Commentary Magazine


Topic: Charlie Rangel

Amazing Hypocrisy Alert on the Upper West Side

This story tells of a demonstration staged by Democratic politicians on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on the issue of homelessness. In attendance: Rep. Charlie Rangel, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Gail Brewer, and others. What they’re all doing, though, is protesting against the creation of a homeless shelter.

In one of the craziest acts of regulatory silliness in recent history, members of the New York state legislatures took it in their heads to get all riled up about the fact that “residential hotels” in Manhattan were increasingly being used not as places to live but as places to rent rooms by the day or week to travelers and tourists. A tenant pays $400-$500 per month. A transient will pay $100 a night. You do the math.

The conversion of these residential hotels (which, in the context of permanent housing, refers to facilities with tenants living in rooms without kitchens) into tourist hotels was for some reason deemed a great evil and unfair to the residents. Some of the buildings are not zoned for transience; others do not have the right permits. Nobody seems to care about all this except “housing advocates,” a category of activist all but unique to New York City, whose hunger for more affordable housing would seem to be in conflict with their hatred of everybody who actually owns a building and dares to rent out an apartment.

An assemblywoman named Linda Rosenthal explained how mean the use of residential-hotel space for transient payers is: “They lose a lot by having people stay there who don’t feel a responsibility to keep it clean and nice. When there are transients there, they feel like they can do whatever they want.” And so it was time for a state law to layer on top of other laws to prevent such horrible transience — for what particular reason is not clear. But it was passed, and then-Governor Paterson signed it, and it goes into effect soon.

So what some of those who own these hotels have decided to do is lease them to the New York City Department of Homeless Services, which will pay them a generous room rate to house homeless people comparable to what they would get from Europeans looking for a cheap room. That this is what would have happened if the law had passed originally was clear at the time; the landlords themselves said it’s what they would do; and the city needs the shelter space.

But … but … not in my affluent and ostensibly caring (70 percent Obama) neighborhood! So gasp these very liberal Democratic politicians, who are not ordinarily known for taking a stand against the notion that the city and state should be responsible for housing the homeless. In particular, Rangel has long claimed the mantle of homeless advocate, but evidently not when he’s still mindful he might be out of a job in two years owing to his legal troubles.

New York City has had a demented housing policy for six decades, and this is just the latest iteration. By the way, one of those residential hotels is right across the street from my apartment building. And the people who seem to be staying there all look very nice, rolling their bags up and down the block. If it becomes a homeless shelter, those nicely packed bags will soon become grocery carts, and the people pushing them won’t be quite so nice.

This story tells of a demonstration staged by Democratic politicians on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on the issue of homelessness. In attendance: Rep. Charlie Rangel, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Gail Brewer, and others. What they’re all doing, though, is protesting against the creation of a homeless shelter.

In one of the craziest acts of regulatory silliness in recent history, members of the New York state legislatures took it in their heads to get all riled up about the fact that “residential hotels” in Manhattan were increasingly being used not as places to live but as places to rent rooms by the day or week to travelers and tourists. A tenant pays $400-$500 per month. A transient will pay $100 a night. You do the math.

The conversion of these residential hotels (which, in the context of permanent housing, refers to facilities with tenants living in rooms without kitchens) into tourist hotels was for some reason deemed a great evil and unfair to the residents. Some of the buildings are not zoned for transience; others do not have the right permits. Nobody seems to care about all this except “housing advocates,” a category of activist all but unique to New York City, whose hunger for more affordable housing would seem to be in conflict with their hatred of everybody who actually owns a building and dares to rent out an apartment.

An assemblywoman named Linda Rosenthal explained how mean the use of residential-hotel space for transient payers is: “They lose a lot by having people stay there who don’t feel a responsibility to keep it clean and nice. When there are transients there, they feel like they can do whatever they want.” And so it was time for a state law to layer on top of other laws to prevent such horrible transience — for what particular reason is not clear. But it was passed, and then-Governor Paterson signed it, and it goes into effect soon.

So what some of those who own these hotels have decided to do is lease them to the New York City Department of Homeless Services, which will pay them a generous room rate to house homeless people comparable to what they would get from Europeans looking for a cheap room. That this is what would have happened if the law had passed originally was clear at the time; the landlords themselves said it’s what they would do; and the city needs the shelter space.

But … but … not in my affluent and ostensibly caring (70 percent Obama) neighborhood! So gasp these very liberal Democratic politicians, who are not ordinarily known for taking a stand against the notion that the city and state should be responsible for housing the homeless. In particular, Rangel has long claimed the mantle of homeless advocate, but evidently not when he’s still mindful he might be out of a job in two years owing to his legal troubles.

New York City has had a demented housing policy for six decades, and this is just the latest iteration. By the way, one of those residential hotels is right across the street from my apartment building. And the people who seem to be staying there all look very nice, rolling their bags up and down the block. If it becomes a homeless shelter, those nicely packed bags will soon become grocery carts, and the people pushing them won’t be quite so nice.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A good question. “Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday slammed the world’s response to North Korea’s attack on its southern neighbor, saying the international community was showing weakness in the face of aggression. … ‘How will the world be able to stop Iran if it can’t stop North Korea,’ Lieberman said.”

A good example of the power of the Tea Party. “In one of the biggest election surprises of the year, Ann Marie Buerkle is officially the winner in New York’s 25th congressional district. Ms. Buerkle was ahead by some 800 votes on Election Day, and after several thousand absentee ballots were finally counted her lead held up. Ms. Buerkle is a nurse and mother of six who had never sought political office. She knocked off Dan Maffei, a life long politician and a protégé of scandal-plagued Charlie Rangel.”

A good bit of advice. “The incoming class of House Republicans is being urged to re-read the Constitution, carefully deal with the press and become very familiar with congressional ethics rules.”

A “good grief” report: “Fed lowers economic expectations for 2011.” They could be lower?

A good reminder that our awful policy toward North Korea is a bipartisan undertaking. Charles Krauthammer on the revelations of an advanced nuclear plan in North Korea: “The farce began 16 years ago when the Clinton administration concluded what was called the framework agreement in which the deal was they would freeze and then dismantle their plutonium program in return for all kinds of goodies, including two nuclear reactors that we would construct, and a lot of, a lot of economic support.”

A good reason not to send your kid to NYU. “A New York University arts professor might not have eyes on the back of his head, but he’s coming pretty close. Wafaa Bilal, a visual artist widely recognized for his interactive and performance pieces, had a small digital camera implanted in the back of his head — all in the name of art.”

Not a good thing for Mitt Romney’s outreach to the Tea Party crowd. President “Read My Lips,” George H.W. Bush, endorsed him for president.

A good question. “Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday slammed the world’s response to North Korea’s attack on its southern neighbor, saying the international community was showing weakness in the face of aggression. … ‘How will the world be able to stop Iran if it can’t stop North Korea,’ Lieberman said.”

A good example of the power of the Tea Party. “In one of the biggest election surprises of the year, Ann Marie Buerkle is officially the winner in New York’s 25th congressional district. Ms. Buerkle was ahead by some 800 votes on Election Day, and after several thousand absentee ballots were finally counted her lead held up. Ms. Buerkle is a nurse and mother of six who had never sought political office. She knocked off Dan Maffei, a life long politician and a protégé of scandal-plagued Charlie Rangel.”

A good bit of advice. “The incoming class of House Republicans is being urged to re-read the Constitution, carefully deal with the press and become very familiar with congressional ethics rules.”

A “good grief” report: “Fed lowers economic expectations for 2011.” They could be lower?

A good reminder that our awful policy toward North Korea is a bipartisan undertaking. Charles Krauthammer on the revelations of an advanced nuclear plan in North Korea: “The farce began 16 years ago when the Clinton administration concluded what was called the framework agreement in which the deal was they would freeze and then dismantle their plutonium program in return for all kinds of goodies, including two nuclear reactors that we would construct, and a lot of, a lot of economic support.”

A good reason not to send your kid to NYU. “A New York University arts professor might not have eyes on the back of his head, but he’s coming pretty close. Wafaa Bilal, a visual artist widely recognized for his interactive and performance pieces, had a small digital camera implanted in the back of his head — all in the name of art.”

Not a good thing for Mitt Romney’s outreach to the Tea Party crowd. President “Read My Lips,” George H.W. Bush, endorsed him for president.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

Who knew coconuts were so dangerous?

Who knew Obama’s speech to India’s parliament would be so historic? “This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls. Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama. ‘We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,’ an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.”

Who knew it was all about the failure to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs? Nancy Pelosi, for one: “Nine and a half percent unemployment damaged the majority. … What made a difference in the election is the fact that they said we are spending money, and where are the jobs?” Precisely.

Who knew? Obama has an ego problem, according to Politico. Next up: Obama is a liberal.

Who knew writing books about yourself wasn’t adequate preparation for the presidency? “He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. ‘Yes we can,’ he once said, but now America asks, ‘Can he?'”

Who knew Olbermann was even a “journalist”? This, from Richard Benedetto, is dead on: “Is Keith Olbermann a hypocrite? It is always hypocritical to criticize others for something you are doing yourself. But that point aside, let’s stop pretending that TV talking heads such as Olbermann, Hannity, Matthews, O’Reilly et. al. are journalists, and therefore must adhere to traditional journalism standards. They are not journalists. They are ideological partisans who take sides in political debate.” (Who do we think leaked the donation records — archrival Matthews?)

Who knew Obama had “accomplished” so much? “Last, April Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak disregarded appeals from the Obama administration and violated his own public promises by renewing the ‘emergency law’ that for decades has allowed security forces to prevent public demonstrations, break up political meetings, close media outlets and arrest opposition activists without charge. When the administration protested, Egyptian officials assured it that the law henceforth would be applied only in terrorism and drug cases. The White House cited that pledge in a recent summary of its human rights accomplishments.”

Who knew Nancy Pelosi had such good friends on the right? Bill Kristol: “Now there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years. There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. There are Democrats tempted by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House. There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path. … We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels. We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader. … For the good of the republic (and the GOP), House Democrats in the 112th Congress need to march further down the path they blazed in the 111th Congress.” And Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters — you hang in there and fight to the bitter end!

Who knew 2010 was the easy part? “Witness the announcement this morning by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) that he was forming an exploratory committee to look at a run against Sen. Ben Nelson (D) in 2012. … Democrats must defend 23 seats while there are just 10 GOP seats up for grabs. And, it’s not just raw numbers that make the cycle daunting for Democrats — it’s where the races are taking place. In addition to Nelson, who represents a state where President Obama won just 42 percent in 2008, Democrats will have to defend seats in Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia — not exactly the friendliest of states for their side at the moment.”

Who knew there was someone who could top Michael Bloomberg? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was taken aback by President Obama’s arrogance, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with an Australian outlet. Bloomberg described his conversation with Obama as ‘verbal ping-pong,’ Murdoch told the Australian Financial Review, and said he had a ‘pleasant’ day golfing on Martha’s Vineyard with the president. He came back and said, ‘I never met in my life such an arrogant man,’ Murdoch said.”

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NJ-12

The New Jersey 12th is a traditionally Democratic district. Only in a wave election would the GOP contender have a shot, but this is such a year. If Democratic old-guarders like Rep. John Dingell are at risk, no seat is safe. And, in fact, RealClearPolitics currently lists the seat as just “leans Democratic.”

The Democratic incumbent is Rush Holt, a seven-termer who’s been on the defensive over his record on Israel. The Republican Scott Sipprelle, a venture-capital investor who’s never run for political office before, is campaigning as a full-throated fiscal conservative. But he made it clear that his differences with the administration and his opponent aren’t limited to domestic policy. I asked what he thought of the president’s approach to Iran. He replied: “The administration has succeeded neither in isolating Iran, slowing its nuclear ambitions, nor deflating its dangerous rhetoric. So I conclude that their approach has been a failure. Iran must understand that if it continues on this reckless path, the consequences will be unambiguously painful in terms of crippling economic sanctions and ‘effective isolation’ that will threaten the regime’s survival. America’s leadership is at stake on this issue.” And if Israel is forced to act unilaterally to prevent Iran from going nuclear? “The U.S. should stand with Israel,” he answers matter-of-factly.

Sipprelle didn’t mince words when it came to his opponent, who was a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter. “The enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Holt by J Street and his apparent desire to cling to their warm embrace and their money will be a factor that voters consider when casting their ballots in November.” But he added that his opponent’s questionable funders extend beyond the Soros Street crowd, saying that voters should also consider “Mr. Holt’s unwillingness to repudiate Charlie Rangel [or to] return his large campaign donations to Mr. Holt’s campaign.”

Sipprelle is a businessman, not a politician, who sees an opening for outsiders not immersed in Beltway squabbling. While he aggressively criticizes Obama’s policies (“We should start over [on ObamaCare],” he argues), he plainly is appealing to independent and Democratic voters who, he contends, are turned off by hyperpartisanship. At a recent fundraiser in his state, Obama asserted that a GOP-controlled House would bring on “hand to hand combat.” Sipprelle observes: “We need problem-solving in America, not rigid partisanship. I have criticized Mr. Holt for his blind party politics, voting with Nancy Pelosi 99 percent of the time, making him just a cog in the partisan machine that is tearing the country apart. He is not exercising wisdom, principle, or good judgment. And he is not putting his country first.”

In an ordinary year, the New Jersey 12th district would not be in play. But in this extraordinary election year, Holt not only has a rotten economic record to defend but the baggage of an increasingly unpopular president and a toxic J Street. We’ll see in a few weeks if, even in one of the Bluest states, that’s too big a handicap in 2010.

The New Jersey 12th is a traditionally Democratic district. Only in a wave election would the GOP contender have a shot, but this is such a year. If Democratic old-guarders like Rep. John Dingell are at risk, no seat is safe. And, in fact, RealClearPolitics currently lists the seat as just “leans Democratic.”

The Democratic incumbent is Rush Holt, a seven-termer who’s been on the defensive over his record on Israel. The Republican Scott Sipprelle, a venture-capital investor who’s never run for political office before, is campaigning as a full-throated fiscal conservative. But he made it clear that his differences with the administration and his opponent aren’t limited to domestic policy. I asked what he thought of the president’s approach to Iran. He replied: “The administration has succeeded neither in isolating Iran, slowing its nuclear ambitions, nor deflating its dangerous rhetoric. So I conclude that their approach has been a failure. Iran must understand that if it continues on this reckless path, the consequences will be unambiguously painful in terms of crippling economic sanctions and ‘effective isolation’ that will threaten the regime’s survival. America’s leadership is at stake on this issue.” And if Israel is forced to act unilaterally to prevent Iran from going nuclear? “The U.S. should stand with Israel,” he answers matter-of-factly.

Sipprelle didn’t mince words when it came to his opponent, who was a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter. “The enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Holt by J Street and his apparent desire to cling to their warm embrace and their money will be a factor that voters consider when casting their ballots in November.” But he added that his opponent’s questionable funders extend beyond the Soros Street crowd, saying that voters should also consider “Mr. Holt’s unwillingness to repudiate Charlie Rangel [or to] return his large campaign donations to Mr. Holt’s campaign.”

Sipprelle is a businessman, not a politician, who sees an opening for outsiders not immersed in Beltway squabbling. While he aggressively criticizes Obama’s policies (“We should start over [on ObamaCare],” he argues), he plainly is appealing to independent and Democratic voters who, he contends, are turned off by hyperpartisanship. At a recent fundraiser in his state, Obama asserted that a GOP-controlled House would bring on “hand to hand combat.” Sipprelle observes: “We need problem-solving in America, not rigid partisanship. I have criticized Mr. Holt for his blind party politics, voting with Nancy Pelosi 99 percent of the time, making him just a cog in the partisan machine that is tearing the country apart. He is not exercising wisdom, principle, or good judgment. And he is not putting his country first.”

