Wednesday, March 17, 2004

How Can You Ethically Have an Ethics Truce?

What exactly is an "Ethics Truce?" Since 1997 the House of Representatives has maintained an informal "Ethics Truce" (there was an official truce in 1997). The two parties have decided to refrain from ethical behavior since 1997? Or they simply agreed not to call the other side out for its unethical behavior? Is there really a difference?

However you want to spin it, is this not the most disturbing thing in the papers of late (ok, that's hyperbole. Madrid among many other things easily trumps this)? Congressmen (and Congresswomen), with the assistance of the state legislatures, have essentially gerrymandered their seats out of competition. Now they don't have to worry about ethical behavior.

Congress is a self-policing, self-regulating body. The impetus for the erstwhile truce- a fear of tit for tat ethics accusations and investigations which would cripple the House- requires us to believe our legislators are petty men (and women) more interested in winning, advantage, and power than doing their job and governing. Maybe it's not that much of a stretch after all? In such an environment, self-regulation has only two settings- mutually assured destruction and anarchy. If the process is not credible, the credibility of Congress- the transparency of the laws and the fairness of the government's administrative offices- will rapidly erode. Articles and behaviors like this one really push a "don't vote for the incumbent" sentiment in me.

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