The Oaf of Office

Many of our elected officials have been having trouble lately. Not Barack Obama, of course, who began to excrete rainbows and lollipops the moment he was sworn in (the second time), but others. A brief rundown:

– New York governor David Paterson struggled for several weeks to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat in the U.S. senate, possibly because he was terrified by the image implied by the words “fill Hillary Clinton’s seat.” At first he thought he could just give it to the first person he met who happened to have the last name Kennedy, but that didn’t pan out, and he finally went with someone I hadn’t heard of whose name I don’t feel like looking up. Kind of anti-climactic, really.

– Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama’s vacated senate seat to the highest bidder, then was alarmed to discover that this is illegal, even in Illinois, where political corruption is so ingrained that even Mexico looks askance at it. Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges in December, and was impeached and removed from office by the Illinois legislature in January. His hair is comical, his name is unpronounceable — how did this man ever get elected in the first place, not to mention re-elected? Nothing against the people of Illinois, but the people of Illinois are stupid.

– Newly elected Portland mayor Sam Adams denied charges during the campaign that he’d had a sexual relationship with a young intern, calling the allegations a despicable smear tactic by his opponents. But now, safely elected and sworn into office — and only after being confronted with abundant evidence — Adams has admitted that, yeah, he and the teenage boy had an affair, but not until after he had turned 18. Oh, but they did kiss a couple times when he was still 17. But nothing more than that! So everything is legal, technically, but still creepy, since Adams was in his early 40s at the time. Also, maybe he’s lying about not doin’ it until after the kid was 18, which would make it illegal after all. Also, the young man’s name is Beau Breedlove, which doesn’t help matters.

Sure, you’re saying, you already knew all this. WHAT ABOUT IT? Well, shut up a minute and I’ll tell you! Ugh, I’m so sick of you. The point is, I don’t know why any normal person would want to be an elected official. There’s too much scrutiny, too much pressure, too many people eager to see you fail, and too many opportunities to do so.

The problem is that politics tends to attract a lot of self-serving narcissists, people with inflated views of their own competence and delusions about how much they’re allowed to get away with. You can hear it in the disgraced Illinois governor’s continued denials that he did anything wrong, even though everyone knows he did. “The rules don’t apply to me!” he seems to say. “I’m Rod Blabloigblablich!”

Likewise, Sam Adams thinks — and he seems to honestly believe this — that since he’s come clean about what happened four years ago with that intern, it doesn’t matter that he lied throughout the campaign, smeared the reputation of his accuser, and is now officially a Creepy Guy. (Being a Creepy Guy is not against the law, but it is something voters would like to know before they cast their ballots, not after.) He also hired a newspaper reporter onto his staff, to a position she wasn’t qualified for, possibly to stop her from investigating him. Yet now he says, “Let’s put all this behind us! I just wanna be mayor! You people need to quit obsessing over this huge mess that I made!”

Then there’s poor David Paterson. He is by all accounts unqualified to be a governor and only became one after New York’s elected leader, Eliot Spitzer, had to resign in the wake of a prostitution scandal, and Paterson happened to be next in line. He didn’t want to be governor. He might not even know that he IS governor.

And that’s what got me to thinking. So many of the people who enter politics as a career are ruthless, amoral schemers, to the point where just wanting to be elected should almost disqualify you from running. If you want the job, you shouldn’t be allowed to have it. What we need are people who have the right skills — intelligence, natural leadership, good business sense — but without the egotism and arrogance. What we need is a draft.

There might be some constitutional issues with this, but hear me out. First, we get rid of the Constitution. Well, just the parts about elections. The rest can stay. Then, instead of letting people decide on their own to run for office, we choose them. We find someone who’s done a terrific job of running a business or organization, someone who would be a trustworthy, competent leader, someone who — and this is the important thing — has never expressed any desire to be a politician, and we force that person into office. He wouldn’t have any choice.

How we would enforce that, I’m not sure. I’m thinking if we threaten to kill his family, that would do the trick. Again, there might be some constitutional issues that need to be ironed out. For example, would his family be allowed to stay with him while he served out his term, or would we have to keep them imprisoned somewhere to ensure his continued performance? But I’ll leave questions like that to the legal scholars. I think I’ve done my part.

SnideCast intro & outro: "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing," by Chris Isaak.