Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Matthew Yglesias thinks this is hilarious:

Republican leaders in the Senate have had a plan in place for the last two months to "get ahead of" the Jack Abramoff scandal by coming up with a new proposal for lobbying reform. The leadership "decided in November that lobby reform for the Senate was a priority for this session," and Majority Leader Bill Frist placed Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum in charge of it, Senate sources tell National Review Online.

And of course it is hilarious -- if you're a well-informed liberal who knows about the questionable ethics of Frist, Santorum, and so many of their GOP colleagues. Problem is, we're not a nation of liberal wonks:

About half of U.S. adults believe most members of Congress are corrupt, a poll released Tuesday suggests.

According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 49 percent of respondents said most members of Congress are corrupt....

But when asked ... how many congressional Republicans are corrupt, 19 percent of respondents said "almost all" and 28 percent said "many." The response was similar when people were asked about corruption among Democrats: 17 percent said "almost all" and 27 percent said "many."

In other words, the public sees no difference whatsoever between the parties on this.

The Republicans have been cooking up a response to Jack Abramoff's indictment for months? Bully for them. I'd love to think the Democrats have done the same thing, but I see no evidence of that. As Yglesias's Tapped colleague Sam Rosenfeld notes, back in the early '90s Newt Gingrich didn't let the involvement of a few Republicans in the House banking scandal stop him from going after the Democrats hammer and tongs -- but press reports suggest that the Democratic response is, as usual, mixed: some Democrats plan to use the scandal as a campaign issue, others are cowering in fear.

Sorry, that won't wash. Republicans don't control everything because they win battles of ideas -- they control everything because every chance they get they portray their opponents as sick, dangerous, and evil. Sorry if this offends delicate sensibilities, but Democrats won't win until they fight fire with fire.

I doubt it'll happen. We thought Enron would critically wound the GOP; it didn't. We thought Abu Ghraib would bring down the White House; it didn't. We're still waiting for more Fitzmas presents in the Plamegate scandal; they haven't arrived. In every case, Republicans sent a message that yes, some mistakes were made, but by a small, finite number of wrongdoers who aren't D.C.'s marquee names; in every case, the public has failed to take it out on the GOP at the polls. I'd love to think this will be different, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. The right-leaners in the media will foreground any and all Democrats caught in this net, and the Democrat or Democrats will be deemed equal to however many Republicans are also caught. And so it will be a D.C. corruption story, not a GOP corruption story. And life will go on as usual. That's unless the Democrats step up now and howl in partisan outrage with one voice, for as long as necessary. Anybody really think that will happen?

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