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VOL. 122 | NO. 82 | Friday, May 4, 2007

Faith — Oops! — Ford No More

By Lindsay Jones

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One of my biggest stumbling blocks since childhood has been placing people on pedestals on which they clearly don't belong - "clearly" to everyone but me, that is.

I can't count the times I've built someone up to be a hero only to find that he or she is seriously flawed. Or realized that person has more vices than Swiss cheese has holes. Or stubbornly concentrated on an individual's good qualities while studiously ignoring (or excusing) the bad.

That's because my personality is one the Keirsey Temperament Sorter calls "the counselor idealist." It's the type of wiring system whose default button is "glass half full" instead of "glass half empty" (or "smashed to pieces" or "nonexistent").

"Counselor idealists are abstract in thought and speech, cooperative in reaching their goals and enterprising and attentive in interpersonal roles," reads www.keirsey.com. ... "Counselors focus on human potentials ... (and) have an unusually strong desire to contribute to the welfare of others and genuinely enjoy helping their companions."

Some of the more famous counselor idealists include Albert Schweitzer, Mohandas Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Princess Diana and Mikhail Gorbachev, according to the site.

Nice to be in such good company, but I must admit I'm annoyed with myself, once again, for that stubborn empathetic streak, that constant yen for everyone to be intrinsically good.

This time it manifested itself in pity - albeit short-lived - for 65-year-old former state Sen. John Ford.

Ford, whose rap sheet extends back to the early 1970s, late last week was found guilty of one count of bribery in connection with the FBI's Tennessee Waltz sting. Agents set up a sham computer recycling company called E-Cycle Management Inc. and then paid lawmakers to push favorable legislation.

All told, 11 people have been snared since the sting acquired its Waltz moniker in 2005, with Ford and five other current or former legislators in the bunch.

Former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon, D-Memphis, was convicted in November and is serving a five-year sentence. Former state Rep. Chris Newton, R-Benton, already has served nine months in prison after being convicted of accepting bribes. Sen. Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga, and former state Sen. Kathryn Bowers, D-Memphis, are awaiting their respective trials.

Ford's conviction came after jurors watched hours of tapes dating back to August 2004 showing Ford pocketing $55,000 in cash payoffs. The tapes also showed him boasting about his numerous sexual conquests and using language unbefitting a state legislator or even a sailor.

Even so, Ford escaped the first count of extortion when the jury couldn't reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial. He also slipped out of charges three, four and five, each a count of witness intimidation.

He faces a statutory sentence of up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. He will be sentenced July 31.

To be honest, though, my pity for the former lawmaker/lawbreaker lasted all of a millisecond. After the first infinitesimal flash, it descended at a rate of 98m/s to cheers and whoops over his conviction - and disbelieving shrieks and sighs that he was able to parlay one set of charges into a mistrial while wriggling out of three others.

I guess they don't call him Teflon John for nothing, at least not until he finally tangled himself in a net too wide and deep to escape.

Now the perennial playboy faces separate charges in Nashville. This time, he's charged with six felony counts of taking almost $800,000 in kickbacks from state contractors. If convicted in that case, it is unclear how much prison time Ford might have to serve or if he will be required to pay fines.

So here's where the pity comes in: What a shame that a man who could have used his influence for tremendous good instead used it more often for his own gain. What a shame that his soul somehow became so corrupt, he apparently saw no wrong in squeaking past authorities for decades. Or if he did see wrong in his actions, didn't examine it too closely.

No doubt about it: We all do wrong in this life; everyone screws up at some point, usually more than once. Nobody's character is perfect, at least not if they're human.

But some wrongs can't be righted. Some can't be excused no matter how we might want to believe otherwise. Some wrongs just have to be faced.

So much for being an idealist. Sometimes, you just have to be a realist.

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