Rod Jetton was once the most powerful lawmaker in Missouri.
As speaker of the Missouri House, he had the power to exalt or kill any bill that flowed through the General Assembly. From all appearances, he had a bright political future.
Behind the scenes, however, Jetton was on a course for self-destruction.
By the time he left office, the FBI was investigating him for bribery. He was facing serious jail time after being accused of felony assault. Just months after being one of the most powerful men in Missouri politics, Jetton was broke and without a job.
Jetton’s life has stabilized in recent years. He decided to recount his downfall in the book Success Can Kill You, which was released a few weeks ago. He said he hopes it serves as a warning to those entering the political world.
“I thought this might be something that would hopefully help somebody say, ‘I need to pay a little bit more attention to this. I need to be careful. I don’t want to make those mistakes that Rod made,’” Jetton said in a telephone interview. “You know, maybe be a warning to people: Don’t make these mistakes.”
Dave Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said Jetton’s story showcases how the pressures of politics and legislative duties can impact people. He said others could learn a lot from his story.
“It’s Shakespearean,” Robertson said. “You put some character in a situation where their weaknesses are going to be accentuated, and the deterioration is going to be accelerated. They’re going to go downhill in a pretty dramatic way.”
At this velocity
Jetton’s rise in Missouri politics was rapid. In just four years, he went from being an inexperienced backbencher in the Republican minority to the most powerful legislator in the state.
As speaker of the House from 2005 to 2009, there’s little debate that Jetton’s tenure was fruitful from a policy perspective. Many longtime Republican priorities were passed into law. But Jetton’s efforts to grow the GOP majority and climb the leadership ladder took its toll.
“I used to think before I got into politics that it was the king of the mountain. That we were fighting the Democrats to get to the top and rule the world,” Jetton said. “And then you start learning that there’s two mountains. You’ve got a Republican mountain and the Democratic mountain. And the fight to get to the top of your own mountain is so much worse than I ever dreamed.
“When you’re speaker, you have the stroke to step up and throw down,” he added. “And the pride that went with it started making me do that more and more. Which led to more conflict.”
All the while, Jetton was spending long stretches of time away from his wife and children, which eventually led to his 2009 divorce. He had begun drinking more and more – even though he had sworn off alcohol after issues with the substance as a youth. And he became disconnected with his religious faith.
“It’s probably the most embarrassing thing about the story for me. I know that I let that stuff change the person I was,” Jetton said. “My priorities, my values, my focus – it all started changing a little bit. I think it’s a combination of the personal pride a person has and the flattery that they receive.”
After term limits forced him to leave office in 2009, Jetton transitioned into political consulting. But that would be upended in spectacular fashion.
“There was no blaming anybody. As much as I don’t really want to relive all of that, at the same time, that brought me to my knees and I finally said, ‘OK, I’ve got to straighten myself out and get back to where I need to be.’,” Jetton said. “Without that happening, I don’t know if I would have done that.”
One key element of the book is how his December 2009 arrest prompted him to reevaluate his priorities. He had the time, as he was unemployed, financially ruined and living in a friend’s basement. Things were so bad, he said, that he couldn’t get a job as a salesman at Sears.
“I was isolated and my world was over,” Jetton said. “Now, as bad as that was, there was a benefit to it that I’m thankful for. Most of our lives are so busy and hectic that we don’t ever have an opportunity to stop and think or, like the professors, take a sabbatical. Life just starts speeding up and you never have time to stop and think about where you are and what your priorities are.
“Well, the merry-go-round was going around pretty fast for me,” he added. “But all of a sudden, it stopped.”
Another factor, he said, in his personal recuperation was his reconnection with his faith. It’s a major theme throughout his book.
“When you lose your reputation, it frees you up in a way that you don’t have to worry about how everybody is thinking about you every second of the day,” Jetton said. “It wasn’t hard to figure out. I did these certain actions and it led to these problems that led to my destruction. Well, do I want to keep doing that?”
Even though the case is settled, Jetton said, it still has a lingering impact.
“I know in my life before my troubles, if I read something about somebody like that, I would believe that they did it,” Jetton said. “And if they got off, I would have talked about how they just manipulated the political system. It wouldn’t be a hard case to explain that a powerful, former speaker manipulated the judicial system to get a great deal. So, I’m quite confident that most people – especially if they don’t know me or the situation – are going to say ‘that’s just another crooked politician getting off.’”
