When it comes to standards, how low can we go?
Congressman Charlie Rangel had failed to report more than half a million on his congressional financial disclosure forms, violated rent control laws in New York, taken corporate-funded junkets, and more. After being admonished by the House ethics committee, he has finally decided to take a leave of absence as chairman of the powerful Ways & Means Committee.
But before he stepped down, some excused him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued that Rangel’s behavior “was not something that jeopardized our country in any way.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said, “It is worth pointing out that none of these things actually seem to affect national policy.”
Oh, goody! He didn’t destroy the entire country!
Then there’s a local scandal in Washington, D.C. Former crack-mayor, current Councilmember Marion Barry allegedly earmarked his girlfriend a $15,000 city contract and then took a kickback from her. The council just censured Barry.
But Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy notes that people in Barry’s 8th Ward are dying of AIDS at an alarming rate, while money appropriated to help has vanished. He writes, “If Barry did take a kickback from his girlfriend, they say, it didn’t result in somebody’s death. So why should he face censure when those who stole the AIDS money got away clean?”
He didn’t kill anyone: Our new standard for ethical behavior. Really?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.