By TOM HONIG
I've noticed some comments in various letters to the editor or on Facebook about how this candidate or another "doesn't care about" poor people ... or women ... or the elderly ... or some other group.
Sometimes you hear similar complaints from the right: liberals "don't care about" American exceptionalism or even that they're somehow not religious enough. (Take note: no one who's a non-believer could stand a chance in a national election.)
When did "caring" become such a political attribute? Does it really matter if someone "cares?" Does it matter if their religious beliefs match mine? I want people in office who are good at what they do. I want them to care about being competent.
Here's the deal. Politics is largely about helping the highest number of people at a reasonable price tag. Of course, doing that isn't easy. But applying government services in an effective and efficient manner is what matters for any elected official.
Sadly, a lot of politicans don't measure up. What they do, instead, is convince certain favored groups that they "care." But every political decision -- like it or not -- has winners and losers. Barack Obama "cared" about unionized auto workers -- and the health of the Midwest economy -- so he fashioned a bailout of GM and Chrysler. But he didn't "care" so much about all those middle-class bondholders of GM and GMAC, and they lost all their money.
Maybe he was right. But "caring" ought not enter into it.
Locally, the biggest issue of the last year was the Coastal Commission vote to deny the redevelopment of the La Bahia Hotel. Led by local county supervisor Mark Stone, the commission "cared" about the impact on the environment. But does that mean that Stone and the commissioners "didn't care" about people who need jobs? Did Obama "not care" about jobs when he opposed the Keystone oil pipeline? Does Gov. Jerry Brown "care" more about prison guards than he does about teachers?
These are all tough issues, and reasonable people can disagree whether the decisions were good ones. But "caring" is hardly the touchstone. It's about effectiveness and good policy.
"Caring" is great in our personal lives. In politics, "caring" sometimes means taking care of one favored group while shutting down another. Give me an official who's competent and makes good decisions. Leave the caring to my friends and family.