Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

The mind of the American politician – Part Two

American politicians love to see their names on books, and love doing book tours.

It’s free travel, free lodging, free eats and a chance to get their message of freedom – unlike their Communist opponents, who love Lenin and Stalin and the nanny state – to the masses. Books are where they can tell their rags to riches story of being up from nothing; or, more usually, their riches to more riches story about how they conquered evil socialist labor unions and fired tens of thousands of workers in pursuit of the purity of business and the Constitution and the flag and prosperity for all – except, of course, the suckers who went to work in the wrong businesses – like the ones where the politician was — and lost their jobs.

Every politician, especially the ones in Congress, has to have his book. The books’ titles go for fighting and battles, and how the overburdened middle class is the sole concern of the elected official, and protecting families and children is uppermost in his mind, and how his current husband or wife is the love of his or her life and the real reason he or she is trying so hard.

Keeping the government and its socialist bureaucrats off the backs of hardworking Americans and their adorable children is the linch-pin of the politico’s life, we learn from their books, and they’re out there every day in Congress and at the nonprofits whose boards they sit on, fighting for the ordinary American.

These books also tell us about how the politician is a regular guy or gal, just like you, me and the guy down the street (but not the mail carrier, because he’s a government employee and a union member, possibly). He has had to deal with the same struggles as everyone else, fighting the IRS, DMV and battling dreaded diseases. OK, maybe he didn’t personally battle a dreaded disease but someone in his family, a distant uncle or cousin, had some terrible affliction and that has motivated him to do something like write a bill or an amendment.

And the good thing about other family members suffering from dread diseases is that politicians can parley that suffering into clever turns of phrase, and everyone will think they’re so compassionate, and that’s why they’re on the hospital’s board of directors or on the board of directors of a pharmaceutical company or lobby. Because their Uncle Wilbur suffered from the crabs for years, and there was no cure. And that’s why they are committed to reforming “the bestest and mostest greatest health care system in the history of the universe so it works for everyone, and ISN’T SOME GOVIMINT BUREAUCRAT TELLING YOUR DOCTOR WHAT TO DO GODDAMMIT!”

If you are related to a politician or candidate, my advice is to never tell him or her anything about your health, because sure enough they’ll use it in a speech, and all the world will know that you have gout or hemorrhoids or pick your nose. Anything is fair game when a politician or candidate needs to prove that he’s “of the people.”

Politicians and candidates love tragedies among their constituents because they can demonstrate almost-human empathy – a skill most if not all politicians lack – but suffering in their own family can be ridden to victory. A death in the family of a politician almost always is a defining event in the politician’s life, even if he barely said two words to the person while alive. The main idea is to milk that puppy for all it’s worth, and claim that the dead relative taught the politician or candidate all about America or values or patriotism or whatever, especially if the relative ever served, even for a month or so, in the military.

Dead spouses or children are even more effective for a politician, and most can squeeze two or three re-elections out of a death in the immediate family, as well as an additional book with the word “courage” or “heal” in the title.

You might wonder how a busy representative or senator with a family and the need to be in the capital (U.S. or state) has time to write a book. Let me clue you in. All those books you see on Amazon.com or on the shelves of your local chain bookstore have the politician’s name on them, but actually the politician did not write the book.

Ghost writing has been around forever, and politicians have always had someone else write their books, mainly because they want to get their name out in the public eye, and publishers know that the books at least make back the advance and printing costs. Still, remainder tables are filled with books by politicians of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, telling us why the country is falling apart and the politician is the only thing standing between us and full-fledged disaster from financial issues, killer bees, the Internet, al-Qaida or not enough defense spending.

Probably the most famous ghosted book was “Profiles in Courage,” credited to John F. Kennedy but actually written by his aide and speech writer, Ted Sorensen. To the end of the latter’s life, he insisted he hadn’t written the book, but it was pretty much known that Sorensen did it. Likewise, in the 1950s, a book credited to Richard Nixon called “My Six Crises” made the rounds. The ghost is unknown.

I have on my personal shelves the books credited to Bill and Hillary Clinton. Both “My Life” and “Living History” are basically unreadable, and at the time it was noted that the ghosts made numerous factual and language errors. Bill Clinton’s book was a mess of the usual political stuff, plus lots of stuff about how his mother’s various husbands were not con artists but executives who found that the business they were in was corrupt, and tried to fix it when they found out.

Politicians really don’t care what’s between the covers, so long as the picture on the front shows them in full cry and the ghost writer keeps his or her mouth shut about the book.

Working for a living
Jobs are a big part of the American politician’s life, whether they are his or her job, the voters’ jobs or someone else’s job. (Unless those jobs are government jobs and represented by a union. To most politicians, those jobs aren’t really “jobs.” People in government jobs – except for police, firefighters, corrections officers and EMS, despite their powerful labor unions — are bigger parasites than prison inmates.)

I began to notice in 2008 – and more so recently — that politicians started to “scrub” their resumes of references to government employment, especially the lower-level government jobs that paid well, offered benefits and had union representation.

For example, Michele Bachmann had been a lawyer for the Internal Revenue Service, but gradually began to obscure her employer, the federal government, and began to emphasize that she had been a tax lawyer, which to most people is a job people associate with fighting against the IRS, not for it.

I noticed that even when it came to their parents, politicians were “scrubbing” family history and defining their parents’ employment not by the union-represented government jobs they held but jobs held before that were humbler and less-well-compensated, but in the private sector. Arizona’s governor claimed her father had “fought the Nazis” in World War II, when in fact he was a civilian supervisor at a weapons depot, and never served in the military or left the U.S.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry even went so far as to say that he didn’t consider military service to be working for the government, and tried to claim that the transport plane flying he did in the Vietnam era was more like working in the private sector. Politicians consider a military paycheck and benefits to somehow be “purer” and more decently earned than a government paycheck, with is hilarious when you consider that many politicians grew up in households where the main breadwinner might have been a government employee, and all their education and goodies came from that government paycheck.

But as most people learn, “that’s different.” Today, government employees are condemned and despised as lazy, useless, unpatriotic non-persons, and it’s considered OK for political candidates to curse them and hope that government workers and their families suffer job loss, home loss, hunger and humiliation as punishment for the terrible things they are doing to the nation.

It’s ironic that elected officials, who are government employees, too, see themselves as noble bearers and defenders of all American ideals and often make twice or three times what a mid-level government worker makes, and with much better benefits.

The general attitude that politicians have toward the children of government workers is that they should have picked better parents who would not have become dependent on the government for survival. In any case, the efforts of the lower classes to improve their lot economically through better-paid labor is to be condemned when it’s through a government job, unless that job is a political appointment.

Here in Florida, for example, Gov. Rick Scott campaigned on the “I hate government workers” platform and scored big, especially among – oddly enough – retired government workers who were extremely conservative. One of his biggest supporters was a Tea Party type in Charlotte County who was legendary for his invective aimed at government workers.

After Scott won the election, though, this person saw nothing wrong with taking a $75,000-a-year plus generous state benefits position in state government as a coordinator of some kind for Scott’s political operation. After all, it’s different when you’re appointed as opposed to hired.

Loving work and hating the worker is something politicians are good at, and when they want to prove that they are “a (wo)man of the people,” they’ll define themselves as just a simple worker who has moved up. The fact that they find such work beneath them is never explicitly stated, but you can believe that they find the workers beneath them.

Stay tuned for the next edition.

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July 19, 2012 - Posted by | Living in the modern age, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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