Too often, voters make the serious mistake of assuming that political candidates and elected officials are smart.
Most of them aren’t. In fact, many of them are dumber than fence posts. I’ve covered politicians as a journalist and worked with them as a political operative for more than 40 years now and can count on one hand the number with IQs above that of a two-minute egg.
Take George Allen, the Virginia Senator and wannabe President. A few weeks ago, he noticed a young man with a video camera in the crowd at a campaign rally. He knows the guy is a campaign operative for his opponent yet he makes a fool of himself on videotape by referring to the young native Virginian of Indian descent as "Macaca," an ethnic slur against those of Indian heritage.
To most people, common sense would dictate that you don’t issue ethnic slurs while your opposition is videotaping you. Common sense, however, is not found in most political campaign plans.
Common sense says Allen would not come up to a political action committee representative at a Washington fundraiser and call Afro-Americans "niggers." But Allen did. I know. I was the PAC rep he said that to in 1991.
Common sense says you don’t base your political career on being a Southern "good-ole boy" in Virginia and then claim you never, ever, used that particular ethnic slur. Too many people would have heard you say it and those folks started coming out of the woodpile this week when Allen made that ridiculously stupid claim.
Those who defend Allen say it is not fair to nail the Senator for something he said in college or 20 years ago. Of course, these are the same people who wave an article that Allen’s opponent, former Navy Secretary Jim Webb, wrote in 1979 questioning the wisdom of women in combat. Webb didn’t help his cause with his incredibly lame response to a question about the article on a recent Meet the Press appearance.
Stupidity, I’ve found, is non-partisan.
To be fair, Allen doesn’t hold a patent on political idiocy. It’s public domain among candidates and elected officials.
Democrat Gary Hart’s ill-fated campaign for President came to a crashing halt when he challenged reporters to follow him around to see if he was cheating on his wife and those who did just that caught Washington party girl Donna Rice sneaking out of his Capitol Hill townhouse after a clandestine evening with the Senator.
Senator Paul Simon, another Democrat who wanted to be President, campaigned at a Chicago White Sox game when the team was contending for a rare appearance in the baseball playoffs. A reporter asked the Senator what he thought of the White Sox’s chances.
"Personally, I don’t care," Simon said. "I’m a Cubs fan."
The political battlefields of Washington and the nation are littered with the blood of those who spoke before they thought or turned stupidity into an art form. That bloody history includes a drunken Wilber Mills stumbling on stage to visit his stripper girlfriend, a horny Bill Clinton getting a blow job from Monica Lewinsky while chatting with world leaders and a lying Richard Nixon declaring "well, I am not a crook."
Former FBI administrator W. Mark Felt, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s shadowy source known only as "Deep Throat" for many years, may have put it best during one of his clandestine meetings with Woodward in an Arlington, Virginia, parking garage.
"Forget about the myths you and others in the media have created about the White House," Felt said. "The truth is these aren’t very bright people and things got out of hand."
Today, more than three decades later, we see constant reminders that these people still aren’t very bright and things still get out of hand.