What should we make of ethics in today’s politics?

July 30, 2010

This week, U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) was charged with 13 counts of ethics violations by a House subcommittee.  Corruption is nothing new in politics, and the team at The Political Panorama decided to discuss the issue of ethics in politics.

Douglas

I stated at my personal blog earlier this week that Charlie Rangel had to step down.  However, ethics has very little to do with it.  In fact, I think that there has been too much of an effort on “good government” in recent years.  People say that they want to be able to “trust” the person that represents them.  Well, would you trust someone that you do not know personally to, say, housesit for you or babysit your child?  Of course not.  So why do we ask that much more of our elected officials?

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Charlie Rangel, Ethics, and Democratic Leadership

July 25, 2010

U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel has had ethics questions following him for years. Numerous charges against him are currently being considered by the ethics committee generally involving accusations of illegal corporate gifts and contributions and not abiding by tax laws.

In March, he finally stepped aside from his powerful chairmanship on the House Ways and Means Committee. This was said to be temporary, though most agree it will be permanent.

In 2006, the Democrats campaigned against the Republicans’ deep culture of corruption. Since gaining control of Congress, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have been slow at best when it comes to holding their own members accountable and keeping their campaign promises. Under her leadership, the handling of ethics problems has looked too much like hypocrisy.

If the Democrats are going to maintain any credibility and integrity, they must be quick to respond to ethics problems. That does not mean assuming guilt before it is proven, however they must take affirmative action to begin addressing the problems and get ahead of the story. This is aside from the fact that one person (Rangel) should not be so arrogant and obsessed with power that they are unable to do what is best for their country, party, and cause.

This failure of leadership should result in a new Democratic leadership that will provide experience, effectiveness, and accountability. As I have indicated before, I believe Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Harry Reid should be replaced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. James Clyburn, and Senator Chuck Schumer, respectively. If Democrats retain control of both houses in 2010 as I expect they will, they need to demonstrate they understand the public’s frustration and begin to address it by first selecting new leadership.


President Nixon In The Rear-View Mirror

June 27, 2010

President Nixon had his flaws from ethics to some of his policies. However if one takes a closer look at his accomplishments while in office, they might see a version of President Nixon that is much different than that often portrayed in the media and I suspect President Nixon’s stock will continue to rise slightly over the next couple decades.

President Nixon was a traditional Republican who was progressive on many issues from the environment to health care, but sought proper balance with fiscal responsibility. On the environment, President Nixon signed the landmark Clean Air Act and established both the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency to monitor environmental efforts. In 1971, he proclaimed the first Earth Week.

Presiding over the continuation of the Vietnam War, it is clear President Nixon was not opposed to the use of force. But he seemed to prefer diplomacy as a first resort and notably opened the door to relations with China. Today, Presidents and candidates are criticized for meeting with leaders of nations that do not share our values, but Nixon’s foresight and courage set a precedent for effective diplomacy.

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Twenty Democrats Take Aim At Ethics Oversight

June 6, 2010

Recently, twenty Democratic members of Congress have sought to limit the powers of the independent ethics oversight body, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), and essentially. These lawmakers represent less than half of the Congressional Black Caucus and a few of them are among a list of lawmakers in both parties who are under scrutiny by the OCE, including Rep. Charlie Rangel who was found in February to have knowingly violated ethical boundaries despite being warned by his staff.

It is noteworthy that more than half of the forty-two member Congressional Black Caucus has refused to join the effort, including leaders like Rep. Jim Clyburn, and the effort is not an official act of nor endorsed by the CBC.

Ethics reform was a high priority of the new Democratic majority in 2006 and has been a priority of Obama as a State Senator, U.S. Senator, and President. It is shameful that the progress on public service ethics in Congress is being targeted by a group of folks who happen to be directly or indirectly feeling the sting of the new oversight body. Members of both parties and all demographics are being investigated and there is no room for “poor me” when it comes to ethics and accountability. This is not unlike a child being punished for knowingly doing wrong, then whining that the parents’ authority should be hampered because they got in trouble while their siblings did not.  Instead of addressing the consequences of some members’ unethical conduct, these twenty members of Congress should be addressing the source of the unethical conduct.