No. 1: Joe Paterno
Why didn’t he quit, or why wasn’t he shown the door, several years ago? As it is, he remained the face of Penn State during the worst big-time-college-football, sex-abuse scandal in history, as far as I can tell.
If he had quit several years ago, the backlash from the scandal (including his failure to alert authorities to an assistant coach sexually assaulting a young boy in the showers) would not have caught him full blast. He might well have slipped to second-rung culprit and undoubtedly would have been remembered in more glowing terms by the general public.
So, why did he stay on? You know why — EGO! Now he’s dead and gone and not many people outside of State College, PA, care.
No. 2: Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte.
In his 2012-2013 budget proposal last week, Schulte recommended reducing the Fire Department by 105 positions. The justification? Fire calls have dropped dramatically in the past decade. How would the estimated $7.6 million in savings be used? To give other city employees raises.
Only Schulte, who doesn’t have to stand for election, would dare propose something that dramatic. And, trust me, even he doesn’t believe it will happen. He might be hoping that the council — most of whose members won with backing from the fire fighters’ union — will approve a cut of somewhere between 10 and 20 firefighters. That’s about the best he can hope for, at least until there’s a real budget crisis, which probably is coming within five years. At that point, we’ll probably see a “hatchet council,” which will have no choice but to fire a lot of employees or see the city go broke.
No. 3: David Brooks
One of my favorite op-ed columnists veered off track last week, when he wrote about Mitt Romney having made a fortune because he was “a worker and a grinder.” Brooks proceeded to trace the family background of Romney, a Mormon.
A central figure in the family history is Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Romney. Brooks recounts the journeys and travails of Miles Romney and “his three wives and their many children” like he’s talking about an everyday, conventional, American family. Mitt might come be a hard worker who comes from sturdy stock, but when someone starts talking casually about a candidate’s great-grandfather’s “three wives and many children,” my attention naturally shifts from the up-from-the-bootstraps story to, “Did you say three wives?”
No. 4: Newt Gingrich
It’s unnerving that a fat guy with a phony, adultery-abetting wife can catapult to victory in a state — even a mostly irrelevant, backasswards state like South Carolina — by attacking the “elite news media”; the “elites in New York and Washington”; and “the most effective food-stamp president in history.”
It’s promoting class warfare, with the goal of rallying hourly wage-earners and unemployed people to take up arms against the so-called “elites?” But who would really benefit under Newt’s scenario? The true “elites,” the one percenters.
No. 5: Thomas L. Friedman
I want to end on a hopeful note…
Perhaps the most incisive op-ed person in the opinion business, wrote in Sunday’s New York Times about what kind of candidate he would like to vote for.
It would be a candidate who:
“…advocates an immediate investment in infrastructure that will create jobs and upgrade American for the 21st century…and combines that with a long-term plan to fix our fiscal imbalances at the real scale of the problem, a plan that could be phased in as the economy recovers.”
A candidate who…
“…is committed to reforming taxes, and cutting spending, in a fair way. The rich must pay more, but everyone has to pay something. We are all in this together.”
A candidate who…
“…has an inspirational vision, not just a plan to balance the budget.”
And, finally, a candidate who…
“…supports a minimum floor of public financing of presidential, Senate and House campaigns. Money is politics is out of control today. Our Congress has become a forum for legalized bribery.”
Friedman concluded: “I hope it is Obama, because I agree with him on so many other issues. But if it’s Romney, he’d deserve to win. And, if by some miracle, both run that campaign, and the 2012 contest is about two such competing visions, then put every dollar you own in the U.S. stock market. It will go up a gazillion points.”
Happy days could be here again, if only Abe Lincoln was reincarnated.