truth, justice and keeping your pants zipped.
That sort of stereotyping isn’t particularly fair, since my guess is that very few elected officials could afford to pay $4,300 per constituent affair.
The astute and dedicated readers of the Brief, as always, came through with a terrific response.
Many of you had stories to tell about local officials who exemplify public service, who dedicate themselves to the public good and hardly ever engage in illegal activities.
Our newest intern, whom we refer to as Intern #4, was assigned the task of selecting a few examples from the reader mailbag. While not the brightest (that would be Intern #2) nor the most motivated (Intern #1), #4 does have the advantage of knowing his limitations.
We here at the PWB do not subscribe to the claptrap that everyone’s special. If you want to be special, work harder than the average non-special person and prove yourself.
But I’m meandering off topic.
Below, a selection of reader comments proving my soon to be published theory that many elected officials are actually not corrupt, unmotivated parasites.
From Patrick somewhere in New York: I submit Bob Reilly, NY Assemblyman for the 109th District. Every year, Mr. Reilly donates his salary to charity.
An excellent gesture Mr. Reilly. While I doubt your practice of donating your salary will become standard practice, it’s an honorable display.
Jim, out in the wilds of Colorado, writes…The only politician I have ever known who has integrity is my fire chief, Daniel Qualman, out here in Parker, Colorado.
Betsy from Indiana had someone worth mentioning…After reading your column today I immediately thought of the recently deceased Indiana State Senator David Ford. Mr. Ford worked hard for his constituents and personally impacted many of the people he represented. He died recently at the age of 59 from pancreatic cancer. Senator Ford lived a quiet life that will never be celebrated on the front of the national newspapers, but he impacted countless lives and served with honor and integrity. He cared about his constituents as people, not as voters to be manipulated. He was truly a servant to the public.
Candace from down in Travelers Rest in South Carolina has an honorable mention…In my little town we have a politician named Grant Bumgarner. He’s on the city council, is involved in the local business association and is involved in local charities to truly make a difference in the community. He’s serious about the work that he does and really cares about people. He gives 100 per cent to his community.
From the state of Louisiana, Harry writes…Ben Morris is the mayor of Slidell, Louisiana. He’s a retired Army Reserve Colonel, a former DEA agent and chief of police. He is hard working, serious spoken, honest and decent. As mayor when Katrina devastated Slidell, he was on the spot… in control and working night and day to save lives, property and businesses. He’s still on top of the rebuilding effort. All this from a trailer he uses as an office.
While still hanging out in Louisiana, we had many readers mention Bobby Jindal, the state’s new Governor. Wayne from Evangeline said that…If you want a good example of a politician working for the good of the people, look at Bobby Jindal.He’s been working very hard since taking office to fulfill his campaign promises. He has made ethics the number one issue for his administration, no small task for a state like Louisiana.
Bernadette, formerly of Pennsylvania, wanted to highlight the good works of her former state representative…I no longer live in Tioga County, Penn., but the state representative for that area, Matt Baker, is a terrific person. If he ever chose to run for national office, I’d be cheering him on. We’d be a lot better off…if we had more public servants like him.
Bo out in Smithville, Texas writes…Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern seems fearless of the third rail and is doing a great job for her constituents. She deserves an attaboy.
Finally, many readers made note of a story out of Orlando, Fla. involving a mayor, a pit bull and a near death experience for a small terrier. While every reader had a different approach to telling the story, the gist of it is that Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer saw the altercation between the pit bull and the terrier as it occurred outside his home.
Rather than forming a committee to study the situation and report back to the council within several weeks, the mayor leapt into action, running outside and wrestling the pit bull off the grateful terrier’s neck. The terrier survived and will undoubtedly vote for Mayor Dyer in the next election.
Trust me, I’ll never be accused of wearing rose colored glasses, but I do think it’s worthwhile every now and then to stop and look for the good works that people do. Now is as good a time as any…the economy is in a slow down (or a recession, or it sucks depending on your situation), Iraq has stretched on for long enough that many folks would prefer to forget about it (despite the general agreement that early departure equals increased chaos) and the election year continues to produce massive amounts of hot air, seriously threatening what’s left of the ice caps.
While it may seem counterintuitive, now is a perfect time to lighten up on the cynicism and focus on what’s right rather than what’s screwed up. Whether it’s a local elected official, a public servant, a colleague or employee, take the time to acknowledge their hard work and effort. Then we can all get back to pissin’ and moanin’.
Just my opinion.
As always, we look forward to your thoughts and comments. Send your emails to email@example.com
Till next week, stay safe.
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.