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Guilty Until Proven Innocent

One of the most fundamental elements of our legal system is the principle of "presumed innocent until proven guilty." The notion is that no person should be punished by our government until they have been found guilty in a court of law.

It's a damned fine principle, one that sets us apart from a lot of the rest of the world. And it's one I would fight to keep.

But I think I'm about to carve out an exception to that rule, and I think it's justified.

I have pretty much reached the point where I'm ready to say that when a member of Congress runs afoul of the law, they ought to be considered guilty until they prove their innocence -- and tossed out on their ass.

Senator Larry Craig is merely the latest example. Technically, his guilty plea to a very minor misdemeanor should be no impediment to his continued public service. No one was harmed, no one was likely to have been harmed, and -- apart from the in-public aspect -- it really was nobody's business.

But the guy's a moron for doing it, for pleading guilty to it and hoping it'll go away, and for thinking he can bluster his way out of it.

Likewise Patrick Kennedy. He was nailed for drunken driving (a mark of shame in most families; a rite of passage in his), and has a history of drug abuse and assaulting airport security workers. But he's still in office.

Mark Foley. By all estimates, he did absolutely nothing illegal. But the guy is still a disgusting scumbag, and his departure from public life was the most we could do. Fortunately, we can also make him a life-long pariah.

William Jefferson Clinton. I can't think of a single plausible reason why he'd have nearly $100,000 in cash in his freezer. And, apparently, neither can he. Get rid of him already.

Bob Ney. If someone were to lose the key to his cell, I don't think I'd weep a single tear.

Jim McGreevy. Like Foley, it appears he didn't break any laws. But putting your foreign national boyfriend in charge of your state's Homeland Security office -- that's so far beyond stupid, it MUST have been committed by a New Jersey Democrat.

Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Losing the keys to his cell aren't enough. Move him to the Capitol Building and stick a plaque outside his walled-up cell outlining just what he did. Then leave him there as a time capsule -- "TO BE OPENED IN 2276."

About the only exception I'd carve out to this policy would be Tom DeLay. He's a major asshole, and I give him a share of the blame for the corrosive, hyperpartisan, and generally vile atmosphere of the Congress today, but my sense of justice forces me to find a smidgen of sympathy for him. When a single prosecutor fails to get one grand jury to indict you, persuades a second to issue an indictment that violates the US Constitution (in particular, charging you with violating a law before it was in effect, breaking the "no ex post facto laws" clause), and then goes for a third bite of the apple... well, then, the odds that the prosecutor is the one who's out of control, not the target.

Right now, the approval ratings in the polls for Congress are in the teens. I normally don't give a rat's ass about polls, especially approval/popularity polls, but in this case I'd have to say that those numbers are too damned high.

I don't support term limits, but I think that the time has come for the voters to impose them in the most direct fashion. I don't think it would be a terrible thing if, come November of next year, every single damned Representative -- and every single Senator up for re-election -- were to be tossed out on their asses. Tenure, party affiliation, and personal achievements all be damned.

Yeah, we will lose some good ones. But I have reached the point where I think that the good they can do is vastly outweighed by the harm the rest have repeatedly shown they can -- and do -- inflict.

It's time to clean House. And the Senate.


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Comments (17)

CREW, Sloane and the Dems m... (Below threshold)
kim:

CREW, Sloane and the Dems miscalculate badly trying to suggest that sin has an agenda, or rather that it selects by ideology.
=========================================

Agreed on *nearly* all coun... (Below threshold)

Agreed on *nearly* all counts, JayTea. My only exception is this:

"Jim McGreevy. Like Foley, it appears he didn't break any laws. But putting your foreign national boyfriend in charge of your state's Homeland Security office -- that's so far beyond stupid, it MUST have been committed by a New Jersey Democrat."

I'm still not convinced that Golan Cipel had a "romantic" relationship with McGreevy. McGreevy so clearly suffers from Bordeline Personality Disorder wth Narcissistic and Sociopathic Tendencies that "his truth" is about as authentic as a Scores dancer's t*ts.

Sorry, but we've been hopin... (Below threshold)
GeminiChuck:

Sorry, but we've been hoping for decades that the voters would impose a form of term limits -rarely works. We need legal term limits on Congress - if it's appropriate for the presidency and governerships, it's certainly appropriate for senators and representatives. Limit to 12 years in congress max - any combination. There will be plenty of other candidates for the people to choose from. I stipulate that the people are currently greatly restricted in voting because of the shannigans heavily experienced politicians can pull off in order to stay in office. gc

I'd love to see a wholesale... (Below threshold)
JFO:

I'd love to see a wholesale house cleaning (no pun intended ) as well. I'm fed up with most of my party leaders. For years, no matter who's in control, it's always about them, rarely about the people they represent. I have no love whatsoever for Harry Reid, Pelosi et al. They've let me down and are governing just like the republicans did for the 10-12 years before them. A pox on both houses I say!! There's corruption everywhere - if not criminal - at least moral when everything always seems to be driven by the almighty dollar, interest groups and reelection. I've always been against term limits but am beginning to re-think my view of that.

Nice post Jay.

Why term limits would be a ... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Why term limits would be a good thing.
1.What's the first thing they do when elected? Start trying to get elected again.
2.It would cut down on most of the usless pork.
3.No one person could control what goes forward or stays put for long.
4. (best of all) You would start seeing new names on bridges, highways, post offices and the such. (example-go to West Virginia-Bryd, Bryd, Bryd, Bryd)
5. Sigh! Never happen tho.

