No party has a lock on morals

Saturday, October 7, 2006

It's always amazing how we react differently to things when the shoe is on the other foot. Everyone remembers the Republican Party's "outrage" over the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky sex scandal that led to him being impeached by the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Now we learn that Republican Representative Mark Foley has a sex scandal of his own. According to the most recent reports, he has been "enamored" with young boys serving as House pages for several years while serving on the Hill and many of his Republican colleagues were aware of this affinity. A senate congressional aide said that he had told House Speaker Dennis Has-tert's office more than three years ago about this kind of behavior on the part of Foley. Not to excuse Clinton for his philandering, but at least Monica was over 18. These boys Foley has been sending lurid e-mails to are 14 and 16 years old.


So again, we face the question, who knew about this and when did they know it? This kind of behavior is not only disgusting to a lot of people; it is also illegal, because of the ages of the boys involved. Two members of the Republican leadership report that they told Speaker Hastert this past spring they had heard that Foley had sent suggestive e-mails to a page. Hastert said he "didn't recall" those conversations but didn't deny they had occurred.


So evidently it's not what a person does but who does it. I know it has always been that way and will probably always be that way but it's still pretty disgusting.


The effect these kinds of revelations will have on the Republican Party base could be devastating. Christian conservatives are now talking about simply staying at home on Election Day, because of their disenchantment with the current "morality" of Republican office holders. The Rasmussen poll reports that Americans identifying themselves as Republican has fallen to its lowest level in more than two-and-a-half years. Just 31.9 percent of American adults now say they're affiliated with the GOP. That's down almost 5 percentage points from October 2004 and 3 percentage points since January of this year. These results come from tracking surveys of 15,000 voters per month and have a margin of sampling error smaller than one percentage point. The number of Democrats has increased since the beginning of the year, from 36.1 percent to 37.3 percent. Those who claim to be unaffiliated have increased to 30.8 percent this month, the highest total since Rasmussen Reports began releasing this data in January 2004.


How does all of this translate into political power in the upcoming election? There is much speculation that a sea change could occur because of all the sex, money, and criminal scandals affecting Republicans lately, as well as growing discontent among the electorate about the handling of the war in Iraq. More American soldiers were killed this past week than any period of time since the week of the initial invasion. Some optimists in the Democratic Party are even predicting a Democratically controlled House and Senate after election day, 2006. That would take a lot of doing and is actually unlikely to happen, but Democrats are making significant headway, according to most tracking polls. Factoring in those U.S. Senators who are running for re-election with those that aren't up for re-election this year, the Rasmussen weekly tracking polls has the Senate divided 49-49, with two races too close to call, if the elections were held today.


The problem is always the same with our political leaders. They forget that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." They forget their duties and obligations. They forget the oaths they take. They develop a mind-set that says they are above the law and above the rules that dictate everyone else's behavior and they subsequently do as they please. When they get caught doing as they please, they often deny they were doing anything wrong to begin with.


We've seen this over and over in American politics throughout the past half-century. President Kennedy had extra-marital affairs. President Johnson promised he would not expand the Vietnam War into Laos and Cambodia and then did. President Nixon hired burglars to steal campaign strategies from Democratic headquarters and papers from Daniel Ellsberg's office. President Reagan traded arms for hostages. During this same period of time the misadventures of Congressmen and Senators, their aides, their campaign donors, and their lobbyists are far too many to mention.

Until the people decide to take back their country, there is no motivation for any of this to stop. As long as elected officials betray the public trust and yet continue to be re-elected, there is no reason to expect any of this behavior to stop or even slow down.


There are many principled, moral voters in this country who can send a clear and present message to those we hire to serve us. Take care of the peoples' business or we won't send you back. It's time to make that statement.


Finally, I had a meeting with Sen. Nelson the morning of the Heritage Days parade to discuss his end-of-the-campaign rally to be held here in McCook. We met at his house on Norris Street and sat in the living room where he had grown up. In the context of talking about the rally, we also talked about the campaign and the amount of negative campaigning that was taking place.

Pete Ricketts took it to a new level this past week with his "Old McDonald's cartoon ditty" campaign ad which is the sleaziest campaign ad I've ever seen. It has quickly become the talk of the country, not just Nebraska. It is being prominently displayed on many Web sites to illustrate how far some candidates will stoop to win an election.

If I understand people at all, I would expect this ad would backfire and actually increase Nelson's lead rather than increasing numbers. Surely people can see this for what it is. It's what turns peoples' stomachs about politics and politicians and it's why only about a third of us will vote in November.


You wonder if our politicians will ever figure it out.

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