Alas, another school shooting has prompted predictable vitriol debate on the subject of gun control. The extremes seem to range from, “Get rid of every single gun ever made,” to “If I want a Sherman tank in my front yard, I have the right to have one.” Fortunately, there does seem to be at least one bone of contention on which pretty much everyone can agree. The idea of a more strenuous background check on anyone wishing to purchase any firearm seems to be safe common ground. Not much else, apparently, but it’s a start.

Pursuant to that thought, I saw posted on a social media site this week the suggestion that We the People not just promote the more rigorous background check idea with those wishing to purchase guns, but extend it to anyone wishing to run for public office as well. Even in this age of investigative journalism (meaning who can find the most dirt), the author of the proposal seems to think vetting to the nth degree might help voters decide just who is and, more importantly, who isn’t fit to be elected to any position of authority, from local school board to president of the country.

While the idea is a good one, unfortunately there weren’t a whole lot of suggestions included in the posting as to what kind of “test” candidates should be subjected. It was more of a “something must be done” declaration than an offering of helpful suggestions. Making a statement is the easy part. But coming up with answers palatable to the majority? As usual, one William Shakespeare put it quite succinctly: “Ay, there’s the rub.”

In the interest of public safety, I’ve developed a few questions that perhaps all who seek public office should have to answer before putting forth their names for inclusion on a ballot.

#1: Are you now or have you ever been a partial or total blithering idiot in the eyes of anyone other than your family or closest friends? Please explain your answer.

This question could encompass virtually anything that has happened throughout one’s lifetime. It could cover things such as a little too much eggnog at an office Christmas party one year. Maybe a “shrewd” investment in a sure-fire email pitch from a Nigerian prince. Or saying something such as, “You know, I’m not sure that Hitler was such a bad guy after all.” Context would undoubtedly be key in one’s reply.

#2: Have you ever begun answering a yes or no question with the phrase, “I’m glad you asked me that,” and then proceeded to talk about something totally unrelated to the initial query, never at any point in time circling back to provide a direct reply?

It’s okay to expand on an answer, but it often seems those running for office are incapable of giving a straight out opinion on anything. Fear of offending any one voter (or donor) seems to outweigh directness. If you’re for something, say so. If you’re agin’ it, say that too.

#3: Had he known you, would Billy Graham have vouched for your good moral character?

“America’s Pastor,” as he was dubbed by many after his passing, was long considered a bastion of high ethical standards and righteous behavior. If any candidate could truly say he or she would have been in good standing with the man from Montreat, it may have allayed the fears of many as to fitness for office. (On a side note, if the Reverend could not have vouched for a person’s good moral character, then he undoubtedly would have taken the opportunity to spread the Message to the responder.)

#4: Other than the video of you dancing at your cousin’s wedding, are there any other embarrassing/harmful ones existing that might surface at a particularly inopportune time?

Better to get that Mardi Gras experience out in the open early. Just like stupidity, pictures and postings are pretty much forever. (Google Calvin Coolidge and his Indian chief’s headdress.)

Now, questioning of this nature can be a two-edged sword. If anyone did actually admit to questions 1, 2, and 4, you might assume he or she should be immediately disqualified for any responsible public office. (A Yes on question 3 would obviously be a good thing.) On the other hand, if a candidate came right out and admitted an indiscretion, at least the admission was honest and straightforward, thus revealing two traits not always found in politicians. What would be really interesting to see is if anyone would actually attempt to run for office. At the very least, background checks and subsequent reports would tend to liven up even the dullest of campaigns.

©MMXVIII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer