I have a lot to say about the recent revelations concerning a candidate I supported in the last electoral cycle. The problem is, most of the things I want to say (and will ultimately say) have to wait for a more appropriate time. There are many reasons for this, and all will be clear soon. But in the meantime, I feel like there are a few things I *do* need to say.
I assure yall, no one has been harder on me about this situation than me. I have taken wise counsel from wise friends that I did all I could do with the resources at my disposal, and that makes total sense to the rational and logical side of my brain. But the duty and honor side of my brain expected more out of me. It still does.
I have internally re-litigated the means I undertook to do the best sort of background check on the candidate that my limited resources allowed me ad infinitum. I have lost sleep over it. I have shed MANY tears over it. There was no one with a bad word to say, no readily available information to indicate there had been issues, no official record of any convictions or even arrests that came to light in my research. All I have at my disposal is an internet connection and Google. Now that we know where to look for what, everyone seems to be having the same reaction that I had…how did we (I) not see it earlier? Shouldn’t we have seen it? Who had the responsibility to see it? Was it me?
Maybe it was. I damn sure feel like it was. And I have spent a great deal of my mental resources and time reviewing my interactions with the candidate. There are two thoughts I am left with at this stage of my own forensic process that I can share:
1) From day one I believe I was being willfully and skillfully deceived. The things that occurred that *did* make my ears perk up were quite small in the overall scheme of things, irrelevant to the purpose at hand, and I never at any point had any inkling that the things that were troubling to me were indicative of a much more pervasive and disturbing pattern. When the pieces fell in place enough that I was highly suspicious that not all was as it seemed with the candidate, we were literally a week away from election day. I still had no idea there was an alleged criminal component to his pattern. I felt 100% certain that he was going to lose the election, so I quietly stood down as best I could without trying to draw attention to it. I did not yet have enough of the big picture to realize that his conduct with me was not an isolated incident, and had no desire to publicly tank him in an election he was never going to win anyway. I had remote hopes that perhaps he would mature and season, and didn’t want to hang him out to dry with nothing to go on but my limited perspective. So I let it end as I knew it would, and left that night knowing I was done with him and that I would tell the people who needed to know about the breach of trust that occurred between he and I when we had some distance and perspective on the campaign. And then he was arrested, and the pieces that didn’t make sense before suddenly did with the new information.
2) This may sound self-serving, and I am sure some will view it as me making excuses for myself, but what I am about to say is still true from my perspective. I wasn’t the first in line when it comes to people the candidate has potentially conned. Given what I know at this point from available media reports, the candidate pulled the wool over the eyes of the Tioga Historical Railroad Society, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Friends of the Little White House, the qualification component of the Secretary of State’s office, the Georgia Democratic Party, the opposition (to the extent that they had no clue of the scope of his alleged activities that they publicly stated, but they did express some concern about fundraising which I did follow-up on as best I could), and many people claiming close knowledge of the candidate and who had vouched for his character. That is the list as I know it. I expect it to grow.
What could I have done differently? This is the question that haunts me these days, it is never really far from my thoughts. My friends, and even a few folks who would never say anything nice to me in public, have tried to dissuade me from this painful introspection. My sense of duty just won’t let me do that. I carry the trust people place in me as a rare treasure to be honored, respected and valued. I know I can never be perfect, but I must perform due diligence on myself so I can at least be the best I am capable of being. I never want to place myself in a position to feel this way again.
The first thing I did wrong was I had tunnelvision. Anyone who has ever worked the message/strategy side of a campaign knows exactly what I am talking about. I had my eye on the opposition and what they were up to. I wasn’t watching my 6. I had no idea I even needed to until very late in the campaign. The second thing I did wrong was rationalize away at least two red flags when I should have walked away. I knew that if I did that it would have a negative impact on his campaign, even if I never uttered a word about why I was doing what I was doing. That consequence seemed out-of-proportion to the information and evidence I had to evaluate at that moment in time. So I adopted the “in for a penny, in for a pound” philosophy and tried to move on until that final red flag made me stand down. And just for the record, that “in for a penny, in for a pound” philosophy almost never ends well, and I guarantee you I won’t be employing it again anytime soon.
The third thing I did wrong was give the benefit of the doubt to the candidate for what I perceived as being mistakes of youth and inexperience. A candidate that I had no personal knowledge of or a record of political activities to examine. I could find no evidence to give me reason to doubt his sincerity or veracity. I trusted someone I clearly shouldn’t have. It won’t stop me from trusting again, but it will make me far more cautious about the people who come into my life through certain avenues like campaign politics.
I am sure there are about a gazillion other mistakes I made, but these three I have to completely own and know they could have changed the course of my involvement in the candidate’s political endeavor. Would that I knew then what I know now, things would have been far different. I made the best decisions I could, in the moments I had to make them, with the information I had to make them with.
Lastly, I’d like to say a word about Josh McKoon. He has thus far shown great restraint in his reaction to all of these disturbing events, and he has been kind in not pursuing an attempt to publicly humiliate me or by attempting to lay the alleged crimes of his opposition at my feet. We disagree on policy, we sometimes disagree on the best way to conduct civil discourse, we sometimes frustrate each other with our opposing views of the world. He has shown me kindness on occasion, as I have tried to show kindness to him. Despite my desire to see another in his office, I want to achieve that goal in an honest way and with the right candidate. The last Democratic contender was by far NOT the right candidate, and Josh deserved to contend that race against a legitimate opponent. While our political differences span a vast chasm, I still honor the office he holds and sincerely hope he realizes that. I apologize, Josh. Profoundly. SIncerely. And I give my word that I will do everything in my limited power to prevent what happened in the last cycle from EVER happening again in our local land of politics.
SO…that is all I really feel comfortable talking about at this point. There will be more when the time is appropriate. But for now; mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Time to move forward.
Peace and Love, Yall