BY FRANK SALVATO – If you were to list all of the things that fell victim to the tyranny of Progressive leadership in the 111th Congress of the United States, chief on the list, in addition to ethics and constitutional process, is honesty. While it is true that honesty in politics – throughout the history of man – has always been wanting, it can be said with a high degree of confidence that not since the Wilson Administration has there been such a crisis in honesty in the United States government.
There is a tremendous difference between honesty in politics and honesty in government. We the People, to our own discredit, have become tolerant of dishonesty in the political process. Election cycle after election cycle we listen to the candidates – from both sides of the aisle – pontificate on what they will do if elected to office only to be showered with myriad excuses once they do get elected about how it is the corruption of the inside-the-beltway establishment that keeps them from delivering on their campaign promises and not a waning desire to achieve them, even as they literally become part of the very corrupt inside-the-beltway establishment they condemn. This is the “benefit” that We the People reap for allowing honesty to be abdicated by political candidates in the first place.
But honesty in government is quite another story. The American people may have a high tolerance for bastardized honesty in the political process, but we have always taken great offense – often to the point of anger and action – when dishonesty, often in the form of corruption, egregiously unethical behavior and/or illegal activity, is employed by our government.
Dating back to the American Revolution, the patriot public was outraged at the news that Major General Benedict Arnold (1) had committed treason by plotting to surrender the patriot fort at West Point to the British after attaining command of the post. Since the defection of Arnold to the British army made it impossible to hang him for his crime against the revolutionary cause, the patriot public – and a press then loyal to the cause American – inflicted the stain of public condemnation on the man for time everlasting, stigmatizing the name Benedict Arnold to equate with treason and dishonesty. To this day the term is used to describe traitors to our nation.
Perhaps the first full-scale case of governmental corruption (dishonesty) came to existence with the election of William M. “Boss” Tweed to the New York County Board of Supervisors, which he parlayed into his election as the “Grand Sachem” of Tammany Hall (2), the first effective Democrat political machine (established long before Chicago’s Daley Machine, which, incidentally, literally created President Obama). Through Tweed’s manipulation of the Irish immigrant voting bloc, and by systematically placing cronies in positions of power, Tweed engineered a patronage-fueled grafting scheme that concentrated his political power while enriching both himself and his cronies.
Ironically, it was the power of the Irish immigrant voting bloc and the American public’s disgust for Tweed’s graft that ultimately dismantled Tweed and the power of Tammany Hall. In the aftermath of the Orange Riots of 1871 (3), which pitted Irish Protestants against Irish Catholics, it was perceived by many that Tweed had lost control of his base voting bloc. His decision to vacillate on his support for a permit sought by the Irish Protestants to march in celebration of the Battle of Boyne (4), caused great consternation among the Irish immigrant population and invited open scrutiny by the press. Tammany Hall insiders started to leak accounts of the corruption administrated by Tweed and in 1872 he was subsequently charged and convicted on numerous counts related to his corruption. Tweed died in New York City’s Ludlow Street jail on April 12, 1878.
In 1922, the American people again demonstrated their ire at what would become known as the Teapot Dome Scandal (5). US Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall, a Republican, in a unilateral move, awarded no-bid contracts leases to the federally-owned Teapot Dome oil field in Wyoming to two close friends, who “loaned” Fall large sums of money, interest-free, both while he was in office and shortly afterward. The Teapot Dome Scandal, illuminated by a US Senate investigation, culminated in criminal prosecutions that found Fall guilty of accepting bribes (he received one year in prison and was commanded to pay $100,000 in fines) and the staining of the Harding presidency.
And in 1972, dishonesty, corruption and governmental deceit again reared its ugly head in the Watergate Scandal (6), which toppled the presidency of Richard Nixon. And while it is true that a great deal of political partisanship came into play during the Senate investigation into the matter, the over-riding catalyst for the only instance of a sitting US president resigning from office was the ire and condemnation of an American electorate that had tired, in the wake of the Johnson Administration’s gross mishandling of the Vietnam War, of a decade of governmental deceit.
So, it is with an eye toward the past and the indignation the American people have demonstrated for dishonesty (corruption) in government that I ponder the puzzlement of apathy toward the dishonesty, deception and manipulation of the truth employed by the Progressive leadership of the 111th Congress.
In the beginning, newly elected Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a Progressive from the belly of the Progressive Beast, San Francisco, declared unabashedly that she would “drain the swamp” (7) in providing the people of the United States the “most ethical and transparent Congress in history.”
In the first one-hundred days she promised to, among a plethora of other things, put rules in place that would “break the link between lobbyists and legislation.” Yet, in 2010 Ms. Pelosi – now the House Minority Leader – sat down with the Obama White House and union leaders (8) to “hammer out a compromise” that would end with labor union support for what is now commonly referred to as Obamacare. As representatives from labor unions are accurately described and classified as lobbyists, it is fair to say that not only did Ms. Pelosi fail to abide by her own declaration – to break the link between lobbyists and legislation – she employed dishonesty, deception and a convenient omission of the truth (that labor lobbyists helped to craft the final House version of HR3200) as she trumpeted the success of Obamacare and ignored the very relationship that she decried four years earlier between lobbyists and the legislative process.
Ms. Pelosi also included in her “drain the swamp” speech her intention to fully enact the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, in particular the recommendation that a wholesale reorganization of Congress take place to improve oversight and funding of the nation’s intelligence agencies. Yet, instead of tackling this issue head-on, Ms. Pelosi, as Speaker of the House and leader of the Progressives in that chamber, opted, instead, to form “a panel to look at the issue and produce recommendations,” a move that resulted in absolutely nothing. (9) Again, promises made, spin, deceit, deception and dishonesty delivered.
