Sometimes a discussion leader just takes one question too many. It happened to Barack Obama last July when he took a final question about the arrest of Henry “Skip” Gates at the last press conference he’s given. That also appears to have happened to the Washington Post’s Lois Romano, who is described as their “national political writer,” in her live Q&A today. When challenged by a reader about her response to the Rangel scandal, Romano gives the “both parties do it” response — and seems to forget that this is 2010, not 2008:
Richmond: It’s amazing, Lois, how circumspect you are about ethics when the Democrats are in charge. Nancy Pelosi campaigned on the ‘most ethical Congress ever’ line. But this feels like 2006 all over again. Do you think ethics will be an issue in the fall? Can we really trust the Democrats?
Lois Romano: Ethics are always an issue for members of both parties. Im not circumspect at all. Historically, Congress has been reluctant to expel memebrs unless they are found guilty as charged. This applies to both parties. On the GOP side, you could look at Larry Craig who is still serving- after his incident. These are serious charges against Rangell [sic].
Well, you could look at the GOP side, but you won’t see Larry Craig. Craig left the Senate in 2008 after the scandal broke of his arrest in a Minneapolis airport restroom for allegedly importuning an undercover police officer. And the reason Craig isn’t around anymore is a rather instructive rebuttal to Romano’s contention that both parties treat scandal equally.
Charlie Rangel continued to hold the gavel on Ways and Means after a number of ethics charges came to light. In 2007, when Craig’s arrest came to light, Republicans demanded that Larry Craig not only step down from any leadership positions in the Senate, but resign altogether. When he did resign and then took it back, Senate Republicans held a public hearing to attempt to shame him out of the chamber. It’s worth noting that the GOP didn’t control the Senate at that time, and Democrats allowed the problem to linger, undoubtedly aware of the political drag it would be on the GOP in the next election.
Contrast that with the manner in which Democrats handled Charlie Rangel — or better yet, William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson. Not only did Pelosi and her caucus ignore the fact that the feds found $90,000 in cash hidden in Jefferson’s freezer, they backed him in the next election cycle and allowed him to hold a significant committee assignment. Unlike Republicans, who couldn’t wait to see Craig and Mark Foley leave after the exposure of their scandals, Democrats have a habit of circling the wagons until forced into action.
One might have thought that a “national political writer” might have a sense of that — or at least that corruption stories have more significance than a teenager-like excuse of “everybody does it” covers — but not if that writer still thinks Craig is in the Senate. Maybe the Post can find a reporter who actually knows who’s in Congress to run the next Q&A.