Commentary
10:22 am
Wed May 18, 2011

Bring Back the Posthumus Rules

I am aware that there’s a battle over whether to put the state’s unexpected surplus in the rainy day fund or to use it to help the schools. I know that libraries are in a fight for their very existence all over Michigan, and Detroit City Council is proposing crippling cuts of something like 75 percent to the city’s cultural jewels, including the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Historical Museum.

However, none of that was featured very prominently in any of the newspaper or commercial station news reports I heard while driving across the state yesterday. What was treated as big news was that former Governor Jennifer Granholm and her husband, Dan Mulhern, were denouncing Arnold Schwarzenegger via Twitter.

Granholm told the world, or at least that portion of it who follow her tweets, that this indicates that maybe we need more women governors, and advised men to keep their pants zipped.

Her husband, a leadership consultant, tweeted “Men: Can we talk maturely, openly and seriously about sex and fidelity?”

The ex-governor’s spouse then appeared to denounce the Arnold as a masculine ideal, and added that it was time to replace machismo - I am paraphrasing here - with brains and heart.

That’s all sensible advice. It also would be nice to think those tweets will be enough to dissuade the next millionaire movie star from impregnating his housekeeper, but I am skeptical.

Nor do I know why we are treating whatever the Granholm-Mulherns are tweeting about this as newsworthy. Yes, I know. He was a governor; she was a governor, it’s about sex, sex sells, et cetera.

However, this also reminds me of one of the few genteel customs in our politics that we seem to have lost in just the past few years. Until now, it has been the convention for defeated candidates and outgoing officeholders to quietly disappear, at least for a year.

This is still the case for former U.S. Presidents, for example, who traditionally don’t say anything about the man who replaced them. Former vice-presidents were even more anonymous. Same for governors. When Granholm was elected, John Engler, who was governor for twelve years, took another job, left the state, and has been scarcely been heard of since.

Dick Posthumus, who gave Granholm an unexpectedly close race in 2002, conceded gracefully and never said a word after that. Same for Howard Wolpe and Dick DeVos.

Nationally - well, did you ever see Michael Dukakis or Bob Dole after they were defeated for president?     

This all started to change when despite losing badly, Sarah Palin and John McCain failed to vanish from the airwaves. Soon, Dick Cheney was attacking President Obama. Now, we’ve got an ex-governor denouncing another ex-governor over sexual indiscretions committed before either were in office.

Mark Twain thought the best solution was to hang defeated candidates for any office, on the grounds it was kinder to them and to ourselves. What I think we need to do instead is reinstate what I call the Posthumus rules. After losing an election or leaving office, candidates should be urged to go gently into that good night.

Discover life after politics. And, if they just can’t keep away, leave sex alone.

Do something for library funding instead.