Is it worth it?
After reading Jetton’s book, I was left wondering if being a part of the Missouri General Assembly is worth it
Sure, state representatives and senators have the power to make public policy changes. And there is a level of prestige and public service that comes with the job. But is a part-time job that pays roughly $35,000 a year really worth pursuing if it can lead to losing your family, decimating your livelihood and compromising your values? It doesn’t seem like a good trade-off.
I asked Jetton if he would have been better off if he had decided not to run for the state legislature in 2000. He said, hypothetically, he might have been able to make more money in the private sector and spend less time away from his family.
“But that being said, you can’t go back. You can’t change,” said Jetton, adding that he was responsible for his actions — not the office.
That brings about another question: Does the culture of Jefferson City cause morally-upright people to change? Or do the financial and time commitment barriers of entry compel worthy people not to pursue state legislative offices?
George Connor, a political science professor at Missouri State University, said that both Jefferson City’s culture and the nature of term limits plays a role.
“Somebody like Jetton, as a number of other people in politics, has an enormous well of ambition. And if you make that ambition a priority over family and other kinds of things, the opportunity is there to mess you up real good.” — University of Missouri-St. Louis professor Dave Robertson
He said the “loose relationships” between legislators and interest groups provides “opportunities for individual to make bad decisions.”
“It’s a free-for-all,” Connor said. “It’s a little bit like the Wild West with respect to campaign funding. It’s like the Wild West with respect to lobbyist gifts. We’re one of the least regulated states with respect to the relationship between lobbyists and legislators.”
UMSL’s Dave Robertson said different organizations have incentives that skew people’s behaviors. For legislators, the desire to raise money for office and to satisfy constituents “leads to a number of consequences that complicate the quest for a completely clean reputation.”
“I wouldn’t say that it changes the fundamental person as much as it gives them incentives to behave a lot differently and in a lot less appealing way,” Robertson said. “Somebody like Jetton, as a number of other people in politics, has an enormous well of ambition. And if you make that ambition a priority over family and other kinds of things, the opportunity is there to mess you up real good.”
To be sure, both Connor and Jetton said there are lawmakers who are able to enter and leave the legislature with their principles and reputation in tact. Still, Jetton does have a word of caution for relatively young political aspirants: It may be best to wait.
“Especially if you live far from Jefferson City, it just takes you away,” Jetton said. “And if you’re a young guy and you want to be a hard charger, you’re not just going to be able to go there and do a typical Monday through Thursday thing. You’re going to want to go to some events and do some extra stuff that makes you travel even more. I guess would say ‘think about this for sure and see if you’re a little older and the kids are gone.’
“But if you do it, I would give them a copy of the book and say, ‘Hey, I know you don’t think this can happen to you.’,” he added.
The Recovering Politician Books is proud to publish its newest title, former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton, “Success Can Kill You: One Man’s Story of Success, Failure, Faith and Forgiveness.”
The book targeted to driven leaders, and points out how pride, flattery, bitterness and paranoia can have terrible consequences for those in charge of large organizations. Using personal examples, Rod warns readers about the dangers of letting success go to their heads. The book chronicles Rod’s meteoric rise from a young Marine officer to the second youngest House Speaker in Missouri state history. His political success made him a powerful force in the Republican Party and he was on the fast track to becoming Governor of Missouri, when his personal life exploded in a very public and humiliating fall.
On December 7, 2009, he was arrested for felony assault after a one-night stand with a woman he connected with on Facebook. Soon after that, he received a call from a former girlfriend telling him she was pregnant and he was going to be a father at the age of 42. Then, just a few weeks later, Rod found out he was the target of a grand jury investigation from his handling of a bill when he was Speaker of the Missouri House. Rod’s candid way of explaining his mistakes and pointing out the dangers of putting his career in front of his faith and family will be of great benefit to politicians, businessmen, church leaders and corporate executives focused on accomplishing their goals.
“Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” – Galatians 6:7
My bitterness and fighting had made me many political enemies across the state. Those enemies did everything they could to make sure the assault charges ended my political career. Over the last few years, I have had many supporters tell me I was set up by my political opponents. Let me set the record straight: I was not set up by anybody. I arranged to meet this lady on my own, and she was not part of any plan to get me. It is solely my fault and my responsibility.
But once my political opponents learned about the accusation, they took the information and did everything they could to make sure there was an investigation resulting in criminal charges. They used their political power to see me hang…however, I walked to the scaffold, gave them the rope, tied the knot, and put it around my own neck. Had I been in their shoes, I’m sure I would have done the same thing to them.
I remember talking to my good friend, Shannon Cooper, right after my arrest. In an effort to cheer me up he said, “Well Rod, at least things can only get better. You’re at rock bottom now, and the only way out is up.” While it did seem like my life had hit rock bottom, things were about to get a lot worse.
Two weeks after my arrest I was contacted by a lady I had dated that fall and was given some very sobering news. She told me she was pregnant and that I was going to be a daddy. Wow, that was a big news flash. My son was sixteen at the time and there I was at 42, about to be a new father.
To complicate the situation even more, she was still married. She was separated and in the process of getting a divorce when we started dating. Missouri law prohibits anyone who is pregnant from getting a divorce. They require that the parties wait until the child is born to do a DNA test to determine who the father is for child support reasons.
This woman came from a good Catholic family, and as you can imagine they were furious with both of us. The only thing they knew about me was what they saw on TV, which was not good. Her divorce, pregnancy and relationship with me were an embarrassment for them, and the whole complicated mess was like something on a soap opera.
For me, it meant another serious talk with my family. I will never forget telling my parents. When my mother heard the news, she gasped like someone had punched her in the gut. I could see the deep disillusionment in her eyes, but there was nothing I could do. What made it even worse for me was the realization that I was causing the woman who had done nothing but love and pray for me my whole life pain.
Once again my children were very kind and supportive. There are just no words to adequately describe how difficult it was to tell my two daughters and teenage son even more details about my whoring around. They were going to have a new sister or brother from someone they really didn’t even know, who was still married to another man.
That was one very rough Christmas. I was so thankful for God’s forgiveness and so appreciative of my family and friends, but everything else was a total and complete mess. I didn’t know what to do about my girlfriend and the arriving baby. She didn’t have any place to live so I rented her an apartment to live in and took care of her medical bills. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes, so I made plans to marry her once the baby was born. She was a very nice lady, and I felt responsible to her and the child, but I was adamant on us living apart and not having sex until we were married. By then, I was scared to death of breaking any more of God’s commandments.
Right after Christmas, I received more bad news. An old friend called to advise me of a federal grand jury investigation surrounding my handling of a bill regulating Missouri strip clubs during the 2005 legislative session. Over the years, many of my opponents had accused me of misconduct concerning this bill, but nothing had ever come of it. That fall a rumor about a new investigation had resurfaced, and my friend called to inform me that the FBI was moving forward with it.
I called my attorney who was helping me with the assault case, but he said he was not qualified to handle a federal case. He agreed to call the investigators and check on the situation. Later that week, he confirmed they were investigating the issue and two weeks after that I received a letter in the mail notifying me that I was the target of a federal grand jury investigation. The letter referenced several legal definitions of crimes they were looking into, but it all boiled down to bribery. The letter stated these charges could result in 20-25 years of prison time.
The accusation was that I took a $35,000 donation and promised to kill a bill regulating strip clubs in Missouri. I had been against the bill because it included a tax on strip clubs that I didn’t agree with, and the language regulating private businesses seemed unconstitutional to me. I had never been to a strip club and wasn’t trying to support them, but my disagreement with the language and my animosity toward Sen. Matt Bartle, the bill’s sponsor, were the reasons for my opposition.
Read the rest of… EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Rod Jetton’s “Success Can Kill You”
I love Jonathan Miller, but someone has to add some reality to this debate. The political experts will find Jensen’s pro-ACA strategy will lead to defeat in November. I give her credit for being bold, heck I even admire her for her valiant effort, but sadly, it will end in failure. I’m sure her fundraisers and campaign events are filled with all kinds of praise, encouragement and pats on the back as her liberal friends encourage her to rush up little round top just as Pickets men did at Gettysburg. But soon the cheers will end and the medics will comb the battlefield looking for casualties. Once the realities of a world where independents and republicans help pick winners sink in, Jensen will long for the early days of the campaign when the sun was shining, the bugles were playing and everyone loved her.
I know my liberal friends love the ACA and have the best intentions for helping more people afford insurance. Shoot, this may even be the best plan for doing it. But right now this program is costing most Americans more money. This is why it is so unpopular. Once the full force of the program kicks in even more Americans will see premiums increase. Should it surprise anyone that providing insurance to more people will cost more money? It may not be fair to blame everything on the ACA, but everyone will.
Of course, the Republicans are not offering and other options, nor do they have an answer for rising healthcare costs, but right now they don’t need one. All they need to do is sit back and sadly shake their head while pointing out what is wrong with the program. They have no idea what to do and I suspect that many of them quietly harbor fears of winning the senate, which would force them to develop and pass their own healthcare program.
As a former Republican I know what it is like to support a program and hope the bugs get fixed all while believing voters will embrace it someday. Occasionally “someday” even comes, but before that anticipated day arrives the political casualties pile up. I don’t think it was an accident the Republicans screamed bloody murder about the ACA and then suddenly caved right at the end of the budget negations and funded it. Many democrats told themselves, “We beat them.” But did they really?
If republicans really believed that the ACA was a disaster waiting to happen and that voters would be mad once it passed, wouldn’t it be in their best interest to let it pass? Republicans told the whole world know they didn’t like this program, were against this program and had nothing to do with the program, before quietly letting it be implemented, all the while hoping that the public would hate the program and blame the Democrats.
What’s that? I can barely hear you mumbling to your friends. “Republicans are not that mean, smart, or devious.” Let me fill you in on a little secret. Both parties are made up of lots of people who love the country, care about the people and hope to make things better, but their number one priority above all those other worthy goals is to… STAY in power.
I do not know Elisabeth Jensen, but I bet she is a good hearted, true believer, fighting for her principles. I even bet many of the people who are supporting her have the best of intentions. Unfortunately, just like General Pickets men at Gettysburg Jensen and many of her supporters will be sacrificed on the field of battle to help cold hearted, cynical politicians in Washington DC stay in power. I wish Jonathan were right and well-meaning people from both sides of the aisle could work together to fix healthcare, but he isn’t. While there is nothing wrong with hoping, don’t be too surprised when Jensen comes up a bit short.
Rod Jetton used to be one of the most powerful politicians in the state of Missouri.
In 2000, the Marble Hill Republican was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. In his second term he was chosen Speaker Pro Tempore, and on Jan. 5, 2005, he was sworn in as the 70th speaker of the House — the second youngest representative to do so.
Then, in 2009, everything began falling to pieces.
That year his nearly 20-year marriage ended in divorce and then, on Dec. 7, Jetton was charged with felony assault related to an incident that occurred on Nov. 15 of that year in which Jetton was alleged to have “recklessly caused serious physical injury” to an unnamed woman.
Following the arrest he closed Rod Jetton & Associate, a political consulting firm which catered to many high-profile clients, including Mitt Romney.
It was a stunning end to a political career that left Jetton’s life shattered. He was out of a job, divorced, separated from his three children and had few friends.
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Jetton has shared the humiliation and pain he experienced during his “dark night of the soul,” as well as the story of his redemption and rebuilding of his life in a recently published anthology titled “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program To Survive Crisis.”
The book, edited by former Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller, offers a forum to 12 politicians who suffered defeat, disgrace and degradation, yet went on to create a new and more contented life for themselves.
Jetton has written the eighth step in surviving a crisis: “Own Your Mistakes, Take Responsibility and Sincerely Say ‘I’m Sorry.’”
“My predicament was largely my own doing,” says Jetton. “But it was taking responsibility for my mistakes that set me free.”
Jetton admits it was his strong work ethic that helped him to build a successful real estate agency, win a seat in the state House and ultimately become Speaker. It was putting everything into his work to the exclusion of everything else that he believes ultimately led to his downfall.
