Over dinner last night I was speaking with an important Washington politician. I expressed disappointment in Congressional leaders. She said there are two general types. Those who want to improve their country and those who want to improve their private lives. The first group generally get caught up in making unpalatable political tradeoffs and become disillusioned. Members of the second and larger group know exactly what they must do in order to achieve their goal of being returned to office. They are generally quite satisfied because they spend their time gathering voters. Ineffectiveness doesn’t bother them at all.

Those of us who are not elected officials are often annoyed because we expect our officials to act for the benefit of the country and not themselves. Sadly, we keep electing men and women who tell us they want to help their countrymen, but once they enter the hallowed halls of Congress, become hack politicians and think primarily about their own survival. I take two messages from this: (1) be very careful of what ambitious people say during a political campaign, and (2) look for the rare candidate with demonstrable humility and a sense of self-sacrifice.