Memo to House Democrats: Drop Jefferson

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House Democratic leaders shouldn't wait another day to denounce Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, and call sternly for his resignation. Time is not on their side.

Up to now the Democrats have held the upper hand on the scandal issue leading into the fall elections. The bribes accepted by Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a California Republican, and the corruption of GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies have been golden for the Democrats. The troubles of former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas have taken the issue to the top rungs of the House.

Jefferson is handing the Republicans the obvious response that Republicans are not the only ones using their office for criminal gain. To wait on Jefferson will only add to the inability of Democrats to get on top of this seamy situation.

Jefferson claims there are two sides to every question. We can't wait to hear him explain how $90,000 wound up in his apartment freezer. Or how he happened to be on tape receiving $100,000 in the garage of a hotel in suburban Virginia.

There is a constitutional question about the FBI raid on Jefferson's office last weekend. But politics is a separate issue, and Jefferson is on the hot seat. Yes, Jefferson deserves a trial in our system. But again, politics is a totally different matter.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the party chair of the election committee with hopes of regaining the House majority, should speak out forcefully and quickly.

Democrats were quick to pounce on Republican woes on the important issue of ethics. They should recognize that Jefferson is a pariah and treat him as such.