Friday, January 27, 2006

The difference

Two years ago, when Lynn first proposed the project that became DONKEY CONS, the question soon arose: WHY?

If, as our research showed, Democrats were consistently more often involved in crime and corruption than Republicans ... why? This question is approached from several different angles in the book, but one basic answer is that Republican voters won't tolerate corruption. Partisan loyalty is not enough to protect a Republican politician caught in genuine wrongdoing. There is a noticeable difference:

Democrats seem to routinely survive scandals that might have a career-ending impact for Republicans. Many in the GOP defended Nixon during the Watergate scandal, but in the end it was Republican leaders, including conservative icon Barry Goldwater, who convinced Nixon to resign rather than put the country through an impeachment ordeal. When it was revealed that House Speaker Bob Livingston had carried on an adulterous affair, he resigned in disgrace. When South Dakota Rep. Bill Janklow was convicted of manslaughter in an auto accident, he resigned in disgrace. Implicated in similar scandals, Democrats like Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, and Ted Kennedy were vigorously defended by their fellow Democrats and remained in office.

Simple as that. Duke Cunningham? Gone. Good-bye. Sayonara. Nobody whining about a "vast left-wing conspiracy." And if any Republicans involved with Jack Abramoff are proven to be genuinely corrupt (and when you get to Chapter 12 of DONKEY CONS, you might get a good hint or two of what we think about this), they'll be gone, too. Toast. History. Ciao. It doesn't matter how "safe" their seats are, or how many years of loyal service they've devoted to the GOP. Republican voters don't like being tainted by scandal, and anybody who's crooked can't count on partisan loyalty for protection.

Here's an example: Vermont Judge Edward Cashman. He's the guy who sentenced a child molester -- who had violated a girl repeatedly for 4 years, beginning when she was only 6 -- to just 60 days in jail. Saying that "punishment is not enough," Cashman said convicted child molest Mark Hulett had only "borderline" intelligence, so he was "not going to warehouse" the perp in prison, because the perp couldn't get "treatment" in prison. ("Treatment"? People in Vermont might be forgiven for thinking Mark Hulett's "treatment" ought to come in .38-caliber doses. Repeat dosage until effective.)

And Judge Cashman is a Republican:

Cashman, 62, is a burly, balding and bearded figure, and a strait-laced ex-military man. Soon after he was appointed to the Vermont District Court bench in 1982 by a Republican governor ...

But did that protect him? Did Vermont Republicans rally to defend their fellow partisan on the bench? Hardly:

Republican House leaders ... continued pushing a demand that an embattled judge resign because of a sentence he imposed on a sex offender. ...

They insisted that they would not be satisfied until the House Judiciary Committee takes up a resolution demanding the resignation of Judge Edward Cashman. ...

Most Republicans "want action on the resolution that's been filed," said GOP Leader Peg Flory, R-Pittsford.

Now, if there is one guy on Fox TV that Democrats hate most, who is it? Bill O'Reilly, of course. In DONKEY CONS (Chapter Seven, to be precise) we acknowledge that O'Reilly can be a bit ... well, let's say, difficult.

But who led the charge against Judge Cashman? O'Reilly. Now, O'Reilly claims to be independent, not an ideologue, not a partisan. But that never stopped Democrats from painting O'Reilly as Exhibit A of the right-wing Republican media machine.

Yet, despite the fact that O'Reilly's research staff must have immediately known that Judge Cashman is a Republican, that didn't stop O'Reilly or any other Republican from denouncing the judge and his astonishingly lenient sentence in the Hulett case.

That's the difference, see? That's why the Republicans have no Alcee Hastings types, no Ted Kennedys -- no Republicans who stay in office after such disastrous disgrace. (Well, Sen. John McCain of "Keating Five" notoriety is still in office, but he's the Democrats' favorite Republican, so go figure.) And it may be that, knowing that having an "R" besides your name can never defend you against scandal the way a "D" can, corrupt politicians are less attracted to the Republican party.

Of course, Democrats won't ever give Bill O'Reilly any credit for going after a Republican judge, but it's an important fact. And if any Republicans in the Abramoff scandal are genuinely dirty, don't be surprised to see O'Reilly loudly calling for their resignations.

(By Thursday, it seemed the judge had reconsidered: Hulett got 3 to 10 years.)

-- MCCAIN