A rabbi and a mayor walk into a bar …

Well, there you have it. It’s safe to say our elected officials and public figures are largely unworthy of our trust. The big story out of New Jersey neatly sums up the past few months of political scandal. It’s the same ol’ sad Jersey song, but there’s much to be said about corrupt holy men and crooked political figures who refuse to leave office. When authorities arrested 44 people in Jersey, including three mayors and five rabbis, a part of me wanted to weep.
Are there any good, decent men or women left in politics? Is anybody else tired of this “tell them what they want to hear” mentality? It’s a miracle people vote anymore. 
The politically aligned amongst us celebrate when the opposing team loses a figure to scandal. What they fail to understand is that this is not a left wing versus right wing, liberal versus conservative competition. It’s American culture on the brink of self-destruction, and it’s more deeply rooted than which side of the fence you’re on.  
I often find myself contemplating the root of our cultural sickness. Religion has made every earnest effort to destroy all evil, but many Americans seem to maintain an infatuation with sin. And who can blame us when politicians and rabbis are brought down on corruption charges?
Perhaps American culture has reached its critical breaking point. If the behavior of our elected officials is any indication of our core values and beliefs, it’s safe to say we have a lot of healing to endure.
So, who are we to look to for inspiration and guidance? Personally, I don’t expect much out of celebrities. There was a time when hopeful parents believed in the potential of a celebrity role model. Very rarely is this the case anymore. Instead, we are left with politicians, who often run on morally superior and ethically clean platforms. They talk the good talk, convincing us they’ll rid the country of corruption and bribery.
Take Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith of Jersey City, N.J., as a fine example. Smith told the New York Times he was running on an anticorruption platform and doesn’t “take cash” from anybody. Turns out he does, if the $15,000 in bribes he was booked on is any indication.
If corruption and scandal were confined to New Jersey, we’d be just fine. Unfortunately, they’re everywhere: John Edwards, Mark Sanford, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Bill Clinton, Rod Blagojevich, Ted Stevens, Rick Renzi, Tom Delay — all part of a growing number of politicians who pursue affairs and/or attempt to work above the law. Here we have people who are to be held to a higher standard running morally amok.
How can a crook and a liar look his or her constituents in the eye and either deny their allegations in the face of mounting evidence, or outright refuse to step down gracefully? They’re really extending a giant middle finger to the public.
I have to ask, what else is going on? As long as a politician is in office, their business is our business. Yet, we only discover they lead dual lives when they make the wrong move.
We need our politicians and holy men now more than ever. Which leads me to my last, and perhaps most important question: Are local politicians acting in our best interest? There have been a number of land-use debates and contested contract discussions in North County lately. It would behoove us to remain attentive and vigilant.


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