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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Bob Filner and the Bad Boys of American Politics



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The final Morning Jolt of the week features the shocking news that the NSA behaves as badly as we always feared; a review of Planes, the latest Pixar/Disney effort to separate parents from their money; and then this big lesson from our seemingly endless cavalcade of scandals:

Bob Filner’s Psychotic Behavior Needs to be a National Teachable Moment

Bob Filner and the rest of the bad boys of modern American politics are spectacular, vivid reminders of why the Founding Fathers distrusted the accumulation of too much political power, and sought to spread it around and install checks and balances.

Allahpundit at WarmerThanWarmAir.com points out what we’re learning as one accuser after another comes forward against Filner:

He wasn’t “coming on” to people, like a random person at a bar might do; he was using his status as mayor to pressure women, supposedly in great volume and sometimes with unwanted physical contact, who worked for him and with him into socializing with him. Given the freakish tenacity with which he’s clung to his office, it seems like the power stroke he got from all of this was at least as exciting as the prospect of sex. In which case, why wouldn’t he target a great-grandmother? Every woman he met was potentially at risk, I’d bet, but especially the ones who had official city business with his lordship, the mayor.

In short, Filner wants power, and his refusal to step down in the face of great embarrassment, abandonment of his allies, and public outcry and ridicule suggests a certain psychological addiction to power.

A lot of people want power. With power, you get all the other stuff you want. For Anthony Weiner, power brings young women who want to talk dirty to him on Twitter. For Eliot Spitzer, power brought him access to the Emperor VIP club and the really expensive prostitutes. For Jesse Jackson Jr., power brought a lot of money in campaign donations that he could spend on “$43,000 gold Rolex, cashmere capes, nearly $20,000 of Michael Jackson memorabilia” and a lifestyle significantly more luxurious than that of a standard-issue congressman.

My television viewing habits recently added Camelot, which early on features the villain King Lot, a classic brutal conqueror-ruler character. His motives are simple; He wants power, territory, sex, food, and the ability to enforce his will whenever he wishes, including the brutal murder of anyone who would defy him. That desire is not as rare as we might think in this world. Just look at Egypt; just look at Syria.

Thankfully, the United States does not suffer marauding warlords, raping and pillaging as they please. But we (and the rest of the Western world) do have our share of people who see political power as a path to achieving a certain status of fame, wealth, and so on, in which they can indulge themselves of anything they desire with no negative consequences. Look at Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the alleged ‘party king’ of Paris and Washington, holding orgies with prostitutes in luxury hotels. Look at Silvio Berlusconi. Look at John Edwards, convincing his wealthiest supporter to finance a secret effort to keep his pregnant mistress quiet and hidden from the media. Heck, look at John F. Kennedy and his use of 19-year-old interns while in the White House.

What’s more, these folks can pursue their own wealth and pleasures while convincing themselves and some segment of the public that they’ve dedicated their lives to public service.

If you’ve met some figures in public office who have earned your respect, and who show no signs of being a Nero or a Caligula, good. Not every politician is a selfish monster seeking to turn their public office into an entry key into a bacchanalia that would make the Eyes Wide Shut parties look tame. But a sufficient number of them are, and as a result of that, they shouldn’t be put up on pedestals, and they shouldn’t be greeted with messianic reverence.

They’re contractors, and both we and our elected officials would be better off if we all remembered that.


Tags: Bob Filner , Eliot Spitzer , Anthony Weiner , John Edwards , DSK , Silvio Berlusconi


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