I favor a slightly more rad... (Below threshold)

I favor a slightly more radical solution: each term you serve in Congress beyond your first (clock resets, one time only, if you move from one body to the other)results in a 5% addition to the chance you get randomly selected. (So a 6 term congressman would have a 25% change of being selected.) If you are selected, you are taken out and shot in the public square. How dedicated are you to the pork, bribes and perks?

The other, more realistic, solution would be to end direct election of Senators and replace it with a lottery: you're on the top of the jury list, and you're not insane or a criminal, so the good news is you won't get jury duty; the bad news is that you have to go to DC for 6 years.

Of course, the real solution is to repeal the amendment providing for direct election of Senators, so that there is a legislative body committed by their desire to remain in office to limiting the Federal government's power. That might be considered the most radical of all, though: the Constitution is not widely respected or understood, despite all the lip service.

I always wondered, "Why the... (Below threshold)

I always wondered, "Why the freezer?" (Why the money isn't hard to answer.) Then yesterday I sort of had a "duh" moment. He was using the freezer as fire-resistant storage, like the little safe-box I've got the kid's birth certificates and our passports in.

(Maybe this was obvious to everyone else, but I just thought that freezer thing was so freaky.)

It still amazes me how thei... (Below threshold)

It still amazes me how their wealth grows exponentially as soon as they take office. (well, "amaze" might be the wrong word) We've seen far too many of them take office on a shoestring budget and walk out millionaires. They write laws and consequently exploit the loopholes they leave behind. Then when someone else does it, they quickly close up the loopholes. They're so busy creating a climate friendly to their own desires and trying to keep those on the other side of the aisle from creating their own, that "the people" are forgotten.

I can't help but think that too many of our representatives ask the question first, "How will this benefit me and my chances of gleaning enough promised donations to secure my re-election?" before they deign to wonder how it will benefit the largest number of people in their district.

Just typical of liberal esp... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Just typical of liberal especialy the liberal left-wing news media when it comes to repulicans their guity even when proven inocent and demacrats and inocent even when proven guilty and they eat their own kind when they expose the corption and pork in their own crooked party just look at JAMES TRAFFICANT

Jay,Senat... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Jay,

Senator Larry Craig is merely the latest example. Technically, his guilty plea to a very minor misdemeanor should be no impediment to his continued public service.

If that was all he did I would agree, but that's not the case. Craig plead guilty to a misdemeanor that he knew or should have known was going to raise some eyebrows when it became publicly known. That's not the problem. The problem is that when the expected fuss materialized Craig backpedaled and basically admitted he's incompetent in the matter of a minor misdemeanor. How then can he be a Senator?

I don't know about the you, but I'm real tired of Senators making one decision and then when there's some political backlash they backpedal and say things like I voted for it before I voted against it. I think the American people have the right to expect more from our Senators. They should make decisions from fully informed and principled positions, not claim they were lied to or couldn't take the time to read intelligence reports before deciding matters of great importance.

It's a real simple principle; a person who can't handle the small decisions should not be allowed in a position where they make big decisions. Larry Craig should not run for the Senate in 2008. In fact, he should step down now and let the governor appoint a good republican to server the remainder of Craig's term.

We did some cleaning of the... (Below threshold)
jim:

We did some cleaning of the House and the Senate in 2006. I believe Foley and some of his enablers took the fall, among some other rubber-stampers from the alleged party of fiscal responsibility.

That's not to say we can't do more House and Senate-cleaning in '08.

I'm ok with term limits too. That'd take out Lieberman by now; and Frist, Thurmond, Lott and many other skaters-by would have had their time on the stage cut short much mercifully sooner.

As was pointed out on Mark ... (Below threshold)
C-C-G Author Profile Page:

As was pointed out on Mark Levin's show last nite (which I listen to via podcast the next day), an innocent man doesn't plead guilty very often, they tend to fight the conviction tooth and nail.

Craig has been in office too long not to know that it would eventually come out. Therefore, the only logical reason for him to plead guilty is because he really is guilty.

Either that or he's so stupid it takes him 10 minutes each morning to figure out which shoe goes on which foot.

Either way, he needs to be gone from elected office.

This is a great post, excep... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

This is a great post, except for the title. Nobody had to "prove" Larry Craig guilty. He PLEAD guilty. Therefore, nothing is alleged, nothing is misconstrued, and Larry Craig is NOT being tried in the court of public opinion. He admitted it. All for the term limits, myself. 12 years sounds about right.

Ryan, the post wasn't all a... (Below threshold)

Ryan, the post wasn't all about Craig. The title itself was in regards to all those who are accused at any point. Craig had to be accused before he could plead.

The thing that kills me abo... (Below threshold)

The thing that kills me about the Craig police report is the guy says that Craig put his bag in front of the door, which he believes is what pervs do to block the view of the front of the stall. WHERE ELSE DO YOU PUT IT??? In your freakin lap?!? Still a creepy report.

I wondered, too, w. ... (Below threshold)
kim:

I wondered, too, w.
===================

The thing that kil... (Below threshold)
Alex Author Profile Page:
The thing that kills me about the Craig police report is the guy says that Craig put his bag in front of the door, which he believes is what pervs do to block the view of the front of the stall. WHERE ELSE DO YOU PUT IT???

I've seen airport restrooms that have a shelf behind/above the toilet where you can put luggage. Given a choice between leaving luggage on the nasty men's room floor or putting it up on a nice, safe shelf, most people are going to choose the shelf.




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