Washington’s Scandals Spark False Sadness

By Beacon Staff

Each time a political scandal breaks, partisans look for that all-important letter after the name of the accused. In the most recent case it’s an “R,” as in Alaska’s Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican U.S. senator ever. The GOP is bumming about the federal charges against him and can only hope that a prominent Democrat is next in line to fall under the weight of a federal investigation. Dems, in turn, are masking their giddiness with statements like, “This saddens me.” It doesn’t really.

In Washington, lawmakers know that while a member of the opposition party is in the headlines for breaking the law, their own dubious actions take a back seat. Charles Rangel who?

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Democratic U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel leases rent-stabilized apartments as a campaign office in Harlem from one of New York City’s biggest development company’s when some of its tenants are being evicted. Rangel, the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, hasn’t been charged with anything and, regardless of whether he is, the story will now be relegated to the back pages.

The fact is when a prominent party member is caught up in a scandal, it’s viewed as an opportunity, not a time to mourn. Just a day after Stevens was charged with failing to report gifts worth upward of $250,000, Montana Democrats demanded that Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Montana, return his “corruption-connected cash.” And he probably will, if he hasn’t already.

Meanwhile, many conservative pundits, while calling on Stevens to resign, have predictably tried to turn the tables, emphasizing previous Democratic scandals; like the case of William Jefferson, a U.S. representative from Louisiana, who was re-elected despite an ongoing federal investigation into a variety of weird crimes, which include storing $90,000 in cash in his freezer. It’s the art of changing the conversation and skirting fallout.

Another “shocking” political scandal likely will surface between now and the November elections. And, when it happens, of all those claiming to be saddened, half of them will be fibbing.