Tony Rackauckas made a New Year's resolution to be a better district attorney. For a guy who was investigated in his first term by everyone but the surgeon general, that shouldn't be too tough. It's like a 3-year-old resolving to learn more words.
Still, in both cases outside help is needed. For Rackauckas, one can only imagine the initial session between him and his consultant:
"Tony, the impression out there's that you play favorites, that you've intervened in certain cases to protect friends or important people."
"Well, that's not good. You said when you ran you'd let your deputies make key decisions on cases."
"I said that?"
"Yes. Plus, the whole notion of law is that justice is blind."
Rackauckas burps out a laugh. "Sorry, that just came out. You sounded so serious when you said it.... Wait a minute, you are serious, aren't you?"
"All right, I'll try it. No more favorites. They can fight their own battles. What else?"
"The flip side of that is that it would help if you quit firing or punishing people in the office who are political opponents."
"Yes. It's an extremely bad look."
"Oh, come on. People will think I'm a wimp."
"Just the opposite. People will think you're big enough to embrace dissent. Remember, this isn't a private business. You're spending taxpayers' money in this office, not your own. The public is entitled to the best people available -- not just the people you get along with."
No Bustin' Heads
Rackauckas strokes his chin. "Interesting concept. Hadn't seen it quite that way. I thought the point of getting elected was to bust heads once you got into office, sort of like the patronage bosses of the 19th century. But you're suggesting something just the opposite -- to rise above pettiness and vindictiveness."
"Just a thought."
"I like that! How about some kind of blanket amnesty to everybody I've dumped on during my first term?"
"That's a start."
"OK, I like your ideas so far. I could set myself up as a new kind of district attorney -- a D.A. who doesn't reward his friends or punish his enemies."
"Uh, that's the norm, Tony. You don't see a whole lot of D.A.s in the state who are criticized by the local grand jury and the state attorney general."
"The attorney general's a Democrat, right? He must have some friends down here. Get my chief investigator on the phone."
"Tony, where are you going with this?"
Rackauckas cracks a wolfish smile. "Had you going, huh? Relax. I'm telling you, there's a new D.A. in town, and his name is Tony Rackauckas."
"OK, don't scare me like that."
Porn and Gangs
"How about a couple hard-hitting issues for my second term? Something to show people I'm not just pandering to them? Take their minds off this other stuff?"
"How about getting tough on kiddie porn?"
The consultant clears his throat. "Sure. That could be popular."
"And gangs too. I'll crack down on gangs."
"Tough on gangs and tough on kiddie porn. Is that what you're saying?"
"Let's do it. I'll get some bumper stickers going."
"And one other thing. Let's abolish the grand jury."
"Tony ... !"
"I'm kidding, you knucklehead, I'm kidding!"
Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Readers may reach Parsons by calling (714) 966-7821 or by writing to him at The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626, or by e-mail to email@example.com.