The fallout from all of this ethics nonsense has done no favors to the public perception of government corruption. First there was Charlie Rangel who bitched and moaned about his representation up until he was indicted on 11 ethics violations. Then, in a bipolar turn of events, Charlie, like a beaten dog, cried about his service to America in the Korean War, hoping all would be forgiven. Now, he tries desperately to avoid the unthinkable embarrassment of his punishment: a public scolding on the House floor. He is begging to be chastised in writing (reprimand) as opposed to in person (censure).
The real question is…why the hell does it matter?
Neither would kick Rangel out of Congress, dock his pay, take away his right to vote – or in any other way prevent him from being the exact same congressman he is today. In an era when politicians routinely compare their opponents to Hitler, socialists and Dr. Kevorkian, the House still sees its chamber as an island of 19th-century decorum.
It is a place, at least in theory, where an old-fashioned scolding still carries an awful sting.
“Even in this age where politics has become so polarized and nationalized, Congress is still in many ways a small community. Censure really is shaming, just like shaming in any small community,” said Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at MIT. “If you’re somebody like Rangel, who has made a career mastering that place, to be basically stripped naked and scolded, that really is a traumatic thing.”
That’s really fantastic. The irony here is that Rangel wouldn’t even be punished if he didn’t have such a high blown sense of arrogance. It’s a self-absorbtion so magnified by the elitist cronyism of Congress that a former soldier no longer has the honor to accept a punishment in a face to face confrontation. Why are Americans cynical about politics? This. This is why.
Of course, this same situation is about to be repeated on a much larger scale within the next few months. With the revelation that damning new evidence has been uncovered in the Waters (D-CA) ethics trial, the California Democrat has decided to follow in the footsteps on good friend Charlie Rangel and complain about “due process:”
Waters, a South Los Angeles political fixture since the 1970s, said the delay, after nearly a year and a half of investigation, “demonstrates in no uncertain terms the weakness of their case against me,” and she castigated the Ethics Committee for “lack of decency.”
“I want this issue resolved immediately,” she said, “and I want my constituents to know that the person they reelected with 80% of the vote on Nov. 2 is doing exactly what they sent her here to do: fight for them. ”
Actually, what this delay represents is the necessary deliberation of e-mail messages confirming Waters’s conversation with the bank, OneUnited, in which Waters’s husband has a substantial investment. The ethics charges allege that Waters intervened on behalf of the small, minority owned bank to secure preferential treatment in the allocation of TARP funding.
Just like Rangel, Waters thinks she is above investigation. No doubt she would like to resolve this issue as soon as possible, but not because she is innocent and perhaps not even because she wants to stop deliberation on incriminating evidence. The biggest reason Waters wants to resolve this case is that, in January, the Ethics Committee will be run by the GOP. Don’t think for a secong that they’ll bring hesitate to bring down the hammer…
The lack of accountability in these trials is obscene and sad. These people are not above proper behavior. They don’t get a pass because they were elected to go dawdle around in Washington a few months out of the year.
And the “harsh” penalty for these violations? A public reprimand. The fact that this punishment is actually significant is ludicrous. This ethics nonsense is a sorry state of affairs made all the more deplorable by the immaturity of those involved.