I was a rising star with a big tent and a clear mandate. While others bogged down in cross-party sniping, I triangulated, working both ends to provide much-needed relief to our vanishing middle class. With a clear road map to real change, I put the pocketbook concerns of the voters first while saying no to the naysayers. The result was a bi-directional win.
Perhaps it was hubris to touch the third rail of American politics. I freely admit my Achilles' heel was that I ignored the elephant in the room. But I could not let a rogue actor continue to thumb his nose at the international community, while handing money hand over fist to the same old tunnel vision and short-term thinking. This is not about politics; it goes to who I am. To understand my decision, you'd have to go back to my recently discovered Jewish ancestor Madam Valdez, who arrived on the Mayflower. Those are the kind of deep roots and local values I brought to the Capitol. At a hastily called prayer breakfast, I consulted my deeply held beliefs, and mistakes were made.
Do these youthful errors in judgment rise to the level of indiscretions? Many say they do. However, I do have my defenders. It's felt that my frankly well intentioned efforts were made with the best interests of the American people at heart. In any event, the political buzz was that I'd shot myself in the foot, and while I strongly disagree, I accept the findings.
Some claimed my admission was too little too late. I tried to lead the horse to water, but it was impossible to herd all the cats we needed to get community buy-in for my first one hundred minutes. The old guard turned this non-issue into the camel's nose under the tent, and as the slippery slope reached critical mass, I was faced with a Hobson's choice. Let us make perfectly clear up front that there were no easy answers; on that we can all agree. But I refused to take any option off the table.
Before long, it was clear that my hard work to move beyond business as usual was a non-starter. My opponents in the "loyal" opposition grumbled that I'd not only shot myself in the foot but shot my hunting partner in the face. The high-tech lynching they had in mind for me was clearly rejected by the American people, but unfortunately, these guardians of the status quo kept reading their old tired drumbeat off the same page. I concede that many honest Americans may have built consensus with some of the well meaning but misguided proposals of those in the pockets of big-money lobbyists. Unfortunately, a few bad apples decided to launch a spin campaign claiming that the fish was rotting from the foundation up. A charm offensive ensued. I decided it was time for a course correction.
But at the end of the day, my new slate of initiatives was in meltdown mode. The dog that previously didn't bark now wouldn't hunt. My gaffe morphed into a climbdown as I stumbled across the fourth, fifth and sixth rails of American politics. Instead of walking back the cat, I had jumped the shark. Where once I had been a dark horse, I was now a wingnut. The last straw that broke the camel's back left my platform for clean politics in a lockbox. My Sister Souljah moment came during a perfect storm that was unprecedented in its magnitude, just as my political star was beginning to ebb. It was Me-gate.
Should I have gone out all guns blazing? Some would answer in the affirmative. But the odds were always going to be very long for a battle of David and Goliath. And with so many Goliaths in the field, the fact remains that in the final analysis, I concluded that due to circumstances beyond our control we simply could not subject the American people to a bruising showdown.
Since leaving office under a cloud, I've been busy resurrecting my tarnished image from the ashes, by helping our very poorest. No one can fail to be impressed, indeed astonished, by my stunningly fresh memoir (well worth reading just to follow the wide swath of my humane and encyclopedic wisdom), a book that can only be described as a life's work.
I'm down but not out. The voters didn't send me here just to continue the politics of soundbites and pandering. I'm ready to keep fighting the entrenched tide of mud-slinging and restore hope to the people of this nation. Will Me-gate bring me down, or do I have the right stuff to be the next Comeback Kid? All I can say is: I ain't no ways tired.
Tim Cavanaugh is web editor of The Times' editorial page.
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