Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Jury of Peers, Just Not His.

He meant to pay for it.

He didn't know it was there.

He demanded it be taken away.

He thought his wife paid for it.

Misbehaving Republicans have been chipping away at Bill Clinton's mother-of-all-excuses, "I didn't inhale" for years now. There's Senator Larry Craig's "I have a wide men's-room stance," Rep. Mark Foley's "I was abused by a priest as a child," and of course my favorite, national evangelical leader Ted Haggard's "I hired the gay prostitute but didn't have sex with him, and bought crystal meth from him but never used it."

Now this.

Senator Ted Stevens is probably not a bad man. And he may not be too bad as a senator. Perhaps he is a family man as well. And who knows, maybe he's telling the truth about the generator, the appliances, the "massage chair," and other sumptuous goodies which magically appeared, unbidden, in his Alaska home, courtesy of his longtime friend and contributor, Bill Allen.

Maybe, probably, perhaps. He tried to send everything back, but his good friend Bill wouldn't let him. Poor, bullied Senator Stevens. Trapped in his own massage chair of self-pity.

What we do know is that a jury of his peers has unanimously convicted Stevens on all seven felony counts of lying in order to hide a quarter-million dollars' worth of illegal gifts.

The good Senator expresses no shame. In fact, defiance would be a more appropriate descriptor for his affect in light of the outcome of his trial. For those who see courts as crazed agents of left-wing, un-American conspiracies, this verdict comes as no surprise. The party that would foist Harriet Myers on the Supreme Court has never particularly appreciated courts in general. When you're pilfering or scamming or picking pockets or deregulating industries, the last thing you want is honest verdicts in court. You prefer to be tried in the court of public opinion, if at all, where you own the cameras and the airtime.

Senator Stevens will seek an appeal, but nothing we see in this trial screams injustice. For the moment, we have to assume the guilty verdicts, all seven of them, will stand. The slim reed his spokespeople are waving is that he could not get a fair trial in Washington, D.C. because everybody there hates Congress.

And things are better in Alaska?

Given Stevens' multiple-felony conviction, and Sarah Palin's own proven problem abusing power in the "Troopergate" fiasco, the question of the moment is, "is there a single Alaskan politician who is not on the take, or bullying innocent public servants out of their jobs?"

Another thought: It has been hard for all but the angriest evangelical GOP party faithful to put their credibility on the line to support Sarah Palin. Will they now have the chutzpah to line up behind Stevens? At a certain point, defending a crook becomes an embarrassment, or evidence of group psychosis. I believe we've long passed that point with today's GOP.

Senator Stevens may not back off his unrepentant pledge to soldier on and continue his re-election campaign. From where the GTL stands, doing so would turn an unseemly corruption scandal into a masterpiece of bathos. However, if Alaskans see his defiant denials as "Mavericky" behavior, and continue to support him with their votes, the only question that remains is,

Can a man with handcuffs on get one hand on the bible and the other high enough in the air to be sworn in?

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