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Politicians de-value the value of family

by Jim Longworth

Public figures often say one thing and mean another. For example when NC House Speaker Thom Tillis said he supported reparations for victims of forced sterilization, it gave those victims hope. What he didn’t say, however, was that the bill had no chance of passing, given the economy and the changing political climate in Raleigh. It’s bad enough when politicians mislead us about public policy issues, but what really galls me is when they invoke family loyalty as a smoke screen for something else. Time and again we hear elected officials say,

“I’m resigning so I can spend more time with my family,” when the real reason for stepping down has nothing to do with family.

According to UK website the Virtual Linguist, “Spending time with the family is the favorite euphemism of politicians who fear they are about to be sacked, or lose their seat in the next election.” More on that in a moment. There is also a third reason: wanting to leave one post so as to make themselves available for another. And that brings me to Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx.

Last month, Foxx decided not to run for re-election, and made this statement to the Charlotte Observer: “My children have grown up with me running out of the house after dinner, and being late to soccer games and all sorts of stuff. I’ve enjoyed every bit of what I’m doing, but there are other parts of my life”. Meanwhile, Councilwoman Lynn Wheeler, a good friend of the mayor’s, told the Observer, “[Foxx] said that his kids are very young, and he feels that he is missing some of the key times in their lives. He seems to be in quite a bit of anguish.” Foxx also related a story about his young children to the Observer. It seems that the mayor was typing something for city hall with his son Zachary in his lap. The boy began making distracting typing gestures on his dad’s hands, prompting Foxx to say, “Don’t you want me to be a good mayor?” Zachary replied, “No, I’d rather have you home.”

Pretty touching story except for one thing: It was a bunch of disingenuous crap. Foxx made his withdrawal announcement on April 5, and by April 27 he had agreed to become President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation. I guess 22 days was enough time to spend with his family. And what about that family? They will have to relocate from a city with 54 murders a year to one that has 108. And the head of that family will be moving from a job which is close to home to one which requires frequent coast-to-coast travel. Meanwhile, Zachary’s dad will have much more stress with his new job, and a lot more responsibility. So Foxx, who says he wants to spend more time with his family, will have even less time for them in his new assignment.

To be fair to Foxx, he is just one in a long line of politicians who has drawn his family like a sword when it was expedient, only to return them to their sheath when the dust settles. Last January, Melinda Hennenberger wrote a piece for the Washington Post in which she recounted some of the public figures who have used the “I want to spend time with my family” ruse.

One was Sen. Ben Nelson, who repeatedly said he would not retire. Then, when poll numbers showed he would be defeated, he announced he was retiring in order to do you know what. Another was Rep. Elton Gallegly, who planned to run until he learned that his district was being redrawn, then decided not to seek re-election because he needed to spend time with his family. There are many other examples including Rep. Bart Stupak, Ambassador Cynthia Stoum and even John Edwards. But unlike Foxx, who is merely guilty of double-talk and bad PR, these other folks (categorized earlier, courtesy of the Virtual Linguist) are the egotistical types who will say anything to avoid looking vulnerable, and don’t mind using their families to hide their cowardice.

I realize that duplicitous behavior is not confined to the world of politics. Just ask University of Florida football fans and recruits whose coach, Urban Meyer, resigned so he could spend more time with his family. Soon afterward, he signed on to coach Ohio State University’s team for $4 million a year. Well, money does bring families together.

Still, we seem to hear the “family” excuse more often with politicians than from any other group, and that just cheapens the very thing that these same politicians preach about:

the sanctity of the family. The hypocrisy makes me so angry that I’d like to write a lot more, but I can’t. I need to spend more time with my family.

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).

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