Also included in Ms. Pelosi’s “most ethical Congress in US history” declaration was the Pay-As-You-Go (PayGo) promise that declared there would be no increasing the deficit, whether the issue was middle class tax relief, healthcare or anything else. Yet the House and the Senate Progressive and Democrat leadership – along with a sympathetic White House – routinely exempted deficit inflating legislation from the PayGo rule (10) as deficit spending soared and the national debt reached over $14 trillion. When you include the government’s commitment to unfunded mandates the total deficit reaches a stunningly nauseating $112 trillion-plus. (11)
Ms. Pelosi’s “swamp-ethics” pronouncement also included a pledge to roll back the Bush Tax Cuts for those above “a certain level.” She inferred that those with annual incomes of $250,000 or $300,000 a year, and higher, would feel her sharp dagger of class warfare. Yet, as we recently witnessed, Ms. Pelosi not only caved-in on extending the Bush Tax Cuts for two more years, she declared it a victory for the middle class. Again, more spin, deceit, deception and dishonesty.
In addition to the promises that were cast to the wayside during Ms. Pelosi’s tyrannical reign as House Speaker, she made a multitude of statements that her actions couldn’t reconcile, chief among them:
“We believe in the marketplace.”
And the latest example of dishonesty in government:
“Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go.” (12)
When Ms. Pelosi took the speaker’s gavel in 2007 the national debt was $8.6 trillion. At the conclusion of the 111th Congress, the end of Ms. Pelosi’s reign, the national debt was at $14 trillion-plus. In fairness to Ms. Pelosi, “pay-as-you-go” may have been the Progressive mantra but as we established, Progressive and Democrat leadership routinely abdicated their commitment to “their mantra” in pursuing their ideological agenda, honesty being the casualty of their actions.
I haven’t even touched on the honesty problems of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Progressive from Nevada, (13) or the actions of dishonesty, deception, spin and manipulation of the truth executed by President Obama and his team. One needs only to do some cursory investigation to completely destroy their declarations of employing transparency in government (14), especially when the mainstream media reported time and time again that meetings and negotiations that were promised to take place within the public purview took place behind closed doors (15)(16) and devoid of Republican inclusion.
I am sure that there are quite a few instances throughout history where Republicans have been just a guilty of exempting themselves from their bonds to honesty in government and I named the instances of the Teapot Dome Scandal and Watergate to prove that point. But as we enter into a new session of the US Congress, the 112th US Congress, stewarded by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), it is the actions of the most recent Congress passed that affect out immediate future.
History – un-rewritten and fresh in our mind’s eyes – accurately records that the actions of Nancy Pelosi’s House of Representatives, Harry Reid’s US Senate and the Obama White House have been mired in disingenuous negotiation and grotesque partisanship when alleged “bi-partisan negotiations” have been allowed, and dishonest, manipulative and unilateral Progressive agenda execution when at their operational status quo.
It comes as a comfort to the American people that in the 112th Congress – in Speaker John Boehner’s House – that a constitutional qualification is being required for all spending measures proposed. But that comfort is tempered by the fact that the same dishonest Progressives remain in leadership positions, albeit in the minority in the House.
President John F. Kennedy is quoted as saying:
“We cannot negotiate with those who say, ‘What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.’”
This notion would be a very wise thing for congressional Republicans to remember as they navigate the waters of government throughout the 112th Congress.
As for honesty in government, the threshold for tolerating political opportunists, spin doctors and the general manipulation of the truth lies exclusively with the electorate. Until voters, especially voters in our nation’s urban areas, temper their love of self (17) with a healthy dose of love of country, charlatan politicians will always reach the halls of government by promising the unscrupulous access to the Treasury.
And even as I hold great hope for our nation in the re-awakening of so many Americans to their constitutional obligation to be engaged in the political and governmental processes – the core tenet of the Tea Party Movement, and even as more good people seek and get elected to office (witness the 2010 election results), the words of one of our Founders and Framers, Benjamin Franklin haunt me:
“When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the Republic.”
Sadly, we have arrived at the very point in time that Dr. Franklin feared. It is a time of factions; of political dishonesty and deception in government. I pray that in this instance, the good doctor is wrong, but truth be told, the enemy is, and has been, inside the gates.
1) Benedict Arnold (https://tinyurl.com/z62yd)
2) Tammany Hall (https://tinyurl.com/2dzkp5c)
3) Orange Riots of 1871 (https://tinyurl.com/2a7apub)
4) The Battle of Boyne (https://tinyurl.com/24xhctv)
5) The Teapot Dome Scandal (https://tinyurl.com/doqcj)
6) Watergate (https://tinyurl.com/a6cha)
7) Pelosi Said She Would ‘Drain the Swamp’ (https://tinyurl.com/jw4cs)
8) Dems Hammered for ‘Back-Room’ Deal with Unions on Healthcare (https://tinyurl.com/yccqm76)
9) Democrats Reject Key 9/11 Panel Suggestion (https://tinyurl.com/yduwby)
10) PayGo Exemptions (https://tinyurl.com/285xadp)
11) US Debt Clock (https://www.usdebtclock.org/)
12) Pelosi’s Last Press Conference as House Speaker (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkF3Bf_ZtK0)
13) Democrat Transparency (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpgO5Lgq3SE)
14) Obama Promises Healthcare Debates on C-Span (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVkzm0YPAc)
15) Obama Responds to Questions on Transparency (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oF6iyqpo36c)
16) Gibbs Responds to Questions on Transparency (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YqZBwwyZvQ)
17) Obama Money (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIkksi344cM)
Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for BasicsProject.org a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His organization, BasicsProject.org, partnered in producing the original national symposium series addressing the root causes of radical Islamist terrorism.