The Republican Culture Of Corruption Is Back
Well... it never went away and it is certainly not confined to Republicans. It's the all pervasive, never-ending stench of Washington and the political class and the type of characters drawn to politics-- be it a Tom DeLay or a Rahm Emanuel. But to the general public, that Culture of Corruption has been an albatross around Republican necks, not Democratic necks and the conviction of the most senior Republican in the Senate, Ted Stevens, brings the whole ugly mess-- the Duke Cunninghams, the Tom Delays, the Bob Neys, the Jack Abramoffs, Jerry Lewis, Conrad Burns, Tom Feeney, Virgil Goode, Katherine Harris, John Doolittle, Dirty Dick Pombo, Denny Hastert, Gary Miller, Charlie Taylor, even Mark Foley (a different kind of corruption)-- back into play. Oh... and Don Young.
So while John McCain and the Republican Party are struggling to hold on in "sure-thing," "in-the-bag" red states like North Carolina, Virginia and, now, Montana, far off Alaska eases into the national focus. It isn't a story the Republican Party wants anyone looking at.
Alaska's senior GOP politicians, Ted Stevens and Don Young, are-- Inside the Beltway world-- prominent national figures, although each has long been a personification of pork, earmarks and corruption. Alaska's primary airport is currently named for Ted Stevens but the Bridge to Nowhere is what pops into most minds when either his or Young's name is brought up. But the two of them-- albeit on top of a systemic pyramid of corruption-- are just the garbage in plain sight. The entire, all-powerful Republican political establishment in Alaska is rotten to the core. Dozens of elected officials are either rotting in prison, awaiting sentencing or trial or under investigation. "Bipartisan" in Alaska refers to the few Democrats who were invited into the GOP schemes to enrich the political class. And then there's the reformer, maverick governor-- naive, religion-obsessed small town mayor Sarah Palin who liked the idea of "cleaning things up, although appears to have had substituting her own regime of small town corruption and nepotism for the Big Oil brand that had turned Alaska into one of the country's ethics cesspools.
Yesterday a spokesman for the Alaska Republican Party, McHugh Pierre urged Republicans to "continue to support Sen. Stevens. We need to vote for him because a vote for him is a vote for a conservative candidate, a Republican who best represents the interests and beliefs of Alaskans. ... We don't know what happens in the future. But if you don't want Mark Begich, you vote for Ted Stevens." The entire Republican political establishment, rotten to the core, is standing behind Stevens:
Senator Lisa Murkowski, herself in ethical hot water and the daughter of one of the few politicians in contemporary history considered as corrupt as Stevens himself: "Ted Stevens is an honorable, hardworking Alaskan who has served our state well for as long as we have been a state....Ted has asked for Alaskans and his Senate colleagues to stand with him as he pursues his legal rights. He stood with Alaskans for 40 years, and I plan to continue to stand with him."
Rep. Don Young, Stevens' longtime partner in crime, likely to lose his seat a week from today and likelier still to soon face trial, conviction and prison himself: "I'm deeply disappointed. It surprises me. I don't think he had a jury of his peers. That's the way it goes. I'm sure there will be an appeal. If you watched the conduct of the court with the one juror leaving and going out and, of course, the actions of the prosecutors themselves, there definitely will be an appeal, and it will go for a long period of time."
McCain's campaign wrote a cagier and slicker response for Palin to mouth:
"This is a sad day for Alaska and for Sen. Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company that was allowed to control too much of our state. ... As governor of the state of Alaska, I will carefully monitor this situation and take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system. I'm confident Sen. Stevens will do what's right for the people of Alaska."
But although her "monitoring" may remind people of Bush's inability to take any remedial actions whatsoever, leading to his cataclysmic popularity crash, it is what the McCain wordsmiths left out of Palin's statement that is most glaring. Not a word from the maverick, religious reformer about the fact that a convicted felon is up for re-election in 7 days. She doesn't give a speech ever in which she doesn't invoke maverickness and her and her runningmate's "well known" battles against "our own party." That's an empty charade and her response to Stevens conviction just proves it was just another in a series of gimmicks that defines the tragic presidential campaign of John W. McCain.
Personally McCain and Stevens have long loathed each other and this morning McCain tried to further distance his sinking campaign from Stevens' corruption scandal.
"Yesterday, Senator Ted Stevens was found guilty of corruption. It is a sign of the health of our democracy that the people continue to hold their representatives to account for improper or illegal conduct, but this verdict is also a sign of the corruption and insider-dealing that has become so pervasive in our nation's capital.
"It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all."
McCain staffers have taken to referring to Palin as a whack job but it isn't the lunacy and bizarre political extremism that are likely to damage the ticket most in the next seven days. It's her ties to the aforementioned Culture of Corruption.
This Ted Stevens fiasco is baggage of the McCain camp's own choosing. Before they added Sarah Palin to the ticket, Alaska was anything but Main Street America. Under the old rules, Steven's corruption scandal could well have blown over as a parochial scandal of the great, oily North.
But since picking Palin, McCain & Co. have staked out Alaska as the living, beating heart of American authenticity. And so, today, Ted Steven's felonious betrayal of the public trust is going to allow Democrats to campaign like it's 2006-- against the Republican "culture of corruption" that proved so electorally toxic to the GOP two years ago.
Let's remember that the McCain camp knew in late July that Stevens was under indictment and demanding a speedy trial that would put Alaska's frontier ethics front-and-center in the days before the election.
And yet, thanks to a vetting free Veepstakes, in August the campaign chose Palin, who not only owes her governorship to Stevens' throaty endorsement, but as recently as 2005 served as the director of "Ted
Stevens Excellence in Public Service" 527 group.
...So here's my question: If Sarah Palin was such an all-American maverick, what was she doing palling around with a suspected felon like Ted Stevens?
It may be a lot of people's question.