The recent furor over Manny Pacquiao’s remarks about same-sex marriage was mostly centered on severe comments that were invented by his Filipino interviewer. But they demonstrated something about Congressman Pacquiao that thus far everyone has been too polite to mention. He’s a political leader who left school at age 14 and isn’t terribly comfortable making sophisticated judgments.
Marriage is a religious sacrament but also a government-backed ceremony that brings forth a legal certificate, making it more than the sum of its parts. It’s only one of many tough topics politicians must deal with.
Pac Man eventually earned the Philippines equivalent of a G.E.D. and was given a high school diploma. But what he actually knows about economics, history, finance, international affairs, and related topics is pretty much a mystery. His constituents elected him because, as he told them, he was not only just like them, but one of them, still the hungry kid who used to sell cigarettes on the street, and he wants to help his countrymen.
Also, Manny, who’s already being mentioned as a possible future Philippines president, is a man of integrity and speaks like one. That’s a distinguishing characteristic in a nation where kickbacks and corruption are part of the landscape. A 2008 World Bank study ranked corruption in the Philippines at 139 out of 180, with lower numbers standing for integrity. Its ranking was roughly equal to infamous Pakistan or Bangladesh, where baksheesh is an integral part of the landscape. So Pacquiao’s propensity for honesty is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s relatively rare in Philippines governmental circles.
But in order for honesty to be used for something worthwhile, it needs to be accompanied by knowledge. So yes, Pacquiao might work to build a public hospital in his district, but does he know how to ensure contractors won’t cut corners or that administrators will run it efficiently? Can he recognize swindlers who want to use his popularity for their own selfish ends?
Manny’s educational attainments are more honestly reported than those of, say, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who attended the O. W. Coburn School of Law, a crackpot subsidiary of polemical Oral Roberts University, where her principal professor, John Eidsmoe, taught students that the United States was founded as a Christian state that should be run by religious leaders. Apparently he was a law professor with a terribly limited knowledge of the Constitution.
Certain people are more comfortable when their political representatives are as ignorant as they are, and they can end up with legislators like Oklahoma State Sen. Ralph Shortey, who introduced a bill that makes fetuses forbidden food. Apparently he was worried they might become part of a hippie restaurant menu.
If you want legislators capable of making reasoned judgments, you find nominees trained to examine information critically. There was a time when most Americans and probably most Filipinos agreed that their representatives should be equipped for the job by education and intelligence. Now many of them want someone like Joe the Plumber, a candidate for political office who wouldn’t know a fiscal tool from a window fan.
On the other hand, formal education doesn’t necessarily equate with knowledge. When John McCain’s aides tried to prep Sarah Palin for her debate with Joe Biden, they discovered she’d somehow managed to graduate from the University of Idaho without learning the U.S. had a national bank called the Federal Reserve or that the prime minister, not the queen, ran the British government. When Katie Couric asked Palin what publications she liked to read, Palin considered that a “gotcha” question and so did her supporters. She couldn’t name one. Does anyone ask Pacquiao what publications he likes to read?
Those who’ve dealt with him know Pac Man is no dummy, but at some point he will disengage from boxing and embrace the gray world of regulations and statutes. At that point he’ll have to make real-world decisions that have even further-reaching implications than a right hook over a lazy jab.
This column originally appeared in BoxingInsider.com and can be seen at http://www.boxinginsider.com/columns/how-much-does-congressman-pacquiao-really-know-about-government/
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