Bob Franken: Our heroes’ broken promises

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, September 20, 2014 6:08pm
  • Opinion

We haven’t had a really juicy sex scandal in Washington for a while. You know the kind: Camera crews chase someone powerful (and maybe his or her paramour) like paparazzi, and the elite express disdain for all the attention the riffraff pay to each respective sleazy disclosure, all the while they’re sneaking a peek at every tidbit. Let’s just admit it; they’re kind of fun … unless, of course, you’re the ones who have been exposed (pardon the expression).

This stuff is not just titillating, though. It also serves a useful purpose. I like to say that it all proves that our leaders are just like the rest of us — they take their pants off just like you and me. It’s important that we keep that in mind, particularly during an election cycle (when is it not an election cycle?) when a bunch of ambitious candidates have their PR machines running full speed churning out propaganda aimed at convincing us that their client really is a cut above mere mortals and has a unique superhuman ability to solve all the problems that afflict our country, the ones that have defied solution for many administrations. In fact, many of them have gotten worse.

Maybe that’s why we get enjoyment from watching some of these pumped-up avatars occasionally get cut down to size. It might explain our fascination over the fall of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, or the latest Sarah Palin escapades.

Remember, Palin was a governor herself for a while and then became a vice-presidential nominee. She’s back in the news, right where she usually loves to be, although perhaps not this time. Apparently, she and the fam were part of a drunken brawl back home in Alaska. Fistfights, profanity, the whole nine yards. But she’s hardly alone when it comes to oafish behavior. She’s not even the only one who was on the ticket to be a heartbeat away from the presidency who proved to be an embarrassing dud. “Tawdry” is a gentle word to describe the story of John Edwards, who fathered a child while having an affair with his campaign videographer, while his wife was dying of breast cancer. He was a serious candidate to be president, symbolizing a fresh approach to politics. Now he symbolizes little more than stale sleaze.

Of course, John F. Kennedy certainly had a high time while he occupied the highest level, and President Bill Clinton and his intern also had a good old time at the White House.

The important point is that when we go bonkers for one new face or another, we need to get a grip. When it comes to Barack Obama, for instance, there’s not a hint of anything risque, but a common word you hear today from those who had been ecstatic when he was elected is “disappointment.” The polls consistently show that his disapproval ratings are over 50 percent. A big criticism is that he didn’t deliver on his “change you can believe in” promise.

He’s been worn down by reality. And so have we. The lesson is that we need to be very skeptical about putting someone on a pedestal. The legends of heroes, with rare exceptions, are hyperbole at best but more often fiction, or even outright lies.

That’s not only true of our politicians. Our athletes may have superhuman physical skills, but as we are reminded almost daily, many of them can be subhuman. They believe they are not bound by the rules of decency or the law. It’s not hard to understand why.

They make a lot of people a lot of money, so they’re coddled until their conduct gets so egregious that even they have to face the consequences. Suddenly, they look around and all their good friends have bailed on them.

That’s their problem. But when it’s our politicians who fool us, it’s ours. We need to choose wisely. Our leaders are mere humans who will make mistakes. Our mistake is expecting anything more.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

Kate Troll (Courtesy Photo / Kate Troll)
Opinion: The real ‘at last!’ on climate change

In Alaska, the Inflation Reduction Act offers come game-changing features.

The official ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Division of Elections)
Voices of the Peninsula: Check out the ballot before you vote

This kind of ballot is not something you have seen before.

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Why I’m voting for Walker

Walker is the only candidate with the potential to govern effectively for all Alaskans.

Nick Begich III campaign materials sit on tables ahead of a May 16 GOP debate held in Juneau. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Nick Begich is who Alaska and America need now

It is in Alaska’s best interest to elect a member of the Republican party

Michael Heimbuch attends a memorial service for the late Drew Scalzi on Aug. 5, 2005, at the Seafarers Memorial on the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Point of View: King salmon: The clash of culture and science

People do some pretty awful things to king salmon stocks

State Sen. Josh Revak (Photo provided)
The time has come to end Big Tech’s rule

The hope is that the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992) will come to the Senate floor for a vote

Lieutenant governor candidate Edie Grunwald speaks at a Charlie Pierce campaign event at Paradisos restaurant in Kenai on Saturday, March 5, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Election Integrity: An Alaskan question with an Alaskan answer

A needless round of feel-good meetings and what-if conversations will be a thing of the past

This photo shows the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: I’m a longtime educator, and I’m supporting Walker/Drygas

The issues our state faces are significant with regard to education.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: Congress could keep health insurance costs from rising, but it has to act fast

The cost of health insurance will rise substantially next year for about 13 million Americans

The offical ballot for the Aug. 16, 2022, Special General Election features ranked choice voting. (State of Alaska Divison of Elections)
Opinion: Alaskans deserve an election system that represents our differences

The new system’s goal is to make this election cycle transparent, secure and easy for all Alaskans to vote

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell (Courtesy)
Opinion: UAA’s career certificates are helping to fill Alaska’s workforce pipeline

At UAA, we are announcing a new suite of certificate programs responding to some of the state’s most critical needs