For many years, one strategy that has been favored in politics by many who consider themselves progressive or leftist is the call for term limits for elected officials. While I am generally very far to the left on most issues, in this particular case, I bucked the trend. Up and until today, I had opposed term limits. My thinking was that it seemed a bit unfair to tell someone they couldn't run for reelection based solely on the fact that they had already served x number of years.
But a recent bit of news -- far from the realm of the politics involved in public office -- has caused me to reassess my previous position. In reports related to the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State sexual abuse scandal, it has come to light that legendary coach Joe Paterno, contrary to his own sworn statements, basically was running the show.
It now looks as if Paterno was the one who pressed other higher ups NOT to turn an alleged report of sexual abuse over to the police and child welfare. In 2007, when a bunch of his team's players were involved in an off-campus brawl, it was Paterno who "oversaw the police investigation and ultimately handed down the punishment for the players involved."
You see, as the head coach of the university's successful football team for 46 years, Paterno became bigger than the university itself. In many areas related to the university, he became a de facto king. A few years before his firing in 2011 -- as the direct result of the Sandusky scandal -- it has been reported that college administrators went to his home to encourage him to retire and he threw them out of his house. No one could pressure the king to do anything he didn't want to do!
If Paterno could come to feel so entitled and wield so much power at his school as a football coach, imagine the power and entitlement of long-time senators and representatives in Washington, DC! While Paterno controlled a little smidge of turf in Pennsylvania, the men and women serving in our nation's capitol easily can impact much of the world.
One of the lessons to come out of the tragedy at Penn State is that individuals too long in power lose touch with anyone's needs and desires except their own. In Paterno's case, he simply wouldn't allow anything -- not a young child sexually assaulted at the football facility -- negatively to impact HIS legacy as a legendary coach who ran a spot-on clean football program. Anything that might besmirch that legacy was to be unceremoniously swept under the rug. If it destroyed the life of a young child, so be it.