In response to a series of postings I’ve done about various acts of ethically challenged behavior on the part of various local politicos and their backers, I’ve been hit with the familiar, “You’re just attacking them out of mean-spirited partisanship!”
However there’s never any attempt to contest my factual allegations or dispute my characterization of various actions.
I thought of this when I saw that a bio-pic is showing about the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt at The Tivoli in Westport. Arendt is most famous for her coverage of the 1960’s war crimes trial of Nazi Adolph Eichmann. She coined the phrase “banality of evil,” meaning that atrocities were more often perpetrated by bureaucratic mediocrities like Eichmann than by evil, master-mind, criminal geniuses.
Arendt should also be remembered for an insight in her “Origins of Totalitarianism.” She described how one of the greatest advantages of totalitarian regimes like Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive. That way if you’re a wrongdoer you don’t actually have to answer the specific allegations against you as long as you can ascribe some ulterior political motive to your accuser.
Thus Clay Blair, the moderate Republican chair of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, could ignore all the damning factual record on how he ran the KBA, by having his defenders say his accusers were just mean old Democrats. Tom Thornton, the rapscallion president of the KBA (hired by Blair!), blew off the charges against him, with his champions saying it was vengeful conservative Republicans allied with Sam Brownback who were persecuting their guy.
Why even bother to offer a defense when the press and the prosecutors will not go after a Democrat or a moderate Republican?
Steve Howe, the Johnson County attorney, declined to prosecute Thornton because, in large part, Thornton had destroyed his computer files intentionally and thus made it difficult to prove criminal charges against him. (Talk about rewarding someone for their wrongdoing!)
The K.C. Star went after former Kansas Attorney General, Phill Kline, for hiring his twenty-something nephew for an $18,000 a year drivers job, even though the young man had refused a breathalyzer several years before when a student at KU. The Star’s investigation ran to three full pages, with upwards of five thousand words coverage. At the very same time, a member of moderate Governor Bill Graves‘ cabinet, plead guilty to entering a woman’s apartment in Topeka wearing a ski mask and then raping her at knife point, a serious enough crime that he drew a 10 year sentence. There was one brief mention of this latter incident in the Star.
Missouri Democrat Ex-Governor Bob Holden would appear on television ads while a sitting governor, selling insurance, a new low, even for Jeff City. He and his wife got in a domestic dispute worthy of Cage Aux Folles, with a cast of lovers, lock-outs by both spouses of the other from the governor’s mansion, and general shenanigans all round, which of course spread beyond the bounds of Cole County. When I asked the Star’s Steve Kraske why none of this was even hinted at in the newspaper, he gave me this pious sermon about how the newspaper would never hint at anyone’s personal life, which was off-bounds. Two days later the Star ran a story suggesting that Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt put special language in a tax bill favoring St. Louis chemical giant Montsanto because he was romantically involved with a woman lobbyist for the company.
Apparently what’s good for the Republican goose is not good for the Democratic gander!
If you combine the double standard of the press and prosecutors, with the indifference of watch-dogs like the KS Governmental Ethics Commission to moderate Republican and Democratic transgressions, you really do have a case of “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who guards the guardians?)