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Archive for Sunday, October 30, 2005

Scandal virus spreads within the GOP

October 30, 2005

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It has been said of Bill Clinton that his presidency gave us a new scandal every week. In his second term, it almost seems like George W. Bush is trying to give old Bill a run for his money.

It's getting so bad that you need a scorecard to keep track of what's gone wrong today. Who got appointed to a position they weren't qualified for? Who's been gaming the system for financial gain? Who leaked information about their political rival that shouldn't have been leaked? And here we thought we had an upright bunch of folks running the show this time.

What is it about a second term that seems to undo a president? Most people believe Ronald Reagan lost a lot of steam in his second term, Clinton was constantly dodging the consequences of his personal indiscretions in his, and now W seems to be unraveling before our very eyes. Perhaps eight years is just too long for any human being to be invested with that much power without falling flat on his face.

And scandals have a way of spreading, viruslike, once they infect a party. Republican Party big shots such as Bill Frist, Tom Delay, and even Dick Cheney are making headlines this year for all the wrong reasons. Republicans in Congress who are facing midterm elections are growing uneasy, and with good reason. Things are getting pretty ugly inside the Beltway.

Even local elections can be tainted by the sordid goings-on in Washington, especially if a "local boy" has spent too much time there. Take Ralph Reed, for example. (Yes, take him, please.)

Reed, erstwhile head of the Christian Coalition who once graced the cover of Time magazine with a caption that said "The Right Hand Of God," is currently up to his armpits in trouble over his association with seedy Washington power broker Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff has become the poster boy for the rampant corruption in the lobbying industry and is currently being investigated for a number of crimes. Reed, who did a lot of business with the man during his very lucrative foray into the lobbying business, is getting dragged down with him.

Even if Reed himself is never charged with a crime, his close friendship and intimate business association with a man like Abramoff is sure to tarnish his squeaky clean image.

The thing about being a beacon of moral clarity (an image Reed has carefully cultivated) is that you look especially foolish when the bubble bursts and you're left with hypocrisy all over your face.

Reed may very well still be elected to the largely ceremonial position of lieutenant governor in Georgia, mostly because no one else with any name recognition is running against him and he has the official blessing of the Republican Party and all the money that goes along with it. But if he was planning to use this office as a steppingstone to higher positions, as most observers are convinced he was, those aspirations are taking a serious hit as the details of his past life as a Washington lobbyist continue to come to light.

That's the price you pay when you run with a fast crowd. As Ben Franklin said, "He who lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas." And Reed is finding out that the big dogs also have big fleas, the kind that can suck your reputation dry.

Bill Ferguson is a columnist for the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph. His e-mail address is fergcolumn@hotmail.com.

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