LUPICA: Brave new Republican world poised to be corrupt

 

President-elect Donald Trump was not so much against Republicans' ethics machinations as the timing of the maneuver.

President-elect Donald Trump was not so much against Republicans' ethics machinations as the timing of the maneuver.

(Evan Vucci/AP)
Mike Lupica

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Tuesday, January 3, 2017, 1:20 PM

So this is how the brave new world in Washington begins, two weeks before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President: It begins with the kind of inside game from the Republican machine in Congress once made famous in this city by the patronage machine known as Tammany Hall, one Republicans say they are quitting for now and maybe forever.

Before they did, even the President-elect said something about them on Tuesday, without saying very much, tweeting this: "With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it is, their number one act and priority..."

So apparently he wasn't against what they were trying to do, just when they were trying to do it. But this was about more than terrible timing. It was about a truly terrible idea, House Republicans going into conference, taking a baseball bat to the Office of Congressional Ethics, then telling us what a good thing that is for America, at least before they started putting Humpty Dumpty back together, and looking more than somewhat like political humps in the process.

They back off because of the reaction to them coming out of the box this way, looking like clowns piling out of a car at the circus before the 115th Congress is even sworn in.

The chief spokesman for this brilliant idea was the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, who ought to make voters in his state think twice about ever again electing somebody who sounds like a Starbucks review.

At a time when about half the country bought into the notion that it was time to drain the swamp, here came Swamp Thing Goodlatte, trying to tell us that essentially making a joke of what was formerly known as the OCE — created in the attempt to make Congress more honest — was some kind of triumph for democracy.

A MAY 19, 2015, FILE PHOTO

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) brings to mind a classic definition of a hustler: a guy who can beat you out of bus fare and then convince you he's done you a favor.

(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The new structure, Goodlatte said with a straight face, "builds upon and strengthens" the old structure.

Goodlatte reminds you of the old line from baseball owner Bill Veeck, who once wrote a book called "The Hustler's Handbook." Veeck defined a hustler as a guy who can beat you out of bus fare and then convince you he's done you a favor.

Before Goodlatte and friends started taking mortar fire from just about all directions, they tried to create something called the Office of Congressional Complaint Review, the oversight for which was going to belong to the House Ethics Committee. If you looked closely at what they were trying to do, this kind of oversight would have been hardly any at all, starting here:

The new rules said that no criminal wrongdoing in Congress would get sent to a prosecutor without the Ethics Committee signing off on it. And by the way? The Committee also would have had the right to take any kind of probe — the kind that might embarrass a member of Congress — and fold it into a paper airplane.

What this basically would have meant is that any potential corruption in the 115th Congress would have been policed by the equivalent of mall cops, as insulting to mall cops as that might sound.

Trump comments on Republicans' move to weaken an ethics watchdogs in Congress.

Trump comments on Republicans' move to weaken an ethics watchdogs in Congress.

(Trump/Twitter)

Goodlatte originally came away from the kind of back-room deal about which Republicans in Congress screamed bloody murder and said produced Obamacare — the devil, in their view — and proclaimed, "This amendment does nothing to impede" the kind of work previously down by the OCE.

This was supposed to be an election about throwing the bums out in Washington. But the first act, for now, looks like nothing more than business as usual.

Ask yourself something: Why wouldn't somebody like Goodlatte think he could sell this kind of snake oil, as he smiled and told us how good it was for us?

So members of the party who act as if saving us from Obamacare is somehow more important than saving us from ISIS show you what they think they can do with the run of the town. But you start to wonder when all the angry voters, so many of them white, the ones who feel as if Washington left them behind, might begin worrying that a lot of powerful people in this country are about to do a lot better, and perhaps get a lot richer, over the next four years. Just not them, all those who bought into the idea of draining the swamp.

Here's what House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also with a straight face, said on "Morning Joe" Tuesday, before his fellow House Republicans folded: "The name change (to Office of Congressional Complaint Review) actually helps the public know where to go."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), gave a particularly unseemly defense of the proposed ethics maneuver.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), gave a particularly unseemly defense of the proposed ethics maneuver.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Or perhaps would have just told them where to go.

It is also supposed to be one of those crazy coincidences you get in life sometimes that some of those in Congress supporting the new rules are guys who have previously been investigated themselves.

"The word ethics carries a heavy weight in the halls of Congress," Goodlatte said.

Sure it does. If you believe this guy, he really does have some swamp land on the Potomac he wants to sell you.

Tags:
congress
donald trump transition
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