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November 28, 2005


No one who does this -- who allows his concern for our defense and the lives of our soldiers to be outweighed by his own greed -- has any right to describe himself, as Cunningham did, as a patriot or as strong on defense. People like that sell out their country ....

Hear hear. Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer thinks torture is fine and dandy here.

I'm hoping this triggers interest in what's been happening to taxpayer money in Iraq. I suspect that a serious investigation would show that there has been widespread abuse. Yeah, I know that warrants a "Gee, ya think so?" but it would be nice to have a bulletproof case so that some of the bastards involved could do some prison time.

Any company involved in bribery should lose the right to bid on any and all government contracts, and everyone in the chain of command between briber and CEO should be permanently banned from involvement in any government contract activity unless they can show that they did their due diligence to ensure fair contracting practices but were nonetheless deceived.

Consequences ain't just for the little people. I wish.

"And anyone who suspected this was going on but did nothing about it should be ashamed as well."

It would be interesting to find out who suspected this was going on. I wonder if Jack Abramoff suspected anything. Grover Norquist? Ralph Reed? Tom Delay? William Bennett? The entire leadership of the Defense Department? All Republican Congressional aides? Dennis Hastert's wife?

Surely the entire religious right must have known about it, having been tipped off by the "Left Behind" series.

"K" Street in prison. The House of Representatives shut down indefinitely because court dates prevent a quorum. Cabinet meetings held in the visitor's room at Attica.

My mind boggles and reels alternately.

I saw Cunningham's statement on the news, and despite being a long-time Cunningham despiser, I was impressed by it. Via TPM:

"I am resigning from the House of Representatives because I’ve compromised the trust of my constituents.
When I announced several months ago that I would not seek re-election, I publicly declared my innocence because I was not strong enough to face the truth. So, I misled my family, staff, friends, colleagues, the public -- even myself. For all of this, I am deeply sorry.

The truth is -- I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.

Some time ago, I asked my lawyers to inform the U.S. Attorney Carol Lam that I would like to plead guilty and begin serving a prison term. Today is the culmination of that process. I will continue to cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation to the best of my ability.

In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame. I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. I cannot undo what I have done. But I can atone. I am now almost 65 years old and, as I enter the twilight of my life, I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends.

The first step in that journey is to admit fault and apologize. The next step is to face the consequences of my actions like a man. Today, I have taken the first step and, with God’s grace, I will soon take the second.

Thank you."

I was particularly struck by the fact that he did not say he was going to take the second step, as though he had some reason to feel confident of his ability to do the right thing. He only said that with God's grace he would, which is, I think, exactly right (if you believe in God.)

(OT: in the past hour or so, we got linked by the Washington Monthly and then Atrios. The Atriolanche is really impressive: I think this is the first time he's linked to anything I've done, so I've never seen it in action before. When Kevin Drum links to us, that usually blots out everything: if you look at where people are coming from, it's just 'Washington Monthly' all the way down. Atrios blots out the Washington Monthly. That's impressive.

In the first 35 minutes of this hour, over 750 people. Yikes.)

Hilzoy, I'm not impressed by Cunningham's statement.

This is the Gordon Liddy-Oliver North route to the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Hold your hand over a flame, praise the Lord, and get a talk-show.

From whence Liberals, Democrats, the poor, and the Government of the United States will be excoriated for their multiple unAmerican sins the next time the Republican Party incarnates itelf.

It's like "Alien". Cunningham's statement is just the beginning of the next morphing. He's adapting, like Hannibal Lechter forswearing sweetmeats. Wait until you get a load of them next time.


Unlike Watergate, they must be sent to the far end of the Wilderness in perpetuity.

No refuges in think tanks, honorary chairs at conservative colleges or reserved seats in the clown car called AM radio.

Neuter them, too. Put their spawn in the Smithsonian in suspended animation under heavy guard if you want to study them later for signs of redemption.

Nuke the planet.

I'd be a lot more impressed by Cunningham's statement if he had "felt ashamed of betraying everything he held dear" before he was actually indicted for it.

What CaseyL said.

And what John Thullen said, minus the last two paragraphs. ;-)

Excellent, hilzoy; nice catch.

In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame.

Please. He only feels shame because he got caught. Otherwise he would still be shamelessly corrupt and loving it.

"Please. He only feels shame because he got caught."

Well, that kinda is the the difference between shame and guilt, the public exposure and embarrassment.

May he be near the beginning (he is not the first scandal) of a very long line.

