Topic: Government & Politics
Ted Stevens, Republican Icon
Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was just indicted,
and it is pretty hard to see how hes going to avoid jail time. Stevens
is accused of getting a new first floor on his home, a new garage, a deck,
and lots of other home improvements from a political supporter and supplicant,
Veco, which is an oil services company. Stevens never reported these as
gifts, and in fact actively concealed them, according to the grand jury.
Given that Veco was asking for and receiving special favors, grants, contracts
and other considerations from Stevens while he was getting all these things
for free, it seems clear that Stevens could fairly be charged with bribery.
If this surprises you even a little, you dont know the career of Senator
Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, and a Machiavellian
to the core. He is famous on Capitol Hill for his vendetta against any
Senator who dares to try to block the pork barrel spending he regularly
ships off to the 49th State. Cozy relationships with lobbyists
are his calling card; mutual back-scratching with political donors is
his creed. He never saw an ethics reform that he didnt try to block.
To him, politics means the old school, bare-knuckles politics of the 1880s.
Ethics? What the hell are they, and who cares?
Of course his colleagues, both Republican and Democrat, knew Ted Stevens,
and must have known that he was to ethics like a slug is to salt: they
dont mix well at all. The Democrats were a little afraid of him, it seems,
and the Republicans, who similarly ignored the obvious ethical misconduct
of others like Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Mark Foley until
they were exposed and disgraced, just looked the other way, During the
entire Bush Administration, the party has built a culture that is antithetical
to ethical values, responsible government, fairness, honesty, and conflicts
of interest, choosing instead to emphasize cynicism, influence and the
pursuit of power. Well, to paraphrase the book that so many of the partys
true-believers purport to worship, you reap what you sow. In an unethical
culture, political bullies with greed in their souls run amuck, until
they get careless and arrogant, and inevitably go down. The Republicans
will try to make this story about Ted Stevens, an old lion who stayed
too long, but it is really about the distain for ethics in government
encouraged by the partys leaders and willfully ignored by conservative
cheerleaders in the media.
The Democrats gouged the ethical fabric of the our government when they
marched in lock-step to deny the seriousness of Bill Clintons cover-up
of his juvenile sexual escapades. But no party in a the 20th
Century so thoroughly established a culture of greed, disrespect, and
dishonesty in the legislature as the GOP has in the 21st. It
is fitting and predictable that Stevens is so far refusing to resign,
making it likely that the Democratic sweep on the horizon will include
a new senator in Alaska. He doesnt get ethics. He never did. And instead
of becoming an anomaly in his party, he came to typify it.
We need to be grateful for Stevens fall. Not because it gives joy to
see a powerful old man sent to jail, but because it is conclusive proof
that the Republican experiment in unethical government has failed. Imagine
if the culture of power, influence and greed had succeeded! But it couldnt
in the long run, it never does. Thats how, in the final analysis,
we know what is ethical.
Because ethics works.
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