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Piece of Mind: Oh, Those 'Distractions'

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Americans have received another textbook lesson on how scandalous “distractions” interfere with politicians who sign on to govern and to care for the public’s business.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned his office effective in two weeks. He has been accused by 11 women of sexual harassment. Cuomo denies doing what they accuse him of doing but gave one of those “if I offended anyone” apologies that, to my ears, sends me into orbit.

Yes, he and what’s left of his staff have been distracted by the scandal. Cuomo no longer can govern. Every decision, every move he makes, every statement he utters would be cast against the allegations that many of us find credible.

President Lyndon Johnson cited the distraction of the Vietnam War protests at home before telling the world on March 31, 1968 that “I will not seek and will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

President Richard Nixon, whose administration was being swallowed whole by Watergate, never admitted to doing anything wrong when he tendered his resignation on Aug. 8, 1974. He, too, cited the “distraction” created by all the furor over what he did — which was to abuse the power of his office to cover up the burglary at the Democratic National Committee office in June 1972.

Distractions have this way of getting in front of governing officials.

Too bad, you know? That’s how it goes and that is how it went today as Andrew Cuomo became the latest pol — but surely not the last — to resign because he didn’t want to take a moment of attention away from the duties of his office.

This is what happens when politicians misbehave. I happen to believe the accusers who said Cuomo harassed them sexually. I also happen to believe that the governor is right about the reason for his resignation, that he didn’t want to be distracted by the furor and the fury his actions have generated.

I am left to ask: Is it too much to ask that we elect politicians who know better than to behave in a way that creates these “distractions”?

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, also is a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is retired but is still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis’s blog for KETR, “Piece of Mind,” presents his views and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.

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