Why are so many Tennessee politicians arrogant fools? Posted by: Billy Hollis
on Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Politicians everywhere tend towards questionable and sometimes detestable behavior. The power and privilege that come with the office is inherently corrupting (as the old "power corrupts" saying highlights), and it takes a strong person to resist the temptation to let power go to their head.
But here in Tennessee, I think we have more than our share of politicians who do let it go to their head. We've been seeing antics by these guys, predominantly Democrats, for a long time. We sent a governor (Ray Blanton, D) to prison back in the early eighties for selling pardons to prisoners, and his behavior during the investigation rose to Nixonian heights. A recent bribery sting by the FBI caught five legislators, four of them Democrats, and the one who took the most money (John Ford, D) was recently sentenced to prison.
John Ford has a list of incidents so long you might have a hard time believing that he could get elected dogcatcher. He was previously famous, for example, for brandishing a gun at a highway patrolman. Then we have miscellanea such as the trevails of John Ford's sister, Ophelia (D).
This month's example is Rob Briley (yep, D again), a state legislator who left the scene of an accident when he rear-ended someone, led police on a high-speed chase, was arrested for DUI when they caught him, and then arrested again for kicking out the window of a patrol car (the charge was vandalism to the tune of $1500).
Rob Briley is grandson of a former mayor and brother to a mayoral candidate I mentioned when I discussed "political gentry" a few months back. I suppose it's natural that the "power corrupts" problem gets worse for those in political families because it has longer to work.
His associates say he has emotional problems. Well, yeah, I'll buy that. But unless he was at the point where he should have been committed, then that's no excuse.
And I still don't get the pattern I see here. He's merely the latest example of Tennessee politicians whose behavior is reprehensible. I don't understand it any more than I understand the Larry Craig case. Why risk such power and privilege through such ill-considered behavior? Are these Tennessee legislators really that blind to the consequences of their actions? Are they that contemptuous of the rest of us peons, including law enforcement?
And why do Tennessee voters keep electing such people? It's depressing to think about what this all implies about my fellow Tennesseans.
With few exceptions, politics attracts those most hungry for power and least capable of wielding it responsibly. In other fields of endeavor power has to be earned by performance. In politics it’s gained mostly by lying.