116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
State Rep. Kerry Burt just couldn't make them understand.
It was around 2 a.m. Feb. 11, and Burt, D-Waterloo, had been stopped by Ankeny police, who noticed that his Lexus SUV had been damaged. He hit a concrete barrier. Accidents happen.
But the cops smelled booze, heard slurring and wondered whether Burt had been drinking. But, according to the police, Burt tried to tell them he was a state lawmaker and a firefighter. Don't they know what that means?
He also let them in on a little secret.
It wasn't what he'd been drinking, but “who he'd been drinking with.”
Burt said, “the governor,” police say.
Unmoved, the coldhearted cops arrested him for drunken driving. They simply didn't understand the secret:
Governors are magic.
When you're at an event with the governor, any governor, as Burt had been earlier in the night, you can't miss the magic. Food eaten in proximity of such a high officeholder is delicious and free of calories. Jokes told within earshot are funnier and anecdotes are riveting. The special interests are truly special. The booze guzzled there doesn't make you drunk.
It makes you more important.
Don't believe me? I've seen it. I've watched people hover around a governor. He talks. They smile and nod heartily. He jokes. They rock with laughter. He leans in close. They hang on every important word. Being important is hard work.
Lawmakers spend a lot of time in these magic settings, and some of that mojo rubs off.
Sure, they're supposed to be just regular old part-time citizen lawmakers. But do ordinary Joes and Janes have staff on call who gladly turn their brainstorms into legislation? Do they have powerful lobbyists who fawn over them and pages who will fetch them a chocolate sundae and a Diet Coke?
People seek their counsel. Mighty bureaucrats bow to their purse-holding power. Presidential candidates beg for their endorsement. Reporters scribble down their utterances for posterity. And maybe, just maybe, they might be a governor some day. Magic.
Of course, we in the non-magic world cling to our gauzy ideas about no one being above the law.
We think that people who make laws ought to abide by those same laws. And it strikes us as inexcusable that a lawmaker would try to use his title to persuade a cop to let him go on his bleary way unscathed.
Guilty or innocent, we'd hope that lawmaker would find a new job. For the good of his constituents. Pronto.
I guess we just don't understand the magic, either.
Todd Dorman's column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. He can be reached at (319) 398-8452 or email@example.com