Conason on DeLay, ethics

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Good caution here in a N.Y. Observer piece by Joe Conason. An excerpt:

Perhaps it is churlish to mock the Republicans for reversing their original bad decision, no matter how mindless and submissive they seemed while doing so. Encouraging news about Congressional ethics is exceptionally rare. So is a victory for independent citizen action against arrogant authority.

What the latest rules reversal proves is that while Mr. DeLay may be crude, he certainly isn’t stupid. Blistered by criticism from editorial boards and nonpartisan groups, the Republican boss realized that he and his members are now vulnerable to the same moral arguments they once used to oust the Democrats from power. That danger was emphasized by a coalition of eight citizen organizations, ranging from Judicial Watch on the right to Public Campaign on the left, which gave voice to public outrage. Suddenly, as angry e-mails poured into their offices, the people’s elected representatives understood that voting to weaken ethics rules on the first day of the 109th Congress wouldn’t look so good.

Of course, an improvement in perception doesn’t necessarily indicate any change of character. And there is certainly more than one way to "reform" the system so that the House leadership can accept legalized bribes, strong-arm votes and misuse public agencies without fear of punishment. The easiest way to stop any high-minded meddling by ethical party-poopers is to
rig the committee that is supposed to enforce the rules.