Where have all the statesmen gone?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, May 04, 2007

After watching the drama unfold over ethics legislation, am I the only one to wonder where have all our statesmen gone? I don't mean politicians, because we have more of those than you can shake a stick at.

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If you look up statesman and politician in the dictionary, you'll find that the first definitions for both are synonymous. It is the second definitions that matter. For statesman, the second definition states, "One who exercises political leadership wisely and without narrow partisanship." Whereas a politician is a person primarily interested in political offices from selfish or other narrow, usually short-term, interests.

Isn't "ethical" synonymous with being "honorable"? Why did ethical conduct have to be legislated in the first place? All the politicians have done is muddy the waters between what is ethical and what is legal, these are two distinctly different terms and should be treated as such. Ethically, if you have a "dog in the fight," even a really small one, you should recuse yourself, period. No discussions, no voting on the issue, and definitely no hiding behind technicalities.

Save the technicalities for criminal proceedings. Remember most constituents are simple people who really don't care about the technicalities; all they know is if "it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck," it doesn't matter if it is technically a goose.

But back to the root question, where have all the statesmen gone, or why have they been replaced by politicians? I believe the answer is three-fold.

First, all of that oil money has made the state rich.

Second, the party caucus system mandates individual legislators vote the party line or risk losing their chairmanships.

Third, we seem to have a disproportional number of single-issue voters. Bozo the Clown could get elected (and re-elected) in Alaska, if he claimed to be pro-life and pro-gun.

But to be fair, politicians are not just elected officials. There are a whole lot of appointed officials who have proven to be just as short-sighted and narrow minded as the worst of the elected ones.

Michael Lavering

Juneau



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