Despair not over the dysfunction of Congress, my friends! When a proposed measure is right beyond question, the warring parties are still capable of joining hands across the aisle and speaking with one unified voice. For example, they are capable of making an unequivocal statement that Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, has the same ethical bearings as that Nigerian prince who keeps e-mailing me.
It was Steele who approved some sleazy direct mail hack’s clever idea to send potential GOP donors counterfeit census forms. Arriving in thick envelopes with “Do Not Destroy. Official Document” on the front (“See, it’s not a lie! It IS an official document, right? Just from a different official—you, Mr. Steele! Get it? That’s the beauty part!”), and the imposing legend “Census Document Registered To: [ the name of the recipient]” stamped there as well (“It really is kind of a a census document, capiche, Mister Steele? So they can’t complain later—it’s just not the one they think it is! But they’ll open it every time! I love this mailing!”), the package included a four-page form complete with an eight figure “Census Tracking Code.” (“Nice touch, eh Mister Steele? Joey here thought that one up. It will really have them believing this, the suckers!”) But the questions would quickly begin striking anyone not half asleep as rather odd for the Census, with queries like,
“Do you traditionally vote in all elections?”
“Do you generally identify yourself as a: Conservative Republican, Moderate Republican, Liberal Republican, Independent Voter who leans Republican or Other?”
“How much does it concern you that the Democrats have total control of the federal government?”
“Do you think the record trillion-dollar deficit the Democrats are creating with their out-of-control spending is going to have disastrous consequences for our nation?”
Even the sleepy, drunk or stupid, however, should have figured out the scam when they read, “When finished answering your Census, please return it along with your generous contribution in the enclosed postage-paid envelope.”
Gotcha! So clever! So well-executed! Soooooo dishonest, deceitful, and wrong. But then, that’s the Michael Steele way. Not only did the mailing aim to deceive, it also confused, and the Census Bureau expressed worries that the fraudulent mailings would undermine response rates for the official census forms, causing citizens to ignore or not fill out the real forms when they arrived later. Lower mail response rates will increase Census costs, because the Bureau must send census-takers to every home that does not respond.
The good news is that the incident reminded House members what it was like to agree on something, and they passed a unanimous, bi-partisan measure banning fake census fundraising appeals, because the fact that such mailings were obviously and putridly unethical wasn’t enough any more. Not with Michael Steel in charge of the Republican fundraising. His influence is strong, after all: doing his best Steele impression after the House vote, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay said, “The NRCC remains opposed to misleading mailings,” which is 1) a lie 2) an insulting lie 3) an embarrassingly obvious lie. It is opposed to them although it just sent out an intentionally misleading mailing of epic dimensions. The statement means one of these three things: “We are being controlled by Satan!”, “We are completely insane!”, or “We are lying our heads off!” One guess, and the first two don’t count.
How can a party led by a man who conducts business like this credibly campaign against Democrats in the Fall on the basis that they are corrupt and unethical?
I can’t wait to find out. No, I take that back. I can.