Friday, September 4, 2009

I Shot the Sheriff

I have a proposal, one that I know most people will not agree with, but I think it is important to at least consider. What if we changed our laws such that elected officials who are convicted of breaking the law received double the punishment that anyone else would receive? I have long believed that elected office, whether the position is president, sheriff, or county comptroller, puts these people in a special position of trust and confidence. They need to set a pristine example at all times. There needs to be appropriate oversight and measures in place to avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety. If they are convicted of breaking the trust of their office, breaking the promises to their constituents, then they should pay a steep price. It is said that power corrupts, and I think that we witness far too many examples of this each night on the evening news. I would even guess that doubling the penalties for crimes committed by our elected officials would do little to curb their frequency or their severity, or to curb the gall, the attitude, or the feelings of entitlement that these people exhibit. That lust for power and control and recognition is a powerful drug. A single whiff can turn people away from what they know in their hearts is proper and right and legal. However, the imposed penalties would at least send the appropriate message that the public trust is not something to be betrayed lightly.

In this same vein of thought, have you ever noticed that when public officials are arrested they tend to kick and scream and fight with a ferocity and intensity rarely seen in other segments of the population? They never stand up, publicly admit their transgressions, and accept their punishment. They curse and scream and fight and act like monsters. They threaten and squirm and come out looking like greasy little hoodlums. What really shakes the foundations of my understanding is that these same tyrants typically get away with their misdeeds, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, and continue on in their office. They rarely change course in their behavior, with the exception of working to ensure their criminal activities are more covert.