The Personna Isn’t The Politician

You’ve probably heard people say that politics is “showbiz for ugly people.” That’s true in more ways than one. Most (but, not all) of the politicians in D.C. are playing a role. There’s their public image and then there’s the person playing the character. The two may not have much in common. See Mark Sanford, John Edwards, Larry Craig, Eliot Spitzer, and now David Wu, for perfect examples of the phenomenon,

U.S. Rep. David Wu broke his silence on national television on Tuesday but failed to slow the growing controversy over his behavior and future or stop new revelations that he behaved erratically during the 2008 campaign and accepted oxycodone from a campaign donor last fall.

In a six-minute interview on “Good Morning America,” Wu admitted to sending inappropriate e-mails to staff and said he is receiving counseling and medication. He assured viewers that he is fit to stay in office.

“Last October was not a good month; it was very stressful. I did some things. I said some things which I sincerely regret now. And as a result of those things I saw fit to consult professional help. I got the help I needed then. I’m continuing to consult medical help as I need it, and I’m in a good place now,” Wu told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

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Later in the day, in response to a written query, Wu told The Oregonian he had accepted prescription medication from a campaign contributor in Portland in October. Wu said that he had left the painkiller prescribed by his doctor for neck pain in Washington and that the donor offered him something for a severe episode.

“The donor offered me an alternative painkiller, and I took two tablets. This was the only time that this has ever happened,” Wu wrote. “I recognize that my action showed poor judgment at the time, and I sincerely regret having put my staff in a difficult position.”

A campaign staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as the person still works in politics, confirmed that Wu, 55, had taken oxycodone from the donor.

Wu’s unpredictable, and according to people who worked with him, temperamental behavior during the 2010 campaign contributed to significant departures of his senior staff and the most recent crisis of his more than 12 years in Congress.

Do these politicians have certain ideological beliefs? Sure. But should you believe anything they tell you about how much they “care” about people? Should you believe them when they tell you they’re diehard “family men?” Can you trust them when they tell you that they’re “just like you?”

Hell, no!

Most of these politicians will say what they have to say to get elected and they have campaign strategists, consultants, and staffers who work tirelessly to create a Personna that makes that possible. That doesn’t mean that none of these guys are what they claim to be, but let’s face it: If they were completely open and honest, most of these guys couldn’t get elected. So, they play a character and if people like the character well enough, the character gets elected to Congress.

That’s one of the many, many reasons that wise people don’t put too much faith in politicians.

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