How Partisanship Corrupts Us All At Election Time

The upcoming election, among other horrible things, will stand as a landmark of ethical corruption, as parties, news sources and voters will have thoroughly abandoned integrity and weakened their core values by excusing damning behavior from their favored candidates, behavior that, if honestly and objectively evaluated, should disqualify them from any office of trust.

We have already seen disturbing examples of this phenomenon in such embarrassing displays as Rep. Charles Rangel’s birthday celebration, as major Democrats lined up to give tribute to a Congressman who has abandoned multiple ethical duties, including an absolute disgrace for any Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, willful tax evasion. Rather than take a stand for honest government and representatives the public can believe in, partisan supporters are blaming Rangel’s self-made problems on Republican attacks, as if they made Charlie do it all at gunpoint.

The same theme is being echoed by conservatives on talk radio, who are making the case that the ridiculous Christine O’Donnell, who has undeniably misused campaign funds and misrepresented her educational background numerous times and ways, is being criticized for these “errors” because of a “media double-standard.” The only way to interpret such a defense is that the people making it believe all lies, misuse of donations and efforts to mislead the public are excusable if the press has ever ignored them when the transgressor was from the other party. Or they really don’t believe that, but are saying that they do. Either way, they are corrupt.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is partisan through and through, but he fights this trend: last week, he scolded liberal commentator David Corn for making excuses for Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut who for years falsely claimed to be a Vietnam combat veteran:

MATTHEWS: Why would he do it? Why would he say, I served in Vietnam?

CORN: I think it`s inexplicable, and I think he`d be up 20 points in the polls if he hadn`t made these dumb mistakes.

MATTHEWS: So you`re saying it`s a mistake to say you served in Vietnam when — you say that`s a mistake, an unintentional, it`s an inaccuracy. It was like a slip of the tongue, is what he —

CORN: Because at the same time in the same speeches, he described his service accurately.

MATTHEWS: So you believe it was a slip of the tongue.

CORN: If he`s trying to lie, he`s then a really bad and lousy liar, which might be a good thing to have in politics.

MATTHEWS: Well, look — I think you speak with forked tongue on these issue. I don`t know why you`re defending this guy.

CORN: I`m not defending him!

MATTHEWS: Are you defending every single Democrat candidate for the Senate this year, every one of them? You defend every single Democrat. Is that your position?

CORN: Every single Democrat? No, not necessarily. I`m not —

MATTHEWS: Well, name one you don`t support.

CORN: I`m not —

MATTHEWS: Name one you don`t support!

Good for Matthews.

It is far from a Democratic flaw; the Republicans are equally shameless, which is to say, equally corrupt. The revelation that Rich Iott, the Tea Party Republican running for Congress in Ohio, hid the fact that he belonged to a strange and creepy group that dressed up in Nazi garb to honor “courageous” Nazi soldiers, the Right disgracefully rushed to his defense. Many bloggers made the same “double-standard” argument, especially absurd in this situation. “If this were a Democrat candidate you wouldn’t hear a peep,” wrote Donald Douglas of the foaming-at-the-mouth right wing blog, American Power. Sure, Donald, whatever you say. If Harry Reid had photos of himself smiling in an SS uniform, CNN and the New York Times would bury it, right? If Nancy Pelosi goes to a Halloween party as Eva Braun, CNN won’t say a word; is that what you believe?  Those who didn’t go as far as Douglas tried to brush off the disturbing activity—and Iott’s efforts to hide it—as no different from any other historical re-enactment, or the equivalent of playing the Taliban in a video game. Human nature alert: nobody buys, maintains, and wears the authentic-looking uniform of a Nazi soldier without raising legitimate questions about what it is that he finds enjoyable about the activity. The hint of sadism, perhaps? That vicarious thrill in raping Russian women? (Anyone who dressed up like a Taliban soldier to play Medal of Honor raises similar questions. Maybe Rich does that too.)

Now the news arrives that the National Organization of Women has endorsed Jerry Brown for California Governor, rejecting a woman who is a role model for women seeking to break the ever-rising glass ceiling  NOW’s founders set out to break. It did so immediately after an undisputed recording surfaced  in which Brown made no protest or objection when one of his advisors called Whitman “a whore.”  What is it that HOW stands for, exactly? Fairness, justice and respect for women? Leaders who embody those values?

No…just partisan politics and interest group policies. Another sad example of the how principles seldom survive elections.

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