Souder’s Tour Guide Days Are Over

When soon-to-be-resigned U.S. Rep. Mark Souder says, "I am so ashamed" when talking about the affair that is driving him from office, I believe him. I can’t say that is often the case when politicians, athletes, entertainers or the like are admitting their wrongdoings.

You won’t find any flippant comments or double entendres here. Just a quick anecdote about Souder that makes yesterday’s development all the more incredulous for me.

I attended the Indiana Chamber’s annual D.C. Fly-in 2009 for the first time in quite a few years. Following the traditional opening night congressional roundtable (as many Indiana reps and senators as you will ever see in one place), I talked to a few of our business participants and caught up on several phone messages. When ready to make the trip back to the hotel, I noticed that most of my Chamber colleagues were gone.

Slightly more than a handful of attendees did remain and two were engaged in a conversation with Souder. When the longtime represenative (he defeated 2008 gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson in 1994 to gain the congressional seat) offered a tour of the U.S. Capitol, I was quick to tag along.

I don’t think any in the group were Souder’s constituents. After a long day filled with a variety of votes, meetings and the Chamber event, he certainly didn’t have to go that extra step. And he didn’t just point out a couple of key locations and send us on our way. The lesson in Washington and American history (Souder was passionate in detailing the statues, artwork, lesser-known passageways and the like) lasted close to two hours. Without exaggeration, it was akin to an artist or playwright explaining the deeper meaning behind his or her work.

Did that make Souder a saint? Obviously not. Did it mean he was a little different than many of his colleagues who serve in Washington for so many years? I thought so then, and maintain that opinion at least somewhat today. Shame on Souder for his mistakes, but give him at least a little credit for admitting his shortcomings, accepting the blame and giving up his position.

Now, an already interesting election season has another bit of intrigue. The secretary of state’s office outlines the procedures for the upcoming special election and November vote.