May 10, 2007

RADLEY BALKO LOOKS AT hypocrisy as a driving force:

Corzine isn't the only one. There's an increasing hubris among many elected officials that their job is so important, their time so much more precious than ours and their position in public life so privileged, that they can zip by us on the road, pushing everyday folk aside so they can get to their far more important destinations.

This is about more than just traffic laws, of course. It's about the arrogance of power. These politicians not only assume their lives, meetings and fundraisers are more important than everyone else's to the point that they don't have to follow the rules, they're willing to put other people on the road at risk to prove their point.

In 2003, The Washington Post reported that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson routinely ordered his driver to whip down public roads at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Even after those reports, when a police officer attempted to pull over Richardson's car for speeding in 2005, the governor's driver refused to stop. In the last two years, Richardson's lieutenant governor has also been caught running a red light and parking in a fire zone.

For his part, Richardson refused to apologize for his law-breaking. He said he'd instruct his drivers to slow down, but cited his busy schedule as governor and said he wouldn't promise not to speed again. By April 2006, his car was seen pushing 90 again.

In 2003, South Dakota Rep. Bill Janklow blew through a stop sign while speeding and killed a man on a motorcycle. Janklow had been previously pulled over 16 times for speeding, but never ticketed.

Though Janklow was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the accident, in 2004 prosecutors determined he was officially "on the job" when he struck the motorcyclist, meaning federal taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the $25 million lawsuit filed by Janklow's victim's family.

Press reports in 2004 revealed that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's car had been clocked traveling over 100 miles per hour on nine separate occasions. Rendell subsequently admitted to giving his drivers permission to speed to get him to meetings, though he did promise to stop giving those instructions in the future.

After Corzine's crash in April, Rendell acknowledged that despite his prior assurances, his drivers do sometimes still exceed the speed limit to help him make appointments, but he assured Pennsylvanians that he always wears his seat belt. Well. Good thing he's keeping himself safe.

Yeah, it makes me feel better. I think we should allow citizens to arrest politicians they find breaking traffic laws, since ordinary law enforcement officials have a conflict of interest. That'll pass!