By: Albert Paschall
Some days in retirement I miss the soap opera “As The World Turns.”
Its cheesy plots, thin acting and poor attempts at humor were often a lunch time treat until the historic series ended just over a year ago.
But I no longer have to miss the drama. Cheesy plots, bad acting and poor judgment are all alive and well. All one has to do is follow the politics of Montgomery County.
Last week, County Commissioner Chairman Jim Matthews was indicted for perjury. An 18 month grand jury investigation into a number of ‘irregularities’ resulted in him being charged, surrendering to county detectives in a convenience store then being perp walked, with handcuffs high on his chest, before a well briefed press corps to be the ‘big story’ that night on all of Philadelphia’s TV stations.
The irregularities have been well documented. Just take a look at the archives of the Norristown Times Herald or The Philadelphia Inquirer. Political payoffs for lucrative health care contracts, the squandering of the American Revolution Center Museum that Matthews called “a great move” and ultimately Matthews’ real sin: his unbridled ego since he was selected by Lynn Swann 5 years ago as the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor. That ego notwithstanding the fact that Rendell and Matthews’s opponent, the aged Katherine Baker Knoll, massacred them with a 4 to 1 win.
That ego was his downfall. Indicted at the end of his twelve year tenure for his real crime, at least in Republican circles, of doing a deal with Democrat Joe Hoeffel to be county chairman. A job that has as much power as an earthworm in heat. But Matthews was enthralled with rubbing elbows with what he considered the elite. In his own words he was a ‘regional commissioner’ loving his time with the kind of Democrats that his brother Chris, the outspoken cable TV talking head, adores.
But is Jim Matthews guilty? Did he need to be paraded and humiliated before the media?
No. Jim Matthews is as guilty of perjury as Bill Clinton was guilty of having sex with that woman. When asked by the prosecutor if he owned a title company that did business with the county his answer was no. What would he have answered if he was asked did he own shares of that title company? We’ll find out after Montgomery County taxpayers and Jim Matthews spend thousands of dollars on a worthless case.
But in the end Matthews’ legacy will live on. Those who prosecute him actually escape his real heritage. In November, for the first time since the Civil War, the Democratic Party won a majority on the board of commissioners and will soon control Montgomery County. Who knows now how it will go in the next episode of As Montgomery County Turns?
Albert Paschall is a Senior Fellow at The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, a non-profit educational foundation based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He is a Director Emeritus of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.