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We’re All Crooks Here


Everyone who goes into poli tics is crooked. You know it, I know it, everyone you talk to at parties knows it. Mark Twain called Congress America’s “only distinctly native criminal class.” We joke about it, and cartoonists poke fun at it every chance they get.

So who wants to mess with a good thing, right? Nothing like going with the flow when it comes to a truism that everyone acknowledges.

Except right now this truism is part and parcel of the Republican playbook in Washington, right when they’ve got a hold on the White House, the Congress, and a stranglehold on the Supreme Court.

Why are Republicans suddenly disparaging all the institutions of which they happen to be in charge? One guy who turned around to the feds and started singing like a bird, some guy named Jack Abramoff. Abramoff is starting to make dear old Richard Nixon look like the late “Clean” Gene McCarthy. He’s the headliner in the rock concert that was former House majority leader Tom DeLay’s “K Street Project.” Abramoff tied together all the money interests—the people who wanted to buy and sell legislation and members of Congress like poker chips—with the lobbyists, who then worked with those said members of Congress and the people in the White House to give away the store.

The reason why the Republicans are crowing that everyone is crooked is so that you’ll agree, put down the newspaper, and go back to hating the Steelers or watching American Idol or whatever it is they think people outside the Beltway do when they’ve written off all politicos as crooks. Nothing to see here folks, move along. If you think that both sides are equally crooked, then you don’t care, and they’ll breathe a big sigh of relief. And then they’ll go back to selling communications law to the phone and cable providers, the wilderness to logging interests, and your credit to the people at MBNA.

The phrase “Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans” has been repeated so much in the last three weeks that I’m surprised no one has set it to music. Never mind that it’s not true—Abramoff gave money only to Republicans, George W. Bush and Robert Ehrlich among them. His clients may have given some money to Democrats, but he himself gave money to not one Democrat—not one.

And nobody has yet proved that those clients, all Indian casinos, gave money to Dems because he told them to—after all, why would they? Abramoff has always been all about Republican power in Washington. This man is so radioactive that presidential spokesman Scott McClellan suddenly went back on his word and won’t detail who in the White House Abramoff has met with. How is a man like this a bipartisan crook?

It’s hilarious how members of the so-called liberal media are backing away from how they acted as full-on stenographers for the GOP when it comes to the “both sides got Abramoff money” talking points. Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell got such a huge outpouring of grief after she claimed that Democrats “have gotten Abramoff campaign money” that the paper shut down the comments link to her web column. Post media critic Howard Kurtz was almost as bad, covering for her by saying that her phrase was “inartfully worded.” Uh-huh, right.

As a Dec. 21 Bloomberg news story artfully put it:

“Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff gave more than $127,000 to Republican candidates and committees and nothing to Democrats, federal records show. At the same time, his Indian clients were the only ones among the top 10 tribal donors in the U.S. to donate more money to Republicans than Democrats.”

Claiming this is a bipartisan scandal is just plain prevarication. And now the president and every member of the Republican Congress that has ever taken a dollar from this felon is interested in painting everyone as crooked, because it’s the only possible way they can come out smelling halfway decent.

Now it turns out that both Washingtonian magazine and Time magazine have seen no fewer than five pictures of Bush and Abramoff together—photos that put the lie to the McClellan tale that “the president does not know him, nor does the president recall ever meeting him.”

So Washington is full of crooks, all of them. You vote some out, and the next ones aren’t any better. And if you think that, then it’s OK not to care about Jack Abramoff. After all, what’s the matter with believing something everyone knows is true anyway, right?

—Brian Morton

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