Thursday, June 01, 2006

HIGH PRAISE FOR KEVIN DRUM -- An explanation for the spate of corruption investigations since 2004:

The one commentator who got it exactly right was Kevin Drum, who runs the [The Washington Monthly] magazine's blog. "What do we have to look forward to if George W. Bush is elected to a second term?" he asked. "One word: scandal."

History backed that forecast. Almost every reelected president in modern times has been victimized by scandal, from Eisenhower's losing his chief of staff, who resigned over the gift of a vicuña coat, to Clinton's facing impeachment.

But Drum found additional reasons that led him to conclude that Bush and the Republicans might be particularly susceptible. For one thing, he said, "both Bush and the current Republican Party leadership have already demonstrated a ruthlessness and disregard for traditional political norms." He cited the lengthy roll calls in the House of Representatives during which arms were twisted to produce favorable votes; the redistricting in Texas to gain five Republican House seats; and the hard-line secrecy imposed by the White House on executive decisions.

Second, he said, the culture of lax supervision of executive agencies by the Republican Congress encouraged misbehavior on Capitol Hill -- and made it likely the malfeasance would reach aromatic heights before it was finally detected. Look at the time it took for the Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay network to be exposed, the number of times the House ethics committee flinched from fully exposing it -- and you see how right Drum was.

And, finally, he said, the lack of major policy initiatives would leave a vacuum in the news that would make scandal look like the most prominent feature of the political landscape. The near-impasse in Iraq, the painfully long and ultimately unproductive debates about Social Security and immigration, the impasse on energy and health care, and the unwillingness to come to grips with budget deficits -- all this background noise makes the stories of Duke Cunningham's Rolls-Royce and William Jefferson's freezer full of marked bills that much more vivid.

Drum concluded his essay by saying that 2006 would be likely to provide "the perfect breeding ground for a major scandal, and George Bush is exactly the right guy, with exactly the right personality, to step right into it."

So far, the scandal has not involved the president personally, but the stench of corruption is all around the city -- too close for comfort.