Political Journeys Up The River

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had his sights set on the White House but instead he's headed for the Big House.  The former government was sentenced to two years in federal prison this week following his conviction on corruption, fraud and bribery charges.  His attempts to blame his wife didn't wash, nor did his plea that his talents would be wasted in prison.

Meanwhile, in Israel police have recommended filing charges of fraud, bribery, breach of trust and money laundering against former defense minister and Labor Knesset member Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

Back in Washington the congressman who was caught on camera threatening to toss a reporter "off this f***** balcony" for asking about tax evasion charges against him is taking a plunge of his own. Michael Grimm (R-NY), after months of loudly protesting his innocence, pled guilty just before he was to go on trial. He resigned from the House this week and is expecting to be sentenced to prison soon. He delayed resigning until after he was sworn in for a third term.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been convicted of corruption and looks like he's also on his way to the slammer after failing to convince an aide to take the fall for him and serve his time.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and many of his colleagues in his Yisrael Beiteinu party are under investigation for corruption and other crimes; 30 have already been arrested.  Lieberman accused the Israeli Police of conducting a "personal vendetta" against him in a "politically motivated" campaign to damage his prospects in the March elections.

What do these politicians have in common besides showing another face of the similarities between Israeli and American politics?  All are the victims of self-inflicted wounds and political party and philosophy make no difference.

By my unscientific observations, 90 percent of the political damage is the result of such wounds.  Don't listen to the paranoids who compile extensive enemies lists and blame everyone else for their troubles.  No finer example exists than Richard Nixon. 

For all his ranting, raving, investigating and auditing his enemies, he had no one to blame for the Watergate cover-up but himself.  Yes, Dick, you were a crook.

But that's a non-partisan honor. 

Just look at the list.

Shas leader Aryeh Deri, a convicted felon who served prison time for corruption, is back in charge of the party and stunned to hear a recording of the party's late spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, calling him a thief.

Moshe Katzav is not the first politician in any country to seek sex from low level staffers, but he is the first Israeli president to be sent to prison for rape.

Of course, the Congress impeached Bill Clinton for laying about sex with an intern.

Virginia's Bob McDonnell isn't the first governor to go to prison and probably won't be the last, but Illinois holds the record. Four of the state's last seven governors made the trip; the latest, Rod Blagojevich, is still there.

Another Chicagoan, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), pled guilty to fraud (as did his wife) and is serving time. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) went from Congress to prison following his conviction for corruption, extortion, bribery, and more.

Two Congressmen, Mark Foley (R-FL) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY), were forced out of public office after their sexually explicit emails (to women, not each other) became public. Senator John Ensign (R-NV) resigned in face of a scandal involving his extramarital affair with wife of an aide.

Rep. Trey Radel (R-Florida) resigned his seat last year after he was pled guilty to drug possession charges following his attempt to buy cocaine from an undercover federal agent.

This bipartisan rogues gallery of self-destructive pols have no one to blame for their tzoris but themselves.

They also share responsibility for the high level of public cynicism about politics and politicians.

The Washington Post's description of McDonnell summed up much of the damage he – and most of those mentioned above — did.  His "behavior feeds the toxic narrative that all politicians are pocket-lining crooks, immune to the rules that delimit the conduct of ordinary citizens."

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.