Sunday, October 15, 2006

Congress & the culture of corruption

Q: Is the current Congress demonstrably more partisan than those in the past? Why does it matter?

MANN: Partisanship particularly increased after the 1994 elections and then the appearance of the first unified Republican government since the 1950s. Now it is tribal warfare. The consequences are deadly serious. Party and ideology routinely trump institutional interests and responsibilities. Regular order -- the set of rules, norms and traditions designed to ensure a fair and transparent process -- was the first casualty. The results: No serious deliberation. No meaningful oversight of the executive. A culture of corruption. And grievously flawed policy formulation and implementation.

Congress has been rocked by the Foley scandal. Was the House GOP leadership's response an example of reflexive partisanship? Are there larger lessons to learn from it?

ORNSTEIN: Part of the response to Foley was undoubtedly human nature -- lawmakers wanting to take Foley at his word that he wouldn't write any more improper e-mails. But it is hard to look at the responses of the collective majority leadership, including Speaker Dennis Hastert, GOP campaign chair Tom Reynolds and Page Board chair John Shimkus, without putting them into a context that makes it more damning.

The entire leadership team made sure that there was no significant ethics or lobbying reform in this Congress. They knew their majority was hanging in the balance, that the Duke Cunningham-Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay scandal problem had not coalesced into an electoral catastrophe. The last thing they wanted was another embarrassing scandal. There is a lot to suggest that there was a systematic state of denial here, and an indifference to the possibility of a bigger problem that Foley might represent.
Nerdified link. My emphasis added.

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