In an ordinary year, the New Jersey 12th district would not be in play. But in this extraordinary election year, Holt not only has a rotten economic record to defend but the baggage of an increasingly unpopular president and a toxic J Street. We’ll see in a few weeks if, even in one of the Bluest states, that’s too big a handicap in 2010.

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Let’s Not Forget the Swamp

In the wake of the primary elections on Tuesday, we are reminded, as John points out, that the rule for this election season is “old rules don’t apply.” Money and name recognition are non-factors, if not liabilities. Incumbency offers no protection. And the “likely voter” models may be inapplicable to an electorate flooded with enraged populists and drained of sad-sack Democrats.

And looming in the background are powerful reminders that the Beltway establishment has, in fact, earned the ire of the voters. He’s only one congressman, but Charlie Rangel is a symbol of just about everything wrong with Congress — the pomposity, the self-dealing, the tone-deafness. In a rapier-like op-ed the New York Post observers:

In Charlie Rangel’s eyes, every minute of his time on earth has been a blessing for the people of New York.

“My dignity is 80 years old,” he said, taking a slap at fellow Democrats Monday during a debate with the five challengers seeking his seat in Congress. …

Now, it’s entirely possible that we missed it, but was there something dignified in the years Rangel was dodging taxes and violating a slew of city, state and federal laws?

We wonder: What on earth would he have to do to be considered undignified?

It is not just that so many have done shameful things, but that they have no shame. They pass the buck, spend our money with abandon, make backroom deals, deflect scrutiny — all while exuding a stomach-turning self-righteousness as defenders of the little guy. The wonder is not that the voters are furious; it is that they took so long to take to the streets. The American people are a forgiving and largely contented lot, but when they are sufficiently provoked, watch out.

Expect Rangel and Maxine Waters, his companion in the ethics dock, to be poster children for “throw the bums out” election ads. Not much dignity in that.

In the wake of the primary elections on Tuesday, we are reminded, as John points out, that the rule for this election season is “old rules don’t apply.” Money and name recognition are non-factors, if not liabilities. Incumbency offers no protection. And the “likely voter” models may be inapplicable to an electorate flooded with enraged populists and drained of sad-sack Democrats.

And looming in the background are powerful reminders that the Beltway establishment has, in fact, earned the ire of the voters. He’s only one congressman, but Charlie Rangel is a symbol of just about everything wrong with Congress — the pomposity, the self-dealing, the tone-deafness. In a rapier-like op-ed the New York Post observers:

In Charlie Rangel’s eyes, every minute of his time on earth has been a blessing for the people of New York.

“My dignity is 80 years old,” he said, taking a slap at fellow Democrats Monday during a debate with the five challengers seeking his seat in Congress. …

Now, it’s entirely possible that we missed it, but was there something dignified in the years Rangel was dodging taxes and violating a slew of city, state and federal laws?

We wonder: What on earth would he have to do to be considered undignified?

It is not just that so many have done shameful things, but that they have no shame. They pass the buck, spend our money with abandon, make backroom deals, deflect scrutiny — all while exuding a stomach-turning self-righteousness as defenders of the little guy. The wonder is not that the voters are furious; it is that they took so long to take to the streets. The American people are a forgiving and largely contented lot, but when they are sufficiently provoked, watch out.

Expect Rangel and Maxine Waters, his companion in the ethics dock, to be poster children for “throw the bums out” election ads. Not much dignity in that.

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It Isn’t Getting Any Better for the Democrats

Maybe the Democrats need an exorcist or a Feng Shui expert, or both. But they better hurry. I don’t know how much more bad news one party can bear:

The hung jury in Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial could be seen as a win for either the prosecution or the defense. The only clear losers were Democrats, who face the prospect of another trial in the middle of a tough election season.

A second trial will continue to draw national attention to a political culture rife with back-room deals and shady characters. And Mr. Blagojevich’s conviction on a single count of lying to federal agents ensures Republicans will be able to run pictures of a felon standing next to any number of Democratic candidates the former governor has posed alongside over the years.

“It’s very bad news for the Democrats,” said Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “From Alaska to Arkansas, the Republicans will use this to say not only are Democrats big spenders but look how corrupt they are.”

And it’s not like it’s their only ethics problem. Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters are sure to pop up in a number of GOP ads. As will Nancy Pelosi’s “drain the swamp” remarks. (But on the other hand, “Investigate 68 percent of America!” might be one for the ages.)

What we do know at this stage, with less than 75 days before the election, is that Democrats haven’t been able to turn around the economy or the political narrative. The question remains how bad the wipeout will be and which Democrats will save themselves from the Obama curse.

Maybe the Democrats need an exorcist or a Feng Shui expert, or both. But they better hurry. I don’t know how much more bad news one party can bear:

The hung jury in Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial could be seen as a win for either the prosecution or the defense. The only clear losers were Democrats, who face the prospect of another trial in the middle of a tough election season.

A second trial will continue to draw national attention to a political culture rife with back-room deals and shady characters. And Mr. Blagojevich’s conviction on a single count of lying to federal agents ensures Republicans will be able to run pictures of a felon standing next to any number of Democratic candidates the former governor has posed alongside over the years.

“It’s very bad news for the Democrats,” said Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “From Alaska to Arkansas, the Republicans will use this to say not only are Democrats big spenders but look how corrupt they are.”

And it’s not like it’s their only ethics problem. Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters are sure to pop up in a number of GOP ads. As will Nancy Pelosi’s “drain the swamp” remarks. (But on the other hand, “Investigate 68 percent of America!” might be one for the ages.)

What we do know at this stage, with less than 75 days before the election, is that Democrats haven’t been able to turn around the economy or the political narrative. The question remains how bad the wipeout will be and which Democrats will save themselves from the Obama curse.

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When It Rains, It Pours

Mediaite links to Charlie Rangel’s rant on the House floor today. In Steve Krakauer’s words, “It was a rant that slammed everyone from House Democrats to Pres. Barack Obama – and he promised not to go away anytime soon.”

All of this must be welcome news for the Democratic Party, heading into a midterm election that already looks epically bad.

When it rains, it pours.

Mediaite links to Charlie Rangel’s rant on the House floor today. In Steve Krakauer’s words, “It was a rant that slammed everyone from House Democrats to Pres. Barack Obama – and he promised not to go away anytime soon.”

All of this must be welcome news for the Democratic Party, heading into a midterm election that already looks epically bad.

When it rains, it pours.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Christians United for Israel catches its critics practicing willful ignorance: “Despite what readers may have been led to believe, the paper has not actually visited CUFI in some time. In fact, the editorial was written in the past tense, but was published online on July 20, before the major events at our 2010 Washington Summit had even occurred. With a minimum amount of research, or even one substantive phone call to CUFI in the past 12 months, the paper would have easily received answers to the ‘unanswered questions’ its editors claim CUFI needs to address.” Ouch! Read the whole thing for an excellent debunking of critics of pro-Zionist Christians.

Peter Beinart catches the ADL not savaging Israel. And the real problem, don’t you see, is that “[i]ndifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment.” Is this another in the “I bet I write a more ludicrous column than you” sweepstakes with the weaselly set at the New Republic?

The Chicago Sun Times catches another shady bank loan by Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias: “On Feb. 14, 2006, newly obtained records show, [Giannoulias’s] bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, whose owners, it turns out, included [Tony] Rezko. … Not only does its disclosure come during the Senate campaign, but records show the loan was made while Broadway Bank was already having problems with an earlier loan to another Rezko company.”