“The biggest mistake I made was not having balance in my life,” admits Jetton. “I worked too hard at politics and forgot about my family, friends, community … and sometimes, the whole reason I went to Jefferson City in the first place. I remember telling my ex-wife that when the first campaign was over I would be home more. Then the legislative session started and I said that after session I would be home more. Then I was gone working on redistricting, and when that was done, the next session started … and after that I was working night and day to win the majority. I told her once we won the majority I would be home more.”
Jetton says that nobody was happier than him when term limits ended his official position in 2008. He was tired of feeling responsible for fixing all the problems in the state and tired of getting beaten up in the press and fearing his political enemies. Jetton believed that as a private citizen he would be able to be work behind the scenes on his friends’ campaigns without being in the crosshairs himself.
“Unfortunately, my marriage was in bad shape by that time; and even though I was out of office, things continued to get worse,” he recalls. “In early 2009 we separated, and by October we were divorced.”
Jetton was a 42-year-old successful divorced man whose personal life wasn’t turning out as he’d planned.
“My dad was a Baptist preacher, and the best parents in the world had given me a perfect childhood,” he says. “I was a family values conservative Republican who was not supposed to have these types of problems. I won’t go into details, but my life was not reflecting the teaching my parents had taught me, nor was I being the example I wanted my kids to see.”
Then things went from bad to worse for Jetton.
“After spending the night with a lady I had reconnected with on Facebook, I was charged with felony assault,” he says. “The press, along with my enemies, had a heyday. I immediately shut down my consulting business. Soon after that I was notified that I was a target of a federal grand jury investigation surrounding my handling of a bill in the 2005 legislative session.”
And what was the most difficult moment he had to face?
“It was having to tell my dad what happened,” says Jetton. “He has always been a tough man who lived what he believed, but he loved me and stuck with me through all this.”
At the lowest point of his life, Jetton says things began to turn around. He was never convicted in the assault case and the grand jury suspended their investigation into the ethics allegation and never charged him with a crime. He slowly began to gain back the respect he lost from his bad choices.
“I’m thankful for all the successes I was a part of,” says Jetton. “I’m also grateful for all the kind people I met along the way who helped and encouraged me. But I wish I would have worked less and stayed home more; been more forgiving and not gotten bitter at my opponents; been less prideful, less judgmental and more understanding. Plus, I wish I had lived the personal life I believed, instead of being such a hypocrite. Of course, I can’t change the past. I can only look to the future and focus on learning from my mistakes.”
This time Jetton says his life has a new foundation and purpose … and it’s not politics. He credits his personal faith in Jesus Christ for turning his life around.
“Each morning I wake up and thank God for the day,” he says. “I spend more time with my family and stay connected with my friends. I have a lovely new wife, a great job and a contentment I never knew in my first 42 years of life.”
He says that sooner or later everyone is going to make a mistake and do something stupid that they’ll regret.
“It happens to celebrities, business leaders and athletes, but it also happens to parents, kids and everyday people,” says Jetton. “Anyone who has made a mistake that becomes public has a problem. How you deal with it will either make it a bigger problem or put it in the rearview mirror.”
He says a cautionary tale can be found in the scandal that enveloped New York Congressman Anthony Weiner when illicit pictures of him appeared on the Internet after he had been sending them to his followers on Twitter.
“Weiner’s immediate response was to deny culpability,” says Jetton. “Once he was caught in the lie, he was soon forced out of office.”
Now looking to return to public service, Weiner has admitted he sent additional tweets to other women even after he admitted his transgressions, apologized to his wife and resigned from Congress.
“He obviously didn’t learn his lesson the first time,” says Jetton. “I’m glad I did.”
ST. LOUIS • Former political adversaries Jeff Smith and Rod Jetton sat at a long table at Pi Pizzeria on Delmar next to a stack of crisp softcover books, scrawling their signatures and chatting with a couple dozen patrons lined up around them.
On the menu was complimentary deep-dish pizza, soft drinks and humility.
“Hopefully, people can learn from the mistakes I made,” said Smith, whose preprison political talents were once compared to those of Barack Obama. “Really smart people learn from other people’s mistakes.”
Next to him, Jetton — in that retro-political fashion statement, the seersucker suit — explained how his own politics have changed as a result of his downfall. “I’m not near as judgmental,” said the one-time most powerful conservative in the Missouri House. “You make as many mistakes as I have, it’s hard to be judgmental, right?”
