Press Talk: A politician's best friend is …

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 
photoLou Brancaccio, Columbian editor, spent his college years in a Swamp.

This too shall pass.

Oh, I suspect most of us have heard this phrase. And there is much good about it.

For example, if you've had a bad day or bad week, it's important to remember the odds are the next day or the next week will be better. Whatever it is that has you down, well, it will pass.

Unfortunately, it is my humble opinion that most politicians have embraced this mantra to rationalize the stupid stuff they often do.

History of the saying

This too shall pass is attributed to Persian poets who tell the story of a powerful king who asks a bunch of wise men to create something to make him happy when he is sad. Or visa versa.

So they crafted a ring with those words etched on it.

Jewish folklore also has used it.

Back to the political use

Today, our political leaders couldn't appreciate the saying more.

They have figured out the secret formula:

Do stupid stuff. Make yourself unavailable or allow a brief storm of protest, knowing "brief" is the operative word. Let the serfs feel like we're listening. Then as politicians, we can quickly get back to normal so we can do more stupid stuff.

See? This too shall pass. There's a little brief pain, but everything is back to normal pretty darn quickly.

Politicians know there rarely are any lasting consequences.

When the Vancouver City Council gave the city manager a $30,000 a year raise (that's a 17 percent increase, for those doing the math) we did a big story on it. I also wrote a column questioning the logic of it.

We even did an unscientific poll on our website, and more than 75 percent of the respondents said the city manager was not worth that kind of raise. More than 1,400 votes were recorded.

So how much outrage was out there? Did residents storm the city council to voice displeasure?

Well, first residents had to deal with a strange set of circumstances if they were interested in banging these guys upside the head. The week after they stuffed a pile of money in the city manager's pocket, they took the next week off for a summer break. The next week after that — well — they don't meet on months that have a fifth Monday. It's the rules!

The week after that, they held a meeting — but it wasn't one of the ones where comments are allowed on any topic.

So it was a full month before any possible outcry would be heard from citizens.

And I swear on all of their reputations this was just pure coincidence!

So on the fourth week, apparently the citizens rested. Not a peep.

Well, I can pretty much guarantee you our friends on the City Council were muttering, "See, the secret formula works, especially when we're not around. The gaudy raise is in place and everything is back to normal."

For me, that's where the media comes in. Personally, because I know they want life to go back to normal, I like to occasionally remind readers it isn't normal.

Sure, Mayor Tim Leavitt will lament "Is this still a story?" Or, "Isn't it time we put that behind us?"

But in my humble opinion, it's not that simple. Politicians have to live with the consequences of their bad actions.

The Benton factor

I actually get this "leave it alone" complaint mostly when I write about the egregious hiring of state Sen. Don Benton as the county's environmental services director. The M&M boys — Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke — put their buddy in the county position despite his lack of qualifications. The county had to pay out $250,000 to settle a lawsuit because of it.

And when you look at the faces of the M&M boys as they continue their commission work, it's as though nothing wrong had happened. It's as though they didn't cost taxpayers $250,000. It's as though they didn't hire their unqualified buddy Benton into a job he never deserved.

In the end — as you can see from this column — both liberals and conservatives do stupid stuff. And if we enable them by not reminding them that we know what they're doing, then we only have ourselves to blame.

This too shall pass? No way!