Experiment shows similarities between mice and politicians

Feb. 7, 2006 12:00 AM

It turns out that the Democratic governor of Arizona and the Republican president of the United States are essentially the same person politically, and we can prove it. But we'll have to conduct a little science experiment.

When researchers want to understand the inner workings of a complicated organism such as the human body, they sometimes study the effects of certain activities on a somewhat less sophisticated creature. For instance, mice.

Likewise, if we want to understand the battle going on in Washington over whether the president can eavesdrop on citizens without a warrant, we only have to look at a conflict going on within the much more primitive life form known as the Arizona Legislature.

There are a couple of reasons ordinary folks like us should want to conduct such highbrow research.

First and most obviously, it affords us an opportunity to compare politicians to laboratory rats.

Second, and equally as fun, it provides proof positive that in politics the idea of right and wrong, legal and illegal, have more to do with who's in charge than with what actually is right and wrong.

All we need to do is look through the microscope at the political Petri dish that is Arizona. Republican leaders of the Legislature say that they plan to sue Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano for misusing her authority by way of the line-item veto.

"We're not just defending the body of the Legislature," Republican Sen. Thayer Verschoor said, "we're defending the Constitution." Just last week another Republican complained about Napolitano's use of her veto power by saying she was elected governor, not "dictator."

All of this might sound noble and righteous were it not for the fact that in the early 1990s it was the Democrats in the state House suing the Republican in the governor's office for what they claimed was his abuse of the same power.

The Democrats back then said the Republican at the top had gone too far, just as the Republicans now are saying the Democrat at the top has gone too far.

This is how it is in politics and life. The powerful get away with what they can, and those who agree with them go along with it.

In Washington, D.C., it is Democrats who are pressing hardest on the issue of President Bush overstepping the bounds of his power by way of warrantless wiretaps.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat, said Monday, "Instead of doing what the president has the authority to do legally, he decided to do it illegally without safeguards. In America, our America, nobody is above the law, not even the president of the United States."

Unless, of course, members of his party control both the House and the Senate, as they do now. Many of these same men and woman believed that Democratic President Clinton had overstepped his authority when he sent bombers to the Balkans, among other things. Likewise, many of those same Republicans put Clinton through an impeachment trial for offenses that some might consider to be of lesser consequence than what Bush has done.

Naturally, the people who would consider Clinton's offenses to be less sinister most likely would be Democrats.

The lessons about right and wrong that we teach our kids don't translate into politics, where might tends to make right.

So, based on experiments here and in Washington, D.C., it's safe to say that, scientifically speaking, politics is a rat race. And as the comedian Lily Tomlin says, even if you win, you're still a rat.

Reach Montini at or (602) 444-8978. Read his blog at

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