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I was appalled when I read the first MSM stories about the report on the GOP's Mark Foley scandal released by the "House ethics committee," a phrase that has now been firmly cemented as an oxymoron for all eternity.  I was appalled not just at the committee's slap on the wrist for the actions of many House leaders and staff members, going back several years, to cover up and/or ignore Mark Foley's sexually predatory behavior toward underage pages.  But I was also appalled at the initial MSM stories that tried to portray the report as somehow being tough, when in fact it has no teeth at all.  Thankfully, the New York Times editorial page has cut through the BS and blasted the report in no uncertain terms, calling it a "91-page exercise in cowardice."

The editorial, titled "Desperately Seeking Ethics," does not hold back in exposing the committee's report for what it is: a pathetic attempt by politicians of both parties to sweep a serious ethical problem under the rug, and hold nobody accountable:

The report’s authors were clearly more concerned about protecting the members of the House than the young men and women under their charge in the page program. And they made absolutely no effort to define the high standard of behavior that should be required of all members of Congress and their staffs.

After listing the many "creepy," unethical and sometimes seemingly unlawful actions documented in the report, the Times editors, like me, find their jaws dropping to the floor in amazement that the committee could somehow conclude that no action needs to be taken:

The panel's justification for inaction is a breathtaking exercise in sophistry: "the requirement that House members and staff act at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House does not mean that every error in judgment or failure to exercise greater oversight or diligence" is a violation.

No, not every error or failure should be a violation, but certainly the ones that lead to an elected official’s sexually stalking teenage boys while his colleagues turn a blind eye or cover it up should be. We’d set the bar at least there. Apparently, it’s too high for the House.

Amen to that.

I had fairly high hopes that the new Democratic-controlled Congress would take a higher ground than the Repugs in getting tough about ethics, but this bipartisan report does not bode well for the future.  If this is what bipartisanship is going to look like in the new Congress, with Dems gleefully helping Repugs cover up their ethical lapses, then I'll take partisanship any day.

Originally posted to davidkc on Fri Dec 08, 2006 at 09:34 PM PST.


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