Thursday, January 19, 2006

Happy Meal

Certainly it is not surprising to see the political bickering currently underway between Democrats and Republicans regarding the Abramoff case. And while the Abramoff scandal is most assuredly a Republican event, GOP leaders are engaged in an all out effort to portray it as "bipartisan" corruption. The media, as usual, have adopted their mincing he said/she said stenography that passes as journalism these days. Despite Abramoff having ratted out a number of lumbering elephants, the media are more than content to allow the GOP to say that the Dems are just as involved with Abramoff as they are. As David Brooks commented awhile back, this is the GOP talking point on Abramoff: why, you're almost as corrupt as we are!

The media have failed to note the difference between GOP members receiving direct money from Abramoff and that some of Abramoff's clients, Indian tribes he was bilking for millions at the time, were still giving some cash to a few Dems, namely Harry Reid. For outlets like the NY Times, it is now and has been for sometime, simply sufficient to echo what each party hack says. For instance,
Republicans mounted a fierce counteroffensive. They ... accused Mr. Reid of ties to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
and the counter,
Jack Abramoff is a Republican scandal and a Republican crisis.
Strictly speaking, the first statement is patently false. Reid receiving money from Indian tribes that Abramoff was screwing over while calling them "clients" does not a tie make. Unless, of course, you're a Republican covering your ass. Does the NY Times clarify this? You probably already know the answer to that question.

Only one of the above statments is true, though, unless one is fairly well acquainted with the Abramoff story, a reader might at least believe both. The result of this stenography is that the GOP makes gains against some of their own rather scurrilous behaviour. And while Democrats past were certainly doing some shady wheeling and dealing, that is simply not germane to the current issue. By allowing the GOP to bring historic Democratic perfidy into the discussion, the media effectively buffers Republicans from current criticism about their behaviour in the Abramoff case. Which, of course, is why the Repubs do it.

Nonetheless, at some point in the not to distant past -- a few days ago -- both parties realised an overhaul of House and Senate "ethics" rules was necessary in order to provide a simulacrum of propriety. Even this, though, has devolved into acrimony, with each party vying to adopt new and better rules before the other. The whole process is now devolving into a typical Capitol Hill circus, with the Republican argument amounting to something like well, yeah we did it, but you did before, so there! It is so utterly obvious that these clowns have zero interesting in reforming themselves and are simply going through these motions to provide a veneer of virtue. Does anyone buy this nonsense?

Often, larger issues like wide spread government corruption and its ostensible "reform" can be boiled down by a single, ill-advised comment, delivered without much thought. Which is exactly why they can be so revealing. Trent Lott provided one such comment when, in response the new "ethics package" being consider by the GOP leadership, he said,
Now we're going to say you can't have a meal for more than 20 bucks. Where are you going, to McDonald's?
Lott is clearly concerned that, if lobbyists aren't buying pricey meals for him, he won't know what to do. How will he survive? Though it may be hard to imagine the well-fed senator going hungry, Lott seems to indicate that he would be at an utter loss -- might even get a tad peckish -- once it becomes illegal for Abramoff to wine and dine the fat and happy senator at Signatures.

Here's thought, Trent: buy your own goddamn dinner. For once.


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