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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

It may not be "fair", but yes, Democrats DO have to be cleaner than Republicans
Posted by Jill | 4:44 AM
There's the world as we'd like it to be, and then there's the world as it is. We might want to live in the utopian world we'd like, but instead we live in the hypocritical, double-standard world that exists now. In this world, a successful terrorist attack that kills 3000 people shows George W. Bush is a strong leader and a failed one that kills no one shows Barack Obama is a pussy. In this world, John Ensign can remain in office after his parents pay off his mistress' husband and still oppose gay marriage, David Vitter can utilize the services of paid prostitutes to dress him in diapers and still preach about family values and morality, and Mark Sanford can use state funds to fly first class to do the horizontal mambo with his Argentine sweetie and not be removed from office. And this is all OK because they are Republicans. Just like the clean-slate Christianity they follow; the same one that Brit Hume says offers the best deal at the lowest price for Tiger Woods to achieve redemption, Republicans are held to a different standard. They're held to a different standard by the media, and therefore they're held to a different standard by most Americans. The IOKYAR doctrine is the de facto law of the land, and it is not going to change.

There are many reasons this is the law of the land. Some of it is about the corporations that run the media; corporations that instinctively prefer Republican governance. Some of it is undoubtedly due to whatever it is in our nature that makes some of us care what happens to our fellow human beings, and others of us join the "I got mine and fuck you" brigade; guys like Rush Limbaugh who declare that the health care system is fine because HE, with his $400 million contract that's bankrupting Clear Channel, can afford the best insurance and the best care money can buy. But whatever it is, when Republicans are caught in major scandals, they tough it out, and when Democrats are caught in minor scandals, they throw in the towel.

A great deal of hosannas have been expressed on the left at Rick Sanchez' "evisceration" of John Ensign on ethics issues the other day, but I didn't see it as an evisceration at all. Kudos to Sanchez for confronting this hypocritical asshole, but at the end of the day, Ensign stuck to his story and went back to the Senate.

Today, the New York Times reports that Sen. Chris Dodd will not seek re-election, and that even though there was no actual wrongdoing, the "appearance of impropriety" is enough when you're a Democrat to cause your approval ratings to go down the toilet:

Mr. Dodd has been a fixture in the Senate since his election in 1980 and had been at the center of the contentious recent debates on overhauling the health care system and financial regulation. In November he proposed an overhaul that included consolidating bank regulators, creating a consumer financial protection agency and imposing new restraints on exotic financial instruments and credit rating agencies.

But his standing in Connecticut had been on the decline starting when he made an unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2008 — moving his family to Iowa — and when questions arose about a disputed loan he took from Countrywide Financial, the fallen subprime company.

On the Republican side, Mr. Dodd faced the prospect of running against Linda McMahon, a political novice who was prepared to use her vast personal fortune to beat the incumbent senator. Also challenging the senator was former Representative Rob Simmons, a Republican.

Mr. Dodd’s troubles escalated in 2008 when he was one of two Democratic senators — the other was Kent Conrad of North Dakota — who had been accused of receiving improper discounts from Countrywide Financial. In August, the Senate Select Committee on Ethics ruled that it had found “no credible evidence” that the senators had violated gift rules in accepting the loans.

But the committee criticized Mr. Dodd and Mr. Conrad for not avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

Both Mr. Dodd and Mr. Conrad had been members of the “Friends of Angelo” V.I.P. program at the bank, named after Angelo R. Mozilo, the chief executive of Countrywide.

Polling in Connecticut suggested that Mr. Dodd had been hurt both by his association with Countrywide and by criticism for his role in legislation that appeared to clear the way for bonuses to be paid to executives of American International Group, the insurance firm that received a government bailout.

I'm not excusing Dodd for clearing the way for AIG bonuses; it's yet another example, right up there with the money Democrats are taking from insurance companies to prevent Americans from being protected from insurance company excesses, of how money corrupts Democrats just as much as Republican. I think much of Dodd's downfall is about the Countrywide loan, though I'm not convinced that a bank program called "Friends of Angelo" is necessarily anything more than a marketing ploy by a company trying to make its CEO the public face of the company to make it look more cute and cuddly. The problem is that when you're a member of such a program, and THEN you clear the way for executives of a company that insures banks to get big fat bonuses after a bailout with taxpayer money, at BEST you're showing a tin ear to the concerns of your constituents.

But the reality of our society, and our political system is that John McCain gets to survive being one of the Keating Five and then run for president as a "great American hero", but Chris Dodd has to leave office.

The challenge right now isn't the Senate seat in Connecticut, however. It's what we do about a system in which no scandal is heinous enough to force out a Republican, and no scandal is trivial enough for a Democrat to survive. Perhaps Democrats by nature lack the finely-honed scumbag gene that allows them to justify any kind of lapse strongly and vociferously. Perhaps it's that the kind of money required in our system to run a successful campaign can only be acquired by being on the take, and that the system is rigged against Democrats being on the take BECAUSE we're supposed to care more about the have-nots or the have-lesses. But the bottom line is that Democrats have to find a way to be 100% squeaky clean and still pull in enough money to be successful, or else find the arrogance that Republicans have in weathering such storms. But if they do the latter, then what will there be about them to support?

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