Op-ed: Corbetts Blindness a Disability He Can Overcome
The barricades and the extra police at the end of a Capitol hallway tell you everything you need to know about the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett.
From Day One, the governor, who campaigned bravely about ordinary citizens reclaiming their government, has shown curious fear of those same citizens.
Feeling safer with a small audience of unquestioning supporters, the once-courageous reformer has recently taken to using his massive security apparatus to turn away the unwashed masses.
When a group of citizens in wheelchairs visited the Capitol in February, the former criminal prosecutor who spent a dozen years as a National Guard infantryman, took no chances.
Capitol Police were deployed and barricades were erected to keep the dangerous wheelchair people at bay. This wasnt too difficult. The security detail explained that they were told to not to let people in wheelchairs on the elevators. Blocking the elevators was all it took to keep them on the ground floor, a safe distance from the governors lair.
Meanwhile, lobbyists, pages, pizza drivers and politicians continued to enjoy access as usual.
It was a breathtaking metaphor for the Corbett administration, a policy-as-performance-art moment that wrapped the Corbett fear and loathing in a tidy package.
It might be illegal.
Does that matter?
It should at least matter to the tough, law-and-order prosecutor who boldly took on the entrenched Harrisburg powerbrokers before running off to his Capitol office and blocking the elevators.
And it should matter to the millions of Pennsylvanians that dont have lobbyist credentials and Capitol security badges.
As the new security policy was explained by underlings in the administration, you can not only be banned from the building for causing a ruckus, but you can be banned if the administration thinks you might cause a ruckus. Or if somebody who looks like you has caused a ruckus.
Its scary where this leads. Any justification that can be mustered for a people-in-wheelchairs policy can be rolled out again for race, religion, shoe-size, hair-do or lack of proper manicure.
But there is no justification for the administrations unilateral security actions. No legal justification anyway.
If the governor thinks that the wheelchair people will quietly roll away in deference to his show of force, he doesnt know what the view of the world looks like from this seat.
On the occasions that I have been asked about how my accident changed my life, I often say: It took my legs, but it opened my eyes.
There are more than a million Pennsylvanians who use wheelchairs for one reason or another and Ive met a lot of them. The weakest and most vulnerable among them have shown me more courage than this governor.
Sure, theres a tendency when youre faced with adversity to lock yourself in a dark room, surround yourself with friends and block out the world.
But one day you realize that whatever the adversity, it must be faced directly. Boldly. Courageously.
When the governor sent his security team to stop the wheelchairs, it wasnt just a cowardly overreach of executive authority.
It was also a missed a chance to overcome his own disability: a blindness to the plight of ordinary people.