Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ted's Bridge To Ethical Nowhere

It certainly shouldn't be a newsflash to the choir here that Sen Ted Stevens (R-AK) was indicted today on 7 counts of making false statements on his financial disclosure statements. He apparently took over a quarter million dollars in renovations to his Alaskan 'cabin' from oil company Veco. Their relationship with Stevens certainly was helpful, but seemingly not criminally so. This in itself should be horrifying, but it's just a story on some networks.

What led Ted Stevens to think there was something right and proper in taking such gifts from a business, or people, isn't known at this point. (I should note these are allegations) He was elected a Senator to serve the interests of the nation and his state, not Veco nor Ted Stevens. He was appointed in 1968 and 2 years later was elected, he's been there a long time. Has 40 years in the Senate taught him unfortunate lessons?

Ted is a story today, the problem is that it is just a story and that it happens. Democrats also have been caught up in this cycle, so far in much smaller numbers and lower profile misdeeds - Jefferson being an exception. The Congress is made up of 535 members whose activities range from mundane bestowing of honorifics to declaration of war. 435 of them run for election almost constantly meeting the demands of 2 year cycles, the other 100 face election every 6 years on two year rotations. House members' schedules are grueling. Where does this story begin and what does it mean?

Once we start into how it begins we run into a maze of speculation, mostly these folks give out what serves their interests, not our understanding. What is rather obvious is that they don't feel adequately recompensed for their position, something more is their due. Somehow they should be rewarded beyond the approval of their constituents and their salaries. Many use speaking engagements, books, and articles as economic boosts, some use the less savory methods. They are not well paid in immediate funds, the pensions and health care make up some of the difference but flatly speaking for Congressmen from outside the DC area travel and dual homes can be difficult economically. But there just is no way a Ney, Cunningham, Jefferson, or Stevens cannot know that what they are doing is wrong and illegal. Do they find themselves so important and so special that the rules don't apply? Were they always this screwed up or did they get that way? It takes a large degree of egotism to run for these offices, you are going to go stand in front of people and seriously assert that you can best represent their interests to the nation and further ask them for money while doing it.

Confessional Time: I did this stuff in a Primary election to be the Democratic candidate for US House in OR-2. I kind of backed into the thing and then figured I was the best bet to beat the incumbent Republican. I was real sure I was a heck of a lot better than him, not because I'm so special but because he's...not at all. I'm not very damn modest, but pretty much so in that game.

I firmly believe there is something corrosive in the constant asking for money to compete. I found it to be very nearly humiliating to trade my invoices for concrete results in your home for an ask on a hope and a promise. Each dribble of money was a personal "good going" said to me and was recognized by me as a trade of at least a nice evening out for my hopes. I cannot speak for more than myself on this issue, but I've had other successful politicians tell me the ask is the most difficult part of the job. I can easily see how, without regular reality checks, the job could become seriously inflating to self-image. People/media pay attention to you, they give you money, they tell you you're good, you wield power - pretty seductive stuff. Maybe I've got a bit of what can go wrong down in words, but in the end it is a matter of character, wrong is still wrong.

The real issue was touched on by my blogger pal Jeff Alworthy and it involves us. We've been surrounded by scandals for the last 7 years. I don't refer to gaffes (I'm starting to hate that word), I mean what should be government rocking scandals. Our reaction, if there is one, seems to be, "Oh - really?" or, "Isn't that just like them?" In the place of fury there is very nearly complacency and that is horrible for being governed. We seem to have come to expect the behavior and in expecting it; in a way condone it. This is robbery of the worst sort, it is our trust and belief that is taken and these people purport to be best to write and enforce the Law.

I do not expect politicians to be saints nor flawless, it is a very strange job to do with very strange parameters. I do expect them to not be blatantly corrupt while I do understand favorable feelings toward supporters. I understand that wealth and power will be rewarded in this country but I cannot accept complete betrayal. While I do prefer the idea of rehabilitation, I also understand the power of consequences to fuel it and frankly these cretins are handled entirely too light handedly. In my eyes the behavior of a Randy Cunningham is a small step down from treason and twenty to life is entirely appropriate. I wouldn't care an iota if a guilty Ted Stevens died in prison - he's 84 and he knows better. If he doesn't; he's had enough time to and proved himself proof to rehabilitation.

We cannot operate as a civilized nation without trust, it is flatly impossible. We give the governing populace money, arms, and technology to keep us in line and that's a hell of an edge. The government is broken up into all these smaller units to keep it from being entirely too effective, ineffective enough that we're allowed to trust it with all we give it. That deal is broken by these corrupt jerks. In any nearly close election the winner is voted for by a minority of the eligible voters, in some important elections 30% or less of the eligible voters elected the winner. We cannot keep moving down that path, it is a route to disaster. We cannot have a system in which large numbers rightfully believe, "they're all crooks, anyhow," and expect good results. It is one thing to expect a sales job from candidates and know there's some exaggeration going on, it is entirely another to perceive ourselves ruled by liars and thieves. We are the rulers and it is time to take that back and to make it clear that screwing us is flat out dangerous to your freedom, not just your job. Ted, I hope you die in prison and people spit on your gravestone.

1 comment:

KISS said...

Can thievery, robbery, bribery and "for Sale" legislation be redundant? With the lowest ratings of All congress today being a historical first, What should a citizen think....Is this not the status quo?
The supreme court, presumably the highest court of law, has spoken more than once that money equates with freedom of speech. Let's say the true meaning of this dicision..More money means more free speech. More money means more power, more power means for hubris and more above the law, and pharisaic.
So here is more redunatacy..It's the system, and it needs fixing.