Recalibrating Congress

« January 2015 »

Memo to the House of Representatives: IT'S IMPORTANT TO HAVE STANDARDS.

The House of Representatives was always intended to be the "people's house", or the "lower house". There are more of them, they represent fewer people, they serve shorter terms, and, as per the original founders' intent, are generally a more raucous and unruly body than the Senate, which is supposed to be a bit more reserved and thoughtful in its actions.

However, since the American political system has all but ensured that both houses will be populated by greedy, stupid assholes, it's not so much the behavior within the legislature that separates the two, but what behavior outside it will let you keep your membership. And it's a constantly shifting target, so when the opportunity arises, it's good to recalibrate what qualifies and what disqualifies you from helping to shape our nation's laws.

First, let's look at New York's Michael Grimm. Being indicted on nearly two dozen counts of tax shenanigans wasn't enough to keep him from running for re-election. Threatening to throw a reporter asking about those charges off of a fucking balcony didn't keep him from handily winning. But apparently, pleading guilty to one of those charges in a deal with prosecutors is beyond the pale.

Grimm resigned last week, causing House Speaker John Boehner to say that “Rep. Grimm made the honorable decision to step down from his seat in Congress." Of course, if he pled guilty now, then he knew he was guilty back when he ran for re-election, so I guess running for office when you know you're a criminal is honorable just as long as you resign when you finally get convicted.

On the flip side of the coin is Louisiana Rep. and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who moved very quickly into the "we should move on" and "why are we still talking about this" phases of his scandal after less than a week in the glare of the public eye.

Scalise, it turns out, was a featured speaker at 2002's National/International EURO Workshop on Civil Rights, an event hosted by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, speaking at a session on the most effective and up-to-date methods of civil rights and heritage-related activism.

And if all that sounds a bit white nationalist to you, well, you're smarter than Steve Scalise, who insisted he had no idea how white supremacist it was until a Louisiana blogger found old posts about the event, and Scalise's participation, on Stormfront's web site.

Scalise, of course, ran through the standard gamut of excuses, starting with the fact that he'd speak to anyone with a pulse, through "speaking at a white supremacist conference doesn't mean I'm a white supremacist", until finally settling on having made a mistake but still wondering why anyone would think he might be racist just because he's a white guy from Louisiana who couldn't do basic research to make sure he wasn't hanging around with racists.

Your House of Representatives, ladies and gentlemen. Where having no standards and having double standards go hand in hand.