The House Ethics Committee catches Rep. Maxine Waters doing bad things: “The House Ethics Committee this afternoon announced in a statement that it has formed an ‘adjudicatory subcommittee’ to consider ethics violations charges against Waters. The subcommittee has yet to determine when it will meet. The committee also today released an 80-page report, submitted in August 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), detailing the allegations against Waters.”

Jonathan Capehart catches the racial-grievance mongers being ridiculous (again). On the allegation that charges of ethics violations against Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters are racially motivated: “As an African American, I know and understand the sensitivity to unfair prosecution and persecution of blacks in the court of law and the court of public opinion. … But there are times when that sensitivity can blind us to very real questions that have nothing to do with race. In the cases of Rangel and Waters, I have to agree with a tweet by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Their troubles have to do with ‘entrenched entitlement.'”

If CAIR catches wind of this, look out for the lawsuits: “Accused Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan Can’t Find a Bank Willing to Cash His Checks; Hasan’s Lawyer Says His Client Is Being Discriminated Against.”

Bill Kristol catches Obama being a “self-centered elitist (and ageist!)” in trying to strong-arm Charlie Rangel out of office. He advises Rangel: “Defend yourself, make your case, fight for your reputation, and if need be accept a reprimand (or even censure) — but let your constituents render the real verdict, not the D.C. mob. If you do this, you have a good chance of extending your political career … beyond Obama’s. In any case, do not follow Obama’s prescription of political death with dignity. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.'”

Christians United for Israel catches its critics practicing willful ignorance: “Despite what readers may have been led to believe, the paper has not actually visited CUFI in some time. In fact, the editorial was written in the past tense, but was published online on July 20, before the major events at our 2010 Washington Summit had even occurred. With a minimum amount of research, or even one substantive phone call to CUFI in the past 12 months, the paper would have easily received answers to the ‘unanswered questions’ its editors claim CUFI needs to address.” Ouch! Read the whole thing for an excellent debunking of critics of pro-Zionist Christians.

Peter Beinart catches the ADL not savaging Israel. And the real problem, don’t you see, is that “[i]ndifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment.” Is this another in the “I bet I write a more ludicrous column than you” sweepstakes with the weaselly set at the New Republic?

The Chicago Sun Times catches another shady bank loan by Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias: “On Feb. 14, 2006, newly obtained records show, [Giannoulias’s] bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, whose owners, it turns out, included [Tony] Rezko. … Not only does its disclosure come during the Senate campaign, but records show the loan was made while Broadway Bank was already having problems with an earlier loan to another Rezko company.”

The House Ethics Committee catches Rep. Maxine Waters doing bad things: “The House Ethics Committee this afternoon announced in a statement that it has formed an ‘adjudicatory subcommittee’ to consider ethics violations charges against Waters. The subcommittee has yet to determine when it will meet. The committee also today released an 80-page report, submitted in August 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), detailing the allegations against Waters.”

Jonathan Capehart catches the racial-grievance mongers being ridiculous (again). On the allegation that charges of ethics violations against Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters are racially motivated: “As an African American, I know and understand the sensitivity to unfair prosecution and persecution of blacks in the court of law and the court of public opinion. … But there are times when that sensitivity can blind us to very real questions that have nothing to do with race. In the cases of Rangel and Waters, I have to agree with a tweet by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Their troubles have to do with ‘entrenched entitlement.'”

If CAIR catches wind of this, look out for the lawsuits: “Accused Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan Can’t Find a Bank Willing to Cash His Checks; Hasan’s Lawyer Says His Client Is Being Discriminated Against.”

Bill Kristol catches Obama being a “self-centered elitist (and ageist!)” in trying to strong-arm Charlie Rangel out of office. He advises Rangel: “Defend yourself, make your case, fight for your reputation, and if need be accept a reprimand (or even censure) — but let your constituents render the real verdict, not the D.C. mob. If you do this, you have a good chance of extending your political career … beyond Obama’s. In any case, do not follow Obama’s prescription of political death with dignity. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.'”

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Obama’s Slide Continues

Obama’s poll numbers are worsening — rather significantly. In the RealClearPolitics poll average, his approval is at a new low — 45% — and his disapproval at a new high — 49.7%. (With a slightly different mix of surveys, Pollster.com tells the same story and has Obama’s disapproval just over 50%.) Was it something he did?

Well, the Gulf oil spill debacle is subsiding (bonus points for those who thought the “worst environmental crisis ever” wasn’t). Congress passed the “stick it to Wall Street” financial-reform bill. And yet the president’s poll numbers continue to tumble. It seems as though neither was a significant factor in the public’s opinion of his performance. What is significant is the economy, which the headlines warn us is not rebounding as promised. Obama insists, however, that things are looking up — cementing voters’ sense that he is divorced from reality.

It seems that voters’ impression of Obama is hardening and increasingly negative. They have long since tuned out his spin and remain anxious if not angry about the economy. With his hyper-partisanship and personal aloofness, Obama has sacrificed a personal connection with the public, which now refuses to give him and his spin squad the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, the culture of corruption — the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job deals, Charlie Rangel and now Maxine Waters — is on full display, evidence that Obama has failed to change the ethical environment inside the Beltway. The combination of sleeziness, incompetence, and fiscal irresponsibility is deadly — just ask the Republicans who lost their seats in 2006.

In sum, Obama and his party are heading for an electoral thumping. The blame game on the left will be vicious. The only questions that remain are the extent of the damage Obama has inflicted on his party and whether he is capable of rescuing the remainder of his presidency.

Obama’s poll numbers are worsening — rather significantly. In the RealClearPolitics poll average, his approval is at a new low — 45% — and his disapproval at a new high — 49.7%. (With a slightly different mix of surveys, Pollster.com tells the same story and has Obama’s disapproval just over 50%.) Was it something he did?

Well, the Gulf oil spill debacle is subsiding (bonus points for those who thought the “worst environmental crisis ever” wasn’t). Congress passed the “stick it to Wall Street” financial-reform bill. And yet the president’s poll numbers continue to tumble. It seems as though neither was a significant factor in the public’s opinion of his performance. What is significant is the economy, which the headlines warn us is not rebounding as promised. Obama insists, however, that things are looking up — cementing voters’ sense that he is divorced from reality.

It seems that voters’ impression of Obama is hardening and increasingly negative. They have long since tuned out his spin and remain anxious if not angry about the economy. With his hyper-partisanship and personal aloofness, Obama has sacrificed a personal connection with the public, which now refuses to give him and his spin squad the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, the culture of corruption — the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job deals, Charlie Rangel and now Maxine Waters — is on full display, evidence that Obama has failed to change the ethical environment inside the Beltway. The combination of sleeziness, incompetence, and fiscal irresponsibility is deadly — just ask the Republicans who lost their seats in 2006.

In sum, Obama and his party are heading for an electoral thumping. The blame game on the left will be vicious. The only questions that remain are the extent of the damage Obama has inflicted on his party and whether he is capable of rescuing the remainder of his presidency.

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The Bad Old Days

Many people (and more than a few journalists) live in a continual present. The current recession or riot or oil spill or whatever is judged in a vacuum. So one of the most important functions of history is to give you a sense of perspective.

With Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel in very hot water, with an assortment of their former fellow members of Congress currently or recently in jail, it’s easy to think of the current era as peculiarly corrupt. An amusing article in today’s New York Times shows that it is not. Indeed, it’s not even close. When William Hale Thompson, mayor of Chicago during much of the Prohibition era, died in 1944, his safe-deposit boxes were found to contain no less than $1.5 million in cash (worth at least ten times that in today’s dollars). Convicted former Congressman William Jefferson’s $90,000 worth of cash in the freezer is chump change by comparison.

But even the Prohibition era pales by comparison with New York in the late 1860’s. All branches of government in both the city and the state were corrupt. An English magazine wrote in 1868 that “in New York there is a custom among litigants, as peculiar to that city, it is to be hoped, as it is supreme within it, of retaining a judge as well as a lawyer.” The great New York diarist (and lawyer) George Templeton Strong, wrote in his diary in 1870, “The Supreme Court [in New York state, the trial court, not the court of last appeal] is our Cloaca Maxima, with lawyers for its rats. But my simile does that rodent an injustice, for the rat is a remarkably clean animal.”

But it wasn’t just individuals who were corrupt at that time. New York government was institutionally corrupt. How bad was it? Consider this. In 1868, the New York State Legislature actually legalized bribery. Not in so many words, of course. Instead the law passed that year maintained that, “No conviction [for bribery] shall be had under this act on the testimony of the other party to the offense, unless such evidence is corroborated in its material parts by other evidence.” In that pre-electronic age, that meant that as long as the public official took the bribe in cash and in private, he was safe from prosecution. After the fall of the Tweed Ring, as honesty and probity swept — briefly — through New York’s halls of government like measles through the third grade, a stiff law against bribery was put into the state constitution where it remains, safe from legislators.

As long as people are human, there will be corruption where there are vast sums of money to tempt. But it was worse, far worse, in the not so distant past.

Many people (and more than a few journalists) live in a continual present. The current recession or riot or oil spill or whatever is judged in a vacuum. So one of the most important functions of history is to give you a sense of perspective.

With Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel in very hot water, with an assortment of their former fellow members of Congress currently or recently in jail, it’s easy to think of the current era as peculiarly corrupt. An amusing article in today’s New York Times shows that it is not. Indeed, it’s not even close. When William Hale Thompson, mayor of Chicago during much of the Prohibition era, died in 1944, his safe-deposit boxes were found to contain no less than $1.5 million in cash (worth at least ten times that in today’s dollars). Convicted former Congressman William Jefferson’s $90,000 worth of cash in the freezer is chump change by comparison.

But even the Prohibition era pales by comparison with New York in the late 1860’s. All branches of government in both the city and the state were corrupt. An English magazine wrote in 1868 that “in New York there is a custom among litigants, as peculiar to that city, it is to be hoped, as it is supreme within it, of retaining a judge as well as a lawyer.” The great New York diarist (and lawyer) George Templeton Strong, wrote in his diary in 1870, “The Supreme Court [in New York state, the trial court, not the court of last appeal] is our Cloaca Maxima, with lawyers for its rats. But my simile does that rodent an injustice, for the rat is a remarkably clean animal.”

But it wasn’t just individuals who were corrupt at that time. New York government was institutionally corrupt. How bad was it? Consider this. In 1868, the New York State Legislature actually legalized bribery. Not in so many words, of course. Instead the law passed that year maintained that, “No conviction [for bribery] shall be had under this act on the testimony of the other party to the offense, unless such evidence is corroborated in its material parts by other evidence.” In that pre-electronic age, that meant that as long as the public official took the bribe in cash and in private, he was safe from prosecution. After the fall of the Tweed Ring, as honesty and probity swept — briefly — through New York’s halls of government like measles through the third grade, a stiff law against bribery was put into the state constitution where it remains, safe from legislators.

As long as people are human, there will be corruption where there are vast sums of money to tempt. But it was worse, far worse, in the not so distant past.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The wave is about to hit the Democrats. The latest poll from Reuters-Ipsos: “Only 34 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009 shortly after he took office when over a half of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of the worst financial crisis in decades. … Republicans hold a 46-44 percent lead over Democrats when participants were asked which party they planned to support in November. And 72 percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote on November 2, compared to 49 percent of Democrats.”

It’s not been smooth sailing for Donald Berwick: “Dr. Berwick is still struggling to tamp down a furor over past statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and expressed affection for the British health care system. And he is finding his ability to do his job clouded by the circumstances of his appointment, with many Republicans in open revolt over President Obama’s decision to place him in the post without a Senate confirmation vote. Dr. Berwick never had a confirmation hearing and has not responded publicly to critics. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.” (Has the Gray Lady discovered that this is the least-transparent administration in history?)

Obama is wrecking private-sector confidence, says Mort Zuckerman: “The growing tension between the Obama administration and business is a cause for national concern. The president has lost the confidence of employers, whose worries over taxes and the increased costs of new regulation are holding back investment and growth. The government must appreciate that confidence is an imperative if business is to invest, take risks and put the millions of unemployed back to productive work.”

Obama’s poll numbers continue to dive: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.” His RealClearPolitics disapproval rating average is at a new high.

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sends a shot over the bow of a fellow commissioner and the mainstream media, which prefer to misrepresent or ignore the uncontroverted evidence in the New Black Panther Party scandal.

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, House Democrats are distancing themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday noted that it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not him, who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of corruption in Washington.”

The Charlie Rangel settlement talks run aground. It seems there was a sleazy backroom meeting to try to settle Rangel’s sleazy dealings: “Rep. Charlie Rangel’s chances of cutting an ethics deal are in jeopardy over allegations that he met privately with Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) Monday night without any Republican members of the bipartisan panel present. Sources close to Rangel deny that there was an attempt to cut a backroom deal with Lofgren, but Rangel’s attorneys met with Democratic ethics committee staff Monday, according to people close to the investigation.”

The Senate fails to submarine the First Amendment: “The Senate failed to advance a campaign finance bill Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats who were trying to pass a key piece of their agenda before the August recess. … The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it … despite heavy lobbying from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. … Democrats were also missing the vote of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was absent from the Senate on Tuesday because he was attending a funeral.”

The wave is about to hit the Democrats. The latest poll from Reuters-Ipsos: “Only 34 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the economy and jobs compared to 46 percent who deemed it unsatisfactory. This is a sharp decline from early 2009 shortly after he took office when over a half of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of the worst financial crisis in decades. … Republicans hold a 46-44 percent lead over Democrats when participants were asked which party they planned to support in November. And 72 percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote on November 2, compared to 49 percent of Democrats.”

It’s not been smooth sailing for Donald Berwick: “Dr. Berwick is still struggling to tamp down a furor over past statements in which he discussed the rationing of health care and expressed affection for the British health care system. And he is finding his ability to do his job clouded by the circumstances of his appointment, with many Republicans in open revolt over President Obama’s decision to place him in the post without a Senate confirmation vote. Dr. Berwick never had a confirmation hearing and has not responded publicly to critics. The White House declined to make him available for an interview.” (Has the Gray Lady discovered that this is the least-transparent administration in history?)

Obama is wrecking private-sector confidence, says Mort Zuckerman: “The growing tension between the Obama administration and business is a cause for national concern. The president has lost the confidence of employers, whose worries over taxes and the increased costs of new regulation are holding back investment and growth. The government must appreciate that confidence is an imperative if business is to invest, take risks and put the millions of unemployed back to productive work.”

Obama’s poll numbers continue to dive: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.” His RealClearPolitics disapproval rating average is at a new high.

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sends a shot over the bow of a fellow commissioner and the mainstream media, which prefer to misrepresent or ignore the uncontroverted evidence in the New Black Panther Party scandal.

Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, House Democrats are distancing themselves from Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday noted that it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), not him, who promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of corruption in Washington.”

The Charlie Rangel settlement talks run aground. It seems there was a sleazy backroom meeting to try to settle Rangel’s sleazy dealings: “Rep. Charlie Rangel’s chances of cutting an ethics deal are in jeopardy over allegations that he met privately with Ethics Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) Monday night without any Republican members of the bipartisan panel present. Sources close to Rangel deny that there was an attempt to cut a backroom deal with Lofgren, but Rangel’s attorneys met with Democratic ethics committee staff Monday, according to people close to the investigation.”

The Senate fails to submarine the First Amendment: “The Senate failed to advance a campaign finance bill Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats who were trying to pass a key piece of their agenda before the August recess. … The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it … despite heavy lobbying from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org. … Democrats were also missing the vote of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who was absent from the Senate on Tuesday because he was attending a funeral.”

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Give Back the Money, Joe

That’s what Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s spent nearly all his time since the primary on the defensive, is hearing. It seems that many Democrats have given back money generated by the very ethically challenged Charlie Rangel, but not Sestak:

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey and at least two House challengers have made Rangel contributions an issue, calling on Democrats to return the money.

“Throughout the campaign, Congressman [Joe] Sestak has spoken about accountability and putting principle over politics, but it is now becoming clear that his pledges and lofty promises are just hollow words from another Washington insider,” Toomey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said about contributions Sestak has received from Rangel’s political action committees.

Even Sestak’s most extreme left-wing colleagues are dumping the Rangel cash. But not Sestak — maybe his idea is to let the issue build and build, let free media help his opponent, and then cave. That seems to be pretty much his campaign strategy so far.

And if that were not enough, he’s now fending off attacks about his earmarks:

Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for Senate, has reaped at least $119,650 in campaign contributions from employees of companies to which he has steered federal earmarks since 2008, according to public records. There’s nothing illegal — or unusual — on Capitol Hill about the practice of fund-raising from recipients of federal appropriations, but Sestak, a former three-star Navy admiral, has held himself to a higher standard.

The Toomey campaign is mocking Sestak for denying the pledge on his own website that vowed to give back contributions from “an individual or organization [that] has made a request for an appropriations project.” It seems — wow, just like when he denied the language about Israel’s imposing “collective punishment” on Gazans in his own Gaza letter — that Sestak didn’t mean what he said:

Data from the websites Legistorm and Opensecrets, which track earmarks and donations, respectively, shows Sestak kept about $62,000 in donations from senior officials at companies receiving his earmarks. Sestak said he has returned thousands of dollars in similar contributions, but some slipped past. He noted that no rules prevent him from keeping contributions from people who receive federal money. “I guess the lesson is it’s hard to take that extra step,” he said. Sestak said he never intended to publicize his donation-return policy, which appears in his campaign website’s Ethics section. “I just wanted a quiet sense of accountability.”

I imagine Democrats are experiencing a “quiet sense” of panic as they realize they’ve nominated someone who not only has an Israel problem and a Pelosi problem (97.8 percent support, but not “all the time,” mind you) but also an honesty problem. In a year when voters are sick of politicians shirking responsibility and coming up with ludicrous spin, this is potentially a very big problem.

That’s what Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s spent nearly all his time since the primary on the defensive, is hearing. It seems that many Democrats have given back money generated by the very ethically challenged Charlie Rangel, but not Sestak:

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey and at least two House challengers have made Rangel contributions an issue, calling on Democrats to return the money.

“Throughout the campaign, Congressman [Joe] Sestak has spoken about accountability and putting principle over politics, but it is now becoming clear that his pledges and lofty promises are just hollow words from another Washington insider,” Toomey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said about contributions Sestak has received from Rangel’s political action committees.

Even Sestak’s most extreme left-wing colleagues are dumping the Rangel cash. But not Sestak — maybe his idea is to let the issue build and build, let free media help his opponent, and then cave. That seems to be pretty much his campaign strategy so far.

And if that were not enough, he’s now fending off attacks about his earmarks:

Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for Senate, has reaped at least $119,650 in campaign contributions from employees of companies to which he has steered federal earmarks since 2008, according to public records. There’s nothing illegal — or unusual — on Capitol Hill about the practice of fund-raising from recipients of federal appropriations, but Sestak, a former three-star Navy admiral, has held himself to a higher standard.

The Toomey campaign is mocking Sestak for denying the pledge on his own website that vowed to give back contributions from “an individual or organization [that] has made a request for an appropriations project.” It seems — wow, just like when he denied the language about Israel’s imposing “collective punishment” on Gazans in his own Gaza letter — that Sestak didn’t mean what he said:

Data from the websites Legistorm and Opensecrets, which track earmarks and donations, respectively, shows Sestak kept about $62,000 in donations from senior officials at companies receiving his earmarks. Sestak said he has returned thousands of dollars in similar contributions, but some slipped past. He noted that no rules prevent him from keeping contributions from people who receive federal money. “I guess the lesson is it’s hard to take that extra step,” he said. Sestak said he never intended to publicize his donation-return policy, which appears in his campaign website’s Ethics section. “I just wanted a quiet sense of accountability.”

I imagine Democrats are experiencing a “quiet sense” of panic as they realize they’ve nominated someone who not only has an Israel problem and a Pelosi problem (97.8 percent support, but not “all the time,” mind you) but also an honesty problem. In a year when voters are sick of politicians shirking responsibility and coming up with ludicrous spin, this is potentially a very big problem.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

It’s not just that Journolisters (Journoapparatchiks?) are foul-mouthed; they need to get out more, says Jeffrey Goldberg about the lefties’ vulgar insult of Nascar fans: “It is true, in my limited exposure to Nascar fans, that many Nascar partisans are advocates of small government, lower taxes and a strong national defense, but I have not run into racists, anti-Semites or conspiracy-mongerers at Nascar events, either.” By the way, Rahm Emanuel had to apologize for using “retard” — what about this crew?

It’s not just conservatives who oppose the Ground Zero mosque: “Just 20% of U.S. voters favor the building of an Islamic mosque near the Ground Zero site of the World Trade Center in New York City, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the planned building of a mosque near where Muslim terrorists brought down the skyscrapers by crashing commercial airliners into them on September 11, 2001. Three thousand people died in the incident and related attacks that day.”

It’s not just critics who thought Obama should have gone to the Gulf on vacation: “US President Barack Obama and his family will spend a vacation weekend on the Gulf Coast in Florida next month, showing solidarity with a tourism industry hurt by the BP oil spill.”

It’s not just Republicans who think Rep. Charlie Rangel has a lot of explaining to do: “Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday. Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.”

It’s not just employment numbers that are looking bad. “In the latest sign of renewed turbulence in the housing market, an industry group said Thursday that sales of existing homes fell 5.1% in June. The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units, down from 5.66 million in May.”

It’s not just conservatives who think the Obami behaved badly in the Shirley Sherrod incident. Richard Cohen: “The coward in question is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who, even though from Iowa, fired Sherrod in a New York minute, and by extension and tradition — ‘The buck stops here,’ remember? — Barack Obama himself. Where do they get off treating anyone so shabbily?”

It’s not just the election that Republicans should keep their eyes on, warns Charles Krauthammer: “But assuming the elections go as currently projected, Obama’s follow-on reforms are dead. Except for the fact that a lame-duck session, freezing in place the lopsided Democratic majorities of November 2008, would be populated by dozens of Democratic members who had lost reelection (in addition to those retiring). They could then vote for anything — including measures they today shun as the midterms approach and their seats are threatened — because they would have nothing to lose. They would be unemployed. And playing along with Obama might even brighten the prospects for, say, an ambassadorship to a sunny Caribbean isle.”

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How an Election Is Nationalized

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

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From the 2006 Files

When the Eric Massa scandal broke, some assured us that this was nothing like the Mark Foley scandal of 2006. After all, Foley’s were underage male victims. Massa preyed only on adult employees. (Not a great ad campaign, but a distinction nevertheless.) And besides, there was no complicity on behalf of the Democratic leadership or failure to investigate Massa, unlike what the Democrats claimed had been the case with the Republican leadership in 2006. So no problem, right? Uh … no. Politico reports:

The House ethics committee closed its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa on Wednesday afternoon — even as an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged for the first time that her office learned of concerns about Massa far earlier than previously known.

Sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO that the bipartisan committee decided to close its investigation into the case because Massa’s resignation — effective at 5 p.m. Monday — deprived the committee of jurisdiction over him.

But House Republicans cried foul, with one senior GOP aide saying that the new information about Pelosi’s office “further underscores” the need to find out what actually happened.

Pelosi is said not to know about the specific wrongdoing but merely “that Massa was living with several aides, had hired too many staff members and used foul language around his staff. Racalto [Massa’s chief of staff], also raised concerns about ‘the way Massa ran his office’ and informed Pelosi’s member-services staffer that he had asked Massa to move out of the group house on Capitol Hill, the Pelosi aide said.” And all this follows the revelation that Massa had a history of groping and harassment in the Navy. Switch the names and the parties, and this could be straight out of 2006 when the Republicans were under fire:

“This is completely unacceptable,” a senior GOP aide said of the committee’s decision to end its investigation. “If it’s true that Democratic members of the House ethics committee are blocking an investigation of what their own leaders knew about Massa, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Speaker Pelosi has no intention of keeping her promise to lead the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. What are Democrats on the ethics committee afraid of? What is the Democratic leadership hiding?”

Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.

Arguably, 2010 isn’t like  2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.

When the Eric Massa scandal broke, some assured us that this was nothing like the Mark Foley scandal of 2006. After all, Foley’s were underage male victims. Massa preyed only on adult employees. (Not a great ad campaign, but a distinction nevertheless.) And besides, there was no complicity on behalf of the Democratic leadership or failure to investigate Massa, unlike what the Democrats claimed had been the case with the Republican leadership in 2006. So no problem, right? Uh … no. Politico reports:

The House ethics committee closed its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against former Rep. Eric Massa on Wednesday afternoon — even as an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged for the first time that her office learned of concerns about Massa far earlier than previously known.

Sources familiar with the situation told POLITICO that the bipartisan committee decided to close its investigation into the case because Massa’s resignation — effective at 5 p.m. Monday — deprived the committee of jurisdiction over him.

But House Republicans cried foul, with one senior GOP aide saying that the new information about Pelosi’s office “further underscores” the need to find out what actually happened.

Pelosi is said not to know about the specific wrongdoing but merely “that Massa was living with several aides, had hired too many staff members and used foul language around his staff. Racalto [Massa’s chief of staff], also raised concerns about ‘the way Massa ran his office’ and informed Pelosi’s member-services staffer that he had asked Massa to move out of the group house on Capitol Hill, the Pelosi aide said.” And all this follows the revelation that Massa had a history of groping and harassment in the Navy. Switch the names and the parties, and this could be straight out of 2006 when the Republicans were under fire:

“This is completely unacceptable,” a senior GOP aide said of the committee’s decision to end its investigation. “If it’s true that Democratic members of the House ethics committee are blocking an investigation of what their own leaders knew about Massa, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Speaker Pelosi has no intention of keeping her promise to lead the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history. What are Democrats on the ethics committee afraid of? What is the Democratic leadership hiding?”

Granted, the Democrats have time to correct the problem. They could, if they are inclined to, conduct a serious investigation into who knew what and when. But the presence of a growing, nasty ethics scandal and the judgment of the House speaker at a time when the Democrats are struggling with ObamaCare smacks of the perfect storm — the convergence of bad news and awful media that has the potential to sink the majority party. And should the Democrats sweep this under the rug — for Massa is now departed — the stench will linger for months.

Arguably, 2010 isn’t like  2006 or 1994. This time there is ObamaCare, Massa, Charlie Rangel, the spigot of red ink, and sky-high unemployment. So 2010 could well be worse for the party in power, which suddenly seems as though it can’t get anything right.

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RE: Like 2006 All Over Again

Rep. Eric Massa denies the allegation of sexual harassment and says he’s leaving due to health concerns. Politico reports that the issue is an allegation that “the New York Democrat, who is married with two children, made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer. ” The ethics committee is said to have already interviewed another Massa staffer who brought the issue forward.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released a statement:

The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa’s staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer’s staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer’s staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa’s staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts.

Some insist it’s just preposterous to bring Mark Foley into this (“But let’s get one thing straight: Massa is not Mark Foley. … Foley was forced to resign in ’06 after he admitted making inappropriate sexual advances to underage House pages”). Well, yes, it could always be worse. But it was Hoyer who knew what everyone was thinking and tried his best to make this a bipartisan matter: “I don’t think it helps anybody in the institution, any one of us on either side of the aisle. It certainly didn’t help Mr. Foley. … When there were allegations about Mr. Foley or others, I think the institution suffers.” Actually, the Republicans suffered mightily, in no small part because they didn’t quite have their act together about who knew what and what they did about it. Perhaps the Democrats have less vulnerability there.

But let’s be clear: every moment Democrats spend making the argument that their ethics sex scandal isn’t as damaging as the Republicans’ because their guy’s male victim wasn’t a minor is probably a bad one. Sure, it doesn’t have much to do with Charlie Rangel or health care or the other reasons Congress’s approval rating is in the teens. But in 2006 Foley’s scandal didn’t have anything to do with the Iraq war or voters’ upset over fiscal sloth (which seems innocuous compared with today’s runaway spending train). Then, as now, it was just one more reason for disgusted voters to say “Enough!” And lots of them will.

Rep. Eric Massa denies the allegation of sexual harassment and says he’s leaving due to health concerns. Politico reports that the issue is an allegation that “the New York Democrat, who is married with two children, made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer. ” The ethics committee is said to have already interviewed another Massa staffer who brought the issue forward.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released a statement:

The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa’s staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer’s staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer’s staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa’s staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts.

Some insist it’s just preposterous to bring Mark Foley into this (“But let’s get one thing straight: Massa is not Mark Foley. … Foley was forced to resign in ’06 after he admitted making inappropriate sexual advances to underage House pages”). Well, yes, it could always be worse. But it was Hoyer who knew what everyone was thinking and tried his best to make this a bipartisan matter: “I don’t think it helps anybody in the institution, any one of us on either side of the aisle. It certainly didn’t help Mr. Foley. … When there were allegations about Mr. Foley or others, I think the institution suffers.” Actually, the Republicans suffered mightily, in no small part because they didn’t quite have their act together about who knew what and what they did about it. Perhaps the Democrats have less vulnerability there.

But let’s be clear: every moment Democrats spend making the argument that their ethics sex scandal isn’t as damaging as the Republicans’ because their guy’s male victim wasn’t a minor is probably a bad one. Sure, it doesn’t have much to do with Charlie Rangel or health care or the other reasons Congress’s approval rating is in the teens. But in 2006 Foley’s scandal didn’t have anything to do with the Iraq war or voters’ upset over fiscal sloth (which seems innocuous compared with today’s runaway spending train). Then, as now, it was just one more reason for disgusted voters to say “Enough!” And lots of them will.

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The Gathering Corruption Storm

Jen, to add to your point about Charlie Rangel and Eric Massa: we are seeing the different elements required to form a political thunderstorm amass — a storm that will likely batter Democrats in November.

Three ingredients are required to form the real thing: moisture, an unstable airmass, and a lifting force. The political version of this meteorological event are a bad economy, unpopular ideas, and corruption. Democrats are facing all three.

The corruption issue manifests itself in several ways. There are legal forms of corruption, like the “Nebraska Kickback,” the “Louisiana Purchase,” and special tax benefits for union members, all part of the unseemly wheeling and dealing needed to jam through ObamaCare. There is the misuse of power we are seeing from the president in the form of trying to use reconciliation to pass ObamaCare. And there is the kind we see with Representative Rangel and New York Governor David Patterson — and now, we have just learned, Representative Eric Massa, a Democrat from New York, will not seek re-election after only one term in office. Politico.com has this: “According to several House aides — on both sides of the aisle — the House ethics committee has been informed of allegations that Massa, who is married with two children, sexually harassed a male staffer.” And it certainly won’t help matters if a grand jury indicts John Edwards on campaign violations stemming from his extramarital affair.

