If you don't live in the D.C. area, you probably haven't heard about the increasingly amusing travails of Doug Gansler, Maryland attorney general and candidate for governor. But his latest problem raises a question we as a nation must confront: Under what circumstances should a politician make the heavily freighted moral decision to be a total buzzkill?
To back up a bit, Gansler is a common type: the firm-jawed, ideologically unremarkable yet intensely ambitious politician who'll rise pretty high but may or may not reach the upper echelons of elected office. Chances were that he'd eventually lose the primary (and thus the governorship in this most Democratic of states) to Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, who has the support of the current governor and future presidential candidate Martin O'Malley, among many others. Brown has a glittering resume (Army veteran, Harvard Law School, etc.), hails from vote-rich Prince George's County, and would be the state's first African-American governor. In short, Gansler was going to have an uphill battle. Until two weeks ago, when things got really bad.
It seems the Maryland state troopers who are assigned to ferry Gansler about are of the opinion that he's another of that common politician type, the major douchebag:
Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler regularly ordered state troopers assigned to drive him to turn on the lights and sirens on the way to routine appointments, directing them to speed, run red lights and bypass traffic jams by using the shoulder, according to written accounts by the Maryland State Police.
When troopers refused to activate the emergency equipment, Gansler, now a Democratic candidate for governor, often flipped the switches himself, according to the police accounts. And on occasion, he became so impatient that he insisted on driving, directing the trooper to the passenger's seat. Gansler once ran four red lights with sirens blaring, a trooper wrote. Another account said he "brags" about driving the vehicle unaccompanied on weekends with the sirens on.
No politician wants that kind of story to come out, because displaying that kind of entitled behavior separates you from the common folk, while standard practice is to convince everyone that you're just a regular fella like the people voting for you. But then things got worse when it came out that Gansler recently stopped by a party his son was attending, at which all manner of debauchery was taking place, including the imbibing of spirits by those who had not yet reached the age of full maturity. Instead of shouting, "Cease this unlawful drinking and unrestrained merriment at once, or I shall sumon the constables!", Gansler chatted with his son for a few minutes and then departed, but not before taking the opportunity to snap a selfie, or so it appears from this photo. You won't have to look too long to figure out which one he is:
So in the case of the troopers, he got in trouble for being a jerk, while in this case, he got in trouble for trying to be the cool dad. Can you say you would have acted differently? Probably not, but then again, you aren't the chief law enforcement officer for the state of Maryland.
Still, it's understandable. A youthful-looking 50, Gansler is at that age when you still try to convince yourself that you're a cool guy. You want to believe that if you partied with a bunch of teenagers they'd come away saying, "That dude is awesome!" One of the girls would flirt with you, and even though of course nothing untoward would happen, it would still be a little bit thrilling and you'd walk away saying, "That's right, the D-dog has still got it." When Gansler walked into that party, heard the music blaring, and saw all those taut, scantily-clad young bodies grinding away in their bacchanalian bliss, the first thing that popped into his head wasn't, "This must be stopped." It was probably, "Man, I wish I was 18 again." So he high-tailed it out of there. And then, of course, what follows is the inevitable disastrous press conference ("There could be Kool-Aid in the red cups," he mused, "but there's probably beer in the red cups." Astute!).
This is one of the many reasons most of us wouldn't want to be politicians. You're expected at every moment of your life not only to do the "right" thing, but also the upstanding thing, the rule-abiding thing, even the uncool thing. And who wants to live that way?