No, not all politicians are like that. Let’s get that clear. I’m tired of that line of defense from people who vote for the kind of people we wind up with in Dennis Hastert.
The fact is we’ve had virtuous people – and still do – who devote their lives to public service rather than private gain. Frequently, at a high personal price – and often as the targets of vicious character smears, which too often attack the innocent family as well. And, to be candid, these principled individuals can be found on both sides of the political aisle.
Still, after decades of hearing the Republican Party portray itself as upholding “family values” and other high Godly virtues, here we go again. For that matter, of hearing the party that’s pressed vigorously to defeat monogamy among gays – you know, the “marriage issue” – now shown in more light.
Yes, I’m referring to Dennis Hastert of Illinois, being indicted on diverting millions from his banking accounts in transactions calculated would avoid money-laundering scrutiny. That, in itself, is a very serious charge for someone who’s supposed to be keeping the system clean and accountable. Think of shady accounting or the ways secrecy feeds into lies.
As disturbing for me is the fact that a former high-school wrestling coach could have that kind of money sitting around. As for making it in real estate investments, let me point you to Plunkett of Tammany Hall, a classic of American politics, where George W. Plunkett offers his definition of “honest graft” as buying land you know is going to be quickly repurchased at a much higher price for a public project. The strategy made him very wealthy. You might also say it was crooked. And, essentially, it traded on secrecy.
Of course, in the Hastert case, the plot thickens with the allegations of homosexual pedophilia involving a former high school student.
Remember, Hastert became Speaker of the House in the debacle of thrice-married, twice-divorced Newt Gingrich. Family values?
Remember, Hastert became Speaker of the House of Representatives in part because Gingrich’s intended successor, Rep. Robert L. Livingston, had to step aside amid revelations of extramarital affairs. Oops!
And Hastert’s been outspoken in his opposition to what? Those other folks … never, of course, what he might be doing in private.
The charges and allegations against him retain the caveat that they remain to be proven in court.
Still, we could construct of a long list of false public voices contrasted to private realities in recent American history. (Bloggers in other parts of the world can add their own, for our edification.)
For me, the biggest scandal is the falsehood of pontificating self-righteousness. Yes, that’s what angers me the most. We’re back to secrecy, of course. And the ways it’s been used to intensify partisanship in public decision-making, rather than admit diversity and wisdom to the process.
And to think, this man was second in line to the presidency. Right after the vice president.
Now that’s scary!