Depressing Postscript to Rangel/Ethics Post

Mother Jones notes that after the House censure of Charlie Rangel, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are not only rushing to Rangel’s defense (which might be understandable…maybe) but even hinting they might work with the incoming Republican majority to gut or eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) which led the investigation into Mr. Rangel’s behavior.

In public, opinions on the appropriateness of Mr. Rangel’s punishment were varied, ranging from hard-right NY Republican Peter King’s urging that “his colleagues to ‘step back’ and reconsider. ‘Let us apply the same standard of justice to Charlie Rangel that has been applied to everyone else, and that all of us would want applied to ourselves’,” to the NY Times own, somewhat stuffy endorsement of Rangel’s fate on its editorial pages. But even though Peter King’s surprising defense of Rangel is probably best read not as a high-minded vote of support for a colleague with whom he certainly disagrees on political issues more often than not, but rather as a craven appeal to colleagues to remember that they, too, may be in that same dock one day…and wouldn’t they want to be let off easy, not even King was (publicly, anyway) calling for the OCE to be dismantled or weakened.

Yes, ethics trials and votes like Rangel’s bring out some of the worst displays of behavior among congresspeople: hypocrisy (attacking someone on the other side for something you’d work to excuse someone on your own side) and sanctimony (adopting a “we’re a righteously, ethical body here, and I’m shocked, SHOCKED to see…”) being two of the worst examples. But the spectacle of the nearly unanimously Democratic CBC hinting openly about working with the incoming Republican House majority to gut or destroy a good-government panel is beyond the pale even by the low expectations we have of congressional behavior during such ethics trials.

Quick, what’s the one thing that’s been almost entirely lacking over the past two years (other than the perennial answer: Democrats’ spine, LOL)? I’ll give you a hint: it’s also the one thing the President has inexplicably been spending ever-more of his political capital attempting to capture, each time the GOP, Lucy-like, pulls the football away from in front of his outstretched foot yet again. Got it now? It’s bipartisanship, of course. What with Republican obstructionism and filibustering, there has been virtually no genuine bipartisanship since Barack Obama took office. Five separate Republican former Secretaries of State took to the nation’s editorial pages over the past few days, urging Jon Kyl to stop playing tax-cut obstructionist politics with the new START treaty…yet still the GOP obstructs and there is no bipartisanship.

Just let one of the exalted members of the elite, privileged club known as congress get their wrist slapped, though (censure, while it may be personally humiliating, does not in any way remove privileges from the congressperson being thusly punished), and suddenly we see the disgusting spectacle of liberal black Democrats reaching across the aisle in a grand, oily, eagerly returned kumbaya-hug with hard-right Republicans like Peter King and John Boehner. When it’s one of their own “distinguished colleagues” who might get his wings clipped a little bit (no matter how well-justified said clipping might be), boy howdy! Just sit back and watch the bipartisanship fly! Mother Jones:

Until recently, the most vocal opponents of such ethics reforms were Republicans, who argued that the new procedures were onerous and vindictive (my note: after the Delay/Abramoff/Ney/Cunningham/Safavian/etc ethical scandals of the previous administration, go figure, LOL). But some of the OCE’s fiercest Democratic critics now suggest that their colleagues shouldn’t be afraid to stand with the GOP to oppose the office. “I don’t think it’s a partisan issue, it’s an institutional one,” said Clay. “It’s an issue that you need to be courageous on.” Another CBC member, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), also acknowledged that Republicans had reasonable criticisms of the panel. “It’s not just the black caucus that is concerned about the investigatory power of this committee,” he said. “It’s a number of others, including Republicans… CBC members have been the victims of it, but others understand that they too can be victimized. It’s not just a CBC problem.”

(emphasis mine) – Like how it’s an issue that they need to be courageous on, NOT in the “we need to courageously prosecute ethics violations, even of our friends, and let the chips fall where they may” kind of way, but in the “we congresspeople need to ‘courageously’ band together to destroy this threat to our continued graft” kind of way? Yeah, me neither.

On the plus side, I guess it’s good to know that there ARE still issues on which genuine bipartisan consensus between oft-fractious, warring Democrats and Republicans is still possible. I’m just revolted at the thought that this is the issue that’s important enough to these solons to cause them to set aside petty partisan squabbling. If this is as good as it gets in congress, we’re in more trouble than we thought.