Tuesday, May 30, 2006

National Desk: Bizarro World

And then you hit a scandal that just keeps on giving.

In this case it involves a House Rep from Louisiana named William Jefferson, who is from all apparent data is corrupt as all get out. No brag, just fact. His aides have been indicted. His own records have been subpoenaed. He was on the receiving end of a successful FBI sting operation. He kept ill-gotten gains in a number of refrigerators. And about a week back the FBI raided his office, looking for more data. This is the first time that a congressional office has ever been searched in this fashion.

I read about this first on the net, on some right-leaning blogs that sniffed that, since WJ is a Democrat, the mainstream media would ignore it.

And ignore it they did, unless you count things like Page 1 coverage on the Seattle Times. Usually they put the corruption of Other Washington back in A5-A7 area.

And in addition, many of the progressive blogs that I follow also carried the story, with the idea that any corrupt politician is bad news, even if they are Democrat. ESPECIALLY if they are Democrat. But still I expected it to be a one-day story, if that. Louisiana is not exactly on people’s radar (but that’s a rant for another day).

So imagine my surprise when Representatives got all hot up about the FBI raiding Jefferson’s office. Not Democrat Reps (Minority Leader Pelosi actually called for him to step down from his commitee seats), but GOP, led by Majority Leader Denny Hastert. How DARE the government raid the offices of a government official? Give that stuff back now!

OK, I’ll admit this point, I had to blink in disbelief. These are the same people who have been presiding over a slow (and not-so-slow) disassembly of the Constitution, shouting things like “War on Terror!” and “The innocent have nothing to hide!” But when the investigative eye turns on them, they suddenly get concerned about rights?

Then it gets even better. The WHITE HOUSE comes in a throws a seal on all the papers the FBI for 45 days – nobody gets them at all. And this happens after, it turns out, the recently-appointed Attorney General (who had no problems with covert wiretapping sans warrants) and the FBI director threatened to bail if they gave the papers back.

All of this conservative sturm and drang, by the way, is playing out back on pages A5-A7 of the paper, so you can be forgiven if you think its just about finally finding a corrupt Democrat in modern DC.

Now, I’m very interested in how this all turns out, since this seems to me to be a no-win situation. Either Justice was right to go after a sitting member of Congress's offices, which extends the power of the FBI and the Executive, or Congress is has an immunity that they are unwilling to extend to the rest of the nation. Either one is a pretty disturbing thought.

Similarly, we have Rep. Rick Santorum (R-?), who has showed up in these pages before. Short form – he moved in down the block from my folks’ house, got elected to Congress by getting everyone roused up about how the current incumbent wasn’t even living in the district, then moved out again after getting elected. Well, for a while he had a house in Penn Hills, which was his official residence as far as making the local school district pay for his kids’ cyber-school. But when it was revealed that he didn’t really live there, there was a hue and cry, and he bailed on making Penn Hills pay the tab. And without THAT bennie to keep him in town, the house in Penn Hills is now apparently empty.

Which upset Mr. Santorum to no end. How dare people come and look in the windows of his abandoned house! Again, I have sympathy, but the folk complaining here are the same people who are cool with the government keeping an eye on you, who suddenly bridle at the notion that anyone keeps an eye on them.

Which is silly because, you know, the innocent have nothing to fear.

More later,