Wednesday, December 7, 2005

McCain: Washington is 'very corrupt'

Commentary by Pat Murphy


By PAT MURPHY

Pat Murphy

Arizona's political nonconformist, Sen. John McCain, probably also has become an apostate among Republican brethren. Without a pause, McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "this town (Washington) has become very corrupt."

Of course, that's not news to most Americans abreast of the latest Potomac chicanery while Washington politicians tend to live in denial about sleazy ethics.

Corruption in politics takes several forms.

One is outright bribery, such as $2 million-plus in cash and gifts taken by the fallen and disgraced Vietnam War hero, California Republican Rep. Duke Cunningham. Then there are "campaign donations" from lobbyists to members of Congress to enact or oppose legislation affecting their clients.

There's also intellectual corruption -- callous, conscious efforts to mislead the public with contrived facts or cover up real facts.

And finally, there's the corruption of indifference -- the outright refusal of Senate and House ethics and oversight committees to police members as well as the executive branch. In a dazzling understatement, McCain said, "I don't think the ethics committees are working very well."

The Boston Globe recently completed a long study of congressional committee oversight, discovering only a handful of investigations by Republican-controlled committees compared to hundreds of oversight investigations of the Clinton administration by Democratic-controlled committees.

Is any explanation required of why that's the case?

Intractable, die-hard GOP loyalists will deny this, but facts argue that the Bush Jr. years involve historically corrupt Washington politics.

Were the 19th century British historian Lord Acton alive, the sight of the American government in the hands of a single political party plus regular revelations of corrupt shenanigans would confirm his most celebrated maxim -- "All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

The more acceptable this behavior becomes, the less shame.

Consider the brazen spectacle of the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, in Houston keynoting a $500-per-head fund-raiser for Congress' resident thug, Rep. Tom Delay, indicted on felony charges, rebuked three times for unethical conduct by the House's ethics committee, revealed as a lobbyist's best friend for bullying colleagues into submission.

How reminiscent of beholden men lining up to pay tribute to the Godfather.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice troops around Europe denying with a straight face that the CIA has spirited detainees across European borders to secret prisons for interrogation, even as anonymous reputable sources feed tips to the contrary to The Washington Post and photos emerge of CIA spook jets that carry the prisoners.

Maybe Secretary Rice rationalizes her audacious deceitfulness.

Lying to her probably isn't as evil as a bribe or the vice president genuflecting to a corrupt member of Congress.




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