When state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth orders a burger at a drive-through, she might be stymied when asked, "Do you want fries with that?"
You can envision the Peoria Democrat seizing in panic, not knowing how to respond. Though this question happens all the time, and she'd know expect it, she can't make a decision. Her idling car doesn't move as motorists behind her honk and yell. She just sits there, frozen in time and confusion.
That scenario seems entirely possible after her feeble vote this week on the General Assembly's pension-reform bill. As far as lasting implications, this is the biggest vote in Springfield in years.
Yet on this crucial matter, all Gordon-Booth could muster was a weak vote of "present." Not yes or no. "Present."
That's not exactly statesmanlike. The courage of a roaring lion? More like the heart of a 'fraidy cat.
Yet later to the public, Gordon-Booth tried to paint her vote as bold. She said she preferred other legislation — Senate Bill 2404 — but it never came to vote in the House.
"My present vote was a protest vote to say we should have had the ability to vote on Senate Bill 2404," she said.
Protest? She calls her inaction a protest? "Present" doesn't exactly hark to the likes of the Boston Tea Party or the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Gordon-Booth wasn't standing up to be counted; she was pushing a button that essentially whines "duck and cover."
In Springfield, most lawmakers, most of the time, don't do too much. They spend countless hours yawning and scratching, waiting for party leaders to tell them what to do and how to vote. Once in a blue moon, though, lawmakers actually have to make a tough choice. But a "present" vote essentially says with a sigh, "I am here, sharing oxygen with other lawmakers, and doing little else. But thank you, taxpayers and voters, for the paycheck."
What other job lets someone just be "present"? Can you imagine Jehan Gordon-Booth in other walks of life?
Jehan Gordon-Booth as a football coach: "Even though the game is tied with one second left, and we're on the opponent's 1-yard line and could easily kick a field goal, maybe something bad might happen. Maybe someone will get hurt. Maybe someone won't like me. So, I think we'll take a knee and play it safe. A tie is as good as a win, right? Like no coach ever said, 'Tying isn't everything; it's the only thing.'"
Jehan Gordon-Booth as a movie critic: "Wow, there are so many new flicks out. But what if I offend someone with my opinion? What if one of the zillionaire actors feels the sharp sting of my harsh criticism? That's not nice. So I recommend that movie fans just stay safely at home to watch a pleasant rerun of 'The Golden Girls.'"
Page 2 of 2 - Jehan Gordon-Booth as a teenage girl desperate for a prom invitation. "Omigod, like, I can't believe you guys, Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, just knocked at my front door, each begging to take me to prom at the last minute! That's, like, so totally awesome. But, you know, I've always had a thing for redheads. So I think I'll take a pass on both of you and stay home with my family. We're having macaroni and cheese tonight!"
Jehan Gordon-Booth as Abraham Lincoln: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time, unless you vote 'present' and fool enough voters to get you re-elected next time, maybe all of the time."
Maybe it's time in Springfield to rip out those do-nothing "present" buttons. But the House is probably too chicken to do something like that.
And I'm sure we'd know where Jehan Gordon-Booth stands on that idea.
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com, facebook.com/philluciano, 686-3155 or (800) 225- 5757, Ext. 3155. Follow him on Twitter @LucianoPhil.