"A 19th Century saying, 'the cat shuts its eyes when it steals cream,' suggests a cat denying it is doing wrong, though this isn't likely to be through guilt. Cats often half-close their eyes when they are enjoying something -- including an illicit lick of cream," writes Sarah Hartwell in "Enough to make a cat laugh: Catty sayings." Tiny illustrates the phenomenon above, as she enjoys a spot of cream, her appetite having returned in full force as the Clavamox drops seem to be having the desired effect. Recent revelations inside the Beltway suggest cats aren't the only ones who may shut their eyes when they are stealing.
"Mr. Abramoff and his pals are stock Beltway characters," says an Opinion Journal editorial re the latest shocking, shocking Washington scandal to make Chris Matthews's day. As expected, our national representatives are rounding up the usual suspects:
This week's plea agreement by "super-lobbyist" Jack Abramoff has Republicans either rushing to return his campaign contributions in an act of cosmetic distancing, accuse Democrats of being equally corrupt, or embrace some new "lobbying reform" that would further insulate Members of Congress from political accountability.
Here's a better strategy: Banish the Abramoff crowd from polite Republican society, and start remembering why you were elected in the first place.
Don't we wish. Opinion Journal continues:
This isn't to say we agree with the media hype that the Abramoff scandal is of "historic proportions." That's true only if your "history" starts around 1994, after Jim Wright sold his "book" in bulk to the Teamsters, after Tony Coelho of "Honest Graft" fame, after Abscam, the Keating Five,Clark Clifford and BCCI, and any number of other famous episodes of Capitol Hill sleaze.
That some Republicans are just as corruptible as some Democrats won't surprise students of human nature. But it is an insult to the conservative voters who elected this class of Republicans and expected better.
One danger now is that, rather than change their own behavior, Republicans will think they can hide behind the political cover of "lobbying reform." While this has various guises, most proposals amount to putting further restrictions not on Congress but on "the right of the people . . . to petition the government," as the Constitution puts it explicitly.
Be sure to read the whole thing and then click over to the New York Times, which is sounding uncharacteristically fair and balanced this morning, having paired op eds by self-professed "frustrated" Clinton reform adviser and speechwriter Michael Waldman and National Review's ever skeptical Byron York, who comments that "When it comes to lobbying in this post-Abramoff world, everyone's a reformer -- and that could be a problem." Waldman, of course, while acknowledging Clintonian abuses -- big donors in the Lincoln Bedroom, for one -- not unreasonably locates the lion's share of responsibility for the latest scandal among the ranks of the party currently in power:
Mr. Abramoff was central to the Republicans' so-called K Street Project, in which the Congressional majority sought to create a political machine tying Republican politicians to business lobbyists. A century ago muckrakers educated the public about such networks; perhaps today's bloggers can play a similar role.
Finally, the reform moment will arrive when politicians, in their own self-interest, press for change. There are hopeful signs. Democrats, finally shedding their incumbent mindsets after a decade in the minority, have now made political reform a central plank. Republicans are far more implicated in the current scandal, which may give their rank and file new reasons to turn to Senator McCain for leadership.
Ah, yes. Senator McCain of the Keating Five, the perennial "reformer" working aciduously to abridge the right of us little people to have our say. Where
Waldman sees "hopeful signs," we are inclined to agree with Byron York
that when everyone's a reformer, "that could be a problem."
We were encouraged by a WSJ (subscription only) report that House Speaker Dennis Hastert "may try to demonstrate reform credentials with revised ethics rules":
Under consideration are new penalties for lobbyists and lawmakers; to skewer Democrats, some suggest adding curbs on outside groups that blossomed after McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law. If Ohio Rep. Ney is indicted, he'll be asked to step aside as House Administration Committee chairman.
Time to MoveOn? Michael Barone in his own WSJ piece (subscription only, but we're guessing it will become available free at Opinion Journal tomorrow) puts things in perspective:
Mr. Abramoff's guilty pleas have both parties scampering to offer up lobbying reform; as fervent a Republican as he was, he made sure his clients gave money to Democrats too. His testimony could end the careers of some members of Congress and could threaten the Republicans' House majority. But there will be no end to lobbying: It is protected by the Constitution, and people will always seek to affect the decisions of a government that can have such great impact on them.
As they/we should.
Update: Check out the Friday Ark at Modulator for animals enjoying themselves with eyes wide open.