Monday, November 28, 2005

Cunningham Plea: Guilty; Resigns From Congress

Cunningham Plea: Guilty
Resigns from Congress

Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, when accused of graft last Spring, said this:
"My whole life I've lived aboveboard. I've never even smoked a marijuana cigarette ... I feel very confident that I haven't done anything wrong,"
He changed his tune today. Chris Cilliza of the Washington Post blog called The Fix says,
"Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) pleaded guilty today to fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion. Shortly after entering his plea, Cunningham announced that he is immediately resigning his seat.."
The AP reports that Cunningham "admitted that "he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to conspirators."

While he was doing that, he was also voting to make the repeal of the estate tax permanent - seeking to enrich the fattest 2% in the land at a time when deficits are astoundingly high, the middle class is shrinking, and poverty is rising.

I saw him crying on the news. I really don't feel sorry for him. It looks like he had a good run. He lived a life of luxury and extravagance and it turns out that it was a dishonest and unethical way of living. He lied about it, saying he didn't think he'd done anything wrong. He admits it was very wrong now that he's been caught and he has pleaded guilty. He seems sorry now, as well he should be. He made really bad choices. He needs to be accountable for them. We are all personally responsible for the choices we make in this life. He threw stones at marijuana smokers while he hid behind his own criminal and unethical behavior. What was he thinking? Was he alleging that being "a square fellow" automatically precludes the possibility of a man falling victim to his weak and greedy desires? Obviously, it's not the case.

I'm sorry if any of this makes you think I'm taking a tone of judgement. It's just that every week the news brings us more reports of powerful men abusing the public trust. Republicans seem to be the ones who pop up the most in these recent reports of lies and scandals, but don't get me wrong - it isn't only Republicans. (ref: WaPo commentary by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum.) It's likely to spur a new kind of populism shared by all people - from the Right or Left - with a common social and moral conscience, 'culture wars' notwithstanding.

We want honest and ethical leaders.


Note: Josh Marshall has done a great job covering the Cunningham story on the blog scene.
The WaPo's Charles R. Babcock and Jonathan Weisman explain "what Duke did."