I'm going to do something I absolutely loath when others do it, pre-judge someone's guilt or innocence. I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb in saying that Rep. William Jefferson D-LA is a crook. I mean, you don't put blocks of cash in your freezer wrapped in aluminum foil just to see what "a cool $90,000" looks like.
But there's a few angles that this case raises that probably eclipse the fact that this guy is crooked as the Kickapoo river and should be drummed out of office. (To their credit, the Dem leadership is "urging" Jefferson to step down from his position on the Ways and Means committee)
It's been an increasing blizzard of one Republican scandal after another. Literally so many right wingers have been busted, with so many more getting snared, that it's very tough to keep up with.
Now a crooked Dem has been caught and couldn't possibly look more guilty.
Normally, the Republican's would try to use this 179 to 1 ratio to suggest that there's just as many crooked Dems as Republicans in their desperate effort to stem the free fall they're on in the polls.
But in a "man bites dog" moment, even Republican leaders Hastert and Frist reacted to the news that the FBI had raided Jefferson's congressional offices on the hill with disapproval, stating that a line had been crossed regarding the separation of powers.
Is this a ploy? Are they putting partisanship aside in an effort to protect all the crooks on both sides of the aisle?
After all, the reason the House Ethics Committee is utterly useless is due to an unwritten agreement between both parties. Both sides were using the ethics committee as a weapon, and of course, there was fertile ground for bringing charges. But finally, perhaps realizing that they're all dirty, both parties came to an unwritten agreement that neither would use the committee to go after each other.
This in itself is corrupt. And the committee has done next to nothing about any ethically challenged congressmen since.
A congresional office has never been raided or searched in the history of the United States, and both Republicans and Dems aren't too hot on starting the practice now.
This is a very interesting issue in itself.
Does the executive branch (of which the FBI is part) have the right to go into Congress in search of criminal evidence?
An initial reaction might be, "Well hell yes! If those crooks are up to no good, then sure the FBI should be able to go to their offices and get evidence."
That has a certain logic to it, but as in a lot of things, it's not as simple as all that.
What about the larger issue of separation of powers?
What would be the effect of allowing the Executive branch access to congressional offices and priveledged information?
Could not this easily be abused? If a whack job like Bush or someone in his administration wanted to punish or threaten a congressman, could he not threaten them or actually carry through with a trumped up criminal investigation?
Should the Executive branch be able to throw a huge chill over both houses of congress?
The argument is that congressmen will now be under even more pressure to do the White House's bidding, for fear that they'll invade their offices and try to dig up some dirt.
In other words, it's raising the stakes in the constant war between every president and congress. The congress has been nothing but a rubber-stamp for Bush thus far, being utterly ineffective in either investigating abuses or preventing many ill-conceived measures from passing. Yet now the Bush gang is trying to do something utterly unprecidented since the country was founded, namely, poking around in congressional offices looking for criminal evidence.
On the one hand, you don't want crooked pols to be protected or shielded, but ... on the other hand, should the White House be able to go after congressmen to this degree? (Crooked congressmen can still be prosecuted the old fashioned way, after all, (and they are), by gathering evidence outside of capitol hill.)
Which view holds more weight? Which is more important in the long view?
What is going to be the upshot of the Jefferson case in these related areas?