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Political Transgressions on a Scale of One to Ten

August 11, 2010

Let’s do this mental exercise. Let’s consider recent transgressions in the political world and rate them on a scale of one to ten. As we do this, we need to think carefully about the underlying conduct in each situation, and then try to conceive of a legitimate defense for the conduct. Let’s be neither rash nor timid as we consider: 

Chris Ortloff: Soliciting sex with an 11-year-old girl. This is ugly stuff and we naturally recoil. We must force ourselves to ask whether there are any possible mitigating factors? Maybe you could say: He didn’t go through with it and we’ll never know if he actually would have done so because it was a sting operation. No, there’s no way around the fact that this was really sick conduct from a person who, at the time, was a senior state parole official. This must rate high on our scale – 9. 

Eliot Spitzer: Patronizing prostitutes. You can say that it was between consenting adults. You can say that prostitution is legal in some places, and that it is really more of a vice than a serious crime. OK, this might fly with some jamoke, but not with the governor of the state, a person who set himself apart in terms of ethics and morality. To have Spitzer engaged in this kind of conduct was hypocritical. Moreover, it made him and the state a laughing stock. While it might rate low in terms of an actual transgression, it must rate higher because of the consequences. We give it a 4.   

Joe Bruno: Theft of honest services. You can say the law is vague. You can say he was a great guy who did a lot of good things, but then you come back to the fact that he used his public office for personal gain. In fact, he made millions. This was wrong. It must rate high in terms of a transgression because we can’t have people doing this in office. It’s the opposite of serving the public interest. We give it a 6. 

David Paterson: Interfering in domestic abuse case. You can parse it like Judith Kaye and say that it’s unclear whether the governor knew all the facts regarding the confrontation between his aide and the aide’s girlfriend. But then you are hit with the concept of it all: A woman was beat up. She tried to make a complaint about it, but was convinced not to do so by senior government officials because it would have been a source of political embarrassment for the governor. It was an egregious violation rating a 5 on our scale. 

Charlie Rangel: Ethical violations ranging from misreporting income to using the wrong letterhead on a fund raising appeal. We all need to step back on this one — step back from the tabloid papers crusading to oust him. Step back from the nervous Dem establishment that wants him to plead guilty and be done with it. Step back from the spin of the opposition party that wants to make Rangel a poster boy for malfeasance.  What do you really have here in terms of underlying conduct? What crime is there? He used the wrong letterhead on a fundraising letter? That seems trivial. He failed to properly account for income? That’s an IRS matter. Of course, we don’t know all the facts and we aren’t excusing his mistakes. Clearly, he is sloppy in his accounting. But none of this, when compared to other recent conduct, seems that bad. We rate it a 3, and we wonder when some sense of perspective will be established.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    August 12, 2010 8:54 AM

    You need to add Brian McLaughlin and Tony Semenerio who were way more brazen than Bruno. These guys were on the take, whereas Bruno at least worked for it.

  2. August 12, 2010 10:49 AM

    You’re missing the point about Rangel’s pattern of behavior. What puts him over the top when scoring for moral terpitude is the arrogance, the sense of entitlement, the notion that the rules the rest of the hoi polli have to follow don’t apply to him because he comes from the oppressed of the earth, because he represents his people, because he’s done good things and that entitles him.

    That’s the same smell that comes off Bruno and Spitzer, although less so for Joe because he was always a gentlemen in terms of his dealings with other people, while the arrogant a-hole Spitzer treated most people like shit because in his mind he was a god or G-d’s chosen one. (Has he changed? I for one doubt it.)

    Arrogance is the political disease and sadly too many journalists seem to have arrogance envy. I won’t name names, but you know who you are.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    August 12, 2010 1:27 PM

    Well said, 37.


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