Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why Politicians Aren't Trusted

Ezra Klein interviewed retiring Indiana Senator Evan Bayh over the weekend. While discussing the importance of interpersonal relationships among senators in both parties, and how this can create the comity necessary for consensus, Bayh made the following comment:

My father [the late Indiana Senator Birch Bayh] was on the Judiciary Committee all 18 years. He had a good personal relationship with Jim Eastland. They probably didn't agree on practically anything, or very little, from a public policy standpoint. But they were willing to work through that to see what they could get done just because they knew each other and liked each other. Eastland was a strident anti-Communist and would routinely denounce Castro on the floor of the Senate, and called my dad in one day, sat down, and he's got this humidor and says, "Birch, can I offer you one of these fine Havana cigars?" So there was an example of even Senator Eastland putting pragmatism ahead of ideology.

James Eastland was not a pragmatist; he was a hypocrit and criminal. For someone to "routinely denounce Castro on the floor of the Senate" while violating the embargo on Cuban goods is prima facie evidence of both. (We'll leave aside the fact that Eastland was an ardent racist for a different discussion.)

Congress has long made itself above the people it has sworn to govern; laws that apply to the rest of us don't apply to them. That's not whining about their sense of entitlement; the laws are actually writtne that way. The next time a congressman or senator laments the low esteem in which the public holds our government institutions, hand him a mirror. The clean-up can start there.

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