Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Can you be kicked out of the government for serving sautéed shad roe?

Prime Minister Samak Sundarave of Thailand has just been ousted by a Thai court for violating the constitution. His crime? Hosting TV cooking shows while in office.

Samak was the host of “Tasting, Grumbling,” and “Touring at 6 a.m.” After becoming premier, he kept doing them for weeks, until finally quitting the shows in response to political outcry.

Samak probably violated Thai law. But I can’t say I’m appalled by the spectacle of someone in the government also holding a legitimate private-sector job. And I don’t think the concept of “appearance of corruption” should be so elastic that it distracts us from recognizing and combating real corruption.

In the U.S., Senator Tom Coburn has been battling the loose and even corrupt spending habits of senatorial colleagues. He has also, as senator, continued working as a doctor delivering babies. Coburn has agreed to collect no pay for his work, but the Senate’s so-called ethics committee wants him to stop. Ridiculous.

I’m no expert on politics in Thailand. Perhaps Samak is verifiably corrupt — for reasons having nothing to do with mixing sauces on television. Opponents have also been gunning for Samak’s cabinet. Perhaps the complaint about his cooking was just a handy way to get rid of him.

But in my book, that’s the wrong way to cook up a scandal.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. howiem says:

    Since you believe in the rule of law, let’s put it this way:
    1. If you are going to compare people in comparable positions, then you should compare Samak with the President of the USA, not a Senator. After all, as I believe you have said in the past, the Founding Fathers never intended for congressmen to make a career at it. If they did, I don’t think you would be such an advocate for term limits.
    Delivering babies is hardly a conflict of interest with anything, and there is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits it. It is both humane and certainly better than killing them, like Obama advocates for unwanted births.
    However, if George Bush was a medical doctor, and started spending his time delivering babies, I think we would all have have some qualms about that. After all, he is the Chief Executive, and as such should not be involved in any duties except those of the office. If he were making oil deals for himself that would be a conflict of interest and we would all be screaming for his head, not just the socialist loonies.
    In Thailand one of the reasons that the former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra was forced to resign was because he was conducting business on his own behalf while in office, namely a satellite deal with India and the sale of his Satellite company to a Singapore company affiliated with the Singaporean government.
    When Samak decided to continue his cooking show, the court ruled that he had committed a violation of ethics, which was grounds for removal. That was a ruling based on the courts interpretation of the constitution. Some of the thinking was undoubtedly that 1) there was already pressure from local activists for the government to resign. 2) Samak should not be getting paid for doing another job when his primary responsibility was doing the job of Prime Minister.

    Having lived in Thailand almost 30 years, I have learned that the Thai concept of “common sense” is not always the same as ours. Sometimes, not always, it is better. Besides, a violation is a violation. We couldn’t indict Al Capone for murder, so we got him for tax evasion. And if we could remove congressmen from office for ethics violations, like misuse of the taxpayer’s money, taking bribes from lobbyists, etc., we could turn off the air conditioning and the lights in the House and Senate offices. The biggest question is who would be left to do it? Sounds like a job even an environmentalist couldn’t mess up too badly for the rest of us.

  2. Dale P. Ferguson says:

    So, if Nancy Pelosi can publish a book while in office, why can’t Tom Coburn continue delivering babies? Of course, the House has a different set of “ethics.”

    Now, if I can just find a sitting Senator who has published a book while in office, maybe I can speak to my two Senators about this issue.

  3. MaryEllen Lempa says:

    Isn’t running for president or vice president (double dipping, so-to-speak) while a sitting senator less ethical or more of a conflict of interest than delivering babies?

  4. Paul Jacob says:

    Thanks howiem for some good points and perspecive on Thailand. My point was less about Thailand, where admittedly I’m not in the know, and more about Dr. Coburn. Dale’s point is valid and so is MaryEllen’s. Think of how many days Sens. McCain and Obama have missed of work.

    Except maybe we should give thanks for that.

  5. Bill Apse says:

    I live in Thailand and I enjoyed watching Samak do his weekly show. He was a man who really loved his food and I doubt he did the show purely for the money- he is wealthy anyway.
    He once famously contracted food poisening after eating fermented fish sauce (the smelliest food ever produced)in a street market in Cambodia. Anyone brave enough to eat that sort of thing is a food fanatic and braver than is sensible.

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