Institutional Ethics Dunce: The U.S. Congress

The House of Representatives passed legislation last week ordering the Capitol’s bust of Roger Taney, the Supreme Court Chief Justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision, to Hell, or someplace. It will be replaced by a new bust of Thurgood Marshall, the first black judge to serve on Court.

Of course it will. This naked political grandstanding wouldn’t be complete without installing a black judge’s image as a rebuke to the evil white judge. The legislation now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed, probably followed by a victory jig.

The pandering legislation says that Taney’s bust is “unsuitable for the honor of display to the many visitors to the Capitol.” It currently sits at the entrance of the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Capitol where the Supreme Court met from 1810 to 1860. Taney led the court from 1836 to 1864.

“While the removal of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s bust from the Capitol does not relieve the Congress of the historical wrongs it committed to protect the institution of slavery, it expresses Congress’s recognition of one of the most notorious wrongs to have ever taken place in one of its rooms, that of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney’s Dred Scott v. Sandford decision,” the legislation says. I wonder how many of the members who voted for the legislation know anything about Taney or have ever engaged in an objective reading of his opinion. My guess: not many. Maybe none.

Continue reading

More Integrity And Trustworthiness Litmus Test Results: Jarrett, Hoyer, Tavener Flunk


We’re making progress!

Our government after the liars are gone?

Our government after the liars are gone?

Now we know that White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services, are cynical liars who cannot be trusted. [Update: Ranking House Way and Means Democrat Sander Levin of Michigan has joined the list, adopting the Orwellian “It’s not that people are losing their healthcare plans, they are being transitioned” double-talk trotted out on “Meet the Press” by an insurance company executive.The integrity and trustworthiness test provided by the revelation that the President’s three year, oft-repeated promise that

“If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance. This law will only make it more secure and more affordable.”

…was a calculated lie is already working like a charm!

These three were nicely outed, in addition to the proof of their own words, by Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto. First let’s visit Jarrett, reportedly President Obama’s closest confidante who is known in Capital Hill circles as “Rasputin.” Yesterday, she tweeted: “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.” Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official of the Week: Maryland State Senator Ulysses Currie

"I am not a crook!" ---Richard Nixon; "I am not a crook, I am an idiot!"----Ulysses Currie

Blatantly incompetent elected officials stand as indictments of the ethics of more than the officials themselves. The fact that they are in high office reflects poorly on the political parties that support them, the voters who elect them, and the democratic system itself. It is difficult to imagine a more vivid example of this than: Maryland State Senator Ulysses Currie (D), currently standing trial on federal corruption charges. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Nancy Pelosi

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is currently engaged in a demonstration of how the objectives of public service can become so distorted in the minds of those with power that they lose their ethical bearings completely.

By many standards of legislative success, Pelosi’s tenure as the leader of the House of Representatives has been a triumph. Nevertheless, she has become the face of the epic rejection of Democrats at all levels of government in the recent election. Her personal approval rating outside her native San Francisco hovers in single digits, and the Republicans successfully made “Fire Pelosi” a successful campaign slogan. Voters did fire Pelosi. Fairly of unfairly, she came to symbolize the arrogance of power, a contempt for the opinions of ordinary citizens, and runaway government. Like Harry Reid, her counterpart in the Senate, Pelosi’s talents lie in getting things done behind the scenes, not making herself look good in front of them. Now, with the country no longer mesmerized by Barack Obama and souring on the Democratic leadership and agenda, she needs to get off the stage.

But she refuses to go. Historically, most speakers whose party has been turned out of power accept responsibility for the defeat and allow new leadership to emerge. It is the logical course: only raw ego argues for anything else. Many believed that Pelosi would resign her seat and leave the House altogether. To the surprise of political observers, however, she announced that she would seek the post of Minority Leader, setting off a power struggle in her party. Current Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, announced that he would seek the #2 power role of Minority Whip, pitting him against current whip James Clyburn,  and also pitting Democratic moderates, represented by Hoyer, against the influential African-American leadership in the party, represented by Clyburn.

Meanwhile, Republicans are rejoicing. Pelosi’s return will look like one more Democratic refusal to respect the will of the public, and the prospect of having the same leadership trio of Obama, Reid and Pelosi leading the party after its electoral dressing down seems like a dream come true.

Pelosi’s decision is bad for her party and her colleagues, who have been loyal to her. It is also bad for the country, even if one believes, as many do not, that her imperious leadership style is justified by the legislative success it produces for progressive policies. Washington and the public trust are being poisoned by anger, cynicism and partisanship, and Pelosi shares the blame for all three. The Democrats desperately need a new style and a new symbol in Congress, and most in and out of the Democratic Party know it.

Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to step aside places her own ego above the needs of public service and country, and is as blatant an example of power corrupting judgment as one can imagine. At a time when all ethical considerations argue for her to swallow her pride and let others take over, she is willing to jeopardize not only her party’s comity, unity and image but her own legislative achievements.

In politics, having one’s most dedicated adversaries  cheering your decision is a strong clue that you are missing something. In this case, what Nancy Pelosi is missing are accountability, humility, fairness, and common sense.

Accountability Alert: The “Embarrassment” Was the Nation’s, Not Colbert

In a stunning failure of perception, accountability and responsibility, the second most powerful Democratic House leader, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, actually had the gall to criticize Stephen Colbert for Hoyer’s own party’s disgraceful conduct, which was egregious enough to humiliate the institution of Congress, the democratic process, and the nation as well.

“I think it was an embarrassment for Mr. Colbert more than the House,” Hoyer told “Fox News Sunday.”
“What he had to say was not the way it should have been said.”

Unbelievable. Hoyer’s party’s own committee invited Colbert, a comedian whose shtick is mocking conservative Republicans, to testify about the wisdom of allowing illegal migrant workers to harvest crops despite the fact that he has no special expertise or credibility on the subject whatsoever. Continue reading

Anger and Accountability in the Obamacare Aftermath

“Anger” is the watchword in the media and blogosphere this week. Democrats are using the epithets and “hate speech” from the more uncivil members of the Right to demonize adversaries, try to muzzle the opposition, and raise money. Republicans are trying to harness anger to fuel their drive to triumph in November. Talk radio is trying to fan the flames, because it’s good for ratings. But anger is neither healthy nor conducive to clear thought. Antidotes vary according to the type and cause of the anger, but in this massive breakout, what is needed is the ethical value of Accountability. Neither the objects of the anger nor the angry themselves are blameless, and it would measure the anger level considerably if everyone would accept their fair share of  accountability for the rage: Continue reading