Murthra vs Ethiczilla

by Todd M Long Nov 15, 2006

quick thoughts on the Murtha mess:

Newly minted as the Democratic reign may be the questions now abound regarding the imminent appointment of House Majority Leader –  specifically the vortex of controversy sucking life from the credibility campaign of John Murtha, Congressman from Pennsylvania.

Murtha is finding himself mired in a quagmire of ethic proportions that harken back to an FBI sting in the 1980s in which Murtha is caught blurring moral lines Jackson Pollock style between bad politician and corrupt politician (an obscurity of nuance no doubt). All this despite swelling support from Speaker-in-waiting Pelosi and seemingly irrespective of her election night decree to construct the “most ethical Congress in history.” A nice dark stain on the new table cloth.

Perhaps this is, as Murtha is sternly warning, another incantation of “swiftboating”. A baseless ploy to simply denigrate character, cause after all, as Murtha is quick to point, he was never indicted in the Abscam sting.

But this could also simply be a lack of authenticity behind “changing the culture of corruption” as Melanie Sloan, of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, observes regarding Pelosi’s unwavering commitment to a fellow that seems to have not just a few skeletons in the closet, but a bustling catacomb full.

Get out the waders, it’s getting thick. Murtha’s adherence to immediate Iraq disengagement policies makes many eager to give him the reigns here, but really if the mud stinks this much now imagine the lingering funk that will permeate any thoughtful “ethics” edifice. With the tides as they are Murtha is not the only wave in the sea to loosen the ties of Iraq.


  • Term limits.  You wouldn’t have these problems, at least not as many.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 16, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • agreed. they would be a turn toward a fluid structure…...

    Todd M Long had this to say on Nov 16, 2006 Posts: 19
  • We already have term limits in the form of elections. Of course, we need to level the playing field for competitors, but still, I think voters should be the deciding factor in terms of er, terms.

    breuklen had this to say on Nov 16, 2006 Posts: 31
  • Elections aren’t term limits.  Otherwise, why not just remove term limits for presidents?  If it’s good enough for the presidency, then it should be enough for Congress.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 16, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Well, that’s where I disagree. There shouldn’t be term limits for any office, especially the Presidency. The fact that one branch has a limit not imposed on the other branches doesn’t change my opinion. Of course, I suspect (know) that I am in the minority. Part of the problem is that incumbents stack the odds in their favor, ruining it for good pols. Ultimately, it’s the job of voters to be informed and dedicated to preserving the integrity of elections. A tall order, but again, their responsibility.

    breuklen had this to say on Nov 17, 2006 Posts: 31
  • There shouldn’t be term limits for any office, especially the Presidency.

    In theory, I might agree.  But in practice, incumbents have a disproportionate advantage and it would all too easy for a President to abuse his position and become a defacto ruler for life.  Bush has already suspended 9 of the 10 Bill of Rights when he removed habeas corpus.  He’s also pro-torture and secret prisons, and has executed more people than any other president.  The only comfort we have left as advocates of democracy and human rights is that he will definitely be out of office in 2 years.

    In Congress, term limits would overturn the system of “professional” politicians.  Guys who get rich from their positions of what is supposed to be public service.  Lobbyists would have no time to ingrain themselves with any particular person and corruption would have a harder time to take root.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 17, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • As bad ass Bush is, he could not have accomplished any of his misdeeds without the cretins in Congress supporting his efforts at every step. Including several Dems. Maybe I’m hopelessly naive, but I don’t think there should be term limits for any office. Of course, I’d change so many other rules to make sure incompetents, er, incumbents didn’t take advantage of their offices. Again, hopelessly naive probably because it will never, ever happen in my lifetime. And the voters are responsible (for the most part).

    breuklen had this to say on Nov 17, 2006 Posts: 31
  • Well, if voters are responsible, then why change the rules to protect from incumbents?  Why change any rules at all?  The responsibility is entirely on the voters.  If they vote in someone who takes advantage of their office, then that’s the voter’s responsibility, right?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 17, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • This is a bit of a sticky topic. The voters are responsible, I agree to a point, excepting that for a wide swath of folks voter responsibility often never transcends election day by more than a few glances at the boob tube to see who “won.” This is where the problem starts to creep up – obliviousness – there’s fun in the moment…partisan politics and all… “my family’s traditional conservative” or “liberal to the death” and stripes in between, fill in the combinations.

    So from personal observation I note that several local politicians have held seats of high office for interminable terms. Now some of these folks enact popular policy, unpopular policy, but mostly banal policy that walks the line - keeping from generating alot of talk or whatever. And this is good for them. It translates into a legacy of familiarity where one, like myself, can stroll to the local pub and ask particularities about Rep. X – what is so outstanding about his policy? What ensures cyclical domination of every election?

    Invariably there is little quip about ANYTHING that the politico has actually achieved. They are LEGACY. If the politico has been on for twenty years they’re like FAMILY. They’ve kept their noses clean and skated the thin ice like pros. Nobody can see why they should vote against ol’ so-and-so, but in the same breath they can never really say why they SHOULD, besides the fact that they seem to be “moral” or whatnot.

    The conclusion: A suprising paucity of folks I’ve seen feel comfortable enough in local political issues to consider themself “well versed.”  Of course Local and National differ by degree more than kind… on a simplified level, the structure resonates. So in this sense term limits “force” at least in theory a hope that voters can’t become too complacent and vote “old pal” in over and over.

    Now if “old pal” is truly great and authentic and doing wonderous policy then perhaps when his/her term is up they may take interest in advising the next candidate, in the best interests and all, of continuing successful policy, but it will be new blood, and perhaps invoke a bit more scrutiny from the populous to test the viability of the newbie and consequently re-examine the topics they have so often left to faith….

    So at a minimal interval term limits would hopefully induce authentic involvement; ideas of “permenance” would face constant tests of applicability and continuous refining legislation.

    Todd M Long had this to say on Nov 17, 2006 Posts: 19
  • It’s not that I think voters have no responsibility.  Of course they do.  But that is not sufficient justification if you concede there are issues beyond voter control.  There’s a balance that has to be struck between entrenched power and voter responsibility.

    I think term limits serves to counter-act the politicians’ efforts to circumvent the voter.  Gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement being chief among them.  If a politician has less incentive to discourage turnout, then he is less likely to bother.

    The caveat here would be that the funding, lobbying, etc would drift toward parties in lieu of specific powerful and entrenched incumbents.  But it’s a lot easier to control party politics through rules and law than it is specific candidates without running into civil liberty issues.  And parties will have a much tougher time in any case if every election or two becomes a total toss up without an unchallenged incumbent.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 18, 2006 Posts: 2220
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