Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bipartisan Tone Deafness

After FBI agents who were engaged in an investigation of alleged corruption investigation of congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) found $90,000 of cold hard cash in Jefferson's freezer, they obtained a search warrant from a U.S. District Court judge for the purpose of looking for evidence in Jefferson's Capitol Hill office. They executed that search. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has protested to the President regarding what he regards as an executive department violation of the constitutional separation of powers. Evidently, Hastert believes that the constitutional system of checks and balances was designed to permit congressmen to hide evidence of bribery in their offices without detection. Hastert's odd take is not likely to do anything to help Republican standing with either Republican or independent voters, who are already inclined to think that their leadership is more protective of their political standing than of the nation's interests.

To their credit, Democratic congressional leaders have publicly called upon Jefferson to voluntarily and temporarily resign from his position on the powerful Ways and Means committee, a position that would be the primary reason that someone would want to give Jefferson the $90,000 that was placed in cold storage. To date, Jefferson is saying that he will not do so if asked. However, a few congressional leaders, and numerous leftist bloggers, are less concerned about Jefferson's alleged corruption than they are worried that the episode might cost them an advantage in the ethics wars (?!) leading up to the fall elections. Ironically, those partisans' quick assurance that Jefferson's problems do nothing to show that some Democrats have the same problems that perhaps more Republicans do also makes them less trustworthy in the eyes of uncommitted voters caught in the middle.

It can be hoped that both Republican and Democratic activists across the nation -- one can not expect this from those entrenched in Washington -- will set aside partisan wrangling over ethics and work together to resolve what is actually a systemic problem affecting all of the political class. Republicans, who's party holds the balance of power in Washington and thus is more culpable, should admit that their party has betrayed Republican principles and shown itself to be in need of reform. Democrats should acknowledge the same. If the system is not attacked, we will get more of the same, regardless of who holds the reins. If anyone doubts that, they should consider the tone deafness and impropriety of the two parties, both of which have been trying to find ways to use ethics as a wedge to their advantage.

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