As one who doesn’t shy away from calling a liar a liar, the GOP has managed to keep me busy in the past few years. Among the many reasons for drawing a bead on their deceit was the fact that, as the party in power, they set the tone and the agenda. In light of such influence, the public should make a special point of holding them to high standards in their conduct. (What with the press giving up on that role, and all . . .)
Well, the Democrats are ascendant now, and it’s time for us (the public in general, but especially active Democrats such as myself) to take a clear stand with them, too. Now, I draw no equivalence between the parties – no party (including the Republican Party that used to exist) can even begin to compare with the craven lying, deliberate indifference, and active maliciousness of the modern GOP. But things haven’t always been that way – they should stand as a lesson in what happens when accountability disappears.
What brought this to mind, today, were a couple of recent events involving a Democrat and clear dishonesty. The first is the revelation that Rahm Emanuel did, in fact, know of the Mark Foley IMs in late 2005. Despite this, he lied – on national television – about that fact. Glen Greenwald details it out here (do read it – he also imagines the technical defense that Rahm might offer, and points out that the Democratic staffers that did see the IMs at the time took action), but that’s the quick summary of it. And that pisses me off to no end. Democrats don’t need to lie (or scare, or steal) to win elections. Yet there he was, dissembling on tape. Yes, it’s insignificant when compared with the Republican lies that we’ve endured over the years, but that’s not the standard we should be using. We’re Democrats, and we’re better than that. Emanuel did a good job as head of the DCCC, but if this is how he thinks he can conduct himself, he has no business there. He keeps doing it, and I can guarantee that you’ll see a lot of us working to push him out the door.
The second event was Rep. William Jefferson’s winning reelection. This is, at once, both a harder and easier issue. It’s easier in that all signs point to him being indicted and eventually sent to jail on federal charges of bribery and wire fraud, at a minimum. He’s already been stripped of his seat on the Ways & Means Committee (a good call by Nancy Pelosi). You may (and should) be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but I don’t need a full trial to tell me that this is someone I think has no business being an elected Democrat. The harder part of this? Well, it seems the voters of his district strongly disagree (to the tune of a 61-39 win, in fact). So, what can be done about this? On one hand, I’d like House Democrats to shun him, neither seeking nor accepting his support on bills. On the other, that seems enormously unfair to the people of his district. So it strikes me that very little can be done, beyond waiting for the wheels of justice to grind him out of office.
I’m sure that these will not be the only ethics issues facing Democrats in the coming Congress. I hope that we will put as much effort into holding them accountable as we did the Republicans. If we do, we won’t only get a better Democratic party, but a better country.