James Madison once wrote that a politician is the embodiment of a "benevolent philosopher" who displays a heightened intellectual capacity and leads a life based on ethical convictions. Two hundred plus years later, Madison's description seems surreal and even a little comical in a sarcastic sense. Most Americans acknowledge that the ethical downgrading of their politicians, which would have Madison spinning in his grave, can be attributed to Democrats and Republicans alike. In fact, a recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC indicates that 71 percent of Americans feel there is little ethical difference between both parties. I beg to differ when regarding these last six years.
During these last six years, the right side of the aisle has been more inclined to engage in corrupt and fraudulent practices. Ironically, these are the same right-wingers that hail their party platform for being formed in accordance with clean, crisp Christian values. If Christian values entail lying, cheating and stealing, then this party is well on its way to going to heaven. Otherwise, the Republican Party needs to clean house or revise its platform.
A string of bad press recently transcended Republican Party lines, uncovering an endemic culture of corruption. The poster boy of this popular movement is arguably Rep. Tom Delay. Mr. Delay, whose pet name "the Hammer" provides one with a good inkling as to his tenacity for handling business, recently stepped down as the majority leader in the House of Representatives after a grand jury indicted him for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws. Mr. Delay has consistently denied these charges and seems unruffled by the serious allegation – case in point is his mug shot in which he is smiling. If an indictment will not wipe that smile off Mr. Delay's face, then perhaps exposure of his involvement with K-Street's most notorious influence-peddler might.
These days, if there is anybody in Washington that a politician would not want to touch with a 10-foot pole, it would be lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Mr. Abramoff recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy of bribing public officials, tax evasion and fraud. Although several Democrats were among the culprits found lining their pockets via Mr. Abramoff's sleazy tactics, an overwhelming majority were Republicans. Among the biggest beneficiaries were Rep. Randy Cunningham, Rep. Bob Ney and Ralph Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition. If these names don't ring a bell, then this one might: Rep. Marilyn Musgrave. Our very own representative was recently seen doling out money to a charity in response to criticism that she accepted donations from Mr. Abramoff.
The number of Republicans facing federal charges seems to grow exponentially. Senate majority leader Bill Frist, for example, is under investigation for a stock sale in which he was allegedly provided with insider information. Then there was the infamous Valerie Plame incident that landed Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff Scooter Libby an indictment. Meanwhile, President Bush's chief strategist Karl Rove is still under investigation for his involvement in the scandal.
Unfortunately, unlawful engagements are not confined to Capitol Hill. "During wartime in America, we sometimes take short-cuts," said CSU political science professor Robert Lawrence, referring to the Bush administration's use of warrantless wiretapping on American citizens. Lawrence went on to refer to other presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, who had also "cut corners in the Constitution during times of war." When asked about the president possibly facing impeachment, Lawrence argued that the charges against Mr. Bush were still premature and presented "no real threat at the moment."
So, is breaking the law an inherent value of our G.O.P? I would hardly agree. I suspect that a major part of the problem rests on Republicans' stronghold of all three branches of government, which puts a strain on checks and balances – a recipe for an unhealthy democracy. There are some signs of hope that measures will be taken to reduce the amount of sleaze consuming Washington. Republican Senator John McCain, for example, is at the forefront of campaign reform and a reminder that among a few bad apples, there are still some good ones.
Luci Storelli – Castro is a junior political science and philosophy major.