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Bill Roper's Journal
29th-Nov-2005 12:02 pm
Lots of folks (not so much on LJ) are talking about Cunningham's resignation from the House after pleading guilty to taking more than two million dollars in bribes. And as someone who votes Republican more often than not, maybe I should say something too.


Good that he was caught. Good that he is going to be punished. Good that he is gone.

I have no patience for bribe-takers in either party. I want them all gone, because we can't afford them as a nation, not just because they cause us to make arguably bad decisions -- I suppose you can bribe someone to do the right thing, although that probably isn't the normal case -- but because they corrupt the process in a way that increases the cynicism of the public and leads to a failure of support for the democracy that we have.

Now, you may ask yourself, "How can someone like Cunningham think that he'll get away with this?" Part of the answer, I'm sure, is that many people do get away with it, but I think there's more to it than that.

There are many people out there in the world -- and surely you've run into them -- who believe that they are somehow smarter or better than the rest of us and that because of that they are entitled to take things that are not theirs to take. I've seen them here at work and I've seen them in fandom too. By God, they should have these things and no one's going to be really hurt if they take them and if they should happen to get caught, well, they'll find a way to skate past it, because they've always figured out how to skate past it before.

I do not like these people. (I'm sure that doesn't come as a surprise to you.) And I certainly don't want to associate with them.

How about you?
29th-Nov-2005 06:26 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I have trouble sympathising for somebody who's got a record of brutal nastiness in the Gingrich tradition, especially when addressing women like Pat Schroeder.

How do you feel about the suggestion that he be courtmartialed? I'd love to see this swaggering bully do some actual time in the stockade with the other criminals.
29th-Nov-2005 09:21 pm (UTC)
And then there's this list of the bribes paid to Cunningham:
• $140,000 to a third party for the "Duke-Stir" yacht, which was moved to his boat slip for his use.
• $13,500 toward the purchase of a Rolls-Royce.
• $9,200 paid to a manufacturer for two Laser Shot shooting simulators.
30th-Nov-2005 09:59 pm (UTC)
I'd be interested to hear if there's ever been another case where a court martial has been used to punish someone for acts not related to their military service that occurred long after their retirement. If there's no precedent, I'd find it difficult to use this case to establish one.
30th-Nov-2005 10:14 pm (UTC)
A valid point. The case I cited was one where the guy had recently been in active service.

Do you think that allowing oneself to be bribed by "defense" contractors is not related to one's military service? It seems to me to be a betrayal of every veteran (or CO) who served honorably.
29th-Nov-2005 06:52 pm (UTC)
It all works for me. The idea of public service is to, y'know, serve the public. It goes along with my huge problem with most Republican lawmakers and damn too many Democratic ones -- it's not this side versus that side. It's our side, America's side, and you're supposed to try and figure out the best way to do things for everybody's sake, dammit. You are, literally and in name, our representatives so that we don't have to have massive information (and dis-information) campaigns and a national election for every little thing.

And the idea of entitlement just because you think you're wonderful doesn't sit awfully well, either. I'm very much in favor of levelling the playing field in the name of freedom of opportunity, and there's always more that can be done in that direction -- but you don't decide that you're wonderful and expect everyone to act accordingly.

Because of the lack of opportunity at some levels, I'm also very much in favor of the social safety net -- but with mechanisms to help people get out of it. Some people, because of various circumstances, may never get out of it, no matter how hard they try. The ones who don't want to get out when presented a decent chance to do so (and there's the detail wherein the devil resides, i.e., what constitutes a "decent chance") -- they are a problem.
29th-Nov-2005 08:13 pm (UTC)
Power breeds corruption. By the fact of having power far beyond that granted by the Constitution to affect people's lives, to grant unearned fortunes or break earned ones, and by the fact that they're elected with the expectation that they'll bring in favors for the people who elected them, members of Congress have many opportunities to enrich themselves by the selective exercise of their power, and few moral constraints imposed on them.

Everyone wants the government to have one more power, so that they'll get some special benefit. What we're seeing is the sum total of those desires.
29th-Nov-2005 09:13 pm (UTC)
Everyone wants their own form of welfare breaks. And they're not particularly interested in the other guy getting theirs.

See also the discussions on the K Street Project, which is bascially a way to force all lobbying firms to turn into GOP operatives or be cut out of the picture:

29th-Nov-2005 09:10 pm (UTC) - Part 1
Part of the reason in my LJ that I put forward the honest-politician thing is that my own theory is that many start as idealists and get sucked into the dark side - for the money, for the power, for the glory, for the egoboo or all of the above. What bothers me is that a lot of them are starting out with things like College Republicans and at a cut-throat level.

See the following, originally in the New Republic, and reprinted elsewhere:
and most of with in print, with commentary:
(you should check out that savethegop.com site, especially the about...)

29th-Nov-2005 09:15 pm (UTC) - DeLay on Cunningham:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) yesterday defended Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) after calls from congressional Democrats to investigate the Republican appropriator for selling his San Diego home to a defense contractor whose firm had received $65 million in federal funds in 2004.

“Duke Cunningham is a hero,” DeLay said during a press briefing Tuesday. “He is an honorable man of high integrity.”
29th-Nov-2005 09:21 pm (UTC) - Re: DeLay on Cunningham:
Which, of course, goes to show where DeLay's head is at.
30th-Nov-2005 04:11 am (UTC) - Re: DeLay on Cunningham:
Uh....he can perform his own sigmoidoscopy? :)
29th-Nov-2005 09:38 pm (UTC)
To more directly answer your question; people like Cunningham figure that they can get away with it because the atmosphere in modern political groups has been so congested with money and power that governance is secondary. Good governance is an impediment. It gets in the way of these guys getting ahead. They're not interested in doing things the right way, they're interested in the what's-in-it-for-me direction. You have the Tony Coelhos, the DeLays, the Livingstons, the Neys and more in thrall to the Abramoffs, the Reeds, and so on. It goes beyond party. It goes to the heart of good government, where corruption is assumed and you don't want any part of the goo-goos.

There's the Taft family of Ohio; Governor Taft, the last of a long line formerly known for their uprightness is now running a 65.5% approval rating, as he is eaten alive by a money and power influence scandal in state government, to which he ended up pleading guilty to a series of misdemeanors. Why the hell is he still in office?

Why are Ernie Fletcher (governor of Kentucky) and Bill Frist still where they are without shame? Because the power and the money trumps shame, trumps the idea of doing the right thing. The right thing isn't something that occurs to these guys in this sort of dog-eat-dog, devil-take-the-hindmost atmosphere. It started with the decaying days of the Dems in Congress, the Daleys and the Tip O'Neills, and the GOP got swallowed by it, absorbed by it. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

30th-Nov-2005 04:10 am (UTC)
Because Ohio is a bleedin' Red State, and I'm up to my keister here in elephant dung.

Ambrose Bierce was right about conservatives and liberals.

If people would stop voting for incumbents, then we wouldn't need term limits and we wouldn't have career politicians.
30th-Nov-2005 08:20 am (UTC)
EEEp! Correction on Taft - that's a 6.5% approval rating. Zogby says he's never seen it so low (see the Toledo Blade article).
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