Government corruption and the destruction of a great man

It is easy to corrupt the greedy man.  It is another to corrupt a heroic man.  Yet within each of us lurks a dark corner that, unless we implore God to shine His light into it, can corrupt us.

If anyone doubts this, consider the tragic story of Randall "Duke" Cunningham.

For those who may not know enough about him, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Cunningham was an officer and pilot in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. Cunningham and Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) William P. "Irish" Driscoll, working as a flight crew, became the only navy flying aces of the Vietnam War. He was one of the most highly decorated United States Navy pilots in the Vietnam War, receiving the Navy Cross once, the Silver Star twice, the Air Medal 15 times, and the Purple Heart.

Following the war, Cunningham became an instructor at the U.S. Navy's Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN[.]

In his final air combat, Cunningham killed perhaps North Viet Nam's most skillful and accomplished ace, in a dogfight that has become part of fighter pilot lore.

Would that Duke's story ended there, and with retirement, with his well deserved accolades.  But instead, it ends in dishonor.  Again, quoting from Wikipedia: 

He [Cunningham] served as [a Republican] member of the United States House of Representatives from California's 50th Congressional District from 1991 to 2005.  He resigned in 2005, after having pleaded guilty to bribery, fraud, and tax evasion.

One of Cunningham's final public statements before entering prison was this:

When I announced several months ago that I would not seek re-election, I publicly declared my innocence because I was not strong enough to face the truth.  So, I misled my family, staff, friends, colleagues, the public – even myself.  For all of this, I am deeply sorry.  The truth is – I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office.  I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family. ... In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow.  And now I know great shame.  I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity.  I cannot undo what I have done.  But I can atone.  I am now almost 65 years old and, as I enter the twilight of my life, I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends.

Unlike so many other corrupt politicians, at least Cunningham did not persist in his denials.  This fact does not diminish his crimes, but it does give us a hint as to the immense power that "the swamp" has over even those who are, at heart, brave, decent American citizens.  As Sarah Palin noted, Washington, D.C. is largely populated by people who entered it with average wealth and who soon become excessively wealthy, without having achievements commensurate with that increase in net worth.

There can be no excuse for corruption, no matter the merits of the man.  What is needed is for the example of Duke Cunningham to be used for good.  The public must recognize that.  No matter whom we elect to govern us, we must maintain constant and intrusive oversight.  We must recognize that the power, the allure, the seduction that operates in government at all levels is a force of the universe, as powerful as gravity, and as destructive as any disease.

Imagine how much worse it is when we elect those who are, at heart, already dishonest.  As it has been said, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.  It follows, then, that the price of neglect is the loss of liberty – or worse.

Congress will not do this.  We must.

It is easy to corrupt the greedy man.  It is another to corrupt a heroic man.  Yet within each of us lurks a dark corner that, unless we implore God to shine His light into it, can corrupt us.

If anyone doubts this, consider the tragic story of Randall "Duke" Cunningham.

For those who may not know enough about him, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Cunningham was an officer and pilot in the U.S. Navy for 20 years. Cunningham and Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) William P. "Irish" Driscoll, working as a flight crew, became the only navy flying aces of the Vietnam War. He was one of the most highly decorated United States Navy pilots in the Vietnam War, receiving the Navy Cross once, the Silver Star twice, the Air Medal 15 times, and the Purple Heart.

Following the war, Cunningham became an instructor at the U.S. Navy's Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN[.]

In his final air combat, Cunningham killed perhaps North Viet Nam's most skillful and accomplished ace, in a dogfight that has become part of fighter pilot lore.

Would that Duke's story ended there, and with retirement, with his well deserved accolades.  But instead, it ends in dishonor.  Again, quoting from Wikipedia: 

He [Cunningham] served as [a Republican] member of the United States House of Representatives from California's 50th Congressional District from 1991 to 2005.  He resigned in 2005, after having pleaded guilty to bribery, fraud, and tax evasion.

One of Cunningham's final public statements before entering prison was this:

When I announced several months ago that I would not seek re-election, I publicly declared my innocence because I was not strong enough to face the truth.  So, I misled my family, staff, friends, colleagues, the public – even myself.  For all of this, I am deeply sorry.  The truth is – I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office.  I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family. ... In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow.  And now I know great shame.  I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity.  I cannot undo what I have done.  But I can atone.  I am now almost 65 years old and, as I enter the twilight of my life, I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends.

Unlike so many other corrupt politicians, at least Cunningham did not persist in his denials.  This fact does not diminish his crimes, but it does give us a hint as to the immense power that "the swamp" has over even those who are, at heart, brave, decent American citizens.  As Sarah Palin noted, Washington, D.C. is largely populated by people who entered it with average wealth and who soon become excessively wealthy, without having achievements commensurate with that increase in net worth.

There can be no excuse for corruption, no matter the merits of the man.  What is needed is for the example of Duke Cunningham to be used for good.  The public must recognize that.  No matter whom we elect to govern us, we must maintain constant and intrusive oversight.  We must recognize that the power, the allure, the seduction that operates in government at all levels is a force of the universe, as powerful as gravity, and as destructive as any disease.

Imagine how much worse it is when we elect those who are, at heart, already dishonest.  As it has been said, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.  It follows, then, that the price of neglect is the loss of liberty – or worse.

Congress will not do this.  We must.