Friends in High Places | NBC New York

Friends in High Places

Crossing party lines to support indicted and convicted friends



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    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (R) and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) (L) adopt a "see no evil" approach politicians who run afoul of the law. Staying loyal to the exclusive political club, even Republican colleagues and friends are vouched for.

    Misbehavior among the elected officials starts when they start thinking that they're different from everyone else, that the rules –– or that laws should no longer apply to them. No wonder: Having a lifetime of staffers, lobbyists and courtiers puffs up egos, thus giving the individual a deluded sense of reality. 

    However, there's another side to the coin: The politicians' peers suffer under the same delusions.  Thus, even if other members of the peer group never actually break laws themselves, they have difficulty understanding why "my good friend" should suffer the same consequences for illegal or inappropriate behavior as would any non-public figure . 

    On Wednesday, Politico noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was hopeful that disgraced former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), a now-convicted felon, wouldn't serve jail time:

    The Majority Leader thinks former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens shouldn't face jail time for his seven-count federal conviction last year, telling our Manu Raju, who was also in the room, "My personal feeling, you guys, I don't know what good that [would do]... He was a real war hero too, you know. He's been punished enough."

    Because, of course, just going through a trial is "punishment enough."  Yes, Stevens was a "war hero" –– and being a "war hero" undoubtedly helped him in his political career –– allowing him to get in a position where he could break laws on reporting gifts!  Talk about being tone deaf. 

    Well, at least Reid hasn't –– yet -- gone so far as his fellow member of the Democratic Senate leadership:  Illinois Gov. Dick Durbin is a leader in the effort to get President Bush to commute the sentence of Rod Blagojevich's Republican predecessor George Ryan.  Because corruption in Illinois is a bipartisan affair, Ryan is serving a 6 1/2 year sentence for –– among other things, blocking an investigation into bribes for truck drivers licenses.  Durbin is urging Bush to show mercy because Ryan's elderly wife is ailing. 

    Some might see nice Christian charity and bipartisan compassion on Durbin's part –– but, sorry, ain't buying it.

     It's most unlikely that other individuals less prominent than George Ryan would 1) Have another former governor working as their lawyer, or 2) have a sitting senator going to bat for them in order to get their sentence reduced.

     Is it a shame that Ryan's wife is ill? Yes, but when you break the law, the possibility that you will go away for some time if found guilty –– and be kept from your loved ones –– comes with the deal. 

    But, because Durbin has a significant position –– and Ryan is friend and peer –– he can't see the problem that this sort of special treatment creates. Indeed, the move to get Ryan's sentence commuted has been going on for months.  One would think that Durbin would have become so embarrassed by the Blagojevich scandal that exploded at the end of the year, that he would have pulled back his support of Ryan. 

    Forget it. 

    Similar to the rich, the politicians are not like the rest of us.

    And, speaking of the rich, in New York, we have someone who is both –– rich and a politician.

    Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg –– while doing a good job on issues like crime –– alas, makes it his life's work to be the King of the Nanny State.  During his seven years in office, Bloomberg has gone to war against both smoking and trans-fats.  While he declares that he is against "illegal" guns, the city has some of the strongest laws against law-abiding citizens owning guns. He's even been successful in getting the governor, David Paterson, to take up a battle against childhood obesity.

    Funny though, when it comes to another vice in life, Bloomberg acted a bit differently: The Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent showed up at the "farewell" brunch for former conservative Republican Rep. Vito Fossella. The career of the erstwhile Republican congressman from Staten Island flamed out after he was arrested for drunk driving in Virginia –– and exposed as having a long-time mistress and child out of wedlock. “I came here today to say thank you to [Vito]," calling him an important ally in Washington.”

    Fosella's event was held the week after he was sentenced to five days in a Virginia jail for the DUI infraction.  This in a city and state that runs public service announcements every holiday season about the zero-tolerance approach authorities will have when it comes to drinking and driving. 

    How many non-politicians get great events in their honor –– after they've broken the law and been revealed as a philander and de facto bigamist?!

    It is said that, all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  All that is needed for political corruption to remain a problem is for non-guilty politicians to that their peers have done great damage by violating the public trust. 

    Enabling them is almost as bad an action –– and inevitably encourages similar behavior (as Blagojevich might attest). 

    Robert A. George is
    New York Post editorial writer who blogs at Ragged Thots.