Monday, June 04, 2007

Jefferson, Credibility and Dems

I am hardly surprised that he was indicted, but wowie: 94 pages?

I wish the above was my line, but it is Dr. Steven Taylor's great line. As everyone knows, Rep. Jefferson (D-LA) of the alleged $90,000 brick of cold, hard cash found in his freezer, the alleged commandeering of Louisiana National Guard engineering equipment to safeguard his house/records/evidence versus shoring up levees or performing rescue and resettlement operations was indicted.

William Jefferson, D-La., was indicted Monday on federal charges of racketeering, soliciting bribes and money-laundering in a long-running bribery investigation into business deals he tried to broker in Africa.

The indictment handed up in federal court in Alexandria., Va., Monday is 94 pages long and lists 16 alleged violations of federal law that could keep Jefferson in prison for up to 235 years.

The Republican leadership is (smartly) calling for a vote to expel Jefferson from the House. And I think the Democratic leadership has to show some balls and back up their words on cleaning up both corruption and the appearance of corruption. A $90,000 brick of cash in the freezer at the very least screams the appearance of corruption to me.

If the Democratic leadership want the public to believe that they are serious about making serious, fundamental structural change, they need to do more than pass a pretty good but not perfect lobbying clean-up bill or argue that the alleged [wink wink, nod nod] corruption of Rep. Jefferson happened during the Republican controlled times. The bill is a good start, but it is insufficient if Democrats want to be credible on this issue. Clear signals must be sent. Believable and credible signals by definition are costly signals and voting to expel may be a sufficient signal of differentiation between the two parties to be worthwhile.

The strongest political argument against this course of action is the 'bitch slap theory' of politics as advanced by Josh Marshall:
Consider for a moment what the big game is here. This is a battle between two candidates to demonstrate toughness on national security. Toughness is a unitary quality, really -- a personal, characterological quality rather than one rooted in policy or divisible in any real way. So both sides are trying to prove to undecided voters either that they're tougher than the other guy or at least tough enough for the job....Hitting someone and not having them hit back hurts the morale of that person's supporters, buoys the confidence of your own backers (particularly if many tend toward an authoritarian mindset) and tends to make the person who's receiving the hits into an object of contempt (even if also possibly also one of sympathy) in the eyes of the uncommitted.

I have a great deal of sympathy for this argument, but I believe sending a strong and credible signal that the appearance of corruption is intolerable for Democrats in Congress especially when contrasted with the multiple indicted and thus alleged, or actually convicted Republican felons is a stronger political as well as moral position. The Democratic meta-message has to be that we are the party of responsible and reasonable adults while the GOP is overwhelmingly composed of drunken, besotted bullies.

No comments: