"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." - Francois duc de la Rochefoucauld, French epigrammatist (1613-1680)
Oh for the good old days when Jimmy Carter lusted only in his heart. Now deviancy's downward spiral has reached the level where a United States senator pleads guilty to cruising an airport men's room in search of an anonymous "quickie" and is forced to resign.
Sen. (until Sept. 30) Larry Craig of Idaho labored as a second-tier Republican member of Congress until news that he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct became public. He then rocketed to first-tier status, though not for the reason any politician would wish. His sins, not his legislative skills, had found him out. He became fodder for late-night comedians and a problem for the self-righteous community, which hoped that Senate voters would not penalize Republicans come election time, if they expunged Craig from the Senate.
During the last election campaign, now-Speaker Nancy Pelosi charged that a "culture of corruption" exists in Washington. She was right. The political culture is corrupt and that corruption is not the exclusive property of Republicans, as anyone with a sense of even recent history knows. Like a virus that does not discriminate among those it seeks to infect, the culture of corruption threatens almost everyone who comes in contact with it. Even the most noble of freshmen members of Congress must eventually compromise when it comes to fund raising and pork barrel projects, if they want to remain in office. Sex gets our attention; waste, fraud and abuse of our tax dollars less so. That says something about us and about our scandalous priorities, even more than it does about those we elect to office.
When the goal of a "public servant" is a never-ending political career and not doing what's best for the country, that is when whatever immune system he might have brought to Washington begins to break down. It is extremely difficult for a senator or house member to remain in Congress 20, 30 or more years and either not be corrupted, or become separated from the real world. Politicians can quickly get out of touch and embrace an entitlement mentality that, at the extreme, results in Oval Office shenanigans (Bill Clinton), or its trailer trash equivalent (Larry Craig and Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, whose name showed up on the D.C. Madam's client phone list), or fund-raisers who break the law (fugitive Norman Hsu, who raised lots of cash for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others.)
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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