I would think that the career of politician would attract, not only idealists, but people with low ethics who want to make an easy salary. To get elected, you would just study your constituents, and their beliefs, and then you reflect those beliefs back at them.
A good example would be California State Senator Leland Yee, who strongly supported gun control – the only problem was, he was secretly buying automatic firearms and shoulder-launched missiles from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an Islamist extremist group located in the southern Philippines and attempting to re-sell those weapons to an undercover FBI agent!
I would also think that the job would attract ideologues who do believe in something other than making money, but they might also tell voters what they want to hear, rather than reveal the extent of their radicalism.
For instance, if I were unethical, and I wanted to run for office in liberal San Francisco, I would talk about the “income gap between rich and poor”, and how police profiling must be stopped, and how we should have free preschool, more maternity leave, and gay marriage.
If I wanted to run for office in conservative Colorado Springs, I might argue for a strong military, family values, smaller government, less regulations, helping the entrepreneur, reducing the national debt, etc.
It is so easy.
Once in office, there could be several ways to make money on the side. For instance, I could make it clear to certain companies that if they want government contracts, I expect some reward. Or if they want to avoid a punitive regulation favored by some of my constituents, that I’m open to a bribe. I might also promise favors in return for political support – for instance passing a law that a union favors so that the union will get out the vote in the next election.
My approach might be too crude though: recently, the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, was arrested, but not for directly taking bribes. Instead, if a person asked him for a donation from the state, perhaps for a worthy cause such as cancer research, Sheldon would ask in return a favor – that the person who wanted to be helped use a law firm that Silver referred him to. The law firm would give money illegally to Silver for the referrals, but the person who used the law firm’s services had not been asked directly for a bribe. This was clever – if Silver directly asked people for bribes, it might result in those people reporting him.
To check my theory on corruptible politicians, I read parts of Michelle Malkin’s book Culture of Corruption. She goes after the Obama administration, and I’ll just concentrate on the findings that show that what politicians promise is at odds with both their personality and their actions.
For instance Obama said “it is important to know that the promises we made about increased transparency we’ve executed here in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” But transparency is not a strong point of Obama’s government. For instance Malkin finds that:
- The No. 2 official at the Dept of Housing, Ron Sims, was the most fined official in his state’s history for suppressing public records from taxpayers
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for years fought disclosure of massive donations from foreign governments…[to her husband’s library]
- Obama advisor David Axelrod ran fear-mongering campaigns in Illinois in support of a huge utility rate hike but failed to disclose that his ads were funded by the utility.
- Labor Secretary Hilda Solis failed to disclose that she was treasurer and director of a lobbying group pushing legislation that she was co-sponsoring as a congresswoman.
We could add to this that Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber said that Obamacare had to be made as hard-to-understand as possible, so that it could be passed. Michelle Malkin herself has more examples, but you get the idea.
Obama also said: “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.”
However, Obama ended up with an administration that had about 40 former lobbyists – including Eric Holder, Tom Daschle, Leon Panneta, and Patrick Gaspard.
Malkin adds that spouses and relatives of many of Obama’s top officials have been involved in getting favors they should not get.
Conversely, a federal inspector general named Gerald Walpin was digging up uncomplimentary evidence on the “Americorps” national service program and also on the Democratic mayor of Sacramento, a popular former NBA basketball star and Barack Obama booster. Pressure was brought on Walpin to cease and desist, but he did not buckle to political pressure. At this point the White House announced it had “lost confidence” in Walpin and fired him.
But Obama did have confidence in Alexi Giannoulias and supported him as Democratic nominee for the US Senate. Alexi had played pickup basketball games with Obama, Michelle Obama’s brother and other folks who ended up in the administration. Unfortunately, Giannoulias had also run a bank that loaned tens of millions of dollars to Mafia felons.
So we have to wonder about our president’s character here. It’s true Obama wasn’t loaning money to Mafiosi, but he was supporting the nomination of someone who had. I remember when Obama was first elected president – a woman in my company broke down crying – it was so moving to her to have a black, progressive idealist president. People fainted at Obama rallies.
Politicians sometimes claim military experience they did not have – for instance, “We have learned something very important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” declared Richard Blumenthal who was running for office in Connecticut. The problem was that though he had been in the Marine reserves, he was never sent to Vietnam.
More humorous is Hillary Clinton, who said that she landed in Bosnia under sniper fire, and had to run with her head down to get into a vehicle. She told this story several times, but she left a few details out, such as:
Along with her on the dangerous mission, was her then-teenage daughter Chelsea, and singer Sheryl Crow. Somehow she also forgot the eight year old Bosnian girl who peacefully read her a poem on the tarmac. But confronted with inconvenient facts, Hillary refused to recant, until a video surfaced, at which point she said she had “misspoke.”
Hillary has also insisted that she was named after the great mountain-climber Sir Edmund Hillary – the first man to climb Everest. But he climbed it in 1953, and she was born in 1947. Nonetheless, despite some unflattering facts like these, Hillary at one point was ahead in the polls relative to any possible Republican challenger.
Then there is the issue of politician fidelity to their spouses
We know of President John F Kennedy’s affairs, including with Judith Exner, who claimed to be a go between for him and the Mafia. (she may not be telling the truth in this, though it has been proven that she had an affair with him and we also know she later became mistress of mob boss Sam Giancana)
And recently, Frontpagemagazine.com ran a speech of Ronald Kessler, who has interviewed the people who really know what goes on in the lives of the politicians they guard – the secret service.
According to Kessler:
We know about Bill Clinton’s affairs, but even now, “Bill Clinton has a mistress who has been unofficially codenamed by agents “Energizer.”
President Lyndon Johnson, the Democrat who created the “Great Society” programs to combat poverty, was having sex with five of his eight secretaries. One time his wife, Ladybird, caught him having sex in the Oval Office with one of his secretaries. And Johnson blew up at the Secret Service and said, you should’ve warned me, and insisted that they install a buzzer system to warn him in the future, if he was having sex and Ladybird was in the area.
These presidents could be inspiring: JFK told us “we will bear any burden, pay any price, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.”
Johnson told us “Every night before I turn out the lights to sleep, I ask myself this question: Have I done everything that I can…. Have I done enough?”
Bill Clinton told us: “If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.”
Inspiring yes, but if you can’t stay loyal to your wife, can we believe your principles?
Kessler has more serious allegations than just the “rolling in the hay” on some of the politicians he mentions – I’ve embedded the vimeo video below (under sources)
One lesson I take from all this is: it is not enough to listen to speeches, even if they sound sincere and they resonate with us. We need to study character. We need to look for danger signs. If we are careful with who we would hire to take care of our kids, we should be careful on who we hire to take care of our country.
Culture of Corruption – by Michelle Malkin (Regnery Publishing, 2009)
fainting incidents at Obama rallies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhzkltz3ipI
secret service speech by Kessler: http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/frontpagemag-com/ronald-kessler-on-the-secrets-of-the-secret-service/ also video embedded here: