Monday, August 02, 2010

In which I agree, sort of, with an unnamed member of the Congressional Black Caucus 

Politico is running a story about back-channel griping from the Congressional Black Caucus and its allies that the ethics investigations of Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters demonstrate that black members are being held to a higher standard than white members:

The question of whether black lawmakers are now being singled out for scrutiny has been simmering throughout the 111th Congress, with the Office of Congressional Ethics a focal point of the concerns. At one point earlier this year, all eight lawmakers under formal investigation by the House ethics committee, including Rangel and Waters, were black Democrats. All those investigations originated with the OCE, which can make recommendations — but take no final actions — on such cases.

There’s a “dual standard, one for most members and one for African-Americans,” said one member of the Congressional Black Caucus, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Far be it from me to rush to the defense of either Rangel or Waters. I dislike them both intensely, and they would probably dislike me if they gave me any thought. Furthermore, I have no idea whether there is even the slightest merit to the "dual standard" complaint, as least insofar as the current cases are concerned. If there were actual evidence, why did the member alleging the dual standard have to hide behind anonymity? This is either a very serious charge that any principled accuser ought to have the courage to say out loud -- truth to power and all that -- or it is unsubstantiated nonsense calculated for its public relations benefit, perhaps to stir up blacks heading in to the fall elections. My money is on the latter.

That said, there is a sense in which corrupt black politicians have gotten a bad deal compared to their white ethnic predecessors: Black politicians have the historical misfortune of having come to power in large numbers in an era of putatively clean government. Whereas the Irish and Italians and other European ethnic politicians of first half of the 20th century enjoyed the, er, emoluments of public office without more than occasional scrutiny from the press, there has been a sea change in our attitude about such things since Watergate. Not only did that scandal alter, probably forever, the sensibilities of the American voter toward corruption, but the work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein redefined the ambitions of every American political reporter. The result? The American public and press began to hold politicians to the new standard at approximately the same time that blacks began to make meaningful progress inside the political system that had heretofore held them back.

Point is, if you're a corrupt black politician, that has to seem enormously unfair.


By Blogger MTF, at Mon Aug 02, 04:35:00 PM:

That is one heck of a cynical view of Congress, past and present, you've got there, TH.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 02, 04:45:00 PM:

Still, a higher rate of white politicians since Watergate seem to be able to remain ethical. Why?  

By Blogger Don Cox, at Mon Aug 02, 04:47:00 PM:

So, to make it fair, the white politicians should be checked more thoroughly. That would be good.

I think TH's cynical view is realistic. A major reason for going into politics is (and has always been) to get rich.

This is why constitutions have to be designed on the basis that almost all politicians are crooks. Naive constitutions which assume they are honest and public-spirited lead to massive corruption and chaos.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Mon Aug 02, 05:05:00 PM:

Are you trying to bait me with the Irish - Italian reference?

Once upon a time my Congressman was the very Italian Mario Biaggi. I wrote a paean-rant here to the effect that Mario was a great Congressman -- they don't make them like they used to. You can find it here

Here's a relevant excerpt from what I wrote months ago: "Mario got into trouble in 1987. He had helped win some local pork and got some free vacations as a tip -- today, just a day at the office for Charlie Rangel. Mario had to resign and even did some jail time. It always matters who controls the prosecutors."

Charlie Rangel

The New York Post and others have been running exposes on Charlie for years, but no one has seemed to care until now. Here's a great sample Post cover.

Maxine Waters

Blow me. The Keating Five got into trouble back in the late 1980s for trying to run bank regulator interference for a constituent -- not for their spouse. Two or three of the Keating Five (John Glenn and John McCain) just showed up at a meeting and had zero culpability -- at the time Glenn was a contender with enemies, McCain was the token Republican.

Maxine may be the dumbest person in the House, which is saying a lot. Compare her to Mario, who never went to college but still graduated from law school at 49. Mario was sharp as a tack.

The only thing I don't understand here is the timing and who's driving it.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Mon Aug 02, 05:37:00 PM:

The only thing I don't understand here is the timing and who's driving it.

The Democrats figure that the Republicans have a good shot at winning the House in November, and anticipate the Republicans going full tilt against Demo corruption come January. This kills two birds with one stone.

First: it enables to Democrats to say, " We tried to clean house [bad pun], too."

Second: if they can get rid of Rangel, Waers et al before November, they can get better candidates in their place. No way would Republicans win those seats.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Mon Aug 02, 06:16:00 PM:

I still don't get the timing.

Pelosi has protected Rangel until now. If it came from the top, I'd have thought Charlie would have been sent a very clear message to "resign quietly ... you'll be taken care of." If the Republicans win the House, Charlie was going to lose the Ways and Means Chair anyway -- good time to retire. Hence, it feels like its internecine.

