STEVE SPELLMAN: Petty political accusations persist | Local Columnists


Missouri’s new Attorney General, Josh Hawley, has a new case. And it’s filed against him.

He is not accused of some administrative incompetence, a personal ethics violation, or of committing some crime in office. Rather, what’s in question is what house he lives in.

A few months ago, there was a complaint raised in reference to an archaic law requiring that the office of the Attorney General must reside in the capital. However, Hawley lives some 20 miles outside Jefferson City in southern Boone County.

We could imagine in our state’s past a concern about the attorney general setting up shop in St. Louis, Kansas City, Joplin or Kirksville, hence the reasoning for this rule. Back in the horse and buggy era, an officeholder living only 5 miles away would take a while to get to work.

Nowadays, many state employees commute into Jefferson City, as do many University employees who live away from Columbia. I bet Hawley could kiss his wife and child goodbye in their home near Ashland, then drive down Highway 63 to his parking spot within half an hour (rush-hour river bridge traffic aside), hardly preventing him from performing his daily official duties.

This controversy was obviously drummed up by his political opponents, as if this issue should now remove him from office or disqualify him from running for U.S. Senate next year. This is an all-too-familiar tactic.

It reminds me of the desperate accusation that President Obama was not really born in the U.S., therefore was not legally qualified to serve in the Oval Office.

The so-called “birther movement” relied on more alternative facts — claims that his Hawaii birth certificate was fake and supposed accounts from his father’s relatives in Kenya who swear his real birth place is in Africa. People on both sides of the debate got worked up.

The rule about being a natural-born citizen was an old concern that some foreign power (say England, in the late 1700s) would push their stooge through the Electoral College and take over this new country from within. 

The thing is, what if Obama’s mother had indeed been outside the U.S. when she gave birth to him? Even if it could be documented that she was on a NASA expedition to Mars at the time, she was an American citizen herself, so little Barack was instantly American upon birth. That should have been the end of the story.

With either Hawley or Obama, political opponents have plenty of other legitimate ideological beefs with their hated public servant of choice. Instead they pursue speculative and meaningless technicalities.

The relentless witch hunt over Russian hackers smacks of a similar strain of conspiracy theory. Hard evidence is still strangely elusive, but what if the Trump family was indeed in cahoots with Putin to coordinate electioneering diversions? Does that mean that the exposed information did successfully dissuade everyday Americans from voting for Hillary? Does that mean too many voters are dupes anyway, and therefore makes a case against democracy itself? 

The most recent political ouster attempt is aimed at state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal. A recent Facebook post of hers expressed a hope that President Trump might be assassinated.

Nadal did soon after take down the post and apologize, but her opponents don’t seem included to accept her apology and move on.

We can only imagine the unending firestorm if, say, conservative Sen. Ed Emery or Bob Onder had uttered any physical ill will toward President Obama. Though I doubt Sen. Nadal would have been open to a simple apology in such an instance, that’s not the point.

If she remains in office, I doubt many bills she sponsors in the future will get much of a hearing. Her since-deleted emotional quote could haunt her reputation forever, regardless of whether she holds the office or not.

Good reasons to remove an elected official from office do exist, but often it is the half-baked reasons that get our attention. In these cases, we have to realize the political hacks are trying to play us all against each other. The informed citizen should ignore the petty and partisan-motivated controversies, and instead focus on the many substantive issues of merit facing us today.



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