Wed May 31, 9:30 AM ET
If only we could get the NSA to start spying on members of Congress. Tap their phones and read their email, no warrants necessary. We could call it a "Corruption Surveillance Program," and leak the details to the New York Times to make sure everyone in Congress is made aware they're being watched.
I'm being facetious, of course, in part to help elicit an image of the howls of righteous indignation such a program would prompt in Washington D.C. If Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert throws a "separation of powers" tantrum over the idea of letting the FBI perform a basic, carefully vetted search of the office of a Congressman who is by most accounts almost certainly guilty of taking a bribe, imagine the cacophony of teeth-gnashing that would ensue on the Hill at the mere suggestion that members' emails and phone calls be subject to scrutiny.
The point is that our humble public servants in Washington D.C. seem to be experiencing an identity crisis in that they're not acting very humble of late nor do they appear all that devoted to serving the public interest.
That may be a bit unfair to many, if not most of the 535 elected officials in the nation's capitol who are good people doing their honest best. As is so often the case in politics, however, perception is reality. And right now the perception is that members of Congress don't feel they have to live by the same rules the rest of us do.
The average American can't smack a police officer without getting arrested. He can't smash his car into a stationary barrier at three in the morning, get out stumbling and slurring, and then get a ride home and a pat on the back from the cops. And he certainly can't complain to any real effect about the FBI entering his co-worker's office with a warrant and just cause seeking evidence to support credible allegations of bribery.
Congress has been plagued for decades by the general perception that influence peddling and corruption is part of how the system works and that "everybody does it." These days, however, the public has at its fingertips a number of tangible and quite seedy examples that fit this perception to a tee; lavish skyboxes, hookers, poker games, $2,800 dinners, free golf trips and ringside seats, and wads of cash stuffed in freezers. That's not exactly what most Americans would consider "doing the people's business," if you know what I mean.
A good part of the brilliance and the success behind the 1994 Republican revolution is that it tapped into a deep vein of public disgust toward incumbent members of Congress who had grown arrogant and accustomed to a sense of entitlement. Newt Gingrich understood what a powerful political force this could be. It's no coincidence the list of reforms contained in the Contract with America began with this: "FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress."
A short twelve years later we're back to a situation where Congress is displaying a sense of entitlement that borders on arrogance and an unwillingness to seriously reform itself. The American people are tolerant, but they aren't stupid and their tolerance has limits. If members of Congress continue to demonstrate the sort of poor judgment and sense of entitlement we've grown accustomed to seeing lately, don't be surprised to see the public avail themselves of the remedy provided to them by our constitutional republic this November and send a number of incumbents packing