Making sense of the Republican scandals
by Simon Rosenberg, Mon Feb 13, 2006 at 03:39:36 AM EST
There is a lot of talk these days about how to best clean up Washington. The answer seems obvious - make a very public example of those who have broken the law, showing that even powerful players in Washington are not above the law. Our message to the American people should be a simple one - we will do whatever it takes to find the lawbreakers who have betrayed the public trust and bring them to justice. We should put the bad guys in jail.
"Reform" agendas, while well-intentioned, miss the point. In the Bush era there has been an explosion of criminal activity by his government and his Party. Two senior White House officials have been indicted. A criminal investigation that reaches all the way to Dick Cheney and Karl Rove continues. The Senate Majority Leader is facing a serious criminal investigation over insider trading of his family's companies stock. The leaders of the House have been involved in a series of criminal schemes that also involve important conservative movement leaders like Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist and Lou Sheldon. Investigations continue into the awarding of contracts in the Katrina rebuilding and in the Iraq reconstruction (all overseen by one of the indicted White House officials).
When a city faces a crime wave the mayor doesn't call for the toughening of the laws. He first works to catch the criminals and bring them to justice. The same should apply to these Republican scandals, perhaps the most extensive set of ongoing criminal investigations into a governing party in American history. Our first order of business should be to make sure that those in power are doing everything possible to cooperate with the investigators, share what they know with the American people and bring the lawbreakers - regardless of party - to justice.
For the health of our democracy, Republican leaders - Bush, Frist, Hastert - should publicly disclose what they have been doing to help the various criminal investigations. Have they been deposed? Will they testify at the many upcoming criminal trials of their colleagues? Have they turned over relevant documents? Will they give the Justice Department and the FBI more resources to tackle this political crime wave? What are they doing to ensure that the prosecutors are walled off from any political interference? Will they resign if it is found that there was rampant criminal activity on their watch?
Of course the answer from the Republican leaders is that they are doing everything they can to cooperate with the investigations. But we all know this isn't true, and in many ways beside the point. They are the leaders of our country. They have to be held to a higher standard of conduct. They simply must not hide behind legalisms and silly games. They should be leading the cleaning up of our government, working diligently to bring these many investigations to a speedy and successful conclusion.
As all work to make sense of these far-ranging Republican scandals, it is important to note that very little of what we are talking about here has to do with lobbying or a specific lobbyist - it is about how the Republican majority runs their government. We are witnessing an unprecedented set of criminal investigations into all parts of their government. In recent days senior Bush administration officials have accused the White House of lying about the intelligence leading to the Iraq war, and about the White House's role in the Katrina failures. Senior Republican Senators have called the White House/NSA warrentless spying program illegal. We could go on and on.
What we are dealing with here is not a few out of control lobbyists. We are facing a governing Party who has come to believe that the laws of our nation do not apply to them. They became quickly drunk with the power they sought for so long, and have exercised for such a short period of time. And it is essential as Americans that we show that no one is above the law, and bring the lawbreakers - whoever they are - to justice.
This fall from grace is a very human, and very tragic tale. But as we think of the human face of this corrupt, criminal and disappointing time, it should not be a scapegoat named Jack, it should be the leader and architect of the "whatever it takes" strategy, the one who set the tone and has still never spoken against all this, the President himself, George from Crawford. These are his scandals, his time, his watch. And a strong and resolute leader, we all expect that he will take full responsibility for the corruption of our government that has happened during his time.