Trying to figure out what Slarti thinks Hilzoy caught:
"He only said that with God's grace he would, which is, I think, exactly right (if you believe in God.)"
So, Cunningham is waiting on God's next sign to make that step?["facing the consequences" --good Lord, whatever could that be?] Is this the child-like state that the true believers rise to: waiting for that OK signal from God?
I don't feel like slapping him on the back for being right (consistent).
Or even having a last minute conversion and Seeing the Light.
I find it repugnant that a grown man still waits for approval to make a step...like a child. Worse that only he will be able to judge whether/when that approval has been granted.
If I were God, I'd feed him to the crocodiles. Lets skip the shame and guilt and get right to the teeth he should have felt long ago.

calmo: grace isn't a blinding vision. It's help. If, for instance, you aren't sure that left to your own devices, you would have the strength to do something, you can hope for grace, which might manifest itself as God giving you the strength of will you need.

I don't believe in God, but I think that under the circumstances, some acknowledgment that Cunningham was not in a position to say, 'hey, now I'm going to do the right thing!' with any confidence -- that he had given up his right to say such things -- was completely appropriate. I, as an atheist, would probably say something like: I hope I will have the strength to do what's right this time.

I also think that this part of his statement was not necessary. Lots of people who get caught don't bother with it; they seem to think: OK, now I'm going to do the right thing, so what's the problem? I think it's to Cunningham's credit that he didn't.

Needless to say, I don't think this credit begins to compensate for selling out his country. But it's something.

Oh, please, Hilzoy. The man took bribes from defense contractors for five years - the question I'd be asking is, who helped him write this resignation speech, and what did they expect to gain from it?

I'm with you, hilzoy. He could have said nothing. Or, he could have said that he made "mistakes" like other mealymouthed pols we have known. Instead, he said he broke the law, lied, and disgraced his office, and then concluded that he should and will go to jail. And, let's face it, maybe die there. This does not make him a good man, or someone to be pitied. But it is pretty unusual in my memory. Yeah, he's a liar and a thief, but there's nothing wrong with taking note when a liar and thief tries to go down with a little class.

This is why, he notes to himself out loud, I hope Hilzoy and like-minded Democrats place themselves in positions of leadership once the Democratic Party regains its electoral footing at various levels.

Why, you ask? Well, because (speaking only for himself) Hilzoy has come through the last 15 or 20 years of political history with her finer sensibilities intact, which should make for leadership qualities which will unite us in the sensible middle (just to the left).

When all is said and done, I should be confined to garrison for the duration of Democratic leadership, because the last 10 or 15 years of political history have made me unfit to hold office. That no one would vote for me is, of course, yet another niggling detail.

My finer sensibilities have been worn to nothing and calloused over. I would be tempted to anger, revenge, and colossal hubris. Cunningham and company would have no place to hide. Nuclear options on the floors of our legislative bodies would happen twice a day before lunch, just because combat veterans love combat way too much, which is why we can't let them back inside the walls.

The question is how will Hilzoy find time to lead us when she's sorting through the millions of marriage proposals flowing her way and posting at length several times daily on subjects far and wide.

When we have at least more equal leadership in our government, I'm going to shut up and retire to a hut in the forest.

Why wait, a wag or two might ask, which is a very good question.

"Why wait, a wag or two might ask, which is a very good question."

For one thing, having sensibilities is fine for actually doing the right thing once one's side is in power, but the fire that comes from "anger, revenge, and colossal hubris" is needed to achieve that pinnacle to start with.

So please forego the hut for the time being.

I should note that comments sections at Redstate and elsewhere on the Cunningham saga are swelling with pride and misty-eyed sentimentality at Cunningham's integrity. You know, at least he's not "Clintonian" and is taking his punishment like a (Republican) man and has confessed all to God and Country.

By God, even their scoundrels are virtuous.

Frankly, if Cunningham had been caught with his pants down I would have much more respect for him if he stood up and told us we can't handle the truth and to mind our own business, including the legal authorities.

And if Clinton had actually committed crimes of Cunningham's magnitude, I would have sent him away for a long time.

Unless he bit his bottom lip during his half-denials. Then it would have been O.K.

John T: Clinton always bit his lower lip, and it didn't do him any good at all. I guess he probably did it the wrong way.

If you go hide in a hut, I will go into mourning. Just saying.

The only reason the "Duke" got where he is today is because the guy's got balls of solid brass.

Cunningham: I should note that comments sections at Redstate and elsewhere on the Cunningham saga are swelling with pride and misty-eyed sentimentality at Cunningham's integrity. You know, at least he's not "Clintonian" and is taking his punishment like a (Republican) man and has confessed all to God and Country.

And he goes down for 10 years, having failed to implicate any defense contractor with strong links to any senior member of the Bush administration*, and December 2008, George W. Bush pardons him... but it's okay, because he's always been deeply repentent of what he did, ever since he was indicted.

*Am I looking at anyone in particular? Good heavens, how could you ask.

...the guy's got balls of solid brass.

given to him by a grateful brass foundry in return for steering some lucrative defense contracting their way, i'm sure.

Jes: I didn't at all mean to suggest that one decent moment in his apology made it OK.

