March 2007 Ethics Dunce
House Speaker Nancy PelosiIt is probably time to pronounce "Vote Ethics," the Scoreboard's modest crusade to convince Americans not to vote for demonstrably unethical politicians regardless of party or platform, a ringing failure. Not because the Scoreboard probably changed about twelve votes, not because some fool's gold-plated frauds and miscreants still managed to get elected (New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez comes to mind, along with such well-documented Machiavellians as Reps. John Murtha, Dennis Hastert and Maxine Waters), and not because the disgracefully unethical Republicans didn't get their just desserts, because they did. No, "Vote Ethics" looks like a flop because the Democratic leadership is making it clear that they have no more regard or sensitivity to ethics than Tom DeLay.
All right, that's unfair: no one has less regard or sensitivity to ethics than Tom DeLay.
Exhibit A is Nancy Pelosi's astounding decision to put Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, he of the videotaped bribe and the $90,000 stashed in his freezer, on the House Committee on Homeland Security after deeming him too sullied to sit on the Ways and Means Committee. Speaker Pelosi has said Jefferson's appointment would put him in a better position to help people in his New Orleans district. Maybe…but the presumption with anyone showing the tendency to accept bribes is that his first priority is helping himself. In an interview with CNN's Larry King, Pelosi told the Great Suspendered One that after learning about the money in Jefferson's freezer, she bounced him out of his Ways and Means seat. "What I said to my colleague is, you have $90,000 in your freezer, whatever the explanation, you have a problem with me," she explained. "But Mr. Jefferson's district has been New Orleans, greatly affected by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. And the committee of jurisdiction there, Homeland Security, is an appropriate place for him to be," she said. "But I removed him from the Ways and Means Committee, [which] had something to do with the accusations made against him. Homeland Security does not."
Let's get this straight: Pelosi felt Jefferson was too risky for Ways and Means, which deals with money, so she put him on the committee dealing with…national security? No need for ethics and trust there, right Nancy? Let's put our least trustworthy Congressman (that we know about) where he can do the least damage….good thinking!
The accusations (based on touch it-see it-feel it evidence) against Jefferson involve lack of trustworthiness, dishonesty, lying, bad citizenship, breach of duty and greed! Pelosi says that these qualities, the calling cards of unethical public officials, have no relevance to a congressman's fitness to oversee Homeland Security.
Does this not go far beyond Ethics Dunce-dom into certifiable Ethics insanity? If Pelosi really thinks this way, she is a lunatic. It she doesn't think this way, she is a liar, and if she is willing to subject the nation to the venal urges of Jefferson just to avoid a clash with the Congressional Black Caucus (which historically embraces the philosophy that a dishonest black representative is preferable to an honest white one), she is a coward.
It is true that the hurricane-addled voters of Jefferson's District irresponsibly re-elected Jefferson, applying that famous American principle, "a person found with the amount of money he was videotaped taking as a bribe in his freezer is innocent of putting money accepted as a bribe in his freezer until proven guilty of putting money accepted as a bribe in his freezer." The application of this principle had the predictable result: New Orleans citizens now have a crook representing them. That's a disaster waiting to happen, and if it does, it is one that nobody will be able to blame on FEMA, George Bush or even Ray Nagin. And though the people of New Orleans don't need any more disasters, they elected Jefferson; the rest of the country didn't. Pelosi's obligation is to minimize the potential damage to the rest of the nation of having a duly-elected fox in the hen house, not to give him every opportunity to cause as much damage as possible.
But maybe the Scoreboard is just being an alarmist. After all, what damage can a venal and unethical politician do with classified information relating to Homeland Security?
The least Pelosi could do is take away Jefferson's freezer.