Dissembling on "the culture of corruption"
By Lee Russ
Sunday, June 11, 2006 at 06:25 PM
As soon as the Democrats decided to call the Republican disease "the culture of corruption," the right wing frothing heads began waging a campaign to muddy those waters. "Corruption?," they ask innocently. "Why, that affects both parties. Yes, corruption is bipartisan."
Which is true, and completely distorts the reality of the problem.Repubs have not been accused merely of being "corrupt"; they have been accused--and are guilty of--creating a "culture of corruption."
Start with the definitions.
What's "culture" mean? Here are two pertinent meanings from The Free Dictionary:
- These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
- The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.
- lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery.
- use of a position of trust for dishonest gain.
We're not talking about individual Republicans having occasional ethical lapses. We're talking about a general attitude that runs throughout the majority of federally elected Republicans which says, "it isn't illegal if you don't get caught." We're talking about organized corruption: you launder money through me, I'll launder some through you, I'll hire and overpay your wife and you'll hire and overpay mine; start a charity for needy kids and use it to collect illegal campaign contributions and dole out favors.
When you see a scandal that goes beyond a single corrupt individual committing a single corrupt act, it is indeed the Republicans you usually find squatting in their own greed. Check out the prior WTW post "Scoundrel Watch--Who Put a Little Money in Their Pockets?" and see how many of these people are Republicans.
You have systemic corruption among the Washington Republican elites, with DeLay, Abramoff, Grover Norquist, Bob Ney, and others tied together in a large, coordinate effort to milk the system and line their own pockets. You have even single corrupt Republicans going about it in an organized, systematic way: witness Duke Cunningham's "price list" for bribery.
You have coordinate efforts between Republicans to misstate the cost of trips, the identity of the people paying for the trips, and the nature of the business conducted on those trips.
You have entire agencies of Republican appointees doing the bidding of the dollars, not the voters; check out the nature of the Interior Department under Gail Norton.
The Dems? Certainly have their share of corrupt individuals. William Jefferson and his $90,000 in cold cash sure seems to be corrupt. It doesn't look good at this point for Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, who stepped down from the ethics committee after allegations that he directed millions in federal grants to groups set up by him and staffed by his friends. Harry Reid probably should have known better than to accept free tickets to three boxing matches from someone with an interest in pending legislation.
But come on; three boxing matches? I don't care how good the damn seats were, that's not in the same universe as DeLay, Ney, Cunningham, the Interior Department, Norquist, David Safavian, the missing millions in cash sent to Iraq in bags and boxes. Not even the same damn universe.
But you can bet that won't stop the frothing heads. In fact, you can find identical editorials in both an Ohio paper and an upstate NY paper which are variations on the theme stated in the editorial's first sentence:
The "culture of corruption" Democrats on Capitol Hill seem determined to pin on their Republican peers very definitely is a bipartisan affair, as news concerning Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., proves.
The two editorials are identical except for the titles. The point of this nonsense? "Clearly, conflicts of interest are far from a one-party affair on Capitol Hill."
True. And totally irrelevant to whether the Repubs have carefully grown and tended to an entire "culture of corruption."
An individual conflict of interest is to a culture of corruption as a petty theft crime of opportunity is to an international arms running operation. One is a petty annoyance to be avoided if possible; the other is an insidious operation that could easily destroy the very system of government employed by the affected countries, which must be rooted out at all costs.