Today’s NYT has a story on how the crooked son of Equatorial Guinea’s crooked president is able to gain access to his home in Malibu despite the “taint of corruption”:
Several times a year, Teodoro Nguema Obiang arrives at the doorstep of the United States from his home in Equatorial Guinea, on his way to his $35 million estate in Malibu, Calif., his fleet of luxury cars, his speedboats and private jet. And he is always let into the country.
The nation’s doors are open to Mr. Obiang, the forest and agriculture minister of Equatorial Guinea and the son of its president, even though federal law enforcement officials believe that “most if not all” of his wealth comes from corruption related to the extensive oil and gas reserves discovered more than a decade and a half ago off the coast of his tiny West African country, according to internal Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents.
And they are open despite a federal law and a presidential proclamation that prohibit corrupt foreign officials and their families from receiving American visas. The measures require only credible evidence of corruption, not a conviction of it.
Now I’m all for enforcing very high standards for admission, but this is just moralist baloney. (Why am I not surprised to see that this prohibition was the brainchild of Bush and Leahy?) Virtually every government official in the Third World is corrupt, and we’re obviously not going to bar all of them. So we end up announcing that we will apply our standards to foreigners, but then make exceptions when foreign policy demands it (as it inevitably must — because of oil in the case of Equatorial Guinea), and end up looking like hypocrites. Better to hold up our standards as aspirations for foreigners (because our standards are, in fact, objectively superior) but acknowledge that we have to operate in the real world.
As a sidenote, I was delighted to see the story cite an official government document, from ICE, referring to the government of Equatorial Guinea as a “kleptocracy.” That’s the kind of straight talk that you seldom get from a bureaucracy.