I recently asked a friend why he got out of politics. He said, "because politics makes nice people mean." Boy, he's not kidding! In the 20 years that I've paid attention, I've seen friendships destroyed, loyalties violated and careers hurt by the ego, ambition and power that come with politics. There's nothing wrong with ambition and ego in politics. In fact, they're almost necessary for success.
But if that ego and ambition aren't tempered with humility, it might serve the politician's career well, but not those around him.
Power is intoxicating and tough to give up, which is why we've had 100-year-old members of Congress and
billionaires who should be enjoying their golden years refusing to let go.
But let go is what Bakersfield state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, did recently with his decision not to run for Congress.
Rubio is the whole package. He has the ego to withstand attacks and the ambition to fight for what he wants. He's proven it with his rise from staffer to chief of staff to county supervisor to senator. Throw in his good looks and charm (he once sent me flowers and chocolates after I interviewed a Republican challenger for his state Senate seat. It was a terrible interview. I mean awful. Rubio thanked me for making him look good!).
Rubio could obviously never win my conservative Republican vote and I was geared up for the showdown between him and equally charming, passionate and smart Assemblyman David Valadao, R-Hanford, for a valley congressional seat.
When a girlfriend sent me Rubio's recent announcement that he wasn't running, I was doing my radio show and only read the headline on-air with glee. My girlfriend instant- messaged me and suggested that I read the rest of the announcement: Rubio was not running for Congress because his newest child was born with Down syndrome and he was putting his family above ambition.
WOW. In a world of politicians who have wounded and humiliated their families with "wide stances" in bathroom stalls, tweeted nudie pics and had love children with housekeepers, Rubio made the right decision for his family. One he won't regret.
The first real job I had from age 18 to 25 was working in special education for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office. Having grown up around family with special needs, I've always had a soft spot for those who need us to protect them from a world that doesn't understand them and they don't understand.
As a teacher's aide for severely disabled, Down syndrome, severely autistic, emotionally disturbed and visually impaired, I gained a respect and camaraderie with the parents of these special kids. Depending on the level of the child's needs, the stress for these parents (and foster parents/caregivers) can be overwhelming. It's a 24-hour job that in many cases will last a lifetime. Ego is replaced by humility and blind ambition with reality.
By age 20, my husband and I were newlyweds with no children so we would offer to take my students for a week or a weekend so that parents could have a break. It was selfish, really. Special-needs children are truly special. They can be a great blessing. We spoiled them with trips to Magic Mountain and Disneyland. We kept one little boy who by 4 had never talked. I told him if he said it, we'd do it. He spoke two words that week: "Sizzler" and "taxi." Needless to say, we had a lot of steaks and salad bars and a few taxi rides.
For some politicians, the draw of that "next rung" on the ladder could make one talk themselves into thinking they could do it all. Maybe hire a nanny while he's back in D.C. Maybe the family could move, too. Maybe the wife could handle it alone. I've seen the trappings of this thinking in families of politicians who got so caught up in the lifestyle and influence of their jobs, they didn't see that their children and spouses needed them.
Rubio chose not to abandon this new duty, even if being in Congress is easier than the possible road ahead.
I wish more politicians on both sides of the aisle were able to sacrifice the path they thought was their destiny for the one God has given them. I have no doubt we will continue to see Rubio move and shake, and though I still couldn't vote for him based on our differences in core political beliefs, he has earned my respect and prayers for taking on his most important role: Daddy.
-- Inga Barks, who hosts a talk show on KMJ AM 580, is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are Barks' opinions, not necessarily The Californian's. Next week: Ric Llewellyn.