Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A little honesty would help

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

When public figures try avoiding the truth, some excuses just draw snickers. Remember Ken ("I'm a friend of the president") Lay's whine he didn't know his Enron was a giant criminal enterprise. The CEO didn't know what was happening?

Other times, major figures choose to just lie, hoping deceit will trump facts.

Three current examples:

· The baby-faced genius behind the creation of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, the preciously pious Ralph Reed, swears as a Christian he didn't know he was paid with Indian tribal gambling funds to lobby against casino gambling rights for a competing Indian tribe. Several million dollars paid to Reed came from notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff (also a onetime protégé of Rep. Tom DeLay) who collected more than $80 million from tribes and in whose home Reed camped out on the couch as a guest. Reed obviously needs to appear dumbstruck and ignorant about the fees: He's running for Georgia lieutenant governor and condemns gambling as a sin. Being honest could mess up the political career of this good Christian.

· Congress' resident strongman, "The Hammer" DeLay, is on a tear to investigate federal judges that didn't bow to congress in the Terri Schiavo case. It's DeLay's strategy for diverting attention from his own unethical conduct and to claim a shortage of conservative judges. Well. The Los Angeles Times has found this: Federal appeals courts, where critical cases are usually resolved, are controlled by Republican appointees—94 of the 162 judges (58 percent) were picked by Republican presidents (Nixon, 1; Ford, 1; Reagan, 29; Bush Sr., 29; Bush, Jr. 34). As for the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court, which five times refused to tamper with the Schiavo case, it's dominated by seven Republican appointees (Rehnquist, O'Connor, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Scalia and Thomas). So, what's the beef? Judges not rightwing enough?

· Finally, the wellspring of Bush-era conservative thought, the Heritage Foundation—Supreme Court Justice Thomas' wife, Virginia, is an executive there—has undergone a remarkable moral conversion. The Washington Post discovers Heritage for years had dispensed vitriol about Malaysia as anti-Semitic and politically oppressive. Then Heritage suddenly began promoting Malaysia as a paragon of virtues, with briefings such as "Malaysia: Standing Up for Democracy." Could it be because Heritage president and co-founder Edwin Feulner helped establish a Hong Kong consulting firm sharing $1 million in annual fees from the Malaysian government and Feulner's wife is retained as a consultant? Heritage dismisses such cynicism: "We will call it like we see it."

You judge.

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