It's tough being a politician in the modern world. Just ask Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman. I wonder if today's politicos long for the time when civic leaders had enough clout to simply make their enemies disappear. I remember when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had such pull - with law enforcement and alleged mafia types - that his detractors were too frightened to speak out against him.
Here in our not-so-small town, it appears Fred Phillis and the members of his "End Corruption in Gilbert" political committee have not been sufficiently cowed to melt soundlessly into the night. Were it not for the fact that town funds are being allocated to foot the bill, it might be entertaining to eavesdrop on the legalese spewed between Berman and Phillis. But as it now stands, only attorneys navigating this ping-pong of litigation will gain anything from their frivolous catfight.
In the latest round, Phillis has charged the mayor's campaign committee, "Support Democracy-Support Mayor Berman," with violating campaign finance laws. He contends the official paperwork has been improperly filled out and contains a "fatal defect" under state law. This comes on the heels of a town investigation, spawned by Berman, which led to a $1,391 fine against Phillis' recall committee for the equally insignificant transgression of premature sign buying.
Not to be outdone, Phillis has demanded the Town Council be equitable in its squandering of public monies by insisting that Berman's campaign infractions be investigated as thoroughly as his own. Both men, no doubt, are making these charges with a mind to doing what's best for Gilbert, furthering democracy and in an honest attempt to end corruption. Uh huh.
As I see it, any real concern for the community has long since evaporated and public funds are being wasted in a petty clash of inflated egos.
Now, when I hear what's included in Scott McClellan's tell-all book about President Bush and the "environment of corruption in Washington D.C.," I have to wonder if this isn't another case of an aggrieved avenger attempting to soothe his damaged pride by landing a few blows of his own. Even though I agree with the crux of what the former White House press secretary is alleging, I detect a trace of foot-stomping in his tardy tirade.
After all, if I knew McClellan was dead wrong when he assured us that nobody in the Bush administration was involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, surely a career PR man couldn't be that surprised to learn that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had lied to him. Does he seriously think the public will believe it took him this long to realize his boss was paying him to dissemble? After all those rambling, fumbling attempts at offering unintelligible rationalizations - otherwise known as a White House press briefing?
Yes, it is quaint that a former Bush apologist would admit to what has been happening in Washington for the past seven and a half years, but then again, one never remains unsullied in the act of throwing dirt at the other guy. This mea culpa won't absolve McClellan of being a willing and well-compensated accomplice. And while I am happy to have disgruntled citizens no longer living in fear of political mob bosses, why must hurt feelings or trampled reputations be involved before those in "the know" have any compulsion to complain? It seems only those with an axe to grind are willing to stand up and expose corruption in government.
It would be nice if - just once - altruism were the actual impetus for timely objection to calamitous government policy. Sadly, and far too often, recall drives and lucrative exposés are more about retaliation than any honest effort to repair a damaged system. And when there is no accompanying road map offered for improving the status quo, I see little benefit to vanity-driven political mudslinging.
Sandi Glauser is a Gilbert resident.