by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist
It’s award season again, and there are a number of awards to hand out for the best and worst our political system had to offer in 2009.
Worst biblical role model for modern-day politicians: King David. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Colorado Sen. John Ensign have both compared their “plight” — getting caught breaking their marriage vows — with that of King David. “I remain committed to rebuilding the trust that has been committed to me over the next 18 months, and it is my hope that I am able to follow the example set by David in the Bible, who after his fall from grace humbly refocused on the work at hand,” said Gov. Sanford.
Sanford and Ensign are part of the ultra-conservative Fellowship Foundation, commonly known as The Family, which focuses its energy on helping those who have been chosen by God to be rich and powerful, like Ensign and Sanford. “King David,” explained Family leader David Coe, “liked to do really, really bad things. Here’s this guy who slept with another man’s wife — Bathsheba — and then basically murdered her husband. And this guy is one of our heroes.”
Why? Because David was chosen by God, just like Ensign and Sanford. And for the chosen, resignation is not an option.
Of course, it is easier to recognize the kingliness in oneself than in others. When President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was exposed, both Ensign and Sanford called for his resignation and then-Congressman Sanford voted for his impeachment. Said Sanford at the time: “The issue of lying is probably the biggest harm, if you will, to the system of democratic government, representative government, because it undermines trust,” he told CNN. “And if you undermine trust in our system, you undermine everything.”
See you on the Appalachian Trail, Governor.
Worse disappointment in a Missouri senator: former Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis. The inability to judge the difference between campaign antics and perjury puts Smith ahead of several other strong competitors in this category.
During his 2004 congressional campaign against Russ Carnahan, Smith’s campaign distributed negative fliers about Carnahan without providing any information about the source of the flier or who paid for it, an illegal act that is punishable by a scolding and slap on the wrist from the Federal Election Commission. This first sin is forgivable for anyone new to campaigns (so much bad behavior is legal that newcomers sometimes don’t know where the line between right and wrong really is, or rather the line between legal and illegal).
But when federal agents came knocking, Smith lied to them and participated in a cover-up of the affair with several others. And for that Smith was sentenced to a year in jail, ending his tenure in the Senate and a promising political career.
Best at getting Missouri mentioned on Comedy Central: State Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-Some Other Planet. Rep. Davis first made national news this year by opposing a school program that provided food for low-income children, saying, “Hunger can be a positive motivator. What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals?” Children eating meals at school can also lead to the breakup of the family unit, according to Rep. Davis.
Her lack of understanding about the dependence of scholastic achievement on students having their basic needs met (shelter, food, sleep, etc.) and her lack of compassion caused Stephen Colbert to paraphrase Matthew (25:35) on his national TV show: “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was hungry, and you said ‘Get a job.’ ”
Davis continues to bring national attention to Missouri as a member of the so-called Birther movement, joining with fellow Rep. Tim Jones in a federal suit that aims to remove President Barack Obama from office and jail him for impersonating an American. For those not familiar with “Birthers,” they are folks who believe Obama was not born in the United States and/or that he is part of a Muslim conspiracy to take over the country.
And with people continuing to die from the H1N1 virus, Davis recently expressed her frustration with the government — or rather with the government trying to do something about it. “It is not the job of the government or the schools to provide vaccines,” Davis said.
When reached for comment, the polio virus said, “I’m back, baby!”
Look for Davis to repeat her performance next year with her promise to run for “something” in 2010 (she has already started and stopped a run at the GOP nomination for state auditor). She has also increased her odds by introducing bills for the 2010 session to get rid of no-fault divorce, further restrict abortion and allow anyone who can legally possess a firearm to “openly carry it into any church or assembled place of worship.”
Best disguise of the year: Joe Lieberman as a Democrat. After losing the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont in 2006, Sen. Lieberman ran as an independent in the general election and won re-election to the Senate. Despite the fact that Lieberman’s win was attributable to support from 70 percent of Connecticut’s Republicans, Senate Democrats still believed he was their ally, appointing him head of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The fact that he voted with the Republicans and held Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush in such high regard should have been a clue that he was not really on board with the Democratic Party’s agenda. Campaigning for John McCain also might have been a sign.
Congratulations to all our winners. And for those who don’t aspire to achieve such recognition, remember the words of Mark Twain: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”