10.01.2008 0

Bob Briley, Overcome by Heat, Exits Kitchen

  • On: 10/09/2008 09:37:30
  • In: Government Transparency
  • When it comes to government transparency, it is clear that politicians should be held up to the highest possible standard. After all, they’re plying their trade (and whatever else they choose to ply) at taxpayer expense.

    Tennessee State House Representative Bob Briley (D-Nashville), however, doesn’t seem to see it that way. In his farewell speech from the legislature, he took the time to bash the media for daring to tell the public about his DUI conviction and his felony “evading arrest” charge when he led police on a 100-mph plus chase. As he was being handcuffed, he made suicidal threats. And the incident was recorded on a police video, which was released publicly through media outlets.

    Apparently, the scandal has caused Mr. Briley not to seek re-election. And for this, he blames not himself, but those whom he apparently feels ratted him out to his taxpaying employers:

    “‘The right to a free and open press though comes with a responsibility, and from my experience over the past year, that responsibility is not being lived up to,’ Briley (D-Nashville) said from the main House podium.

    “‘We used to talk about the politics of personal destruction. Well that’s no longer what’s going on. It’s the publishing of personal destruction, and we owe it to ourselves to do better than that. We owe it to the rest of our society to do better than that.’ …

    “Briley said that government needs to be ‘as open as possible.’

    “‘But the press needs to understand that if they’re not responsible with that information, that they’re not going to have access to it anymore,’ Briley said.

    “In addition to the mainstream press, Briley criticized bloggers, remarking that ‘just because you say it, doesn’t make it true.’”

    What exactly is Mr. Briley saying? That the media should not have reported that he was arrested for a DUI and evading arrest? That it should not have published the video of the arrest? That it should not have reported that he was going through a divorce at the time or allegations of adultery? Where has the press not lived up to its responsibility? Were they supposed to just look the other way on Mr. Briley’s behalf? Is that what he means by “responsibility”? That the government is supposed to be “as open as possible” – as long as no one reveals the politicians’ dirty little secrets?

    This is absurd – and, in fact, insulting – coming from a “public servant” who has betrayed the public trust by breaking the very laws he is sworn to uphold. If there has been any “personal destruction,” it hasn’t been of Mr. Briley; it has been by Mr. Briley.

    And then, he had the gall to suggest that if politicians did not like the news that is being written about them, they should just cut off access to the media – and, by extension, to those whom the media reports: the general public. Apparently, Mr. Briley has never heard of the First Amendment. The news media has a right to write. And Mr. Briley has the onus to face-up – and fess-up – to his own shenanigans. Otherwise, as “Mr. Citizen” Harry Truman once said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen.”

    If Mr. Briley – or any politician for that matter – wants to serve in an office of public trust, he must expect to withstand more – not less – personal scrutiny than private citizens. Most especially for crimes that the politician commits while serving in office. And throughout the politician’s tenure of office, he or she should expect that everything about that official, including misdeeds from the past, will become public.

    And by that, we mean everything. If Bob Briley goes around dropping gum wrappers on the ground, the people have a right to know about it. If he makes backroom deals with high-dollar contributors, the people have a right to know. And if he decides to go careening down the highway at over 100-mph chugging beers, dribbling down his chin, and endangering the lives of all around him, the people have a right to know – and the press has a responsibility to tell them. Then they can decide for themselves if that information is important or not when they vote.

    One argument career politicians use against such transparency of government officials is that it discourages good people from running for public office. But that’s just hogwash. Good people will always run for office. But they won’t stay in office for decades – because good people have other good uses for their time. And, after nearly 9 years in State House, Mr. Briley needs to find better use for his time – like sobering up and making some serious amends.

    Governments at all levels need to return to citizen legislatures. Mr. Briley was a professional politician. His antipathy towards media scrutiny very clearly proves that once he and his ilk don the trappings of kings, they quickly shed the common touch. And it underscores the very real need of term limits in all of the nation’s elected positions.

    ALG Perspective: Bob Briley is a perfect example of a politician who feels entitled to his power. And as far as ALG News is concerned, his term in office should have ended even sooner. 15 states have now term-limited legislatures. The other 35 need to follow suit.

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