Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Under the Table, Above the Law

Sometimes I just have to shake my head in wonderment.

If you or I happened to be observed by police in the middle of the night, "traveling at a high rate of speed in a construction zone and also swerving into the wrong lane of travel" with no headlights on, and then failed to stop when pursued by the officers until "finally stopping after colliding head-on with a vehicle barrier" — I would dare to speculate that we would be promptly cuffed, charged and carted off to spend the rest of the night in the local hoosegow. Unless our name happened to be Rep. Patrick Kennedy, in which case we would be offered a ride back home with no charges, no breathalyzer test, and a free "Get Out of Trouble" card issued by the national media the next morning. (Lucky for us, Capitol Police spokesmen have reassured the nation that "the Capitol Police remain committed to impartial and fair enforcement of laws and impartial and fair treatment of all citizens.")

If you or I happened to slug a uniformed policeman who was in the course of performing his sworn duty, I would expect we would quickly find ourselves face down on the ground with a knee in the small of our back and a loaded gun or two pointed in our general direction, and at the very least would be serving a few hundred hours of community service as punishment for our actions. Unless our name happened to be Rep. Cynthia McKinney, in which case we would play the race card against the actions of the white cop and then offer a half-baked apology. ("I am sorry that this misunderstanding happened at all and I regret its escalation and I apologize.") Oh, and don't forget the "Get Out of Jail Free" card, courtesy of the U.S. Constitution.

If you or I happened to have been caught taking illegal — or, at the very least, unethical — campaign contribution funds, we would have found ourselves indicted by Ronnie Earle or some other prosecutorial office. Unless our name happened to be Senate minority leader Harry Reid, in which case we would hit the weekend political shows decrying the "culture of corruption" of our political enemies; or Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Speaker Dennis Hastert, Sen. Tom Daschle, Rep. Richard Gephardt, or one of dozens of others who either made a show of giving the money back or simply flew under the radar hoping that only the bigger fish would be fried.

If you or I happened to be caught — on video, no less — taking $100,000 in cash bribes, I am sure we would have found our houses and offices being searched and ourselves under indictment. Unless our name happened to be Rep. William Jefferson, in which case ... well, okay, he did have his house and office searched by FBI agents, who found $90,000 of that cash hidden away in Jefferson's freezer. On the other hand, the man is claiming innocence and has no plans to resign from his seat on the prestigious House Ways and Means Committee, and has every intention of continuing his run for reelection to the House in his home state of Louisiana. Jefferson even found a sort of support in his troubles from an unlikely source: the Republican Congressional leadership, who are very vocally taking exception to the FBI raids.
Republican leaders, who previously sought to focus attention on the Jefferson case as a counterpoint to their party's own ethical scandals, said they are disturbed by the raid. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said that he is "very concerned" about the incident and that Senate and House counsels will review it.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) expressed alarm at the raid. [snip]

"Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress," he said. "Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years."
I find it hard to believe that the founding fathers, who were sick and tired of the abuse of power and legal exemptions and immunities exploited by the English ruling class over the Americans and the common man, intended for those very same sorts of privileges to be used and abused by our own "citizen legislators." As they once said,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government...
Perhaps this November it will be time to alter this government in the best way possible, by voting to rid ourselves of some of these incumbents who seem to have forgotten that their job is to serve and protect the people of this great nation, rather than to be served and rewarded by the taxpayers who elected them.

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