A nation can’t heal until it really throws the bums out (of Washington). And you can’t really do that until the bums do something so egregious that folks of all partisan stripes rise up in electoral revolt. To some extent, the Republican wipeout was a response to Dubya, but there are still too many politicians on both sides of the aisle that are deeply “captured” and have long lost touch with the public.
Now, as you may know, we’re consistnely disappointed with what’s going on in the UK — which has seen its culture decline along with its banking system — but at least they’re closer to their throw-the-bums-out moment than we are.
The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder has a really good rundown of how the whole scandal unfolded, and all we can think is: Why can’t we have a scandal like that here?
The collapse of public trust in was not brought about by one of Britain’s innumerable and always slightly eccentric sex scandals.
It wasn’t the government’s convoluted response to terrorism after 9/11, or the more recent economic collapse (to which it responded fairly well) or the internal factionalism within the labour Party pre-, during-, and post-Blair, or even the Iraq war (“sexed up” document, dead scientists, MI6 plots).
It was something much more banal: an accounting scandal involving moats, television sets, spare apartments, gardening expenses and a porn movie or two. For weeks now, the Daily Telegraph (or Torygraph) has been revealing the details of internal Parliament records of the expenses claimed by MPs in the performance of their official duties. The tipping point seems to involve a Dickensian character called Douglass Hogg. Resisting the temptation to write about his snout in a trough, let us just say that Hogg, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, was rather indignant in explaining why he felt it was appropriate for him to bill taxpayers for having his moat dredged, stables cleaned and piano tuned at his country house.
When the BBC caught up with Hogg, he protested that all of the fees were cleared in advance with the Parliament office responsible for such matters. That was true–and a bit beside the point. Hogg’s excuse was simply that he expensed the items because he knew he could.