At some point these things can metastasize and presto!, the opposition party can run a campaign based on the “culture of corruption.” Democrats did that very well in 2006, when many Republican Members of Congress (understandably) lost the trust of many Americans. We saw the same thing happen to Democrats in 1994, with the House banking scandal and other things. And we may well see it again come November.

My hunch is that the storm in the making is, at least at this stage, more powerful and disruptive than any of the ones that came before it. And soon we’ll reach the point where there is very little they can do about it.

Jen, to add to your point about Charlie Rangel and Eric Massa: we are seeing the different elements required to form a political thunderstorm amass — a storm that will likely batter Democrats in November.

Three ingredients are required to form the real thing: moisture, an unstable airmass, and a lifting force. The political version of this meteorological event are a bad economy, unpopular ideas, and corruption. Democrats are facing all three.

The corruption issue manifests itself in several ways. There are legal forms of corruption, like the “Nebraska Kickback,” the “Louisiana Purchase,” and special tax benefits for union members, all part of the unseemly wheeling and dealing needed to jam through ObamaCare. There is the misuse of power we are seeing from the president in the form of trying to use reconciliation to pass ObamaCare. And there is the kind we see with Representative Rangel and New York Governor David Patterson — and now, we have just learned, Representative Eric Massa, a Democrat from New York, will not seek re-election after only one term in office. Politico.com has this: “According to several House aides — on both sides of the aisle — the House ethics committee has been informed of allegations that Massa, who is married with two children, sexually harassed a male staffer.” And it certainly won’t help matters if a grand jury indicts John Edwards on campaign violations stemming from his extramarital affair.

At some point these things can metastasize and presto!, the opposition party can run a campaign based on the “culture of corruption.” Democrats did that very well in 2006, when many Republican Members of Congress (understandably) lost the trust of many Americans. We saw the same thing happen to Democrats in 1994, with the House banking scandal and other things. And we may well see it again come November.

My hunch is that the storm in the making is, at least at this stage, more powerful and disruptive than any of the ones that came before it. And soon we’ll reach the point where there is very little they can do about it.

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But Not Permanently

Rep. Charlie Rangel succumbed to reality — sort of:

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) announced Wednesday that he would temporarily step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, days after being admonished for breaking House rules by accepting corporate-financed travel. . . Rangel did not state clearly Wednesday whether he was seeking to leave the committee altogether while the inquiry is ongoing, or simply to vacate the chairmanship. Nor did he discuss who would replace him. He said he had previously offered to take a leave of absence because of the controversy, and implied that Pelosi had not accepted that offer.

Just temporarily? Well, one supposes that if House Democrats dodge a bullet in November, he will reclaim his chairmanship. That seems to be the game here. You can expect the Republicans to bring that up. Moreover, the House ethics committee isn’t yet done with Rangel. (“The ethics committee has not yet said when it will issue rulings on these other controversies, but they could result in stronger admonishments that would make it difficult for Democrats to put Rangel back in as the chairman.”)

What we learn from this is that Pelosi is not leading her caucus, but rather is racing to keep up and restrain, in some instances, her nervous members. They seem to have figured out that she has a safe seat but they do not. It took a mutiny of disgusted House Democrats to get her to dump her ally Rangel. It will take a similar display of self-preservation instincts by Democrats to save themselves from the real danger — the jam-through of ObamaCare. Pelosi isn’t going to be looking out for them; so members will have to assess their own districts and decide whether, as they did with Rangel, they should dump ObamaCare and save themselves.

Rep. Charlie Rangel succumbed to reality — sort of:

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) announced Wednesday that he would temporarily step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, days after being admonished for breaking House rules by accepting corporate-financed travel. . . Rangel did not state clearly Wednesday whether he was seeking to leave the committee altogether while the inquiry is ongoing, or simply to vacate the chairmanship. Nor did he discuss who would replace him. He said he had previously offered to take a leave of absence because of the controversy, and implied that Pelosi had not accepted that offer.

Just temporarily? Well, one supposes that if House Democrats dodge a bullet in November, he will reclaim his chairmanship. That seems to be the game here. You can expect the Republicans to bring that up. Moreover, the House ethics committee isn’t yet done with Rangel. (“The ethics committee has not yet said when it will issue rulings on these other controversies, but they could result in stronger admonishments that would make it difficult for Democrats to put Rangel back in as the chairman.”)

What we learn from this is that Pelosi is not leading her caucus, but rather is racing to keep up and restrain, in some instances, her nervous members. They seem to have figured out that she has a safe seat but they do not. It took a mutiny of disgusted House Democrats to get her to dump her ally Rangel. It will take a similar display of self-preservation instincts by Democrats to save themselves from the real danger — the jam-through of ObamaCare. Pelosi isn’t going to be looking out for them; so members will have to assess their own districts and decide whether, as they did with Rangel, they should dump ObamaCare and save themselves.

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It’ll Have to Be Worse Before the Swamp Is Drained

Politico reports that a “wave of ethics problems for Capitol Hill Democrats makes GOP strategists optimistic that they can do to Democrats what was done to Republicans in 2006: paint a picture of a majority party corrupted by its own power.” Rep. Charlie Rangel’s ethics probe is ongoing; Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson has been accused of using his post to try to wring campaign donations out of the credit-card industry; the Justice Department is still rummaging around in the lobbying scandal surrounding the PMA Group, which threatens to ensnare Reps. Jack Murtha, James Moran, and Pete Visclosky, among others; and in the Senate, Max Baucus’s girlfriend scandal is growing while Sen. Roland Burris got slapped on the wrist for lying about his contacts with Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

All in all, it’s quite a track record. In and of themselves, scandals don’t usually take down a majority party, but we saw in 1994 and 2006 how the corruption issue played a significant role. The incumbent party must play defense, its supporters are a bit down in the dumps, and challengers get to play the “Washington outsider” card. And in this case, the Democrats will have Nancy Pelosi’s words hung around their necks:

“Thanks to Nancy Pelosi’s lapses in judgment, the rap sheet on the Democratic-led Congress is getting longer by the day,” said Ken Spain, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “When the speaker promised to ‘drain the swamp,’ she probably didn’t think she’d be fighting off hypocrisy charges four years later heading into the 2010 elections.”

The Democrats could, of course, throw the miscreants overboard and at the very least take away key committee chairmanships while the matters are investigated. But they seem to show no interest in doing that. I suppose the congressional generic poll numbers will have to get even worse before that happens.

Politico reports that a “wave of ethics problems for Capitol Hill Democrats makes GOP strategists optimistic that they can do to Democrats what was done to Republicans in 2006: paint a picture of a majority party corrupted by its own power.” Rep. Charlie Rangel’s ethics probe is ongoing; Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson has been accused of using his post to try to wring campaign donations out of the credit-card industry; the Justice Department is still rummaging around in the lobbying scandal surrounding the PMA Group, which threatens to ensnare Reps. Jack Murtha, James Moran, and Pete Visclosky, among others; and in the Senate, Max Baucus’s girlfriend scandal is growing while Sen. Roland Burris got slapped on the wrist for lying about his contacts with Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

All in all, it’s quite a track record. In and of themselves, scandals don’t usually take down a majority party, but we saw in 1994 and 2006 how the corruption issue played a significant role. The incumbent party must play defense, its supporters are a bit down in the dumps, and challengers get to play the “Washington outsider” card. And in this case, the Democrats will have Nancy Pelosi’s words hung around their necks:

“Thanks to Nancy Pelosi’s lapses in judgment, the rap sheet on the Democratic-led Congress is getting longer by the day,” said Ken Spain, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “When the speaker promised to ‘drain the swamp,’ she probably didn’t think she’d be fighting off hypocrisy charges four years later heading into the 2010 elections.”

The Democrats could, of course, throw the miscreants overboard and at the very least take away key committee chairmanships while the matters are investigated. But they seem to show no interest in doing that. I suppose the congressional generic poll numbers will have to get even worse before that happens.

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