Smart unethical politicians can do a lot of harm; it may be years or decades until the public catches on to them, if ever. But unethical politicians who are not so bright do everyone a favor. They don’t know how to cover their misconduct; they often don’t even realize it is misconduct. With luck, they flag both their lack of ethics and their shortage of gray matter while they are running for office.
Take Bessemer, Alabama Councilwoman Dorothy Davidson, who is running for mayor of the city. She said she had the endorsement of University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban. Admittedly, anyone who would vote for a mayor because a football coach endorsed her is a couple sandwiches short of a picnic, but never mind: in Bessemer, Saban’s approval is considered a major plus. Davidson announced the endorsement on a color campaign flier showing the candidate and the coach smiling side by side on a golf course.
The photo was fake. It is spectacularly fake, in fact, a lousy Photoshop job that most seventh graders could do better. But Davidson swore it was genuine when the press confronted her with the accusation—until they showed her the original photograph, a 2007 photo of Saban and his wife onto which Davidson’s smiling image was clumsily added. Then Davidson acknowledged that the photo was not exactly genuine, “They said we could do it this way,” Davidson protested. Anyway, it didn’t matter, she argued, because Saban had really endorsed her.
No, he hadn’t. Finally her campaign manager admitted that the whole thing was a lie.
How in the world could the candidate and the equally unscrupulous and dim-witted people she hired to run her campaign believe such a deception would remain undetected? Frankly, I’m not sure I want to crawl around and explore a mind that messy in order to find out. Let’s just say she has an inadequate understanding of integrity, honesty, fairness, human nature, the media, photography…pretty much everything, really.
Bessemer voters now have everything they need to know to make an informed decision. Candidate Davidson is willing to lie to them, and will employ people who will also lie. Neither she nor her staff can even do a good job at lying, and she thinks the rest of the world is just as dunderheaded as she is. Perfect. Bessemer, cast your votes.
If we are going to have unethical politicians running for office, at least we should know who they are. Fortunately, the dumb ones tell us themselves, which poses a paradox: which public servant will do more damage, the smart and corrupt one, or the dumb official who can’t cover her tracks?
[Special thanks to Tim Levier for the link and the tip.]
3 thoughts on “Proposed Rule: Unethical Politicians Have To Be Dumb, Too”
Time once more for an idoneous quotation, this one from German general Kurt Hammerstein-Equord (1878-1943):
I divide my officers into four classes as follows: the clever, the industrious, the lazy, and the stupid. Each officer always possesses two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious I appoint to the General Staff. Use can under certain circumstances be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy qualifies for the highest leadership posts. He has the requisite nerves and the mental clarity for difficult decisions. But whoever is stupid and industrious must be got rid of, for he is too dangerous.
Can we craft a similar maxim for ethics?
What a great quote! And don’t get me started on public figures who are “stupid but industrious”!
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