Take note, young medical students: this is the horror of Beltway Blindness.
For the second consecutive Sunday, the politically-diverse group of pundits who make up the “roundtable” on ABC’s “This Week” pooh-poohed the Sestak scandal, noting that this is politics, everybody does it, everybody has always done it, and Republicans are foolish to try to make an issue out of old-fashioned horse trading. This is the cynicism and ethics rot that working in and around politicians will breed.
- There is a law declaring that what the White House attempted to do is a crime. Such laws are always an attempt to codify and make explicit the ethical standards of good government. Are the laws on the books supposed to be obeyed? “This Week’s” experts think not. Is the President of the United States, who takes an oath before the nation to uphold the laws especially bound to obey them? “Heck no!” says George Will and his colleagues.
- Why is there such law? Why is offering positions to individuals to get them to do what you want unethical, wrong, and illegal? It’s wrong because the positions don’t belong to the politicians in power. They belong to and are paid for by taxpayers. Using them as a monetary exchange is both an abuse of power and theft.
- The fact that a practice is old, common, accepted, tolerated and traditional doesn’t have a thing to do with whether it is right or should continue to be accepted and tolerated. I would think an administration put in power because it promised to break with unethical and clandestine political practices is exactly the time to start saying that unethical practices should stop because they are unethical, not continue because they are commonplace. This idea did not occur to George and his pals.
- The conduct of the Obama White House in response to the questions about Sestak has been disturbingly similar to the response of the Nixon White House to Watergate, right down to the dismissive memo from White House counsel, the vague evasions of the White House spokesman, and the flurry of White House visitors (Clinton, Sestak’s brother) that look suspiciously like a gang trying to get its story straight. And it’s not straight yet: Sestak told an interviewer that the promised job was “high-level.” The White House says it was an unpaid slot on a committee. Someone’s not telling the truth, and I wonder who: political strategist extraordinaire Rahm Emanuel sent a former President, Clinton, to try to persuade Sestak not to run for a Senate seat he had a good chance of winning by offering—an obscure, unpaid position on a committee most people have never heard of? Is that plausible?
- The Plame investigation that put “Scooter” Libby in jail cannot be airily dismissed as irrelevant. There was, it turned out, no underlying crime; the White House cover-up was the scandal, and the ultimate crime was a subordinate trying to protect his boss…as subordinates have done in D.C. since the time of John Adams. Tell “Scooter” how “everybody does it” is a sufficient defense.
There are many, many practices in Washington that are traditional, common and wrong. Lobbyists bribe Senators and members of Congress, for example. Elected and appointed government officials don’t report other officials who they know are committing crimes, even though not reporting is itself a crime. The ethically deficient response of the entire “This Week” panel tells why these practices persist. It also tells us why we should stop listening to these people. They are thoroughly infected with traditional corruption.