Bad Actors Reinforce Low Esteem for Congress

Craig, Vitter, and Jefferson are three reasons Capitol Hill is often ranked below the White House.

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Sen. Larry Craig, caught up in his own tragic comedy by changing his tune three times on resigning from Congress, is a shining example of why lawmakers are held in such low esteem.

Everyone knows of allegations that the Idaho Republican acted inappropriately in the men's room of the Twin Cities airport. He subsequently pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. That was bad enough.

But then Craig said it was his "intention" to resign, changed course to say he would await a rehearing on the case, and, when the judge ruled against him, said he would serve out his term until January 2009.

GOP leaders in Congress are angry. They want Craig out of sight, out of mind, and the sooner the better. They don't want him hanging around during next year's campaign.

Craig has hired Stan Brand, a tough D.C. lawyer who usually represents Democrats. With Craig's situation pending before the Senate Ethics Committee, Brand pointed out that the Senate has not acted on any member for a misdemeanor—disorderly conduct in his case.

Meanwhile, as voters are disgusted over Craig's behavior, there is no GOP outcry against Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana. He has it coming.

Vitter is the holier-than-thou conservative who talked family values, motherhood, and apple pie on the Senate floor and whose name popped up as a client on a call-girl list.

The hypocrisy here is not lost on voters. Vitter ought to at least be admonished by Republicans in the Senate or at home. He won't be.

As for the Democrats, Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana is the poster child for greed. Under indictment for selling his office, he still has not explained how $90,000 found its way into the family freezer. Not the bank or under his pillow but in the freezer.

Although Jefferson lost his seat on the Ways and Means Committee, Democratic leaders should be more outspoken about his conduct. He should be shunned.

There are good men and women of both parties in Congress. All of them, however, are tainted by these bad actors who cling to office as their given right. Moreover, these scandals come after last year's over GOP Rep. Mark Foley's association with House interns and Republicans linked to crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

It's no wonder that some polls show Congress rated even lower than George W. Bush.