Tuesday, January 10, 2006

It’s All About the Republicans

[[P O L I T I C S]] * Just a week has passed now since former Republican “super-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff, as part of a plea deal, began snitching on GOP powerbrokers in what’s already being touted as “the biggest political corruption scandal in a decade.” And during that interim, conservatives and right-wing ideologues have sought to portray Democrats as no less soiled by the receipt of Abramoff’s dough than George W. Bush and his supporters. The media have been complicit in this effort to make the Abramoff scandal bipartisan, improperly conflating legal campaign contributions with influence peddling (see here and here). In fact, as records make clear, not a single Democrat received contributions directly from Abramoff. Only Republicans did.

As editor Rich Lowry of the conservative National Review writes in a January 10 editorial, that makes the Abramoff affair, “in its essence, a Republican scandal, and any attempt to portray it otherwise is a misdirection.” He continues:
Abramoff is a Republican who worked closely with two of the country’s most prominent conservative activists, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed. Top aides to the most important Republican in Congress, Tom DeLay (R., Tex.) were party to his sleazy schemes. The only people referred to directly in Abramoff’s recent plea agreement are a Republican congressmen and two former Republican congressional aides. The GOP members can make a case that the scandal reflects more the way Washington works than the unique perfidy of their party, but even this is self-defeating, since Republicans run Washington.

Republicans must take the scandal seriously and work to clean up in its wake. The first step was the
permanent ouster of Tom DeLay as House Republican majority leader, a recognition that he is unfit to lead as long as he is underneath the Abramoff cloud. ... Next, Republicans will have to show they can again embrace the spirit of reform that swept them to power in 1994.
Of course, trying to recast themselves as “reformers,” after having shown both their willingness to be corrupted by Abramoff’s abundant contributions and their wont to excuse a president from their own party for his illegal domestic spying will take a hell of a lot of gall. As a different sort of Republican, Abraham Lincoln, once said, “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”

And Americans aren’t setting themselves up to be fooled, at least not this time. A new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll finds that 51 percent of respondents are paying attention to the Abramoff outrage, and 53 percent believe it is a “major scandal.” Only 9 percent view it as “not a serious matter.” The same survey shows that “corruption will be a voting issue” in the November 2006 midterm elections. “Only the war in Iraq, terrorism and health care are cited more often as ‘extremely important’ issues this year; 43 percent describe ‘corruption in government’ that way,” USA Today explains. “In comparison, 38 percent call the economy an extremely important issue.”

Dennis Thompson, a Harvard University political scientist, tells the newspaper that, while he doesn’t foresee a “tidal wave” change in Congress’ party makeup next year, he suspects “there could be a shift of control of one of the houses ... Before this corruption scandal arose, that was less likely.”

READ MORE:Nothing Bipartisan About Congressional Scandal,” by Gene Lyons (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette); “Dems Don’t Know Jack,” by Greg Sargent (The American Prospect); “Corrupt Reformers,” by Digby (Hullabaloo); “Betraying the Reagan Revolution,” by Robert Scheer (TruthDig).

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