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Living Out Loud

Sep 28, 2017

My guess is that nobody has ever before compared Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Magazine and all that went with it, with Kristi Etue, the director of the Michigan State Police.

I’ve never met either. I cannot imagine Etue dressed in anything other than her blue uniform, or Hefner, who died yesterday, in anything other than a velvet bathrobe.

Both, however, were guilty of self-indulgence – with a difference. My guess is that most mommies and daddies would think the state police director a far better role model for their kids than the world’s greatest soft pornographer. In a lot of ways, I’d agree.

But in one way, exactly the opposite is true. Hefner died a 91-year-old multi-millionaire, living, in a mansion filled with beautiful young women who were about the age of his grandchildren. He did it, as Frank Sinatra said, his way.

Kristi Etue, on the other hand, has irrevocably tarnished her otherwise spotless career with one incredibly stupid and offensive Facebook post.

Governor Snyder, who appointed her six years ago, has resisted calls to fire her, which isn’t surprising. It took him forever to remove the tone-deaf head of the Department of Environmental Quality after the entire city of Flint had been poisoned.

But it is now certain that if a Democrat is elected governor next year, Etue will be gone, and it is by no means clear she can survive until then. If you missed it, what she did was this:

She posted a widely circulated text on her personal Facebook page that called the athletes who have been kneeling during the National Anthem “degenerates,” and “millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our Armed Forces and veterans.”

You might ask, doesn’t she have the right to her own opinions?

Well, of course. But unlike Hugh Hefner, who lived out loud in the private sector, Etue is a civil servant paid with taxpayer dollars. Some of her salary is paid with taxes from those who have kneeled or support those kneeling, and they don’t much like being called degenerates.

What’s really bad, however is that she isn’t some ideologically-driven legislator elected by citizens who knew and presumably shared her views. She is an appointee sworn to protect everybody. And again, she appears to be saying some of her fellow citizens, including black athletes with a particular point of view, are less than human.

Did she think that was going to foster the kind of trust in the Michigan State Police all citizens need to have?

Yes, she later said posting that was a mistake, and said,

“I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended.” But the damage had been done, and what she didn’t do was repudiate the idea that political protestors were “degenerates” and “ingrates who hate America.”

Basically, she badly, and probably irrevocably, damaged her ability to do her job. When he was in the White House, Harry Truman used to write nasty and searing letters to people he was angry with, and then almost never mail them. That’s a good model to follow for everyone, especially those in public life. Write whatever you want and attach whatever you want to it.

Then instead of posting, move it to the recycle bin. Do this, and you’ll thank me in the morning.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.