In a February 20 column which lamented as a tragedy the mess that former Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.) got himself into by improperly using campaign resources for extravagant personal expenses, Washington Post personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary scolded her readers to "think about the mess you might have made of your finances or the financial follies of people you know" before "pass[ing] judgment on the Jacksons."
In a column in which she never mentioned Jackson's party affiliation, Singletary suggested that the Illinois Democrat procured luxury items including a $43,350-gold-plated Rolex watch because he and his wife Sandi were "eager to impress their more wealthy colleagues or the people who run with them in their circle of power and privilege," but she added that it was "[n]ot an excuse, just an observation."
Of course, in the very next paragraph, Singletary observed that according to Roll Call, the richest elected federal legislator is "Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) with a net worth of more than $300 million." The implication readers might draw is that Jackson, a liberal Democrat from Chicago, Illinois, was somehow trying to win acceptance from a conservative congressman from Texas. It's a rather odd argument, to say the least.
Not once did Singletary -- whose columns are usually full of calls for personal financial responsibility -- suggest that perhaps Jackson's problem was not a desperate desire to appear wealthier than he was but rather the hubris of a politician in a safe district cynically exploiting his power and access to campaign finances to indulge his desire to acquire items he could never do within his personal financial means.