Smith, a Democrat and former Missouri state senator, and Jetton, a Republican and former Missouri House speaker, each wrote a chapter in the new book, “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis.”
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Smith served almost a year in prison after lying to federal investigators about an anonymous smear campaign in his unsuccessful 2004 run for Congress against Russ Carnahan. Smith, now an assistant professor at the New School for Public Engagement in New York, penned a chapter in the book aptly titled, “Tell the Truth: Don’t Even Go Near the Line.”
Smith’s lie collapsed when his “former best friend” wore a wire at the behest of investigators. In the book, Smith recounts telling his parents he might go to prison.
“My mom’s lips quivered. ‘I knew it from the start. Knew you’d get mixed up in something like this. I tried to tell you what politics was like.’
“My dad … asked, ‘How do they even know you lied? What proof could they have?’
“‘Steve’s been wearing a wire for the last couple months.’
“‘That (expletive),’ said my dad.”
Read the rest of… For Missouri politicians gone bad, redemption over pizza
Jetton pleaded guilty two years ago to a misdemeanor assault, admitting he struck a woman in the face and choked her during rough sex. Smith spent a year in prison after pleading guilty to lying about a campaign violation.
Jetton says he was approached by the book’s editor, Jonathan Miller, about taking part.
“And he said, ‘You know, I think you really ought to tell your story. And we could put a nice little book together that could really help some folks who may be going, or going to go through some kind of crisis or scandal. [They could] have some concrete plans and techniques on how to handle it, and also learn that, no matter how their situation turns out, they can overcome it and still lead a happy, successful life,’” Jetton said.
Jetton’s chapter is about how to apologize for the mistakes you made. He says his troubles started when he spent all of his time working, and put his family on the back burner, which led him to make poor choices. Today, Jetton lives in Poplar Bluff and works for a surveying and engineering company that specializes in rural communities. He says his faith and family are his top priorities now.
Who is Rod Jetton and what was his involvement in Missouri politics? What is the theme that comes through this book that is written by 12 different authors? Where did he make his biggest mistake while in office and what is his chapter about? What is human nature when you are caught? What is his advice for those entering politics? What is the average person’s misconception about politicians?
They call themselves “recovering politicians”—political figures whose careers and dreams have come crashing down because of scandals. Two of them are Missourians.
State Senator Jeff Smith was a rising star in the Democratic Party when he went to federal prison for a year for lying to federal investigators about a minor campaign finance law violation. Former Speaker of the House Rod Jetton was looking at a lucrative career as a political consultant when he became entangled in a one-night stand of rough sex. He avoided prison by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge. But his political career, like Smith’s, was ruined.
Smith knew as soon as he heard that an associate had been charged with a series of non-campaign crimes that he was political toast. “In just a few moments of weakness in that first campaign, I now realized that I’d thrown away everything that I’d worked for all my life,” he told county officials last November.
And Jetton realized as soon as his incident became public that he could not avoid admitting what he’d done—to his father, a Baptist minister. “That pretty much strips your pride away,” he has told us.
Their book is called “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis.” Smith and Jetton are two of about a dozen former office-holders whose lives have taken new directions since their falls from grace. Jetton now is in private business and is president of a political newspaper that covers the Capitol. Smith now is a political science college teacher in New York and has written several political articles for national magazines.
The book: The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis, …
By Jonathan Miller, on Wed Jun 12, 2013 at 2:11 PM ET
Welcome to Episode Two of The Recovering Politician’s CRISIS TV, a weekly roundtable discussion of the highest profile national scandals, with expert analysis from those who’ve served in the arena and suffered through crises themselves.
SPOILER ALERT: Be prepared to laugh — these former pols tend not to take themselves too seriously.
CRISIS TV is hosted by The RP, former Kentucky State Treasurer Jonathan Miller.
This week’s guests include:
Rod Jetton, former Speaker of the House, state of Missouri
Jason Grill, former State Representative from Kansas City
Josh Bowen, Nationally renowned and published personal trainer
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This week’s topic — Baseball and Performance Enhancing Drugs
The panelists discuss the nature of the scandal, what Major League Baseball and accused players such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriquez have done wrong, how they could have handled the crisis more effectively, and what advice they would share with the players and owners.
