You know him by his canny mixture of rural folksiness and political skill. When his enemies think they've got something on him, he slithers away.
Caught out in a wrongdoing, he's likely to invoke his homely origins and down-home godliness. He might even recite a ready-made country saying that puts the best light on whatever bad thing he's just done.
Recently, when the media exposed some skeletons in ol' country boy's closet, he said, "When I was asked about this, I thought, 'oh, crap.' But then I thought about it, and I felt good about my ability to come back from adversity time and time again."
He added, "When things have hit me hard, I've survived, pushed through them and kept on going."
Asked about the problem that caused the recent trouble, this politician replied, "People who know me will understand. We have a large Christian community where I'm from, and the first thing Christians are taught to do is forgive. In 1997, I paid a severe price, and it cost me pride and made me humble."
OK, enough for this game. If you thought I was talking about President Bill Clinton, the wayward country boy from Hope, Arkansas, you're forgiven. The rhetorical magic that Clinton has pulled out of his cap in the aftermath of everything from pot-smoking without inhaling to oral sex with Monica Lewinski sounds very much like the things that Ohio Rep. Larry Householder has been saying lately.
Most of the above quotes appeared in a story that ran last Friday in the Cincinnati Enquirer. The article, by reporter Debra Jasper, revealed that 41-year-old Householder -- presumptive Ohio House Speaker in 2001 -- has been convicted of four alcohol-related offenses in the past 16 years. He was arrested twice in the 1980s for driving under the influence, a third time for disorderly conduct while intoxicated, and most recently, in 1997, for another DUI after running his car into a ditch in rural Perry County. The earliest drunk-driving arrest, from 1984 in Perry County, stuck as a DUI, while the other, from 1988 in Athens County, was amended to reckless operation. The 1989 drunk and disorderly incident -- from when Householder, an OU alum, was 30 years old -- arose from actions outside an Athens bar.
Householder says that he hasn't touched alcohol since shortly after the 1997 drunk-driving conviction, which is the only one of his arrests that had hit the news media before Friday's Enquirer story. At the time, the first-term Republican representative told the state trooper that he only drank two alcoholic drinks before driving. In 1997, based on erroneous Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles records, newspapers reported that this was Householder's only DUI conviction. Neither Householder nor anyone else made any effort to correct the mistake.
If Householder is truthful about going on the wagon, he deserves praise for sticking with the program. The 13-year span between his first arrest and his last arrest suggests that this was a longstanding problem. And one that presumably had other serious impacts on his life that have nothing to do with police reports.
So, good going, Larry.
What's disturbing is Householder's attempts to turn this bad thing -- four alcohol-related offenses in 13 years is a bad thing, isn't it? -- into a good thing.
In various quoted statements since the story broke four days ago, Householder has:
1) Tried to make it sound like his four arrests aren't remarkable ("As my dad used to say, 'You don't judge a man's character by how he falls, because all of us do, all of the time. You judge him by how he gets up." -- the Columbus Dispatch, Sept. 2). Ask the person sitting beside you if he's been arrested four times.
2) Tried to make it sound like he's remarkable because he overcame his problem ("Normal people who have a drinking problem can't stop, but I've stopped" -- The Enquirer).
3) Has dismissed his arrests as mistakes of a "reckless youth" (he was arrested when he was 25, 29, 30 and 38).
4) Suggested that he's a superior human being because he screwed up repeatedly and then at some point stopped screwing up.
5) Invoked his down-home, God-fearing roots to remind us that everybody makes mistakes, but if you're from rural Perry County, your mistakes can actually make you a better person than those inferior human beings who don't get arrested for driving into ditches with a snoot full.
I'M NOT HERE TO ARGUE that based on these alcohol arrests, Larry Householder doesn't deserve to represent the 78th House District -- or become the third most powerful politician in Ohio, as House Speaker.
However, this notion that Householder and his GOP allies are trying to float -- that the House member's ability to endure after repeated alcohol-related foul-ups is the mark of a special leader -- makes me wonder whether they're all drinking high-octane booze.
Householder's arrest history tells us, at the very least, that he exercised poor judgment repeatedly and well into his adulthood. Nobody knows for sure whether he left the poor judgment behind when he ditched the sauce in 1997. If that's the case, fine; he should just say, hey, booze messed me up, but I'm better now.
But please stop with all the self-aggrandizing bullschwa about being the better candidate for having overcome diversity. Mixing this with his gratuitous invocations of God and community, Householder sounds nauseatingly similar to those infamous moral magicians Bill Clinton and Jimmy Swaggart.
Also troubling is Householder and his GOP allies' emphasis on the importance of forgiveness. Coming from the political party that's given us mandatory minimum sentences for relatively low-level drug offenders, this comes off as blatant hyprocrisy.
In the long run, voters in the 78th House District will probably judge Householder by what he's done in office, rather than his past problems with alcohol and the law. The thing is, some of the things that Householder has been doing in pursuit of the House Speakership are much more alarming than the fact that he's been arrested four times for alcohol-related offenses.
Combine Householder's ruthless maneuvering to gain power, his past recklessness, and his current efforts to transform that political lodestone into gold, and I believe Ohioans may have something to worry about.
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
Welcome to the discussion.
Please write and submit your comment, and after a short delay it should post to the comment section of the chosen article, as long as it abides by the standard rules below. (On occasion, the delay will be longer but we will get to it as soon as we can. Thanks for your patience.)
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.