Our Daily List of Shame
Terry H. Schwadron
April 15, 2022
The police blotter is a standard feature of news coverage in smaller towns, including the one in upstate New York where we spend a lot of time.
It’s a callout of recent arrests for mostly misdemeanors, along with an alert that these listings may not reflect the eventual outcome of the cases — a practice that never quite feels like a report on justice served but does give a flavor of what kind of crimes occur regularly, from occasional house break-ins to arrests on drug counts.
We’re seeing that practice spread on our national front pages with growing numbers of our public leaders facing criminal and ethical violations. The near-daily reports come with large dollops of both political partisanship and public hypocrisy.
Just this week, we’ve heard about the sudden, forced resignation of New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, a Democrat from Harlem and my former state senator, over criminal charges for benefitting from campaign financing fraud that reportedly traded influence in real estate deals for election cash. He was supposed to be a “reformer” for Albany.
We’ve heard that Mark Meadows, former Donald Trump chief of staff and longtime congressman from North Carolina, was removed from the voter rolls in North Carolina because he never lived at the mobile home he had registered as his address and he actually voted last year from Virginia. Of course, this is the same Mark Meadows who has crowed about voter fraud as a reason for Trump’s 2020 election loss.
It is illegal to provide false information to register to vote in federal elections, as two Trump supporter in Florida’s The Villages community found in confessing to filing ballots in two states in the 2020 presidential election.
Voter fraud is a third-degree felony that can result in a maximum five-year prison sentence, though no jail is being discussed in these cases — as opposed to the five-year sentence for Crystal Mason who registered and filed a provisional ballot in Texas in 2020 despite being ineligible.
The news is filled with outrage for Hunter Biden, son of the president, over allegations basically arising from using his father’s name to gain business advantages overseas. Even beyond current Justice Department investigations of Hunter Biden, Republicans are promising public hearings on how this has tainted Joe Biden and the country as some kind of national security threat.
Opponents knock the president from not disowning his son or resigning because of the son’s legal faults.
We also got reports this week of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner being handed $2 billion from, a Saudi sovereign wealth fund controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman towards a private equity fund that even other Saudi directors found to be without merit. Neither Kushner, Trump nor Republican leadership says anything that would make any of this sound kosher.
Apparently, if the numbers are big enough or your political side is involved, there is no crime or ethical violation involved.
Meanwhile, the list of Jan. 6 conspirators, plotters or advisers who were promoting schemes to rescind the 2020 election results have avoided full Justice Department efforts on charges for refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas, also federal crimes.
A scan of cases listed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has a host of cases that represent bad behavior by public officials.
What Does It Reflect?
These incidents don’t even count the never-ending list of outrageous and often made-up criticisms, remarks and policy proposals of the ever-strengthening conspiracy-minded set in Washington who see pedophilia and politician orgies behind every other cherry tree in the nation’s capital.
Instead, we seen the Marjorie Taylor Greene-Madison Cawthorn-Paul Gosar group girding in court fights to battle over whether it is ok to run for reelection while preaching the overthrow of the very government to which they seek votes.
The overly naïve question at the end of the day is why we put up with bad behavior from our public officials, why things are allowed to slide for those in power, why we cannot reasonably expect that the powerful will answer to the same law enforcement as the rest of us.
Trump wants us to overlook his long list of probable civil and criminal wrongs and put him back in the White House as if there never needs to be accountability for his actions. Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants us to cast aside his bullying and the investigations of sexual inappropriateness to return him to his public service job. Around the country, the reports of public lawmakers who just happen to slip by making racist or other ethnically insensitive assertions in pursuit of their election campaigns is remarkable only by their consistency.
As with the local police blotter reports, what does all this say about the society we have created for ourselves? What is so consistently wrong with our would-be leaders that they need to push the limits of legality, and that they never need to be accountable for their actions?
Maybe we should return to public dunking of officials or erecting punishment stocks on the National Mall for our erring politicians.