Demo­crat con­ven­tion was miss­ing some play­ers who were caught cheat­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JEN­NIFER HARPER

Call girls, lit­tle white lies, big fat fibs, wa­ver­ing loy­al­ties, winc­ing spouses, un­for­tu­nate re­marks, ques­tion­able use of cam­paign funds and, yes, one pos­si­ble love child.

A newly re­al­ized cul­ture of se­duc­tion cast a pall over the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion last week and di­min­ished the role of cer­tain party lu­mi­nar­ies and up-and-com­ers who could have had star­ring roles at the podium.

Their pas­sions clouded their rep­u­ta­tions, at least tem­po­rar­ily, and it hap­pened only two years af­ter Democrats cap­tured con­trol of Congress from a scan­dalscarred GOP it blasted for pro­mot­ing a “cul­ture of cor­rup­tion” on Capi­tol Hill.

The Demo­cratic con­ven­tion billed it­self to be green, all-Amer­i­can and di­verse. But it was not nec­es­sar­ily for­giv­ing.

There is a ros­ter of re­jects who were ab­sent from the pro­ceed­ings. For­mer pres­i­den­tial hope­ful John Ed­wards wasn’t there. Nei­ther was for­mer New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Los An­ge­les Mayor An­to­nio Vil­laraigosa — all passed up for a piv­otal mo­ment be­fore tens of thou­sands of Demo­cratic loy­al­ists af­ter their sex­ual dal­liances be­came pub­lic.

“A sil­ver lin­ing in th­ese scan­dals is that in­fi­delity is still scan­dalous. This shows that all the ef­forts to dis­count Bill Clin­ton’s cheat­ing as ‘just sex’ didn’t change the na­tional per­cep­tion — or even Democrats’ — that fi­delity mat­ters,” said Wendy Wright, pres­i­dent of the Con­cerned Women for Amer­ica.

“In­fi­delity — sex­ual or fi­nan­cial — car­ries na­tional se­cu­rity risks, mak­ing a politi­cian vul­ner­a­ble to black­mail or crim­i­nal be­hav­ior to cover up his ac­tions. But it also be­trays a lack of char­ac­ter and good judg­ment, that he is will­ing to sac­ri­fice ev­ery­thing that mat­ters, even peo­ple who de­pend on him, for some­thing not nearly as im­por­tant,” she added.

Yet in a trou­bled post-911, post- Mon­ica Lewin­sky world, does yet an­other story about yet an­other un­faith­ful politi­cian still res­onate with the pub­lic? Some think not.

“There are two trend lines that would in­di­cate th­ese con­cerns will not be a fac­tor. One, the anx­i­ety level in the pub­lic is so deep and se­ri­ous right now that some of the triv­ial, sen­sa­tional is­sues are not go­ing to have the im­pact they had in the past,” said Demo­cratic con­sul­tant Dan Ger­stein.

“The sec­ond thing is that it’s a mis­take to think the pub­lic only sees im­per­fec­tion and fail­ings of just the other side. Both par­ties have their share of pec­ca­dil­loes. For ev­ery Eliott Spitzer and John Ed­wards, there’s a Larry Craig or a Mark Fo­ley,” Mr. Ger­stein said.

In­deed, shenani­gans is a bi­par­ti­san sport. In 2006 and 2007, it was the Repub­li­can time at bat, when such law­mak­ers as Rep. Mark Fo­ley of Florida and Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho were caught mak­ing lewd ad­vances to con­gres­sional pages and a po­lice of­fi­cer, re­spec­tively. The for­mer re­signed, the lat­ter did not.

The Fo­ley saga un­folded in the weeks be­fore the 2006 midterm elec­tion, adding fuel to the “cul­ture of cor­rup­tion” re­frain Democrats prac­ticed when promis­ing ethics re­forms if given con­trol of Congress.

When then-House Ma­jor­ity Leader Tom De­lay, Texas Repub­li­can, was in­dicted in Texas on charges of money laun­der­ing in 2005, then-House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, called it “the lat­est ex­am­ple that Repub­li­cans in Congress are plagued by a cul­ture of cor­rup­tion at the ex­pense of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Mr. De­lay, whose trial is still pend­ing, was fol­lowed by fel­low Repub­li­cans Rep. Randy “Duke” Cun­ning­ham of Cal­i­for­nia, who was sen­tenced to eight years in fed­eral prison for tak­ing bribes, and for­mer Rep. Robert W. Ney of Ohio, who re­ceived a 30-month sen­tence for tak­ing pay­offs from con­victed lob­by­ist Jack Abramoff.

Ney — who col­lected lux­ury jun­kets, ex­pen­sive meals and cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions in ex­change for do­ing leg­isla­tive fa­vors for Abramoff — be­came the Democrats’ poster boy for Repub­li­can cor­rup­tion in the 2006 cam­paign.

Mrs. Pelosi said Ney’s Oc­to­ber 2006 guilty plea was a “tragedy for his fam­ily, his con­stituents and all Amer­i­cans, and it is fur­ther proof that the Repub­li­can cul­ture of cor­rup­tion has per­vaded Congress.”

Three weeks later, Ney re­signed from his House seat.

Democrats don’t con­done their col­leagues head­line-grab­bing mis­steps, but they say it’s un­fair to equate bad mar­i­tal judg­ment with the graft of sev­eral Repub­li­cans.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple are more than ca­pa­ble of be­ing able to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the per­sonal prob­lems of a few and a Repub­li­can Party that was dom­i­nated by the cor­rupt prac­tices of Tom De­Lay and Jack Am­bramoff,” said Jim Man­ley, spokesman for Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat.

And Mrs. Pelosi’s of­fice noted that the Repub­li­can cul­ture of cor­rup­tion is on­go­ing.

Sen. Ted Stevens, the cham­ber’s

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