Politicians are just people

The sudden departure of Randy Horton from the board of directors of the Tri-City Healthcare District is but the latest in a series of bizarre twists and turns that have befallen the benighted district. That Horton would give in so easily this time to accusations of misconduct leads one to believe that he finally found that last straw that would fracture the Dromedary’s posterior.

Horton’s apparent misbehavior was similar to earlier actions where he felt it was his right and duty to divulge information from closed-door discussions in executive session board meetings—a strict procedural no-no. This time he supposedly went off the reservation as a board member and, acting independently, contacted a lender with whom the district had been negotiating over the financing of a medical office building Tri-City wanted to purchase.

He claims his contact was after the loan had already been denied. That may well be but, he still should not have done it.

I sympathize with Horton’s frustration with the board’s historical incompetence. That said, taking a go-it-alone approach has proven to be wildly ineffective and with three new members on the board, shows a lack of trust in his new colleagues that is unseemly and, I believe, unfounded. It strikes me as impossibly arrogant for him to suggest that only he possesses acumen necessary to ferret out the truth.

I know Horton and his defenders will say that the board acted at the will of CEO Larry Anderson and are under his Svengali-like spell. I admit to not being one of Anderson’s biggest fans and distrust the judgment of some of the longer serving members of the Tri-City board, however I do believe the three newest members are not under his spell and especially trust the savvy Ramona Finnila to be able to sense when staff is trying to pull a fast one.

Horton and his acolytes are the embodiment of a phenomenon that is too common in our political scene—wanting to believe the very best of their chosen candidate, voters too often imbue them with intellectual qualities and capacities for discernment they simply do not posses. Many imagine their favorite candidate is likely the smartest person in the room—any room. This is, more often than not, not the case.

In this country people can still rise to the highest elected office in the land without the benefit of being from the “right” family, or having great wealth, or even a great mind.

There are smart and capable people toiling in elective office at every level, be it city council, school board, state legislature, Congress. However, there are also many who rise to a level beyond their capabilities and through the magic of incumbency merely fill space and quite possibly present a real danger to the constituencies they were elected to serve.

I often tell people of my first, brief encounter with then-U.S. Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham. I had, of course, already been fully briefed on his exploits as a Navy “Top Gun” fighter pilot and his reputation as a pugnacious politician. What I was not prepared for was how completely oblivious he was to the people around him and how vacant he seemed. I was, to put it mildly, stunned.

My impression after that meeting was that I had been in the presence of one of the dumbest human beings I had ever met. A sitting U.S. Congressman. Of course as subsequent events were to show some years later, he just may have been—if not the dumbest, certainly the most clueless.

Time Magazine recently ran an article about the fact Vice President Joe Biden had to borrow money against his house to pay for a wedding for his daughter. While I am not a fan of his politics, I gained a new respect for him as a person because he’s one of the few politicians on the national stage that apparently hasn’t used his position in government to enrich himself. That says something about the character of the man in my book.

In our representative government it’s good to remember we aren’t necessarily voting for the smartest person in the room. That’s hard to quantify anyway. What we should be trying to discern is who displays the best judgment. That won’t be easy, either.

One thing I can tell you, though—voting for someone who thinks they’re the smartest person in the room and then nullifies their worth by acting independently isn’t picking the right one.


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