A stain or a tattoo?

By: By Mac McPhail - Contributing columnist

Donald Trump said something controversial. What else is new? That usually happens about once or twice a week. But will it hurt the candidate in his run toward becoming president? It hasn’t seemed to hurt him in the past, despite predictions otherwise from the news media. This led to an interesting response by one commentator.

Chuck Todd of NBC News wondered if Trump’s latest comments were “like a stain, or like a tattoo.” If Trump’s comment is like a stain, it will be soon forgotten, like a washed out stain. If the comment is like a tattoo, it isn’t going away, and will have an effect on Trump’s campaign, and bid for the presidency.

A stain or a tattoo. It may take some work, some stain remover, some scrubbing and a couple of washings. But in most cases, that stain is gone. It’s quite different with a tattoo. It’s there, and it’s going to stay there. The flying eagle tattoo that you thought was cool as a young adult has become a sagging turkey as you have gotten older. And it’s not going away. (Unless you want to go through painful and expensive laser treatments.)

You can see how Chuck Todd’s stain or tattoo remark relates to politics. A candidate can foul up and make a mistake that is laughed off by everyone. It’s quickly forgotten. But others make a costly lasting impression. Gerald Ford pardons Richard Nixon and it probably costs him his election chances against Jimmy Carter. Michael Dukakis looks goofy riding around on a tank and his presidential hopes evaporate.

But the stain or tattoo remark can relate to all of us in a more personal way. We do something stupid. We buy something we don’t need or can afford. We’re careless at work and get reprimanded. We’re a little slack in our personal lives. It leaves a stain. It’s going to take work, but we can clean it up and recover.

But what if that thing you thought at worse would be a stain ends up being a tattoo. Something permanent, something that can’t easily be cleaned up. A night partying becomes a drunk driving charge or a terrible accident. A high becomes an addiction. Careless finances leads to bankruptcy. You may recover and go on with your life. But the consequences of your actions will be there, just like that tattoo.

If you are into politics you probably know who Bob Beckel is. If you have watched much political coverage on TV, you have seen him over the years. He has worked for Fox, CBS, ABC, and is currently providing political commentary for CNN. (Beckel is the opinionated, liberal Democrat guy who always wears suspenders.) Bob Beckel was in charge of the Walter Mondale presidential campaign and worked in the Jimmy Carter administration. And he can personally tell you about stains and tattoos of his own making.

I have just finished reading Beckel’s autobiography, “I Should Be Dead.” It’s an accurate title because he has done enough things to himself that, yes, he should be dead. Beckel has been very successful in the political world. Beckel knows politics and is good at it, and has been rewarded financially. But in the book, he details another side of his life that has been destructive. It was a life that became consumed with alcohol. Alcoholism led him down a road which included drugs, prostitutes, and other destructive behaviors.

Eventually, it cost Beckel his family, his career, his finances and his health. At rock bottom, he finally turned to rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous for help. But it was only when he turned to God, with the help of his friend, conservative columnist, Cal Thomas, that he was able to really deal with his alcoholism.

But the tattoos are still there. The millions of dollars lost are gone. While there has been restored a good relationship with his children, the scars left by those years of destruction are there. The pull of alcohol and drugs are ever present. (Beckel had a battle with pain pills after back surgery last year.) But, despite those tattoos, through God, Bob Beckel is still here. (Remember, he should be dead.) And the stain that sin had left in his heart has been removed by the grace of God.

In our lives, it may be wise to ask before we do something that could possibly hurt ourselves, “Will it end up being a stain, or a tattoo?” And if you are asking that question, the really wise answer is probably not to do it at all.

By Mac McPhail

Contributing columnist

Mac McPhail
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