Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Skipping Through Scandals

Finding flawed candidates is too damned easy this election cycle from Boston City Council to Mayor to the U.S. Senate. Choosing the contender with the heaviest baggage is tough, but they share a characteristic. They seem to have gotten away with whatever it was.

"Scandals? We don't have no scandals. We don't need no stinkin' scandals," as an updated bandito might say.

In what might be ruinous in more moralistic times and places, consider the likes of:
  • The Mayor's top aide deleting thousands of emails, including those likely relating to subjects of federal corruption cases.
  • A mayoral candidate with a long history as Council president in foiling public access to public meetings and records.
  • A Senate candidate who refused to prosecute or even investigate corruption.
  • A Councilor running for re-election under federal corruption indictment.
None of these and numerous other examples in and beyond Boston has queered any candidacy. In those few references, Mayor Tom Menino calls honest mistake, Councilor Michael Flaherty claims he learned the law and his lesson, AG Martha Coakley simply assures us she did her full job, and Councilor Chuck Turner says his 53% of votes in the multi-candidate primary is a mandate showing people know his innocence.

You might suppose that such cases would be the end of the reach for public office...not here, not now.

It's true enough that Bostonians have always enjoyed the entertainment value of our rascals. Think 1904, when we re-elected James Michael Curley as an alderman when he was serving a prison term for fraud. That appears not to be the exception, rather setting the tone. While our mayors and legislators look ethical enough in contrast to some in Illinois or Louisiana, many are not examplars of, say, the Boy Scout oath and law.

This all drives to rhetorical questions. For example, do voters care and should they care that elected officials favor expediency over duty?

My bet is that if you ask an individual voter, you'd get a resounding claim of morality and concern. Then asking about a specific candidate, you'd hear equivocation and excuses.

It has become increasingly plain that a little guilt is like a little gilt — just decoration.

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1 comment:

the zak said...

The stenographic machine record of the last public meeting of Boston City Council should be more readily available. The stenographic machine records more of the proceedings, transactions, Councilors debate than the all too brief, arcane Council minutes. Council stenographic services is a big part of the Council budget yet not made readily available.