Maxine is an embarrassment -- she's that dumb -- and hence a liability.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Mon Aug 02, 06:56:00 PM:

An alternative theory is that BT is right ... this is cleaning house with the added angle that it stirs up the Black base going into November: "they're picking on us."

If so, it won't work -- blacks are only 13%. Swing white voters will be decisive. They don't get that they've woken the sleeping giant Independent vote.

Also, there's still a chance that Chicago corruption sullies Obama before November.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 02, 07:11:00 PM:

I would think that a member of the black caucus would be glad that unethical members of Congress are being held accountable. If the members of the black caucus are in government to govern honorably, why should it matter what the race of the wrongdo-er is? Wouldn't a group dedicated to good government hold its members to a higher standard in any case?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 02, 07:25:00 PM:

Edward Gibbon attributed the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to the loss of civic virtue of its citizens.  

By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Mon Aug 02, 07:30:00 PM:

TH: "The American public and press began to hold politicians to the new standard ...."

Transparency International's 2009 "Corruption Perceptions Index": On the list of least corrupt countries the U.S. ranks 19th.

TH: "Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein"

In the U.S., aggressive journalism didn't begin with these two young police reporters. It began (mostly) with Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

Perhaps you should read about Sherman Adams and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (Adams lost his job as White House chief of staff under Eisenhower in a scandal over a vicuña fur coat. Powell was the first person of African-American descent elected to Congress from New York. In 1970 he as defeated in the Democratic primary by Rangel.)

And don't forget the Teapot Dome Scandal in the 1920s.

Transparency International link:


By Blogger My name is Inigo Montoya, at Mon Aug 02, 07:33:00 PM:

Not being from America, I find it quite odd that you have a 'black caucus' of sorts.  

By Anonymous swernga, at Mon Aug 02, 07:34:00 PM:

Perhaps it's a continuation of the same old Obama strategy. If you are a Republican and you criticize Rangel or Waters, you are a racist.  

By Anonymous Wasilla MILF, at Mon Aug 02, 08:17:00 PM:

"Not being from America, I find it quite odd that you have a 'black caucus' of sorts."

Some Americans do too.

In 2007, a white Democratic Congressman from Tennessee - Stephen Cohen -- asked to join the Caucus because he represented a district that was 60% black. He had campaigned saying that he would. While its by-laws don't say "black only", the Caucus made it clear to Cohen that he wasn't welcome. Petitions were circulated. One Caucus member, Rep. Clay, Jr., put out an official statement from his office: "[Rep Cohen] does not, and cannot, meet the membership criteria, unless he can change his skin color. Primarily, we are concerned with the needs and concerns of the black population, and we will not allow white America to infringe on those objectives." A similar thing also happened back in 1975, during the early days of the Caucus.

Cohen is popular in what's supposed to be a Black district. He got re-elected in 2008 and is expected to win again.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Mon Aug 02, 09:13:00 PM:

Ignoramus: the timing does seem odd for a housecleaning. If they wanted a good candidate in place, I imagine they would have done this 6-9 months before the November election, not 3 months. I detect a bit of panic here, just like Shirley Sherrod's quick firing.
A firesale of sorts, done in panic.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 02, 11:25:00 PM:

I think the anonymous CBC congresscritter has his or her tense wrong. It is not that there is a dobule standard...it is that there was a double standard. No one could accuse of black congressman of being unethical. To even publicly consider the possibility of corruption by a CBCer would have had you denounced as a racist. That is washing away, partially because they have overplayed the race card, partially because of incidents like the false allegations about Tea party folks chanting racist epithets by CBCers. Clearly, the CBCers were lying...and there is video evidence if not proof (can't prove a negative).

The CBC is disproportionately represented among in the ethics investigation. So the question is whether that is because the OCE is racist (the CBC position, and the smuggled premise they wish to base all discussion on ), or whether the CBC is more corrupt than the average congresscritter. My money is on the latter.

They didn't give 'Cold Cash' Jefferson all that cash because they thought he would go to the police and accuse them of bribery. Rangel has been getting away with corruption for years...it is just that he was untouchable (partially because of the racism charge, and partially because of his chairmanship). The CBC routinely harbored some of the more corrupt critters (they certainly haven't cornered the corrupt congresscritter market, even if they are big players).

So what changed? Maybe we are finally being post racial...and holding the CBC to the same standards as their melanin deprived compatriots. Or maybe we are out of design margin, and can not tolerate the degree of nonsense we have historically.

I am making this comment anonymously to avoid the inevitable charge of racism. Save your breath. I know my heart, and I am no racist. But I am disgusted by the CBC and the way it protects those who should be castigated. They should be insisting on the same standards for both black and white critters...and instead are trying to have their own special rules based on skin color.  

