I noticed two anecdotes about the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, both of which were meant to be complimentary but in fact speak volumes about the petty corruption of our political class and how inured to it we’ve become. The first was told by a friend of his who was at a conference of Jewish philanthropists in Israel with Lautenberg on 9/11. Lautenberg “used his pull as a former senator” to get everyone an early flight back to the U.S. so they could rejoin their families. The second, told by Vice-President Biden at Lautenberg’s funeral, related how Biden was once hustling to make an Amtrak train to Delaware, but was told by Amtrak staff, “don’t worry we’re holding the train for Sen. Lautenberg” (who was a big political supporter of Amtrak).
Now, as corruption goes, this is minor stuff. But I’m more disturbed that rather than the rich and powerful (Lautenberg’s friends in Israel and Biden) being embarrassed that Lautenberg (mis)used his influence to inconvenience others on behalf of himself and his friends, they tout these stories in eulogizing them, as if we should all be glad that a (former!) Senator has the “clout” to help his friends at the expense of those less connected. Bleh!
UPDATE: How much more I would have admired Lautenberg if his friends could relate that “we begged him to use his clout as a former Senator to get us back to our families, but Frank was adamant that his friends and acquaintances were no more important than anyone else trying to get back home, and that he wouldn’t abuse his status as former senator on our behalf.”