The Spectacle Blog

Ethically Challenged Congress

By on 6.26.06 | 2:27PM

The headline on page three of the Wash Post says it all: "Call for Lobbying Changes Is A Fading Cry, Lawmakers Say." Subhead: "Calming of Political Storm Cited as Reason for Attitude Shift."

IMMEDIATE RESPONSE: Again, the Hastert House acts according not to what is right or wrong, but only to what is politically expedient. The reason lobbying reform (and other reforms) were needed was NOT because there was a political storm, but because the reforms were necessary in and of themselves to clean up a major stench on the Hill. And the stench wasn't one of mere political perceptions, but of the reality of ethical laxness. A statesman is supposed to do what's right because it's right, not because there is political advantage in doing so. (I hasten to add that in the long run and often in the short run as well the political advantage itself almost always lies in doing what is right; the two are not usually contradictory. That the Hastert hordes seem to see them as contradictory is even more evidence of a rot at the core of the House leadership and perhaps of its followership as well.) But alas, it appears as if this country still is burdened with, to steal a title from P.J. O'Rourke, a "parliament of whores."

ADDENDUM: Just to be clear, the point of the reforms is not to cast aspersions on lobbyists -- lobbying itself is a necessary part of republican (small "R") government, and most lobbyists are honorable people. The point of the reforms is to keep legislators and staff honest. Perhaps the majority of the latter two groups are honest, anyway, but the public has a RIGHT to expect that all the appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure integrity in the process. Free, third-party paid junkets, nice meals for oft-underpaid staffers, and the like are absolutely fraught with the potential for breaches of integrity, if only because of the access they buy that might not be available to other citizens.

Until further notice, then, P.J. O'Rourke's epithet stands.

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