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Friday, December 02, 2005

Partners in honesty

Or partners in corruption?

For demonstration purposes only, quoting Ken Rudin's NPR column, "The 'Culture of Corruption' in Congress:"

When Lewis Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, is under indictment; when the most powerful member of the House, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), is forced to resign his leadership post following an indictment; when his former spokesman, Michael Scanlon, pleads guilty to bribery charges and agrees to cooperate in the investigation of an associate, top Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff (and one which could also bring down Rep. Robert Ney (R-OH), chairman of the House Administration Committee); when Bill Frist (R-TN), the Senate majority leader, is under scrutiny by the Security and Exchange Commission; and when Karl Rove, the president's top political aide, is still under investigation by a special prosecutor, the guilty plea and subsequent resignation of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) on bribery charges just adds to the party's misery. (Emphasis added to the names.)

The list could probably be doubled by adding some of our own Illinois politicians who have faced, are facing, or will be facing, corruption charges.

We don't know what these men's problems are. Are they ego maniacs. Are they power grabbers. Money hungry. Stupid. Or are they just weak of character. All of the above? We'd like to think that none of them were born dishonest. We hope.

Whatever their problems, one thing we do know, none of them are little mouse men sitting alone all day in an office, eating alone in their cars, going home at night to an empty apartment. No. These men have people around them. Wives, girlfriends, assistants, aides, lawyers, friends, groupies.

Why did those people just stand aside and watch their husband or boss or whatever screw up so horribly? How could they not notice? Did they look the other way? Were they hoping for a few scraps of power or money for themselves.

It's hard to imagine that of all those people, not one of them took any of those men by the shoulders, looked him in the eyes, and told him to stand back and look at the greater sum of his actions. If any of those people did that, it apparently didn't make a very big impression. And now, at least one of those men is going to prison.

Is anyone honest, anymore? Doesn't anyone keep others around them honest? How did we get like this?

Posted by Marie at December 2, 2005 11:44 PM


I don't know what makes the crooks act like crooks -- some combination of need, greed, arrogance, entitlement and compulsion -- but it's an interesting question about the people close to them. I think, similar to the family members of alcoholics and addicts, there must be an incredible degree of denial among these folks and refusal to acknowledge that 2+2 does not equal $2.4 million. And even without bringing in the AA theory, people are enormously hesitant, even afraid, to think the worst of those closest to them. It means thinking the worst of yourself in a way, too, and also, in a very real sense, confronting the end of the world as you've known it.

Posted by: Dan at December 6, 2005 8:42 PM