TribLIVE

| Opinion/The Review


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

The best politics is good government

Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

Daily Photo Galleries

Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

When the Chris Christie administration suddenly closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge, his team broke the first rule of politics. It hurt people by using government for political gain.

But it was not the first Christie breach of the public trust. In October, he blew $12 million of taxpayers' money on a special election for the U.S. Senate vacancy just 20 days before the general election to avoid sharing the ballot with popular Democrat and Senate candidate Cory Booker.

The money spent on that unnecessary special election could have gone to still-struggling victims of Hurricane Sandy. Instead, it was used to salve the ego of this “Ralph Kramden” of governors, whose bellicose ways have charmed the media and public. Until the lane closings.

Christie denies any personal role in the bridge debacle. But using the government apparatus to punish your enemies, causing collateral damage to the citizenry, is bad politics and government. Most politicians try to help, not hurt, because helping is good political business and hurting is bad.

David L. Lawrence, legendary 20th-century political leader, mayor of Pittsburgh and governor of Pennsylvania, was known for saying, “The best politics is good government.”

Lawrence, the father of modern Pittsburgh, followed his mantra and the clean air and water and sparkling Downtown and vibrant neighborhoods he left behind are the result of that. His partnership with Richard King Mellon, the staunch Republican and banking scion, was not without political risks. But both knew it was essential to reinventing Pittsburgh.

In “Don't Call Me Boss: Pittsburgh's Renaissance Mayor,” Michael P. Weber describes how Lawrence perceived his duty to his constituents.

“His policies on smoke control, taxation and labor negotiations, among others, all generated considerable opposition during his mayoralty. Several were potentially disastrous to his political career, yet he followed the policy he thought correct regardless of political consequences,” Weber writes.

Lawrence, a fierce New Deal Democrat, steadfastly kept his political interests separate from his government responsibilities and this became public policy when he was elected mayor. Until the end, “good government” came first, and political success naturally followed.

While it is easy to claim that politics is no longer like that, the good and smart politicians of today still follow the Lawrence model. And when they do not — mixing politics into government and using government for political advantage — they risk scandal and worse, even jail.

Aristotle claimed politics is noble. That might be too far a reach for most people. But it is hard to deny Winston Churchill's view, one that implies a duty to the citizen, the customer. Said Churchill, “Politics is not a game. It is an earnest business.”

Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Reagan shooter Hinckley closer to permanent freedom
  2. Cole overcomes rough start as Pirates sweep Brewers
  3. Pirates notebook: GM sticking to plan with Kang
  4. Steelers won’t be backed into a corner at NFL Draft
  5. Monessen man wounded in afternoon shooting
  6. Service marks 20 years since Oklahoma City bombing
  7. Crosby’s 2 goals lift Penguins past Rangers, even series
  8. Sutter steps up for Penguins in series-tying victory
  9. Man beaten, robbed in South Side, police say
  10. News Alert
  11. Coming off hill revives Seton Hill University, downtown Greensburg