Usually, I take less than minimal interest in the ways congressmen or women choose to decorate their DC offices. It’s mostly trivial to me. However, when a congressman decides to go with the Downton Abbey motif (at a cost of $40,000), that piques my curiosity (and causes me to question his wisdom). The unfortunate revelations surrounding U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) have gradually surfaced, leading to his resignation announcement today.
Schock made a pretty big impression in the nation’s capital. He recently was described this way by Politico: The guy might just be America’s most photogenic congressman. The Men’s Health cover (above) dates from June 2011. The congressman rose quickly through the ranks and enjoyed wide margins of victory in his most recent elections.
Ever since The Washington Post ran a February 2nd piece featuring Schock’s revamped congressional office, the trickle of scrutiny began to widen. Schock repaid the costs for his lavish office remodel. Then other questions were being raised: there were expensive vacations, swanky hotels on the taxpayer dime, discrepancies and lack of proper record-keeping, and finally, mileage reports (for reimbursement) far exceeding actual miles on his lone vehicle.
The thirty-three year old Schock is arguably a casualty of his own success. From all appearances, his press clippings had become so intoxicatingly, he believed his good service and work “for the people” of his state entitled him to certain perks, among them a grand lifestyle and little accountability.
I think Schock’s experience is a common tale for young people who are quickly successful. His status in local, state and eventually federal government positions made him attractive to the sort of people who enjoy being in the company of the powerful. His boyish good looks (and no doubt his charm) won him friends … and surely helped him on the campaign trail. But there was no wife to ground him, no children to remind him just how insignificant his “power” and “DC insider status” was for them. He was a boat unmoored from reality.
Yes, Schock was probably capable and had a good heart, wishing to represent his constituents in a professional and competent way. Though I’m generally unfamiliar with his record in Congress (other than the aforementioned Downton Abbey office design), I’ve read he supported conservative fiscal policies, he worked hard for his district and they mostly appreciated him.
Sadly, while he articulated conservative fiscal policies, in his personal life he chose not to embrace the same standard of conduct apparently. It’s a shame he opted for opulence, the congressional office being one specific example.
Personally, I think we should thank Schock for resigning. Once the facts were beyond denying, he needed to go. A man who preaches tightening the belt for his government should be similarly disciplined in his own life. I wouldn’t wish the shame of resigning on anyone, but I’m thankful for his decision.
James 3:1 has some application here. “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Mr. Schock found himself in a position of power (though he wasn’t strictly a teacher as the verse mentions). As a man in power, he espoused certain positions … but he failed to practice what he preached.
Nevertheless, there is forgiveness. The electorate is known for its generosity and willingness to forgive. I hope the day comes when Mr. Schock is able to return (given some years for reflection and self-examination) to a responsible position. Just as in every other world arena, there are no perfect men in politics … but men who have been forgiven understand this imperfect world and their leadership ability reflects it.