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The Big Victory for Ethics
by Bruce Walker
09 October 2003

Once men like Mike Mansfield, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Hubert Humphrey led a party that was too liberal, but not too rotten.  Where are those men now?


Democrats paid a price on Tuesday for a decade of Clintonian disinterest in personal ethics and Republicans gained a prize for a long history of interest in personal ethics. All the electioneering about the inexperience of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the last minute sliming of him by the different official and informal organs of the Democrat Party were doomed to failure. Californians did not care about the particulars of policy; they cared about having a decent man as governor.

Repeatedly over the last eleven years, Democrats have behaved abominably.  Casper Weinberger was indicted five days before the 1992 election and the day after George H. Bush lost the election, Senate Democrats miraculously “concluded” their eight year “investigation” of President Bush, determining -- surprise! -- that he had not done anything wrong.  These two dirty tricks may have cost President Bush his reelection, but they also bartered away the last few tokens of Democrat honor.

What followed in the next few years was not just the exposure of insatiable corruption by the Clintons, but the general acceptance of corruption by the Democrats.  The House Banking Scandal should have been a wake-up call for Democrats who, after all, had been running the House for decades.  Yet the graft of powerful Democrats like Dan Rostenkowski, who was in Washington long before Clinton, blossomed into a criminal conviction after Clinton took office.

After the 1994 Republican landslide, Democrats should have gotten another wake-up call.  Instead, they hit the snooze button and went back into the business of exploiting government for selfish ends.  Before and after that landslide, reasonably decent Democrats like Sam Nunn, David Boren and Bill Bradley were bailing out of a party that no longer seemed to honor anything.

Democrats had a chance to cure themselves in 1996.  Clinton was obviously a scoundrel, and had any significant Democrat challenged Clinton for the nomination that year, the party itself would have had to rectify its behavior.  No one did.  The silence in the Democrat nomination of 1996 was deafening.

Republicans, by contrast, nominated two good men -- lousy campaigners, but good men -- and in losing that election Republicans won a major campaign.  The divide between the party of ethics and the party of corruption was manifestly clear.

During the impeachment, when Democrats scooped up mud to throw against Republicans like Henry Hyde and Bob Livingston, what did Republicans do?  They acknowledged their trivial peccadilloes and, in the case of Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston, these Republicans gave up the second most powerful post in the American government -- Speaker of the House -- and even resigned from Congress. 

In the Democrat nomination for the 2000 election, Democrats again had a chance to scrub themselves off.  Bill Bradley was fundamentally honest, and Al Gore was steeped in Clintonian criminality.  But Bradley did not focus on the obvious and gaping ethical problems of Clinton-Gore. He instead fiddled around with policy and positions, as if that trumped the problems of a corrupt presidency.

The gutter politics of Democrats after the 2000 election was in stark contrast to the noble behavior of Richard Nixon in 1960, who chose to spare the nation all the savagery of a prolonged fight after the election for the presidency.  The Democrat Party had become less ethical than the least ethical Republican in history.

Gary Condit was manifestly odious, and yet Democrat leaders equivocated, wondering how much damage he might do and whether his re-election was critical to their chances of re-taking the House of Representatives.  After nearly all the muck was public, Dick Gephardt said that if Gary Condit won the Democrat nomination in his district, then Gephardt would support him.  Quietly, America gasped “Support him?”

As the criminality of Robert Torricelli began increasingly apparent, Tom Daschle was busy counting how many seats the Democrats might win or lose in the 2000 election, and Democrats in New Jersey who believed that that wretched man could be re-elected, and become a cipher of the Democrat side of the aisle, re-nominated Torricelli.  Only when the calculation indicated that he would lose, did Democrats decide to dump him (illegally, of course.)

That same year, California Democrats looked at Gray Davis and saw that he, too, would win despite his sale of California government and campaigning tactics that made other statewide elected Democrats want to “puke.”  So Gray Davis was re-nominated by California Democrats. Republicans nominated a good and virtuous man, and Davis tore into Bill Simon with every rotten trick imaginable. 

When Democrats showed themselves unwilling or unable to fight the vices and dishonesty of politically successful Democrats, they left Republicans a gaping hole. The image of Democrats as crooks was indelibly planted in the minds of voters: Rostenkowski, Clinton, Rodham, Gore, Condit, Torricelli and now Davis. 

The landslide recall was a knock on the door of the Democrat Party.  “We want honest government by decent and ethical elected officials,” the people have said.  Eleven years ago, a shyster from Arkansas said, “It’s the economy stupid!” No, it really was not the economy, even in the recall election of a deeply distressed California.  Instead, it was all about moral character. 

Democrats need some soul-searching now.  If they focus on 2004 to the exclusion of every noble instinct and personal ethic, then their political party is very near extinction.  Once men like Mike Mansfield, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Hubert Humphrey led a party that was too liberal, but was not too rotten.  Where are those men now?

Bruce Walker's articles can be found at the Conservative Truth
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