CNC (Conventional National Convention) Delegate

Stalin Shames Human Race

Chimps now hold 10 point lead among likely primate voters

I have no larger fossil to fight over with Joshua Green, whom I have until now found an agreeable enough presence at The Atlantic, but it was his roll of the conventional dice to post Rangel Brings Shame on Democrats just as I was preparing the sad red earth center in beautiful downtown Monument Valley for the Conventional National Convention. Since I serve as sole voting member of the credentials committee, Green hereby gets front row seating. Wrote he,

In almost any other election year, Rep. Charlie Rangel‘s ethics problems would have been a major campaign issue, in much the way that Republicans’ myriad ethics and corruption scandals framed the 2006 election. The only reason Democrats got a “pass” on Rangel before the election is that so much else was going wrong for them and dominating the headlines. Rangel’s conviction by a House panel today on 12 ethics violations should change that, but only to a degree. The consequences of the conviction are laughable: Rangel can expect a sternly worded letter of reprimand or, worst case, a censure. As the Times’ write-up notes, the committee has the power to expel, but no one thinks that’s going to happen.

Well, so far so unobjectionable. I’m not sure that Rangel’s fairly typical and venial financial sin would have played such a great role “in almost any other election year,” but, still, clearly, Rangel’s hubris of longevity and power led him where those two engines of arrogance will, and if he were expelled from the House, as he should be, the ethical standards inherent in a public trust might begin again to mean a little something. But even in these sentiments, Green merely mines the conventional for its ore of common sense. Then, he breaks through the tunnel wall into a gas deposit.

One of Washington’s obsessions post-election has been badgering President Obama to say that he understands that the electorate sent him a message, and his reluctance to do so led to a flurry of pronouncements–mocked by the Daily Show here–that he just “doesn’t get it.” After Rangel’s buffoonish appearance before, and conviction by, the ethics committee, and after House Democrats decided no changes (!) were necessary in their leadership, I think the charge of not getting it applies much more to congressional Democrats than it does the president.

While noting, then, one of “Washington’s obsessions,” Green decides that ruling and chattering class obsessions – those that badger and that are notably mocked – are a good thing, and decides to endorse their reign but merely shift the focus of attention? Excuse me, but what manner of thought entered into that paragraph? Though there is no requirement or even tradition of it, many in the CNC now accept the talking point that congressional party leaders should automatically step down when their party suffers a single election loss. Now Green – unthinkingly, obviously – endorses in his sloppy analysis the notion that the losing president or party, despite the complex political and historical review that could go on for years, must quickly, ritualistically acknowledge their political foes’ narrative of why they lost, endorsed by a robotic CNC, and declaim that they “get it”? But Green is not done.

In the two weeks since the election, Republicans have made a pretty good show of doing something to change the culture of Washington by attacking earmarks–yes, yes, earmarks are only a tiny sliver of the budget, and even this small step has been taken grudgingly. But in comparison to what the Democrats have done–or rather have not done, by declining to push Rangel out and allowing him to flaunt his corruption and embarrass them all–the Republicans look like the more responsible party.

Yes. Yes. Earmarks bad thing. Very bad. Bad earmarks. They are also everyone’s favorite, budgetarily insignificant pretense at reform, as Green himself acknowledges, yet he calls that laughable gamesmanship (to anyone who is an observer of Washington politics) “a pretty good show of doing something to change the culture of Washington”? Or is the emphasis, really, on “show” – but a good one? – and Green decided to provide it another stage and a curtain call?

Playing politics over earmarks, failing properly to hold one’s party own to the ethical standards of government service – are these truly characteristic of either party to the exclusion of the other? Have we not been witnessing this on all sides since Cicero changed his mind, again? We know that Karl Rove, Michael Steele, and Sarah Palin would have us believe that on these shifting grounds “the Republicans look like the more responsible party.” But is this standard ops political analysis on a loop the best that Green can do?

If you want to know the completely non-partisan nature of Rangel’s fall, look here.

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