Congress proposes lots of bills. It gives House and Senate members something to do when they aren’t busy putting on a circus like their Russian snipe hunt. We hear about bills when they are important enough to stand a chance of becoming law and especially when they punch a hot button. Some of the hype is true.
We all know that “government ethics” is an oxymoron. Abuses like corruption are hard to miss and harder to ignore, but sneaky bad behaviors like propaganda and disinformation do even more damage because they are harder to spot.
It has been a tough few years for public sector ethics. While Congress pontificates about fairness, rights, and justice we still don’t have any noticeable support for term limits. Lawmakers only recently passed limits on insider trading on Capitol Hill. The subtler types of unethical behavior are the ones we don’t see coming, though. They undermine what America stands for and what Americans believe in. Political rhetoric that distorts the truth or silences dissent, catering to special interests, pandering to big money campaign donors, even selecting groups of voters like Hispanics and LGBT Americans for legislative favoritism all point to how ethics in Washington is good for lip service and little else.
The rise of Hillary Clinton to leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination speaks volumes about America’s ability to look the other way, as does Barack Obama’s casual attitude towards the powers permitted his office. As the political stakes and pressure to appease fringe groups grow, ethics will increasingly become something to disregard for the sake of a cause, not something we use to guide our actions.
It’s been almost a week since we heard calls for unity on Capitol Hill. That’s what tragedy means to politicians. It’s an opportunity for speeches and press releases. This kind of empty talk is probably as much togetherness as our senators and representatives can endure. Holding hands isn’t really their style and negative politics sells. Do we approve?
Did Democrats make hate speech attractive? Our free society allows it within pretty broad limits, in part because hate speech means different things to different people. We learned from Kathy Griffin that at least one kind of expression is intolerable, in large part because it makes vehement anti-Trumpers look appallingly bad. That’s a good example because it set the stage for how we will react to yesterday’s shootings in Virginia.
Two recent events raise questions about what an attack on Americans means. How should we respond when foreigners accost us on our own soil? The answer is that it depends on who the foreigners are and how much political value they have.
What we learned is that foreigners from south of the border can do pretty much what they want.