I'm a Pundit Too

Friday, August 31, 2007

Unmaskig The Politicians

Another week during the highly expedited presidential election season and we have more and more candidates getting caught with their proverbial pants down. Every campaign season seems be about the same thing these days. How can the candidates portray themselves as something they are not. The election season doesn’t necessarily have to be for President of the United States, it could be for the mayor of Baltimore. Every candidate tries to make themselves relatable to the average citizen, or to a particular segment of the population, but the extent that some go to has become somewhat extreme, if not entertaining.

In Baltimore, where I currently reside, the mayor’s race is heating up. The current mayor, Sheila Dixon, has been in office since taking over after the former mayor Martin O’Malley became Governor. She, as well as most of the other major candidates for the office, has been members of the city council for at least the past 10 years. During that time we have seen the murder rate consistently hover around 300 per year. For a city such as New York or Chicago, those numbers would be welcome, but with a population of just over 600,000, it ranks the city as one of the deadliest in the country. The rhetoric coming from the mayor’s office and the other candidates is that it is mostly “thug on thug” crime, most of which have drug ties. Is this supposed to make us feel safer? I see that they have identified the problem, but why haven’t they done anything to remedy the problem? All of the candidates proclaim that they are tough on crime; but if after more than 10 years in positions of power within the city you have not accomplished anything on crime, why should anyone take you seriously on crime issues?

This past week, the news came out of Washington that the Republican Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig, was arrested 3 months ago in an airport bathroom in Minneapolis for lewd conduct. Craig was accused of peering into a stall at another man, a plainclothes police officer, and making signals to the effect of soliciting lewd behavior. The senator pleaded guilty to public misconduct in hopes of making it all go away. He maintains that he is innocent and that he is not gay. My problem is not whether or not Senator Craig is gay, that is between Craig and his family and God. I take issue with another politician putting on a front to get elected. If the senator is gay and had been honest about it, would he have been elected? We do not know for sure, but if he is gay, he obviously hid it for one reason or another.

Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has brought back memories of the 1996 presidential campaign season with the disclosure that Norman Hsu, a Clinton campaign donor and fundraiser, has an outstanding arrest warrant for fraud in California. Mr. Hsu has reportedly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various candidates over the years, sometimes from questionable sources. As you may recall, the 1996 Clinton/Gore campaign was embroiled in a fundraising scandal when it was revealed that some of the contributions came from questionable Chinese sources. Senator Clinton has tried to distinguish her campaign as above the fray when it comes to fundraising, but it is getting harder to believe when we see more and more stories of close associates of Clinton’s being investigated and convicted of questionable bookkeeping of campaign financial records.

Then there is John Edwards, former senator from North Carolina, who is also running for President. Mr. Edwards has been campaigning on the notion that there are 2 Americas; one for the rich and powerful, and one for the rest of us poor slobs. He embarked on a poverty tour earlier this year to highlight the plight of the poor and downtrodden. During his tour he collected speaking fees of $55,000 for speaking to college students about poverty. That news was tempered with reports that he was paying $400 for a haircut. The Edwards campaign said that the speaking fees and the exorbitant haircuts were an oversight. Now the news has come out that while speaking out against poverty, Edwards was heavily invested in a company that was foreclosing on Katrina victims. Mr. Edwards has said that he is divesting the interest he had in the company. Again, when your actions speak louder than your words, you have a problem.

As the election season heats up, especially with several states vying to be the first to hold their primaries, we can expect to see more and more candidates, from both sides, showing their true colors. I know it is too much to ask, but wouldn’t it be nice if politicians actually stood for something beyond their own personal and political gains?

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