Washington -- Was Martin Luther King a shakedown artist? Surprisingly as it might sound, he was in the eyes of -- get this -- Jesse Jackson. Yes, I know this seems improbable, but so many of the things the Rev. Jackson has said seem improbable. He is a man who has risen on the power of his own scandals.
Do you recall his grave appearances at the Clinton White House to counsel the Boy President on his sex scandal with Miss Monica Lewinsky? Shortly thereafter it transpired that the Rev. brought along his very own mistress, and she at the time was heavy with child. The couple posed for pictures with the embattled President. Ms. Lewinsky is not in the pictures.
Do you remember the uproar when it was revealed that he paid his mistress off with monies from one of his charitable foundations? And do you remember the three pardons this man of the cloth wrested from the Great Pardoner just hours before the Clinton Administration was no more? Two of those pardoned were brought back to the Rev. Jackson's employment, one a crook who had defrauded the homeless out of $5,000,000 and another a crook who had been convicted of soliciting sex with a minor. The chap had been a member of Congress, so maybe his transgression was understandable.
At any rate, Jackson hired the ex-Congressman as a consultant on prison reform. When he did, it put me in mind of Jackson's response to O. J. Simpson's acquittal on charges he had murdered his wife. Jackson suggested that now Simpson would be an excellent spokesman in the campaign against wife abuse. I did not make that up.
Now the excellent John McCaslin tells us in his "Inside the Beltway" column, published in the infallible Washington Times, that Jackson has taken umbrage to claims made by the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) that he is a shakedown artist. During a public interview Jackson, when asked about NLPC's objections to his importunities upon corporate America, exploded, "These attacks by the policy center, these are unending attacks," and more, "Dr. Martin Luther King was called a communist. He was called a nigger. He was hated. He was killed. This kind of hate baiting is really a perversion."
For my part I do not believe the Rev. King's struggle for equal rights and racial integration is in any way similar to the Rev. Jackson's pursuit of money and favors from giant corporations. Moreover, though King did find himself occasionally in the company of leftists, he was not a communist. When he was killed it was a tragedy for the civil rights movement and for America, though the Rev. Jackson wasted no time exploiting the tragedy. Within hours of King's assassination Jackson was appearing on television, falsely claiming that King died in his arms. Actually, King died in the arms of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, of a ghastly gunshot wound. Jackson was nowhere to be found. Yet in his public appearances he claimed the blood on his shirt was King's. The travesty was the beginning of Jackson's rise to the top, to Bill Clinton's side during his squalid sex scandal, and to the executive suites of the corporations he now shakes down.
The saga of Jesse Jackson is an amazing one. As Kenneth Timmerman chronicles in his excellent study of the man, Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson, Jackson began his career with some genuine achievements capable of easing the plight of poor and uneducated blacks. But the colossal frauds that he perpetrated from the start far outweigh the achievements, and the frauds have continued to this very day. Many of the frauds are prominent on the public record. Long ago Jackson should have been hustled off history's stage as a cheap huckster, but the denouement has yet to take place. It is typical of our time.
There is an amazing tolerance for corruption nowadays, particularly if the corrupt are on the left. That is why so many sectors of the American left are so corrupt. It is also why it now appears that the American left is in decline. Surely Jackson is in decline, but he can still draw a crowd and still make a buck. Will he ever totally exhaust the country's good will? Will there ever be for him one scandal too many? My guess is that he will gently shove off into retirement. It is not likely that he is going to have another Democratic president to counsel for a long time.