Politicians' words speak louder than their lack of action

September 21, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

All these years I have been so blind; I had no idea it was a simple task to change the public record of one's life with a quick phone call. It often is said, "It never hurts to ask," but who knew that not only does it "not hurt," it - well, see for yourself.

The situation arose a couple of weeks ago when a regional paper let its true "liberal bias" show by printing a list of facts. To wit, the paper checked voting records and publicized the names of elected officials who it said failed to vote in past elections.

The list included votes missed by Sen. Alex Mooney and Del. Joe Bartlett, both of whom, according to the Frederick, Md., elections board, failed in the past to exercise their electoral duty.

'Course it looks bad when a politician himself has a record of missed votes - just ask John Kerry - so Mooney (to the individual in the newsroom who bet me I couldn't get John Kerry and Alex Mooney in the same sentence, you owe me 50 cents) took great umbrage at the report, insisting that he did not miss a vote.


Now most of us would have left it at that. You know how the game works: A politician is caught in a foible, he thunderously denies it, no one believes him, we all move on and everything is fine.

But Mooney wouldn't let it drop. He went to the election board demanding that it change his voting history to reflect a flawless record of showing up at the polls. Faced with two choices (1. Listen to some self-important blowhard rail against their office for two hours, or 2. Say, "Fine. Now please leave"), election board members did the prudent thing and changed history.

So let the word go forth from this time and place, Alex Mooney didn't miss any votes. Good. The election board gave him his rattle back and the senator's tantrum has been abated. Case closed.

Well, almost. Because Joe Bartlett, seeing Mooney's success, is now demanding that the Frederick election board change his voting history as well. He credits his wife who, he said, "specifically remembers" that he voted.

Women. Is there anything they don't remember? Personally, I'm going to see if the Time Capsule in High Heels remembers me winning the Pulitzer, and if she does, it's going straight on the rsum.

Poor Frederick election board. They must be wondering what it would be like to work in a county with normal politicians. Or more-normal, anyway. If I were the board, I would just issue a blanket amnesty, declaring that every single person who has ever lived in Frederick County has voted in every single election since the days when they were rolling ye olde barrels of grog up to the Fredericktowne Publik House.

Heck, I'm thinking of getting my history changed, too. In 1980, when I went for Carter, I want the record to show that I didn't vote.

Two things. One, does Moonlett & Co. really think anyone is going to believe that the election board was wrong and somehow missed them showing up at the polls? We've all seen how they work; you give your name and the 98-year-old poll worker devotes himself to finding your name and scratching it off with studiousness and attention to detail normally associated with scientists studying fibers from the Shroud of Turin.

It may take a half-hour, but they are nothing if not thorough. Neurosurgeons are as vacuous as MTV hostesses next to this bunch.

And two, so what? It may look bad, but has anyone ever lost an election for failure to vote? Is Moonlett afraid that in some future election a 527 group calling itself Poll Worker Veterans for Truth will dog them at every turn claiming they didn't really earn their "I Voted" stickers?

I guess responsibility lies with the Congressional Record culture of politics, where members of Congress can go back and add things they didn't say to the official record and subtract things they did.

What a world. It's not what they did and what they said that matters, it's what they said they did and what they said they said. This explains why many people are proud of the fact that they don't vote.

Makes you wonder what other truths they wish to avoid. Probably as we speak, there is a receptionist on the phone somewhere with her hand cupped over the mouthpiece saying "Uh, doctor? I've got a Senator Mooney on the line - he says he wants his official medical records changed to reflect that he is actually 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, with chiseled abs."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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