What too many journalists no longer understand about corruption

Sam Smith – At some point in recent decades, Washington – from the White House to Capitol Hill to the lobbyists and to the media – adopted a novel notion: that if what you do fails to result in indictment or impeachment, it is okay.

These are the rules our capital city currently observes. As any normal parent or teacher knows, however, it is not a particularly good approach to morality. Nonetheless, it’s just fine with people like Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast, witness this item:

Clinton has been in our faces for 20-plus years. Where is any evidence of real corruption? I don’t mean stuff you may not have liked or that kinda looked funny. I mean actual, Rhode-Island-style, steal-a-hot-stove corruption.

Don’t say Whitewater. She endured millions of dollars’ worth of investigations by a prosecutor (Ken Starr) who quite obviously wanted to nail her to the wall, and he came up with nothing. I still remember, by the way, the hopped-up political atmosphere after Bill Safire wrote a column calling her a “congenital liar” and predicted that she was going to be indicted any day now. It was not unlike the mood this week, as we anticipate The New York Times and The Washington Post’s reducing themselves into effectively collaborating with Fox News to trumpet Peter Schweizer’s book, Clinton Cash. But Safire was wrong, as he in fact so often was about so many things, and Starr never got her.

Cattle futures, billing records—it’s all the same. Thousands of people, people who hate her and want to see her thrown in jail, have been over and over and over these things. I know the fact that she walks freely among us suggests to many people that she and Bill are so brilliantly devious that they always knew exactly how to get away with it. But just maybe Occam’s Razor applies here, and she’s never done anything illegal.

And Tomasky is not alone. For example a recent  Quinnipiac poll reports:

American voters say 54 – 38 percent that Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, a lower score than top Republicans. Voters say 62 – 34 percent that she has strong leadership qualities, besting Republican men by margins of 10 percentage points or higher.

Extrapolate that and you find that only a little more than a third of voters see honesty and trustworthiness as a strong leadership quality.  Which tells a lot about our times.

Having lived in the Rhode Island cited by Tomasky, as well as in places like Boston and Philadelphia when I was young. I can assure you that, on average, political corruption is an offense that is fun to talk about and, theoretically, indictable, but hardly ever indicted.

Until the last couple of decades, every self respecting reporter understood that. Now, according to the media and our political leaders, as long as you’re not arrested you’re okay.

Which is one more thing that makes being a parent or a teacher so hard these

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