In politics, people want access to their elected officials but when they get it, others are tempted to wonder what goes on behind closed doors. As a former public servant, I am aware of the opportunity for distrust. When I served, everyone wanted to see me, it seemed. If they made a donation to my campaign, they expected to see me. Their feelings of entitlement sometimes were awe-inspiring. They imagined a $50 check meant I was required to find a summer job for their pimply offspring.
How do I define diplomacy? It’s wriggling out of a perceived obligation without providing insult.
Avoiding requests from contributors is more difficult than running naked through a tropical forest without attracting tics. Frankly, the sound and fury surrounding the Clintons’ charitable foundation amazes me. While she served as Secretary of State, few to those big charity contributors received so much as a handshake from her. That’s integrity. And that’s the real story.
I may have been corrupted by my political service, but I see nothing shocking about people, rich or poor, wanting to talk to public officials. I wish I could have talked to them all and, like a fairy godmother, granted them favors, providing no public harm was done. But I’m not naive. A pocket of uncertainty exists when doing good and money travel together. Yet how do we avoid it? Money, in so many circumstances, is our letter of introduction, a way of gaining accesses to circles of interest that interest us. Think of our support for sororities and fraternities, professional associations and private clubs, to name a few.
In the main, I think we fare best when we extend a fellow-feeling to each other until there is strong evidence to the contrary. Without trust there is no love, no family and no society.