Business as Usual: Corrupt
Business as Usual: Corrupt
By Michael Kinsley
The Washington Post
Friday 02 December 2005
It used to be said that the moral arc of a Washington career could be divided into four parts: idealism, pragmatism, ambition and corruption. You arrive with a passion for a cause, determined to challenge the system. Then you learn to work for your cause within the system. Then rising in the system becomes your cause. Then, finally, you exploit the system - your connections in it, and your understanding of it - for personal profit.
And it remains true, sort of, but faster. Even the appalling Jack Abramoff had ideals at one point. But he took a shortcut straight to corruption. On the other hand, you can now trace the traditional moral arc in the life of conservative-dominated Washington itself, which began with Ronald Reagan's inauguration and marks its 25th anniversary in January. Reagan and Co. arrived to tear down the government and make Washington irrelevant. Now the airport and a giant warehouse of bureaucrats are named after him.
By the 20th anniversary of their arrival, when an intellectually corrupt Supreme Court ruling gave them complete control of the government at last, the conservatives had lost any stomach for tearing it down. George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was more like an apology than an ideology. Meanwhile, Tom DeLay - the real boss in Congress - openly warned K Street that unless all the choice lobbying jobs went to Republicans, lobbyists could not expect to have any influence with the Republican Congress. This warning would be meaningless, of course, unless the opposite was also true: If you hire Republican lobbyists, you and they will have influence over Congress. And darned if DeLay didn't turn out to be exactly right about this.
No prominent Republican upbraided DeLay for his open invitation to bribery. And bribery is what it is: not just campaign contributions but the promise of personal enrichment for politicians and political aides who play ball for a few years before cashing in.
When Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty this week to accepting a comic cornucopia of baubles, plus some cash, from defense contractors, the vast right-wing conspiracy acted with impressive speed and forcefulness to expel one of its most doggedly loyal loudmouths and pack him off to a long jail term. Even Bush, whose affable capacity for understanding and forgiveness on the personal level is one of his admirable qualities, seized an unnecessary opportunity to wish the blackguard ill. There was no talk of "sadness" - the usual formula for expressing sympathy without excusing guilt.....