Ethics Quote of the Week: Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell

“That doesn’t matter. What matters is that he delivers.”

—-Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on the “Morning Joe” show on MSNBC, discussing his (and President Obama’s) support for Sen. Arlen Specter, who is locked in a dead-heat race for re-nomination with challenging Congressman Joe Sestak.

Rendell had been repeatedly asked (by Dan Rather, among others) why Specter deserved Party support over life-time Democrat Sestak, since Specter had only switched to the Democratic Party in the past year after decades as a Republican. Specifically, he was responding to Rather’s pointed query about how a politician who just a year ago was praising George W. Bush and Sarah Palin could be the darling of Democrats now.

Rendell’s comment was a remarkably candid admission of the importance given to such ethical values as integrity, loyalty and fairness in his own party and in politics generally. Principles don’t matter, says Rendell…to politicians or the public. Ethics don’t matter either. Howard Specter delivers pork to Pennsylvania, and that, not national interest, not trustworthiness, not honesty, is all that matters.

Sen. Specter is a naked opportunist who, remarkably enough, stands out for his lack of integrity in a Congress stuffed with opportunists. Anyone interested in change within the political culture of Washington should want to purge Specter regardless of their ideological beliefs, for his is the sort of cynical, values-free, self-centered political style that has thoroughly corrupted our democracy and undermined public trust in American institutions.

One year ago, I wrote this about Specter’s decision to switch parties:

“…Switching parties mid-term is the unmistakable act of an opportunist and a fraud, and Sen. Arlen Specter’s convenient transformation, just as polls showed him unlikely to prevail in the approaching Pennsylvania Republican Primary for renomination, is a classic. His party spent its funds to elect him, the voters who cast ballots for him were over-whelmingly Republican, and he solicited campaign funds from citizens and organization that thought they were giving to a Republican. If Specter really believes his party has changed so dramatically since his election in 2004 (it hasn’t) that he can’t fulfill his obligations to those who elected him and funded his campaign, his honorable course would be to change his affiliation and resign. This is how former Texas Senator Phil Gramm switched parties when he was a Congressman: he announced that he was becoming a Republican, resigned his seat, and then ran for it again under his new banner. (He won.) But despite what his self-serving announcement claimed, Specter didn’t switch out of principle. He chose the cynical route of selling his allegiance to the Senate Democrats, who are seeking a filibuster-proof majority (oddly, no politician ever switches “on principle” from a majority party to a minority one), in hopes of keeping his job. This, despite recently denying the possibility of such a maneuver because he said he believed it was important to have checks and balances on the majority party in the Senate. Specter has demonstrated that he can’t be trusted. The Democrats better watch their backs.”

Nothing has changed in the year since that was written, except that America’s disgust with its elected leaders has deepened. But Gov. Rendell reminds us that what we see as obvious proof of untrustworthiness is seen by other politicians as just normal behavior, the way the game is played. As long as you “deliver,” you’re one of the good guys, no matter how many lies you tell or backs you stab. We need to teach Ed and his cronies what “good” really means, and getting rid of Arlen Specter would be an excellent lesson.

2 thoughts on “Ethics Quote of the Week: Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell

  1. Coming from the former mayor of Philadelphia, this is unsurprising. The hard core machine bosses are so locked in that they often no longer attempt to hide their nonvalues. There’s no need. Candid- yes. Ethical- no. Scary- you bet!

  2. You can gauge his ethical quotient by actions taken to move The Barnes Collection from Merion, PA, to downtown Philadelphia, to serve as an anchor for tourism (a “no brainer” was his term). Check out the excellent documentary “The Art of the Steal” to learn more about the intersection of nonprofit, political, and venture capitalist worlds. Mr. Rendell was also instrumental in bringing casinos to the great state of PA.

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