Saturday, April 16, 2005

Brood of Vipers

Frank Rich (whose move to the Op-Ed pages of the Times doesn’t quite make up for Judith Miller, but it’s a start) has blistering column today on DeLay and religion.
A scandal is like any other melodrama: It can't be a crowd pleaser unless the audience can follow the plot. That's why Monica Lewinsky trumped Whitewater, and that's why of all the story lines ensnaring Tom DeLay, the one with legs is the one with the craps tables. It's not just easy to follow, but it also has a combustive cultural element that makes it as representative of its political era as Monicagate was of the Clinton years. As the lies and subterfuge of the go-go 1990's coalesced around sex, so the scandal of our new "moral values" decade comes cloaked in religion. The hair shirt is the new thong.

Yeah, made me itch, too.
Beltway cronyism, dubious junkets, loophole-laden denials are all, of course, time-honored Washington fare. The few on the right backing away from Mr. DeLay, from The Wall Street Journal's editorial page to Newt Gingrich, make a point of reminding us of that. As they see it, more in sorrow than in anger, the Gingrich revolutionaries who vowed to end the corruption practiced by Congressional Democrats have now been infected by the same Washington virus as their opponents. That's true, but this critique of Mr. DeLay and company by their own camp all too conveniently sidesteps the distinguishing feature of this scandal. Democratic malefactors like Jim Wright and L.B.J.'s old fixer Bobby Baker didn't wear the Bible on their sleeves.

Bingo! (to use another religious phrase). The hypocrisy of these pseudo-Christians is so transparent it’s a wonder they can see themselves in the mirror. DeLay’s junkets were paid for by lobbying money extracted from Indian tribes trying to get in on the casino gambling business. DeLay, good Christian that he is, is on record as opposing gambling and he was shocked – shocked! – to find that tainted lucre had financed his trips.

The architect of this scheme was Jack Abramoff, thus proving that the goyim haven’t cornered the sleaze market.
Mr. Abramoff, who is now being investigated by nearly as many federal agencies as there are nights of Passover, is an Orthodox Jew who in his salad days wore a yarmulke to press interviews. In Washington, he opened not one but two kosher restaurants (I hear the deli was passable by D.C. standards) and started a yeshiva. His uncompromising piety drove him to condemn the one Orthodox Jew in the Senate, Joe Lieberman, for securing "the tortuous death of millions" by supporting abortion rights. Mr. Abramoff's own moral constellation can be found in e-mail messages in which he referred to his Indian clients as "idiots" and "monkeys" even as he squeezed them for every last million. A previous client was Zaire's dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, who, unlike Senator Lieberman, actually was a practitioner of torture and mass murder.

The “oy”factor increases exponentially:
Another Abramoff crony is the political operative Ralph Reed, whom Mr. Abramoff hired for his College Republicans operation in the early 1980's. Mr. Reed, who has called gambling "a cancer on the body politic" and is running for lieutenant governor in Georgia, is now busily explaining that he, like Mr. DeLay, had no idea that some of his consulting firm's Abramoff-Scanlon paydays ($4.2 million worth) were indirect transfers of casino dough

In DeLay’s defense, it is true that nowhere on that plaque of the Ten Commandments displayed in his office is “Thou shalt not profit from relationships with sleazy lobbyists.”

Rich continues:
The values alleged so far in this scandal - greed, hypocrisy, favor-selling, dissembling - belong to no creed except the ruthless pursuit of power. They are not exclusive to either political party. But the religious trappings add a note that distinguishes these Beltway creeps from those who have come before: a supreme righteousness that often spirals into anger and fire-and-brimstone zealotry that can do far more damage to America than ill-begotten golf junkets.

When you organize conferences on the “Remedies to Judicial Tyranny,” featuring speakers that imply violence against judges is a legitimate expression of dissent, when you sponsor ”Justice Sunday” to rally the Religious Right in your attempt to defeat the filibuster rule in Congress, then we are no longer starting down the slippery slope of theocracy; we are sliding down on our asses and there’s a gaping crevasse below.

Our only hope is the millions who disagreed with Congress interfering in the Schiavo case will see this for what it is: an attempt to cloak ruthless political maneuvering in the trappings of “traditional moral values” If DeLay, Reed, Frist et al sincerely believe in God, they may be in for a post-mortem surprise:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23:27-28)


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