“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
— Lord Acton
In the run-up to the 2006 mid-term elections, crucial to President George W. Bush’s plans for his last two years in office, scandal reared its hideous head. Again and again. And just for the Republicans.
First, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay resigned in disgrace after he was charged with violating campaign finance laws and money laundering. Then, Rep. Duke Cunningham pleaded guilty to a slew of federal charges like bribery, fraud, tax evasion. And right before Election Day, Rep. Mark Foley resigned after accusations of sending male teenage congressional pages sexually explicit messages.
Democrats danced. “Culture of corruption!” they cried. And they swept the elections, re-taking control of both the House and the Senate, and even picking up as majority of state governorships and legislatures across the country. Mr. Bush was finished, and some political pundits say the lingering effects led to the 2008 presidential victory by Barack Obama.
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But now, the shoe is on the foot — or feet, as it were.
Heading into the 2014 mid-terms, again key to an incumbent president with big plans, scandal is in the air. So far, the corruption hasn’t yet reached the level of Congress, but it’s already ugly, especially because Democrats have, for the last six years, talked about openness and honesty.
In California, the Democratic-controlled Senate suspended three of its own Democrats. State Sen. Leland Yee was arrested on federal gun trafficking and corruption charges. Sen. Ron Calderon pleaded not guilty to charges of influence-peddling. And Sen. Roderick Wright was convicted Jan. 28 of perjury and voter fraud.
In Illinois, federal agents seized computers at the home and office of Democratic state Rep. Keith Farnham, who resigned March 19, citing health concerns. The Associated Press reported that the agents were searching for evidence of child pornography. In Rhode Island, the Democrat-led state legislature voted to replace former House Speaker Gordon Fox, who stepped down from the post after the FBI raided his home and office.
Worst, Patrick Cannon, the Democratic mayor of Charlotte, N.C. — where Democrats held their national convention in 2012 — resigned after being charged with accepting nearly $50,000 in bribes during an FBI sting operation.
Even MSNBC’s raving liberal Rachel Maddow was stunned.
“There are now three Democratic state senators with federal criminal indictments against them just this session resulting already in eight felony convictions,” she said. “And yes, the Republican Party is essentially defunct in most of California and probably beyond reviving, but if anything can bring them back, it’s probably days like this.”
Republicans and conservatives are so far keeping their powder dry. And radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh thinks there’s something fishy about the whole thing.
“It is entirely possible that the head honchos of the Democrat Party are basically behind an effort to take out all of their bad apples before the election; make them old news by the time the election comes around,” he said. “The timing here is obviously curious, and it really is hard to believe the FBI would be working against the wishes of the regime, isn’t it?”
On the other hand, Michelle Malkin, author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies,” thinks the scandals will reach national levels, and hamper Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s hope to retake the House.
“She cast herself and her minions as America’s political clean-up crew. But once again, the culture of corruption boomerang has swung back around to smack Democrats in their smug mugs,” she wrote last week. “The cynical Swamp Drainers just hope you forget it all by election time. Don’t.”
Sadly, this culture of corruption is cyclical, first one party, then the other — whoever has been in control so long it becomes corrupt. Now, it’s the Democrats’ turn.
But it’s particularly bad timing for the president, who has an ambitious agenda for his final two years in office. Because one thing is for sure: Voters are not filled with confidence in their party when they see their elected officials being frog-marched in handcuffs.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.