Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Our Sick Democracy

Exactly what we deserve.

Exactly what we deserve.

In the end, the fact that Jesse Jackson, Jr. is going to jail in disgrace is less significant than what his disgraceful career represents. Jackson is only one man, and many men have failed their responsibilities to society while showing dire deficits of character in the process. Jackson’s career, however, is smoking gun evidence of the travesty we have allowed America’s democratic system of government to become. If there are any who still wonder why the nation seems incapable of addressing its problems and challenges responsibly,  look no further. This is a democracy whose citizenry has become too complacent, lazy, apathetic and ignorant for the privilege of self-government. The implications of this are terrifying.

Reading the various articles about Jackson’s imminent guilty plea to conspiracy charges, I was struck by the realization that this one-time rising political star is a child. He misappropriated over $750,000 in campaign funds to buy, among other gewgaws like a Rolex watch, such indefensible treasures as Bruce Lee memorabilia ($10,105), Michael Jackson mementos ($14,200), a “Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen” guitar for $4,000, and a Michael Jackson fedora, a bargain at $4,600…all with money donated to his political campaign. This is the caliber of mind and the considered priorities of the man entrusted by an Illinois congressional district to participate on their behalf in crucial decisions affecting jobs, the economy, and the course of the nation, while being consistently endorsed by our toadying news media. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.)

“Corrupt, mentally ill and absent is no way to go through Congress, son.”

Here are a few questions about Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., of the Illinois Second Congressional District:

1. Why is Jesse Jackson, Jr. still on the ballot as the Democrat running for Congress in Illinois’ 2nd District, when he himself admits that he is laboring under a disability that has prevented him from doing his job, and doctors tell him that the road to recover will be a “long one”?

2. Why didn’t Jackson resign his seat, which he has been unable to fill except in name for six months due to his illness?

3. Why are the mostly Democratic voters in his district preparing to return him to office, at a time when the United States, even more than usual, needs all of its members of Congress alert, trustworthy, stable and present, when Jackson is incapable of being any of those things? Continue reading

Better Late Than Never Dept.: Rep. Giffords Finally Does The Right Thing

That's the Democratic Congresswoman from Arizona in the center.

Ethics Alarms first stated that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was seriously disabled and needed to resign from the house on January 17, 2011. I wrote:

“Almost no medical experts foresee a woman with such massive head injuries being able to return to work within a year, if she can return at all. She only has a two-year term. Is it fair to the people of Arizona, not to mention the country, to have a member of Congress who is unable to work during the days ahead, which are critical to the nation on so many fronts?”

Although the answer to this question was obvious at the time, Rep. Giffords did not resign. I returned to the topic in March, June, September and November, but not only did the Giffords camp and Democrats continue to ignore the issue, the media largely did as well. Never mind that during a contentious and important year of critical legislative issues, one Congressional District in Arizona was essentially unrepresented.

Today, finally, Rep. Giffords announced that she had resigned, more than a year after being shot in the head. Her friend, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, told the press that her friend’s recovery was likely to take years, not months. WOW! That’s a bulletin! Who had any idea that the Congresswoman was that seriously injured? Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (But At Least She Has An Excuse.)

Be sure not to miss this very special episode of "Congress: A Study in Courage That Does The Country No Good Whatsoever"

ABC’s Diane Sawyer will soon air her interview with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the first since the Arizona Congresswoman was shot in the head during Jarod Loughner’s Tuscon rampage in January. Giffords looks alert and upbeat, if understandably frail, and answers Sawyer’s questions with short, often single word responses. She has clearly made remarkable progress in her rehabilitation. She also obviously has a long way to go, and her prospects of working at a high level again, much less working on the nation’s problems, are speculative at best. Why then is she still filling a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives?

She is doing so because, of course, she is courageous. Because her recovery is inspiring, and it would be heartless and cruel to take her job away because of a madman’s bullet. She is doing so because it would be unfair and mean to rush heroic Gaby, and because Americans care. None of which has any relevance to the tiny, apparently trivial issue of governing America. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.

“I hope the President continues to exercise extraordinary constitutional means, based on the history of Congresses that have been in rebellion in the past. He’s looking administratively for ways to advance the causes of the American people, because this Congress is completely dysfunctional. President Obama tends to idealize — and rightfully so  — Abraham Lincoln, who looked at states in rebellion and he made a judgment that the government of the United States, while the states are in rebellion, still had an obligation to function…On several occasions now, we’ve seen … the Congress is in rebellion, determined, as Abraham Lincoln said, to wreck or ruin at all costs. I believe … in the direct hiring of 15 million unemployed Americans at $40,000 a head, some more than $40,000, some less than $40,000 — that’s a $600 billion stimulus. It could be a five-year program. For another $104 billion, we bailout all of the states … for another $100 billion, we bailout all of the cities.”

—– Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), telling the Daily Caller how he thinks unemployment should be addressed. Jackson inexplicably left out the part where Superman gives President Obama a magic lamp, and the President uses his three wishes to turn all his political opponents into beef jerky, banish the national debt, and make money grow from beans that get delivered to every American daily by a suddenly solvent postal service, transported around the country in Santa’s sleigh. Continue reading

Return to a Sore Subject

"Does anybody care?"

[NOTE: An unusually busy travel schedule combined with terrible hotel WiFi and a week that was already stuffed with juicy and provocative ethics stories resulted in my not fulfilling my duties very well the last three days, for which I apologize sincerely. I’m going to make every effort to catch up this weekend.]

Rep. Weiner resigned at last, noting that his district and its constituents deserved to have a fully functioning representative in Congress, and that he could no longer fulfill that role. True enough, though one has to ask (or at least I do): if the people of Queens and Brooklyn deserve better representation than a hard-working, if dishonest, obsessed and twisted, pariah can offer, what about the people of the 8th District of Arizona, who have a representative who can’t funtion in her post at all?

I was going to wait until the six-month mark in Gaby Giffords’ rehabilitation to raise this matter again, since that will mark a full 25% of the Congresswoman’s term that she has been unable to serve, but the combination of Weiner’s resignation and the news of Giffords being released from the hospital created too much dissonance for me to ignore. I fully expect that I will be writing some version of this post 18 months hence, after Rep. Giffords’ entire Congressional term has passed without her voting on a bill or answering a constituent’s letter. To quote the singing John Adams in “1776,”: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

Reports from various medical personnel enthused that Giffords has made remarkable progress, and “seems” to understand “most’ of what is being said to her, though she still has trouble articulating responses. That is great progress for someone who has some of her brain blown away by a gunshot at close range, but it sure doesn’t sound like someone who is going to be making a persuasive argument on the House floor any time soon, or ever. So are we serious about this running the country stuff, or aren’t we? Continue reading

The Giffords Fiasco, Continued: “Gaby Giffords For Senator”

Would Arizona Democrats run El Cid for the Senate?

The Gaby Giffords saga has officially moved from irresponsible to offensive.

If Rep. Giffords, shot in the head by Jared Loughner in January, is able to return to her challenging job after such a violent brain injury, she will be the first such victim to do so in medical history. She has been incapacitated for three months, and her inability to return to her duties for the rest of 2011, one-half her term, is assured barring a miracle of Biblical proportions. But no effort is being made to fill her de facto empty seat, and it increasingly looks as if her staff, party and supporters are determined to keep her in a job she cannot perform, Arizona and the Congress be damned, for her entire term.

This is irresponsible enough, but now there is this: the New York Times reports that Giffords’s aides, backers and supporters are seriously laying the groundwork for Giffords—who currently cannot speak, except in short sentences—to run for retiring Senator Jon Kyl’s  seat 2012: Continue reading

NOW Is It “Too Soon”? Rep. Giffords Needs To Resign

Rep. Giffords' seat should be filled

Today the New York Times reports on grievously wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery, which appears to be going remarkably well. Back in January, I was much criticized for suggesting that Rep. Giffords had a responsibility to resign from her seat (“Unavoidable Ethics: Giffords Need To Resign,” 1/17/11), as it was obvious then (though not polite to admit) that her recovery from the bullet hole in her head could not possibly occur quickly enough to allow her to make a meaningful contribution in Congress during her current two-year term. Well, it is still obvious, and the ethical priorities remain clear.

We learn in the Times piece today (or at least I did) that the Congressman is still without half of her skull, which was removed to prevent damage from brain swelling. The skull pieces are in a freezer, and will probably be restored in surgery that is planned for May. The recovery from the surgery, I assume, will extend at least into June, and then she still has to travel the long and arduous road back to whatever her final cognitive and physical abilities will be—and they will not be what they were before the madman started shooting. Continue reading

Unavoidable Ethics: Giffords Needs To Resign

Rep. Giffords doesn’t have to face this inevitable decision now or tomorrow or in the next few weeks. She will have to face it, however, and as soon as she is well enough to evaluate her situation realistically, she owes it to her district and the country to step down, and let someone take her place as Representative of the 8th District of Arizona. Continue reading

Campaign Contributions During Key Votes: Call It Bribery

The quote from Sen. Max Baucus’s spokeperson instantly becomes a leading candidate for “Lie of the Year.”

“Money has no influence on how Senator Baucus (D-Montana) makes his decisions,” Kate Downen told the Washington Post. “The only factor that determines Senator Baucus’s votes is whether a policy is right for Montana and right for our country.” Is there any American so naive as to still believe this, not just about Baucus but about any member of Congress? The Post reports that despite Senate and House rules forbidding it, campaign contributions routinely spike when important bills are about to be voted upon. The sources of the sudden gifts to the lawmakers? Individuals, organizations and corporations who will benefit from the law’s passage or defeat. Continue reading