Friday, March 6, 2009
What They Should Have Done
(Above: Didius Julianus)
Welcome to Snapp's School For Stupid Politicians, where we advise our elected officials how to remove the feet they keep stuffing in their mouths.
Let's start with Bobby Jindal, who is still in hiding two weeks after his wince-inducing response to Obama's non-State of the Union speech.
But laying low is the worst thing he could do. Instead, he should be on David Letterman, letting Dave make fun of him.
That's what another young southern governor did in 1988, after giving what is generally considered the most boring convention keynote speech ever.
The only applause occurred near the end, when he said, "In conclusion…" And the weary crowd erupted in cheers.
His future seemed over before it began. But a few days later he popped up the Johnny Carson show, inviting Johnny to take his best shots and even making a few self-deprecating jokes of his own.
He completely changed his image from the guy who gave a lousy speech to the guy who knows how to laugh at himself.
Four years later that young governor, Bill Clinton, was elected President of the United States.
"Those 20 minutes on 'The Tonight Show' did more for my career than speaking for two days at the Democratic National Convention," he said later.
Next, we turn to Roland Burris, who appears to have lied under oath when he told an Illinois state senate investigating committee he hadn't raised any money for Rod Blogojovich as a quid pro quo for appointing him to Barack Obama's old Senate seat.
I don't know whether he'll get indicted for perjury and tossed out immediately, or if he'll manage to hang on until he gets crushed in the primary election next year. But either way, he's a political dead man walking.
If he'd only asked me, I could have told him what to do. As soon as Blago announced the appointment, he should have held a press conference to declare that he was refusing to accept the seat from Governor F-bomb but would be happy to accept it from the voters, and that he was calling for a special election and declaring his candidacy.
He would have come across as Mr. Clean and been a prohibitive favorite in the election. Instead, he's going to wind up as an obscure footnote in the history books.
But maybe that's all he wants. Richard Nixon said, "Some men want to be president, and some men want to do president." Burris doesn't appear to want to do anything; he just likes the sound of "Senator Burris." What else would you expect from a man who has already built his own mausoleum?
Burris reminds me of the Roman Emperor Didius Julianus, who got the job by being the highest bidder after the Praetorian Guard murdered the previous emperor and put the office up for auction. Here's how Edward Gibbon described his first night on the job in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire":
"Yet it was observed that after the crowd of flatterers dispersed and left him to darkness, solitude and terrible reflection, he passed a sleepless night; revolving most probably in his mind his own rash folly, the fate of his virtuous predecessor, and the doubtful and dangerous tenure of an empire which had not been acquired by merit, but by the purchase of money."