USUAL RULES DON’T APPLY TO POLITICIANS

If I told my bosses at this newspaper that I planned to spend the next year taking my same paycheck but doing work for another newspaper — and if that paper liked me, I would take a job there — their reaction would be simple:
“What is in your coffee?”

Followed by, “Hahahahah!”

Followed by: “Tell you what. Why don’t you go take the job there now, and we’ll mail you your stuff?”

The same has never been true for politicians, who get elected for one position, then quickly set their eyes on another.

Which brings us to another summer before the presidential election year, with politicians who already hold one job spending much of their work time gunning for the next.

Take a guy like Rudolph Giuliani, the mayor of New York City. I always thought being mayor of New York was not one full-time job, but two. Who can manage the traffic, crime, airports, tunnels and police corruption — and still have time to throw out all those balls at Yankee Stadium?

But Giuliani has his eyes on a bigger prize: the soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat of retiring Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And so, for the past several months — even though the election is more than a year away — he has been tilting time, energy and activities toward winning that office.

“I have always spent a great deal of time upstate,” he told a press gathering last week, hoping to increase his posture as a senatorial type. “I know Saratoga really well. I have been to Lake George.”

Personally, if I’m living in New York City, I really don’t care if my mayor has been to Lake George. I want him down in the subway, fixing the air conditioning.

Keeping up with the Clintons

Of course, Giuliani is just trying to keep up with the Joneses — er, Clintons. Hillary Rodham Clinton, our first lady, is gunning for the same New York Senate seat, making her the first wife of a sitting president to actively seek elected office.

Unfortunately, Hillary has never lived in New York. And since she wants to represent the people there, this can be a problem.

But nothing that a few hundred trips to the Big Apple can’t fix. Already, Hillary has donned a Yankees cap (by the way, don’t Mets fans ever vote?) and has professed a great empathy for the people of the …uh …let’s check our notes here …Empire State.

Over the next year, Hillary will be spending more time in New York than a Bloomingdale’s addict. The sticky issue is, she sort of has a job. Being first lady may not be an elected position, but it does come with responsibilities. The Hillary who rode her husband’s horse into the White House seven years ago certainly planned on being more than a housekeeper. Remember health care?

Now, however, she’ll be spending her time — and our money — trying to win another job. How many trips will be taken to New York — under the guise of
“official” first lady business — that will really be about increasing her popularity?

As for the Republican

George W. Bush, the son who would be king, at least has his wallet in the right place. He is the governor of Texas, a state that, you would reckon, could fill up a man’s day.

But George, who wants to be our next president, is already shaking hands and kissing babies of people without cowboy hats — and if I’m a Texan, I’m hopping mad. We all know how hard it is to win a presidential election. How much time can the man possibly devote to governing his state?

Which is why Bush offered last week to forgo his salary — $316 a day — for every day he’s outside Texas campaigning. That money will go to the lieutenant governor, who minds the store while George schmoozes the Northerners.

Seems fair. Then again, since Bush has raised $36 million for his presidential run, $316 a day is less than the interest he’s earning.

Maybe voters deserve more than a rebate. Maybe they deserve a law. How about one that says you can’t seek another elected office until you complete your term in your current one? Or if you want to run sooner, you have to relinquish your job — the way most of us have to quit one place if we want to work someplace else.

Politicians are always telling us how tirelessly they will work for us. But come election season, the only tireless thing seems to be ambition.

MITCH ALBOM can be reached at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Listen to Mitch’s radio shows, “Albom in the Afternoon,” 3-6 p.m. weekdays and “Monday Sports Albom,” 6:30-8 p.m. Mondays, on WJR-AM (760).

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