By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Tue Aug 03, 12:36:00 AM:

I'm really not sure that "fairness" as a concept that is backwards compatible is functional.


By Anonymous Leatherneck, at Tue Aug 03, 01:11:00 AM:

Anonymous starts to get at the heart of the problem when he notes that CBC members are disproportionately represented among those being investigated for severe ethics violations, but he misses the reason why.

It's not because black members of Congress are inherently more corrupt than their white counterparts. It's because black members of Congress overwhelmingly come from safe, non-competitive districts that have been carved out to ensure their re-election. Similarly, Jack Murtha, a supremely crooked white pol from Johnstown, PA, had a seat every bit as safe for decades until he died.

I don't care what a politician's color or political affiliation is, if you provide him (or her) with an untouchably secure environment in which to operate, chances are you will see a perfect greenhouse specimen of corruption emerge.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Tue Aug 03, 08:27:00 AM:

Amazingly, Joe Klein -- leftie Time pundit and JournoLister -- seconds Leatherneck: It's Not Race, It's Longevity

Klein winds up his piece by arguing for compact districts: "It would be, I believe, the most direct path to a political system run for the benefit of the public, rather than for the regal longevity of its politicians." Sadly, Klein pulls back at the end by saying " ... absent a Supreme Court ruling that strikes down racial gerrymandering, I don't see that happening." Thus Klein says he'd like to be on Common Ground with us but the Supreme Court is in the way.

But Klein is either ignorant of (or disingenuous about) the role of the Supreme Court in this.

The root cause is the 1982 Amendment to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and how that amendment has been applied and litigated. Prior to the amendment, Section 2 was an aid in furtherance of the 15th Amendment's right to vote. Thus it prohibited practices that denied or abridged the right to vote on account of race or color. The 1982 Amendment went further and prohibited "political processes" like district drawing if they gave specified minorities less opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.

In light of the 1982 Amendment, Black districts were created and courts upheld them. Along the way, the 1982 Amendment was held constitutional by the Supreme Court. In fact, a niche body of law has developed over when and how the 1982 Amendment can require creation of "potentially Black Districts." Note: it's not the Constitution that requires this result ... it's the 1982 Amendment.

Now you may ask, why did the Republicans go along with adopting the 1982 Amendment? The cynical answer is that they were happy to have Black voters put in a ghetto. It actually dilutes their voting power.

This may be sound counterintuitive, but in healthy democracies those "in the middle" have more voting power. For example, the Bomber Girl Vote (college educated women) is more influential right now than the Angry White Male Urban Redneck Vote.

Over time, Black districts have become inbred backwaters. Many of their congresscritters have eyes that are just a little too close together. Cue Deliverance. They're incapable of ever running for higher offices like Senate or Governor.

Here's an example: North Carolina's 12th District which has been the subject of much litigation. It's another Rorschach inkblot. I see a snake.

So there's actually an easy fix. Just amend Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to go back to something closer to the Fifteenth Amendment. If Joe Klein means what he says, he'd endorse this.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Aug 03, 09:50:00 AM:

Agree with OP's conclusion. And yes "Why now" is also interesting. Something to keep the chattering classes--chattering.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Aug 03, 09:58:00 AM:

Who's OP?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Aug 03, 09:58:00 AM:

The democrats are now and always have been, anti-Negro racists. But, they need black votes.
The Black Congressional Caucus is proof of how dumb Congressional Blacks are and of how white democrats exploit them.
Black democrats wanted a share of the action. White Congressional democrats didn't want to share but set up the segregated, no whites involved Congressional Black Caucus so black Congressmen could steal without diluting whites Congressional graft.
The only question is, why is the "Ethics" committee doing this now? Must be racial profiling! Since before the Civil War democrats have hated Negros; they still do and internal democrat politics must still have an element of the annti-black racism. That's why.  

By Blogger rleavengood, at Tue Aug 03, 04:41:00 PM:

This brings to mind a solution Rush Limbaugh came up with years ago for the crime problem. It can be applied specifically to all congressional members,. It goes like this: “Don’t break the law”  

By Anonymous tyree, at Tue Aug 03, 09:17:00 PM:

It is even worse than it sounds. Membership in the Congressional Black Caucus is based on the color of your skin, not the content of your character.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Wed Aug 04, 11:17:00 AM:

We have evolved a political system that demands that a candidate become a panderer, a prostitute and (in the case of Gore, Fraken and others) a plaintiff if he wishes to run a sucessful campaign.

Why are we amazed that such a process gives rise to a preponderance of criminals?

The answer is NOT campaign finance reform..it is TERM LIMITS.

We need another contitutional convention.  

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