I am hoping this is the last column I write, or need to, about either Kathleen Kane or Donald Trump.
Whether she wins her appeal or not, her law career is likely finished. And barring a WikiLeaks email suggesting that Hillary Clinton was making smoothies out of cats, and assuming the polls are correct, the only remaining questions revolve around such down-ballot races — like, can Sen. Pat Toomey win re-election while sticking fingers in his ears and saying “I can’t see you, I can’t hear you” whenever he’s asked about Trump?
But it’s worth it to talk about Kane and Trump in the same column. Because the failure of Kane sheds light on Trump’s candidacy, as well.
As I’ve written before, one of Kane’s weaknesses was her lack of a political background. She had been a deputy district attorney in Lackawanna County before she ran. That’s very good training to be a trial lawyer. It is insufficient training to be a politician, which is the primary skill that a state attorney general needs.
Attorneys general do not get into the trenches to try cases. Instead, the job requires knowing how to deal with competing demands. It’s a skill set that requires an understanding of politics and its many permutations, even if the attorneys general themselves have no ambitions beyond that job. And they have to do all of that while managing an office of smart, strong-willed people (you know, lawyers).
We know Kane was a political novice. And it’s equally true of Trump. That has been his one of his pitches to voters all along. Elect me, and I’ll shake things up. I’m an outsider, I will not do what the politicians want.
You can get away, sort of, running for the state House or Senate as an outsider. You’re one of 203 in the House, one of 50 in the state Senate. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn on the job. Your naivete can’t cause too much damage.
If you’re running for a job where you have to do things that matter in people’s lives, not understanding what the job entails is not an option.
Which brings up another, even worse way Kane and Trump are disturbingly alike. They both tended toward using the office they sought or seek as more a vehicle to settle scores.
Kane came into office looking to rattle what she termed an old-boys club. And judging by the amount of porn being circulated on the commonwealth’s servers, it’s not like she didn’t have a point. But she didn’t have any conception of how to deal with that.
And here’s where the comparison really shows itself. She told her aides “This is war,” and her actions showed she was not using that phrase metaphorically. She ran through staffers like they were paper towels. She kept the office in a continual defensive crouch. She doubled down on her mistakes. She seemed oblivious to any sort of advice.
And she was willing to trash innocent people, most particularly J. Whyatt Mondesire, formerly the head of the Philadelphia NAACP, to prove her point. If she cared about the effects leaking grand jury material would have on Mondesire, she didn’t seem to care.
If you want to know what a Trump administration would look like, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has provided you with an almost pristine example. It would be autocratic, vicious and not even all that effective.
Now here’s the point where I can picture some people saying, “But doesn’t this prove our system of checks and balances works? That when someone in a powerful governmental position goes off the rails, the other branches of government will do their jobs and bring things back to sanity?”
Well, yes. Kathleen Kane had her law license suspended. She has been convicted. She resigned. All’s well. If, that is, you believe the Pennsylvania attorney general is an office totally like the president of the United States.
The state AG is a powerful person. But he or she doesn’t command armies. He or she doesn’t sit at the head of the government for all 50 states. He or she doesn’t have the ability to ignore judicial orders. And he or she doesn’t ever get access to the country’s nuclear codes.
If you vote for Donald Trump, you are voting for the Kathleen Kane style of governance, times infinity, with a large helping of greed thrown in the mix. Maybe if you lived in one of the other 49 states, you wouldn’t know any of this.
But we do.
Mitchell Sommers, an attorney practicing in Lancaster and Ephrata, is fiction editor for Philadelphia Stories, a quarterly literary magazine. Twitter: @MitchSommers