Saunders: US and Washington great, even for political scoundrels

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJuly 2, 2014 

Is America a great country or what?

That, by the way, is said without the smirk, facetiousness or intended irony that usually accompanies that question. It truly is a great country, and I can hardly wait to celebrate its birthday Friday.

You know what makes it great and what makes Friday extra special?

Vance McAllister has a chance to once again represent the Fifth Congressional District in Louisiana.

Wait. Hear me out. McAllister, you see, is running for the office he gave up in May after being caught on camera in a darkened office kissing his best friend’s wife. She was one of his staffers, and her husband was one of McAllister’s largest contributors.

Did I mention he was also McAllister’s best friend?

Voters to have say

McAllister apologized and eventually resigned, saying he wanted to work on his marriage.

He apparently did that and now he’s back.

But dude, you ask, how is that an example of America’s greatness?

Because it will be the voters, not the government, not the church, that determines if he is fit to represent the district.

Given whom Louisiana voters have have chosen to represent them in the past, McAllister looks like a shoo-in.

Hey, whoever said you get the government you deserve wasn’t lying.

“Without a doubt this decision comes after much thought and prayer,” McAllister said in a statement.

God, his political consultant, obviously told him that the 5th District needs him.

Let’s hope He also told him to “Go forth, my son, and sin no more – or at least not when there are cameras around.”

In an ideal world with real problems, with whom a married congressman is doing the mess-around would be of no consequence to his ability to serve his constituents. Other politicians and he make it of consequence, though, by spouting nonsense about “family values” and how much holier they are than the other guy.

Moral standards – or not

Voters in Louisiana and South Carolina have already shown they have either very low moral standards or very high political sophistication. Or, possibly, they have proved Lincoln wrong and that you can fool all of the people all of the time.

• Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, whose campaign slogan should have been “les bon ton roulet” – let the good times roll – was a scoundrel and a rake, right up to the time the prison cell door closed behind him.

To Edwards’ credit, though, he never denied what he was, never claimed – as McAllister has – that he had a direct connection to that big political consultant in the sky. Any politician who says the only way he can lose is to be caught “in bed with a dead girl or a live boy” – next to “Give me liberty or give me death,” the greatest political proclamation ever made – deserves some respect.

• Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, a “family values” spouter, survived a prostitution scandal and a dead madam, after being revealed as an habitue of a Washington madam who later killed herself.

• South Carolina’s former family values governor, Mark Sanford, got caught in a sex scandal and refused to resign. After serving out his term, he then ran for Congress, appealing in TV ads to the “God of Second Chances.”

God – and South Carolina voters – granted him a second chance: He won election to Congress.

Does that mean McAllister, too, is fit for office?

Heck no, but not because of his oily disposition and oilier hair. The dude shouldn’t be returned to Washington because, before he won that special election in 2013, he had never been.

You read that right. When McAllister was seeking office the first time, he boasted that he had never “set foot in Washington D.C.”

What? Lacking curiosity about your nation’s history and about one of the most history-rich cities in the world is something to brag about and be rewarded for?

People who live in Washington, as I once did, can become jaded or indifferent to its majesty, but it’s their loss. I was there in 1976, the bicentennial year, when word got around our neighborhood that the Commodores were giving a free concert on the Mall. My buddies and I rode the bus downtown, eager to hear Lionel Richie et al sing “Slippery When Wet,” “Just to be Close to You” and other hits.

Upon alighting from the bus and arriving at the Mall, though, we discovered that yes, the Commodores were performing, but it wasn’t the funky Commodores. It was the U.S. Navy Band Commodores.

What the ...?

Having already spent money for the bus, we stayed, and although no one admitted it, we enjoyed the soaring patriotic music and the fireworks. What I enjoyed most, though, was seeing the sense of wonder on the faces of people from little bitty towns as they stared at the monuments and government buildings where laws were debated and made, where history was made, where America was made.

McAllister never felt that sense of wonder, never gained an appreciation for the place.

Oh well. Maybe he’ll gain it when Louisiana voters send him back.

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service