NH Opinions: The swelled-head ether-dwellers always fall to earth

Anyone see a pattern here? Consider the following:

• The state’s one-term Gov. Craig Benson is ejected from office for consistent and arrogant disregard for the notion of ethics, after an unprecedented and sickening tsunami of cash that got him elected in the first place.

• House Speaker Gene Chandler is forced to give up his leadership position after failing to report personal use of political contributions year after year.

• Executive Councilor Ruth Griffin seems to genuinely not understand that buying clothes and other personal items is not a legitimate use of campaign contributions.

Then there’s the phone jamming incident.

Those of us old enough to remember Watergate discern a bit of deja vu here, as Republican operatives higher and higher up the food chain were busted for amorally assaulting the democratic process in 2002 by electronically interfering with Democratic Party’s get-out-the-vote phone calls.

The pattern is one we’ve seen repeated again and again. It’s called hubris. Inebriated by power, flying higher and higher, an exhilarating sense of power untethered by such old fashioned nuisances as being answerable to the laws the common folk must obey, the gravity of ethics reasserted its rightful power. The ethically-challenged mighty are falling. It seems to be a lesson which needs to be learned again and again.

No fools they, U.S. Reps. Bass and Bradley got a sharp whiff of the rotting back home. They could not help but sit up and take notice of newly blue New Hampshire. The rising public attention to ethics and public values did not go unnoticed in D.C. It was, at the very least, enlightened self-interest that caused them to vote against a rule aimed at protecting Tom Delay’s position as majority leader should he be indicted as expected for various ethical lapses.

Charlie and Jeb noticed there are Democrats in New Hampshire — large numbers of us at that. In fact, Independents swung Democrat nearly two to one; they cared about ethics. The congressmen knew they’d be next to fall if they too failed to pay attention to the social compact that is the foundation of our republican form of government.

The post-election pundits were right: values do matter. As Nixon discovered some 30 years ago, our system has a way of catching and returning swelled-head ether-dwellers to earth. As for Benson, Chandler, Griffin and the high-up Republican-hired phone zappers are slowly learning (at least one would hope), the long years of Republican rule do not come with the entitlements of royalty.

They are paying the price of the logical outcome of unbridled, one party hubris. This is good for New Hampshire.

What got John Lynch elected governor were his fealty to the themes of integrity, a return to ethical behavior and accountability and a pledge of bipartisanship. As was clearly intended by our founders, especially here in independent New Hampshire — where close-to-home government is considered the best government — our system worked from the bottom up and the mood is one of rebuke and rejection of arrogance from those at the top.

The public hunger for ethics and values in New Hampshire is clear. Now, with a governor, an executive councilor, two new senators and 25 more state reps, Democrats have an opportunity, really an obligation to not only maintain our focus on ethics but to further articulate our public values.

Burt Cohen, a former state senator, now hosts a Portsmouth radio talk show.

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