Profiles in corruption

In 1955, Senator John F. Kennedy allegedly* wrote Profiles in Courage, which described the bravery and integrity of 8 US Senators who risked their careers to do the right thing. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book described those leaders who crossed party lines and/or defied public opinion to stand up for what they believed.

From John Quincy Adams, who later became president, to Daniel Webster and 6 others who left their mark on history, JFK wrote about the greatness of those who cared more about the future of the country, than they did about their own political future. During the march toward the Civil War, Senator Sam Houston of Texas opposed the state's secession from the union. In 1861, as governor, he was evicted from his office for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. This was during a time in which leaders came out of the private sector to donate their time, skills and effort to help lead their country, before going back to their original profession.

It was a time in our history when public service was an avocation rather than a full time career; a time when elective office was not viewed as a road to riches. Push the clock ahead a couple of hundred years and we have a system in which political power is often used as a get rich quick scheme and a get out of jail card.

Whether it's a California congressman driving around in a Rolls Royce and living in a palatial home, the result of about $2 million in bribe money; a Louisiana congressman caught by the FBI with $90 thousand worth of bribes in his freezer, or an Illinois Governor caught trying to sell a senate seat, the fact is that some people have the idea that their office is for sale to anyone with enough cash to buy their appearance of integrity. Political power is a formidable weapon that can be used to alter the events of history in a positive way, or it can be used to enrich the bank accounts of the ethically challenged reprobates whose lack of character mysteriously transmogrifies their fingers into money-grubbing appendages.

There was a time in our history when a person needed a sterling reputation in order to get a presidential appointment to a cabinet position. Not anymore! Our new Secretary of State and her husband have more than a few suspicious blemishes on their record of international relations, much of it concerning the huge amounts of donations to the Bill Clinton Library and Foundation.

Eric Holder, the nominee for Attorney General, is the guy who supported President Clinton's pardon of Mark Rich, the fugitive financier who fled to Switzerland to avoid being prosecuted on charges of
tax evasion and illegally making oil deals with Iran during the hostage crisis. In addition, Holder recommended clemency for 16 imprisoned bombers who were waging war against the United States as part of the Puerto-Rican FALN terrorist organization. Clinton pardoned them before leaving office.

Timothy Geithner, selected to be Treasury Secretary, the man who will oversee the IRS, "neglected" to pay about $50,000 in taxes until he found out he was Obama's choice to take charge of finance and monetary policy in the country. (If you or I failed to pay 50 grand in taxes, we'd be squinting through bloodshot eyes from a 9 by 12 cell.) Yet, because we're dealing with tough economic times, Geithner's reputation as a wizard on global financial regulation makes him not only immune to prosecution, it catapults him to one of the most exalted seats in the hierarchy of government. 

Consequently, due to the exigencies of politics and the economy, the baggage carried by Clinton, Holder and Geithner are viewed as nothing more than peccadilloes to be overlooked for the good of the country. Pretending that explanations are really necessary, Clinton said she would turn over the documents related to the mega-millions donated to her husband, Holder admitted to making "some mistakes" in judgment, and Geithner promptly paid the delinquent taxes. It appears that we've arrived at a time in our history when people of high moral character have been weeded out of the selection process by some kind of twisted Darwinian formula, lest they upset the pragmatism that has become a substitute for decency and honor. Sadly, while we are supposed to be fighting the battle of good over evil around the world, we seem to have lost the battle here at home. 

*Many believe the book, and the Harvard senior thesis on the same topic which preceded it, were actually written in part or entirely by Theodore Sorenson, latter a Kennedy speechwriter.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob.
In 1955, Senator John F. Kennedy allegedly* wrote Profiles in Courage, which described the bravery and integrity of 8 US Senators who risked their careers to do the right thing. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book described those leaders who crossed party lines and/or defied public opinion to stand up for what they believed.

From John Quincy Adams, who later became president, to Daniel Webster and 6 others who left their mark on history, JFK wrote about the greatness of those who cared more about the future of the country, than they did about their own political future. During the march toward the Civil War, Senator Sam Houston of Texas opposed the state's secession from the union. In 1861, as governor, he was evicted from his office for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy. This was during a time in which leaders came out of the private sector to donate their time, skills and effort to help lead their country, before going back to their original profession.

It was a time in our history when public service was an avocation rather than a full time career; a time when elective office was not viewed as a road to riches. Push the clock ahead a couple of hundred years and we have a system in which political power is often used as a get rich quick scheme and a get out of jail card.

Whether it's a California congressman driving around in a Rolls Royce and living in a palatial home, the result of about $2 million in bribe money; a Louisiana congressman caught by the FBI with $90 thousand worth of bribes in his freezer, or an Illinois Governor caught trying to sell a senate seat, the fact is that some people have the idea that their office is for sale to anyone with enough cash to buy their appearance of integrity. Political power is a formidable weapon that can be used to alter the events of history in a positive way, or it can be used to enrich the bank accounts of the ethically challenged reprobates whose lack of character mysteriously transmogrifies their fingers into money-grubbing appendages.

There was a time in our history when a person needed a sterling reputation in order to get a presidential appointment to a cabinet position. Not anymore! Our new Secretary of State and her husband have more than a few suspicious blemishes on their record of international relations, much of it concerning the huge amounts of donations to the Bill Clinton Library and Foundation.

Eric Holder, the nominee for Attorney General, is the guy who supported President Clinton's pardon of Mark Rich, the fugitive financier who fled to Switzerland to avoid being prosecuted on charges of
tax evasion and illegally making oil deals with Iran during the hostage crisis. In addition, Holder recommended clemency for 16 imprisoned bombers who were waging war against the United States as part of the Puerto-Rican FALN terrorist organization. Clinton pardoned them before leaving office.

Timothy Geithner, selected to be Treasury Secretary, the man who will oversee the IRS, "neglected" to pay about $50,000 in taxes until he found out he was Obama's choice to take charge of finance and monetary policy in the country. (If you or I failed to pay 50 grand in taxes, we'd be squinting through bloodshot eyes from a 9 by 12 cell.) Yet, because we're dealing with tough economic times, Geithner's reputation as a wizard on global financial regulation makes him not only immune to prosecution, it catapults him to one of the most exalted seats in the hierarchy of government. 

Consequently, due to the exigencies of politics and the economy, the baggage carried by Clinton, Holder and Geithner are viewed as nothing more than peccadilloes to be overlooked for the good of the country. Pretending that explanations are really necessary, Clinton said she would turn over the documents related to the mega-millions donated to her husband, Holder admitted to making "some mistakes" in judgment, and Geithner promptly paid the delinquent taxes. It appears that we've arrived at a time in our history when people of high moral character have been weeded out of the selection process by some kind of twisted Darwinian formula, lest they upset the pragmatism that has become a substitute for decency and honor. Sadly, while we are supposed to be fighting the battle of good over evil around the world, we seem to have lost the battle here at home. 

*Many believe the book, and the Harvard senior thesis on the same topic which preceded it, were actually written in part or entirely by Theodore Sorenson, latter a Kennedy speechwriter.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the executive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob.