Politicians are servants, not saints


December 7, 2016

I find it a little odd that a nation that flocks to stories about heroes who break the rules becomes shocked and outraged when inconsequential misdeeds by candidates for public office and high-ranking officials are made public.

I’m going to relate this to a public debate raging about former Gen. David Petraeus and Hillary Clinton.

Petraeus is a candidate for secretary of state and Clinton, of course, has already served in that capacity.

We admire people who do great things, especially if they break rules that get in their way and defy authority to do so, at least on TV or in the movies.

Joe Don Baker in “Walking Tall.” Hugh Laurie as “House.” Kyra Sedgwick in “The Closer.”

In real life, though, you don’t rise to great heights in politics, business and, especially not in Hollywood, unless you find your way over, under, around or through the official tangle that gets in your way.

Sometimes ignoring official dictates is the only way to accomplish your most honorable goals.

I did that in a minor way about 20 years ago when the people in our department were guinea pigs for a work-logging system. Each item we logged required at least five minutes of processing because Apple- and Windows-based computers didn’t play well together.

If I performed, say, 10 loggable acts in a day, I would then spend over an hour a day logging them.

I stopped logging altogether to avoid this ironic waste of time — ironic because the goal was to help us use time more efficiently. Oops.

About a month after I stopped logging, our powers that be terminated the program anyway, after they found people were spending up to 20 percent of their time every day in logging.

Well, I didn’t accomplish great things with the time I saved by not logging, but I sure got more things done. And I got away with it. No harm no foul.

Now come Petraeus and Clinton.

President-elect Trump is likely to hire Petraeus to be his secretary of state, or maybe Mitt Romney, which is a different can of worms. Both have ascended to the Valhalla of the Trump Tower in The Donald’s famous golden elevators.

Remember all that turmoil about Trump putting Hillary under arrest for compromising security? You may also remember that Petraeus paid a steep personal price, no jail time, for a similarly serious alleged security breach.

There’s a lot of talk about sauce for the goose and gander. Advocates for each say the other should be in jail.

I think it’s time to stop. We aren’t nominating these people for sainthood. They were both chosen as dedicated, extremely capable public servants who get things done. Sometimes the only way you can is to break the rules.

My question for the public is this: If we admire this in, say, Steven Seagal, why can’t we at least accept it from people who do amazing and heroic real things every day?

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at [email protected]


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