Saturday, September 15, 2007

GOP hijinx

Montana Republicans have put out a news release criticizing Jon Tester for:

1. Refusing to denounce an infamous ad that appeared in the New York Times.

2. Failing to return campaign contributions from the group.

Republicans also tried to amend a housing and transportation bill to publicly denounce Tester, who apparently was presiding over the Senate at the time, ruled the amendment out of order because it wasn't germane to the bill, which of course it wasn't.

The idea that political candidates should refuse to take campaign contributions from people and groups that say and do stupid things seems to be on the rise, especially from Republicans. But it makes no sense.

If all candidates refused to take money from people who say things the candidate disagrees with, then that would wring a lot of money out of political campaigns. But it's hard to see how it would do anything for democracy.

I don't really want my elected officials poring over campaign reports to detect ideological impurities. And I don't want them rushing to the House or Senate floor to pass meaningless resolutions every time somebody says something they don't like. I would rather they didn't even know who was giving them money, and I would rather they spent their time in Congress working on issues that really matter. I don't want government in the business of telling people what they ought and ought not say.

I don't expect Republican legislators to denounce the GOP E-brief every time it says something stupid and irresponsible, even though that is almost a daily occurrence, and even though the E-brief is an official party publication. I just take it for granted that in a political system dominated by two huge, undisciplined parties, a certain number of energetic morons are going to get into positions of influence. I don't blame the whole party for that.

I do want elected officials who are able to represent a broad range of people with whom they may have powerful disagreements. Politicians are elected to represent all of us, not just those who pass an ideological litmus test. When Jesus was criticized for breaking bread with sinners, he said he had come to save them, not the righteous. Politicians should have the same attitude.

Am I wrong to say that Republicans are worse about this than Democrats? I welcome evidence to the contrary. Abramoff doesn't count. I didn't really care whether Conrad Burns returned Abramoff's contributions or not, but I can see why he felt he should. Abramoff didn't get in trouble for what he said but for trying to use contributions to abet illegal activities. It's a different animal.

And if it's true that Republicans are worse about this than Democrats, then maybe that helps explain why the polls show Republicans are in trouble.

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