“They’re All a Bunch of Crooks.”




I hate it when I hear people say that about politicians. A lot of them have nutty ideas, but they’re NOT all crooks … not by a long shot. The problem is the trend in political campaign strategy to win elections by “going negative” … to trash your opponent whether or not he or she really deserves it. Politics in this country has become a blood sport.
There are firms that specialize in digging up dirt on politicians. They go back years into a candidate’s life, rummaging through old newspaper clips, digging up decades-old financial information, perhaps uncovering embarrassing testimony from decades-old divorce proceedings … nothing is off-limits and it’s sickening, because almost none of it has anything to do with current issues and almost all of it can be blown up into phony scandals.
It’s all part of the dumbing down of the political process. Thoughtful discussion of the issues doesn’t work because it means the voters would actually have to think. Too many candidates take the easy route and simply say, “Vote for me because my opponent is a bad person.” And almost anyone can be made to look like a bad person.
When I was part of the Honolulu city administration, I had developed a personal friendship with the local head of a major airline serving Honolulu at that time. He and his wife were present at a small dinner party which happened to be the second date I had with my wife, Paula. Several months later, when our engagement became public, the airline executive called me and said he would like to give us a wedding present: two round-trip, first-class tickets anywhere his airline flew. At the time, that included Florida, where my parents were living, or even Europe. Wow!
Since the City of Honolulu had nothing to do with the airports in Hawaii, there would have been no conflict of interest if I accepted the tickets. But in the brutal world of politics, I had to stop and consider a number of factors. My boss at that time was Frank Fasi, the mayor of Honolulu, and he was gearing up to run for governor of Hawaii. If he were to win, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be a member of his staff in the governor’s office … and the State of Hawaii does have responsibility for the operation of airports on all the islands.
So I had to consider: What if, at a critical moment in Frank’s campaign for the governorship, it was “revealed” that I had accepted a gift of those airline tickets, probably valued at several thousand dollars even back then in the 1970s? Entire elections—not to mention personal reputations—can turn on fabricated “scandals” like that. And so I declined the offer of the free airline tickets.
The point is, all of us have something in our pasts that could be dredged up, blown way out of proportion, and used to unfairly damage us or people close to us. It’s good to bear that in mind when someone says, “They’re all a bunch of crooks.”