Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Aaron Schock. A Cautionary Tale.

Aaron Schock. Remember that name. He has become the poster-boy for everything that is wrong with politics. His story is a story of greed, corruption and hubris. It is also a story of ego and stupidity. It all started in 2008 when the people of the 18th district of Illinois decided to elect a 26 year old to Congress. Let that sink in for a minute. What possible reason could there be to justify sending a 26 year old to Washington? What could this kid possibly have done in such a short life to deserve such a position? What life experiences did he have that would convince a majority of voters that he had the requisite judgement and wisdom to represent them and their interests? But, I digress.

So, the kid was good looking and fit, so much so that he landed on the cover of Men's Health magazine. That's something, right? God knows that DC could use more people who aren't ugly and out of shape. So, he had that going for him. But then the guy started watching Downton Abbey, and was blown away by that awesome house. So, he goes out and drops $40,000 of tax money on an amazing office makeover that makes his digs look like Lord Grantham's library. From there it was all down hill. 

There was the fabulous $500 a night room at the London luxury hotel, the lavish travel to glitzy destinations, the pricey restaurants, the private jets, all on a mere Congressman's salary. Eyebrows were raised, even in a town as cynical as DC. Soon, the boys over at Politico started asking questions. The straw that broke the camel's back was the Tahoe. The good Congressman bought the SUV in 2010 from a big donor who owns a dealership in his district. Just last year, he traded it in on a brand new, $70,000 Tahoe, paid for with campaign money, but registered in his name. The old Tahoe had 89,000 miles on it. Unfortunately Schock had billed the tax payers for reimbursement of work related mileage totaling 170,000 miles. Once Politico started snooping around, it was just a matter of time, after all, he was a Republican. The Congressman resigned yesterday. 

This isn't just a story about yet another slimy politician lining his pockets at the public's expense. This is a story that perfectly illustrates what is wrong with politics. What has happened to this country when politics has become a career path instead of the last act of a life of accomplishment? The Founders envisioned that those we would elect to represent us would be those who had distinguished themselves by a life of industry and wisdom. There would arise an aristocracy not of birth but of talent. Nearly 250 years later we are confronted with a 26 year old man who thinks he has the skill, wisdom and chops to become a leader of men. Now listen, I love twenty year olds. My kids are in their twenties. I used to be twenty. But while it is equally true that age does not always bring wisdom with it, very few twenty-somethings have the life experiences required to handle the cess-pool of dysfunction that is national politics. When I consider how I thought about life and the world around me at 26 compared to what I know of the world now, it is laughable to think I could have made the kinds of wise, well reasoned decisions needed to govern a nation back then. Although I had just graduated from college and gotten married at 26, I was basically an idiot, in the sense that I knew so much less than I needed to know, and unfathomly less than I thought I knew. Congressman? Are you freaking kidding me??

Don't shed any tears for Mr. Schock. In no time, he'll land a sweet six figure job on K Street.