A U.S. congressman is caught hoarding $90 thousand in cash stashed in his freezer. A U.S. senator from Alaska is convicted of failing to disclose political gifts. Another Senator is caught playing footsie with an undercover cop in a public restroom. A New York governor is caught commiserating with prostitutes. There are far too many incidents to list. Meanwhile, the beat goes on.
Four Illinois governors in recent years have been indicted and/or convicted of crimes. What is most disturbing about Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is charged with trying to sell Barack Obama’s senate seat, is that he does not stand alone in the world of political corruption. It is pervasive. Part of the game. Business as usual. Just don’t get caught.
Virtually hundreds of politicians, federal, state and local, have been nailed in compromising or criminal situations over the years. It begs the question; is this the tip of the proverbial iceberg? If this is what we know, how much more is there that we don’t know?
The real problem, is apathy. People don’t really care. Americans, it seems, have become indifferent to corruption. It is amazing, that a candidate who is caught with bundles of cash in his freezer, can still garner 47 percent of the vote in his state. It’s even more amazing that his party would still back him, just to keep a Democratic seat from falling to the other party. Better to elect a crook, than a republican.
(Or vice-versa. For sure, this isn’t a trait exclusive to one party over the other. They are equally corrupt)
Nothing new. In 1990, Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was exposed and busted on an under cover video possessing and using crack cocaine. He served time in prison and then ran for city council once more…and won! Voters don’t care about integrity, they care about charisma, power and hand-outs. He still holds a council seat this very day. And…get this…he’s in charge of the cops!
In the 1980s, Alcee Hastings was a federal judge from Florida who was caught in a sting allegedly taking bribes for reduced sentences. He was acquitted in court, only because his co-conspirator refused to testify against him. Meanwhile, Hastings was still nailed for perjury, for which he was impeached and convicted by the U.S. Senate, and thus removed from the bench.
Hastings had the chutzpah to run for office again, this time for the U.S. congress. Voters didn’t care, they elected him into the very legislative body that impeached him, and he serves there today on, of all places, the House Intelligence Committee.
If police officers were caught in such situations as Barry, Hastings, Jefferson, the media would be screaming for their termination from duty.
But, politicians are not held to the same standard. Our entire political system, in all four corners of the nation, is infected with the lust for power and money, yet very little is done to qualify and screen candidates other than routine media inquiries.
It’s unlikely that many of our serving politicians, including the current president and president-elect, would pass muster to be a cop or a firefighter. Police officers, FBI agents, firefighters and Border Patrol officers must undergo exhaustive background investigations, including polygraphs, before they can be considered qualified and able to serve in a government position. The screening system rejects every potential applicant who has a questionable history, no matter how minor. Not so with their top bosses, our elected representatives. They are immune from such scrutiny. Their feet are not held to the fire, as they are with cops.
To be a governor or a senator, all one needs is money and support from power brokers. There is no other screening or investigation to determine if a candidate has any history of dishonesty or questions of moral turpitude.
Perhaps it’s time to for independent, non-partisan, investigative panels in every state, and in the federal government, whose job it would be to conduct police-like background investigations on all political candidates before they are considered qualified to hold office…including the use of polygraph. Maybe then, we could weed out the sleaze before — not after — they take office. Then again, that would be up to the legislature.
No, I’m not holding my breath.