Monday, October 22, 2007

The US Senate policing its own

Cat sent this by email. Joe Conason details the strange double standard of the US Senate in dealing with two of its own.
For an object lesson in the distorted values of the United States Senate, consider how that august institution is handling the ethical embarrassments created by Republican Larry Craig of Idaho and Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska.
Yes, we have the US Senate coming down like a ton of bricks on Larry "Wide Stance" Craig and nary a whisper about Ted "Pork for Payola" Stevens.
As everyone in America knows by now, Craig pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for an indiscretion in an airport men's room. Stevens, along with his son Ben and a number of other Alaska politicians and businessmen, is the subject of a corruption investigation that resulted in an FBI raid on his home last summer. Every day, the pressure mounts on Craig from his colleagues to resign — and every day, those same colleagues treat Stevens as if he remains above suspicion.
OK. Let me explain.

It's OK to be a corrupt Republican senator. In fact, it's damned near an expectation. On the other hand, it's not OK to publicly expose the sexual tendencies of Republican senators.

Getting caught being a homosexual Republican senator, from the party of all those delicious family values, leaves the rest of the Republican camp open to charges of hypocrisy.

Getting caught being a corrupt Republican senator is not hypocrisy. Everyone expects it.
Now Craig's colleagues feel a special sense of outrage because he has violated his promise to resign by the end of September if he was unable to get his original guilty plea withdrawn. Clearly, the senator is given to rash gestures that he later regrets, whether tapping the toe of another man in a toilet stall, entering a plea or vowing to surrender his Senate seat.

"I wish he would stick to his word," complained Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who chairs the National Republican Senate Committee and understandably does not relish the bad publicity that makes his task of re-electing Republicans much more challenging. Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, a freshman Republican up for re-election next year, told reporters that he hoped the Idahoan would step down and "respect the institution."

But the institution is not so easy to respect when its members show so little of it by ignoring the stench that surrounds Stevens.

The 83-year-old Alaskan, a powerhouse of patronage and seniority, has operated both his state and the Senate Appropriations Committee as fiefdoms that he can use and misuse at will. When his sponsorship of the infamous "bridge to nowhere" drew condemnation from conservatives and liberals alike as an example of egregious pork spending, Stevens gave a furious floor speech in which he threatened to resign. He stopped a "sunlight" provision designed to reveal the sponsorship of every earmark. Such egotistical displays must be expected from a politician who has the largest airport in his state named after him.

A platoon of FBI agents has passed through that airport over the past several months as they probe bribery and corruption that appear to implicate dozens of figures, from the statehouse to the oil industry. (How bad is it? Bad enough that a group of Republican legislators, including the former speaker of the Alaskan House, smugly called themselves "the Corrupt Bastards Club.") These crooks transformed their state into an American version of a Third World petroleum kleptocracy.

Emphasis mine.


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