Scandals must end to restore public faith in government

Column by Linsen Li

Few people can defend Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and his recent lewd-conduct scandal. The fact that Craig received almost no support from fellow Congressional Republicans shows how little confidence they have in Craig’s case.

Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after making apparent sexual advances to a police officer in a Minneapolis airport bathroom in June. We can only assume that, as a U.S. senator, Craig was fully aware of his rights and the meaning of a guilty plea.

His desperate attempt to reclaim his innocence afterwards by reversing his plea, as the Associated Press reports he is trying to do, is only an insult to the public’s intelligence and a pathetic joke on himself.

The public should not be startled by Craig’s questionable sexual orientation. Instead, people should be shocked and outraged by the painfully obvious hypocrisy Craig displays in his anti-gay voting records. Craig supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have prevented the extension of rights to same-sex couples; he also voted to exclude sexual orientation from the federal definition of hate crimes.

There are two possible explanations for Craig’s anti-gay voting record. One is that his greed for power made him a twisted, unscrupulous politician; the other is that he has a sick sense of masochism. As tough a choice as it may be, I hope it is the latter, for a twisted human being is a product of his or her surroundings, while a twisted politician is a product of the political system.

Unfortunately, other scandals in Washington show that Craig is not the lone rotten egg in the basket. The congressional page scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., is another appalling example of hypocrisy in its highest degree.

While serving in Congress, Foley was a staunch opponent of child pornography. He also served as chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, and he successfully introduced a legislation to toughen federal sex-offender laws.

When Foley’s 10-year history of sexually inappropriate conduct with teenage pages was exposed, he conveniently put the blame on alcoholism and entered rehab. Again, Foley’s contemptible attempt to link alcoholism to pedophilia is only an insult to the public.

Here is irony at its finest: Federal authorities said the explicit messages could result in Foley’s prosecution under the same laws he helped to enact, according to an ABC News article from 2006. Justice comes full circle, indeed.

Other examples of recent political scandals are commonplace and involve both Democrats and Republicans. Who can forget Democratic Rep. William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson’s peculiar method of storing his bribe money in the freezer, giving the term “frozen assets” a whole new meaning?

What punishment did Jefferson receive after the scandal from voters in his home state, Louisiana? As unbelievable as it may sound, Jefferson defeated 11 challengers and was re-elected in 2006.

All these indiscretions by elected public officials only generate outrage and cause political apathy among the public. The fact that these corrupt politicians don’t seem to receive the punishments they deserve can only further smear the already questionable image of the government. With politicians like Craig, Foley and Jefferson, it’s no wonder that voting turnouts in this country are woefully low.

Assistant opinions editor Linsen Li is a history and journalism junior. E-mail [email protected].