Even huts have Internet access nowadays (though in some places the hotel industry is a little bit behind).

Gad, hilzoy, I went back and read your prior post and followed some of the links. Mr. Cunningham certainly piled up quite a record. A quick Google of "DeLay Cunningham" turns up this from June 15, 2005 (Google is a great memory aid -- I thought I recalled something).

I wonder whether Congressman Murtha appreciated being placed in the same "honorable man" category as Mr. Cunningham by Tom DeLay.

Hilzoy, I never thought you did. But I think that assuming when a politician makes a speech that suggests he might be a decent man, the question to ask is "What is the politician's objective in making the speech?" (And, "Who wrote it?")

From military hero to military sleazebag. I'm glad he faced up to it. One of the few times I agree with Trickster.

Charles, he faced up to it when they grabbed him, turned him around and rubbed his face into it.

The problem with this apology is that he's made so many others.

He's good at it and knows the right script for sincerity. Which will help him at sentencing and win back support among the many on the right who love a reformed sinner.

We will have to wait for some years to see if there was a real shift as their seemed to be with John Dean.

The guy has had many chances in the past to make real shifts. He called for death for drug dealers and claimed Clinton was to softm, but when his kid got busted for 400 pounds of pot he felt 2 1/2 years was too much. He never shifted opinion politically so less well off kids with less influential fathers did a lot more time for a lot less.

I think his apology is pretty darn good and should serve as a model for politicians. But let's not go over with the brownie points we give him. We've got to start doling these things out. What we're doing is saying this guy gets a few points for good etequette, it would be foolish to think it's sincere, it's just that etequette can encourage civilized behavior and values.

calmo: grace isn't a blinding vision. It's help.
I am touched, genuinely moved to hear about grace and it's apparent appearance, however late, however evoked in Mr. Cunningham. But the grace seems all yours to me and not Cunningham's.
No, the more I mull it over, the more I feel the bonfire of hilzoy's grace trying to get this damp creep to light.

you can hope for grace, which might manifest itself as God This has got to be the kindest characterization of God from an atheist I've ever heard: God as grace. Forget about personas, I am distracted by the thought that you may be mistaken about your claim to be an atheist. Such is your deference, your grace in judging this man's statement.
Beware the proselytizers, you are vulnerable.

Calmo: what grace might manifest itself as was supposed to be not God, but: "God giving you the strength of will you need". E.g., if you find the strength you need, and you believe in God, you might think that it reflects God's help, not your own capacities.

I am safe from proselytizers, I think. I spent the years 13-22 as a fairly serious Christian, and while I retain a lot of respect for my old religion, at least in some of its forms, I don't really think I am ripe for conversion.

(For one thing, I have come to the conclusion that if you think hard enough about moral responsibility, it is impossible to come up with any account of it that is consistent with (a) eternal damnation and beatitude and (b) God's justice.

Hell per se wasn't an obstacle to belief, for me: I stole from CS Lewis the idea that you make yourself, over time, into one sort of person or another, and there are some sorts of people that it would be, literally, hell to be. If, for instance, you were one of those people who endlessly relates everything to yourself, and has to be constantly proving that you're better than everyone else. Imagine that the process of becoming such a person continues for an infinitely long time: the result, I thought, is hell.

But the impossibility of coming up with a story according to which God is just is a much more serious problem, and one that I don't think many proselytizers are in a position to solve.)

I am safe from proselytizers, I think.
But just in case, here's the bat I'd use on them...

Such a lengthy and generous post for those proselytzers to examine.
[They will note only that you had your period 13-22 and it could come again.]
My goodness, I was only kidding --no such thorough examination was required. These people are not fond of examining. Not really.
How can I restore your confidence in your atheistic assessment of Mr. cunningham's "right" response? Even in your teens I imagine you would have thought the same of Mr Cunningham. [Age has not tarnished veracity.](in this rare instance).
But would it have been a good (not merely 'correct', but "exactly right") judgement: His statement reflected atleast the possibility (and your grace resides here I think) that he saw the error of his ways; that the remorse he described was genuine; that he was at our mercy for direction; that we should accept his statement that he needs guidance; that he is not just acting (conforming to his customary practice) to avoid my crocodiles.
You intervene at the last moment with undeniable grace, denying my well-behaved crocodiles, and perhaps setting a standard for future performances of not only the likes of Mr Cunningham but also those of us who would like to see their numbers decline --no matter how imbued with grace in their last days.

"well-behaved crocodiles"

Not an awful band name.

When I move to my hut, I'll take calmo with me. ;)

John, in honor of the season, I want to urge you to adopt "seasick crocodile" instead.

Never mind.

"well-behaved crocodiles"

not to be confused with ill-behaved sea-bass

misbegotten mollusks

irritable squid

"And then a flounder downed her;
that's why they never found her!"

Jim Carrey as Count Olaf

starfish on toast

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