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CORRUPTION
Leave the nice men alone

By Hannah Selinger | RAW STORY COLUMNIST

I don’t know why the New York Times keeps bashing the right side of the aisle. One need look no further than the back page of this week’s Week in Review for proof. On it, giant pictorial diagrams block out Washington’s supposed treacheries. It’s sad to see a serious paper making such a mockery of respected public officials.

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In the diagram, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Senior Adviser to President Bush Karl Rove, Chief-of-Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney I. Lewis Libby, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist are floating heads, divorced from anything corporeal. I can’t help but feel sorry for these gold-hearted men, clearly wronged by a faulty judicial system.

I have a really warm place in my heart for Tom DeLay because I once saw him in action. When I was eighteen, I spent my summer as a Congressional Intern. Back then, Tom DeLay was the majority whip and in my office, his name came up daily. Being a Congressional Intern meant an incalculable amount of busy work, but when the Legislative Assistants were too busy to delegate responsibility, they told me to look for votes that interested me and to take the underground train to the Capitol, where I could watch floor debates.

It had been an interesting summer. President Clinton was in the process of being impeached, but there was not yet a feeling of democratic impotence. I went down to a vote one afternoon regarding some restriction on late-term abortion. Representatives Smith and DeLay had collaborated to make to the House a presentation on the specifics of abortion. I watched Tom DeLay preach goodness to all Americans as he pointed to an enlarged picture of a fetus being extracted from a woman’s birth canal.

He was a God-fearing moralist, that much was clear.

Where, oh where, did Tom DeLay go wrong?

I was so ready to believe the “I am a more ethical human being than you” platitude that he put forth on that July afternoon all those years ago. And now Representative DeLay, God in his own right, has been indicted for (gasp!) money laundering.

I also can’t help but feel like they should have done a better job of not getting caught. Say what you will about Bill Clinton’s White House indiscretions. Certainly he, too, should have known that his affair was doomed from the beginning. But what I do not understand is how five men in the biggest arena of American politics expected to get away with these things.

Tom, how could you have been so stupid? Didn’t you realize that corporate contributions managed by your aides that were then passed down to political action committees that were then passed down to Texas state candidates would later be traceable to you? Couldn’t you, the sympathetic and sharp mind behind the elegant late-term abortion presentation, have thought of a better plan?

I say this with the greatest compassion. Bill Frist’s HCA stock debacle could have been avoided if he’d just done his insider trading differently. Karl Rove’s Plume drama could have been orchestrated so much less obviously. Jack Abramoff could have maintained a bit of distance from the Konstantinos Boulis murder he may have helped plan.

Clearly these are not bad men, evildoers, sinners. These are upstanding citizens who have made silly mistakes. If it were the other way around, and Democrats were now falling left and right, I know that these men would express the same sentiment and find no humor in the dismal defeat of one party.

These things don’t define character. Compassion and goodness are defined by action. Obviously Tom DeLay cares about the poor and about women’s rights and about due process and about race relations in the United States and about things that don’t involve padding his own pockets. Obviously Karl Rove’s involvement in the Valerie Plame case had nothing to do with the fact that Plame’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, had voiced opposition to the administration’s pro-war stance. Obviously Bill Frist never once talked to his brother, Thomas Frist, Jr.—HCA’s chairman emeritus and largest shareholder—about buying or selling. Obviously.

This is defamation of character, is it not? Good men behind bars, ridiculous accusations, a system crumbling from within—this is the stuff of movies, not American politics. Because a system like ours, a fluid and well-functioning democracy, would never permit foul and morally untethered men to rise to power.

Or would it?

Hannah Selinger is a weekly contributor to Raw Story .

 



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