Over three days last week, there were several news stories on my state representative, Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery). Did the coverage deal with his final success in bringing hybrid cars into the commonwealth's auto fleet? Did it address his efforts to resolve the medical malpractice issue, or his constituent services, his work on the budget, or his giving up his law practice when he entered the General Assembly?
Instead, focus fell on his off-hours entertainment - a non-governmental Web site, now removed, that he composed for the amusement of his friends and himself. Even though I am a news junkie, I didn't know about the Web site until newspaper articles told of its existence. Did the Web site reveal a sense of humor that is sophomoric and sex-obsessed? Probably, but isn't the sense of humor of 99.3 percent of all men (including me) the same? Isn't he joking about things most men joke about with their friends?
Leach is a man who has been described by 23-year veteran Rep. Frank LaGrotta (D., Lawrence) as: "a real person who doesn't take himself or his title too seriously." He further said of Leach: "... of every person who walks in - or ever has walked into the Capitol, Daylin is the least prejudiced, most open-minded, most inclusive person I have ever met." Larry Ceisler, a political consultant with decades of experience in Pennsylvania politics, said: "If more legislators in Harrisburg were like Daylin, there would be more civility and bipartisanship."
The past of every American is an open book, thanks to Google, Lexis Nexis, litigation databases, our credit-card bills, and, as Law and Order fans know, the logs of our phone calls and ATM transactions. Our present is often captured by the security cameras of banks, convenience stores and toll booths, the camera cell phones of passing pedestrians, by E-Z Pass or by Global Positioning Systems such as On-Star. For most of us, our privacy is best protected by our anonymity.
The end of privacy is having a devastating effect on public service. Call it the "John-Roberts-ization" of American politics. Quite aside from the nominee's qualifications, President Bush clearly put forth Judge Roberts because he has never been quoted as saying, doing or even thinking anything that could be found to be offensive to anyone, ever.
Our increasing ability to observe and permanently record everyone all of the time will soon cause anyone wishing a career in public life to be forced, clearly before reaching puberty, to adopt the "Spouse-Wallace" test: "Would you say, do, or even think what you are about to say, do or think if your spouse (or future spouse) and/or Mike Wallace and a 60 Minutes camera crew were confronting you about it?"
In the 2000 presidential campaign, then-Vice President Al Gore hired a feminist writer, Naomi Wolf, at $15,000 a month to tell him how to appeal to people. Her advice, in summary, was: "Get out of the blue suit and act like a human being."
Daylin Leach does not have to hire someone to tell him how to act like a human being. He is one. He is not the robot that the media's system of relentless exposure would require as a public servant. And if, for the sake of a few column inches of "gotcha" journalism, the papers make him a victim of "Republicans ... targeting his 149th District as a winnable seat next year," then they will not only have harmed a good man and a good public servant, but also the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
I thought Lower Merion, PA attorney Robert M. Lipshutz made some excellent points regarding the saga of PA House representative Daylin Leach that has been raging in the Philadelphia Inquirer over the last few days (this is more PA political stuff, starting with "The Half-Full Glass" post a few days ago...I don't agree with Lipshutz's assessment of John Roberts, however - this appeared in today's Editorial section of the paper).