The panelists discuss the lessons they learned from their own crises, detailed in the book they co-authored, The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis. Click here to order.
Click here to purchase e-book for ONLY 99 CENTS this week only
There was nobody happier than I was when term limits ended my official position in 2008. I was tired of feeling responsible for all the problems that needed to be fixed in our state. I was also tired of getting beaten up in the press and having my enemies constantly trying to take me out. As a private citizen, I thought I would be able to be behind the scenes, work on my friends’ campaigns and not be in the crosshairs each and every day.
Unfortunately, my marriage was in bad shape by that time; and even though I was out of office, things continued to get worse. In early 2009, we separated; and by October, we were divorced. I tried to tell everyone it was a good thing for me; but inside, it really messed me up. After all, we had been married almost 20 years and had raised three wonderful kids.
I was a 42-year-old successful divorced man, whose personal life was not turning out like he planned it. My dad was a Baptist preacher, and the best parents in the world had given me a perfect childhood. I was a family values conservative Republican who was not supposed to have these types of problems. I won’t go into details, but my life was not reflecting the teaching my parents had taught me, nor was I being the example I wanted my kids to see.
I don’t know if you believe in God or not, but I do! In December of 2009, God finally had enough of my hypocritical ways and got my attention. After spending the night with a lady I had reconnected with on Facebook, I was charged with felony assault. The press, along with my enemies, had a heyday. I immediately shut down my consulting business. Soon after that, I was notified that I was a target of a federal grand jury investigation surrounding my handling of a bill in the 2005 legislative session.
Needless to say, I started 2010 with no job, very few friends and lots of time on my hands. As bad as my troubles were at the time, looking back now, I’m thankful for them. Life passes by so quickly, and very few of us get the chance to sit down and contemplate what is important. My troubles gave me a chance to analyze my weaknesses. With my pride stripped away, I was able to honestly evaluate my past actions. I saw how foolish I had been to put my family on the back burner. I learned how bitterness towards my enemies made me a bitter person toward everyone around me. The hardest thing for me to admit was that I wasn’t the same friendly and caring guy who had gone to Jefferson City in 2000.
Most of my friends say, “Rod you were not that bad, you handled it well. You were polite and treated everyone with respect. We liked you then, and we like you now.” I’m very thankful for those friends and their friendship, but I know the prideful thoughts I was thinking, and I know I should have handled things better.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m thankful for all the successes I was a part of. I’m also grateful for all the kind people I met along the way who helped and encouraged me. But I wish I would have worked less and stayed home more; been more forgiving and not gotten bitter at my opponents; been less prideful, less judgmental and more understanding. Plus, I wished I had lived the personal life I believed, instead of being such a hypocrite. Of course, I can’t change the past. I can only look to the future and focus on learning from my mistakes.
Life is wonderful for me now. Each morning, I wake up and thank God for the day. I spend more time with my family and stay connected with my friends. I have a lovely new wife, a great job and a contentment I never knew in my first 42 years of life. I was never convicted in the assault case, and the grand jury suspended their investigation into the ethics allegation and never charged me with a crime. I have slowly begun gaining back the respect I lost from my bad choices, and I am even back in politics.
Let’s face it. Sooner or later we are all going to make a mistake; we are all going to do something stupid that we regret.
Sometimes these mistakes go unnoticed and don’t cause us much trouble publicly. But for those in the limelight, their mistakes are written about, analyzed and discussed in the public square.
It happens to celebrities, business leaders and athletes; but it also happens to parents, kids and everyday people. Anyone who has made a mistake that becomes public has a problem; and how you deal with it will either make it a bigger problem or put it in the rear view mirror.
Just in case you’re thinking, “It can’t happen to me!” think about this: Powerful politicians, corporate leaders, pro athletes and Hollywood stars all have opponents, enemies and even subordinates who believe it is in their best interest to help promote problems for them. The more powerful or well known you are, the more likely it is that others are looking harder to find the mistakes you make. Additionally, the press desperately needs scandals to generate readers/viewers, and most reporters dream each day about breaking the story that takes someone down.
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