D.C. DEMOCRATS: A HIGHER LEVEL OF SHAMELESSNESS, PLEASE
Ron Hogan of Media Bistro reported yesterday that Rod Blagojevich was seen at the offices of Macmillan -- parent company of the publishers Henry Holt, St. Martins, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hogan later reported that Blago was seen at Penguin (Viking, Putnam, Penguin Press, Riverhead, et cetera). Blago's clearly planning to write a book. How shameless is that?
This got me thinking about Daschle and Geithner and Richardson. Maybe their problem isn't that they were shameless -- maybe their problem is that they were inadequately shameless. After messing up ethically, they got all contrite, standing before the public with a "Kick me!" look on their faces. Daschle and Geithner paid what they owed; Daschle and Richardson withdrew from Cabinet consideration.
And they're still regarded as guilty, sleazy guys. By contrast, Blago is running rampant -- and he actually seems to have lost some of his toxicity.
Phil Nugent wrote about that early this month. Shortly after Blago's TV-interview blitz, Phil overheard a woman saying that all Blago was really guilty of was "acting like a jerk." Remember, this is Rod Blagojevich we're talking about. But as Phil says about the media tour,
... what if it sort of worked? What did Blagojevich really hope to get out of it? Maybe he'd given up hopes of keeping his job but still hoped to stay out of jail and maintain his celebrity as a lovable doofus, because he's studied the careers of George Wallace and Oliver North and knows that a man who maintains his celebrity has managed to hold onto his long-term political viability. The Feds turned Blagojevich into one kind of cartoon character, the foul-mouthed cynical pol who's openly crooked as shit. Rather than waste his time trying to wipe away that image, Blagojevich countered by plastering the airwaves with images of himself as a different kind of cartoon: the endearingly shameless jackass, too amusing to be venal. Has it worked? It worked with that woman behind me.
Maybe that's what Democrats need to do when they're on the defensive: double down and be more shameless. Maybe they shouldn't slink away guiltily. Maybe they should preen and strut and play the victim card. At the very least, maybe they shouldn't act as if anyone has a right to question their fitness to serve, or even their right to pass judgment on others.
Blago's a Dem, but in D.C. it's mostly Republicans who act this way -- see, e.g., Senator David Vitter (R-La.), the john who thinks he's morally superior to the Clintons.
There's a larger lesson here: Never act as if you're losing. Republicans are following that advice right now, and they have the press convinced that they're winning. Democrats, by contrast, are letting the country see them sweat. How's that working out?