For a man who has enjoyed such a short and undistinguished career, Illinois’s Representative Aaron Schock (R.) has sure packed in a lot of corruption. In the last few years alone, Schock has contrived to spend $40,000 of taxpayers’ money redecorating his congressional office in the lavish style of television’s Downton Abbey; he has exhibited a penchant for taxpayer-financed luxury hotels and private aircraft that is flatly incompatible with both his conservative rhetoric and the political presumptions of a free nation; and, per Politico, he has “taken several trips abroad without following disclosure rules.” Politico revealed, moreover, that Schock had charged the American public $3,000 for “software on Nov. 14,” but that the expenditure was in fact “part of the cost of flying in a software executive’s private plane to a Chicago Bears game and his district.”
Let’s say it, aloud: Aaron Schock is a crook.
There are 310 million people in the United States, 12.8 million of them in Illinois. In the House of Representatives, by contrast, there are just 435 — only 18 of whom have been sent from Schock’s state. Really, there is no good reason whatsoever that Aaron Schock needs to be among those 18; and, indeed, there are a host of good reasons that he should not be. Because the most egregious cases suck up all the attention, the word “corruption” can mean many things in our political culture. To learn that a man in Washington is unethical is usually to presume that he is breaking into hotel rooms or taking bribes. But one can be unsuitable for office without being Huey Long. Certainly, it seems rather unlikely that Schock is making shady backroom deals with cement companies; or, for that matter, that he is threatening to have his potential opponents killed. And yet, by treating Congress as if it were the Atlantic Records hospitality department in the summer of 1975, Schock has rendered himself unsuitable. If his behavior is any guide, the man believes that the people of Illinois’s 18th congressional district have hired him to serve not as a dull public servant but as their very own nationalized celebrity. They have not.
Tough as it can be to recall in the age of House of Cards, The West Wing, and — yes — the emetically glitz-happy Obama administration, the old saw that Washington, D.C., is “Hollywood for ugly people” is in fact intended as a joke, not as a description. In a republic such as ours, the ideal public servant looks like Calvin Coolidge, not Robert Plant, and he takes his power to extract cash from the people he serves seriously. Erick Erickson, who yesterday called bluntly for Schock’s resignation, contends correctly that Schock has failed at this basic task. Rather, Erickson proposes, Schock has “proven himself incapable of handling his own money, the money of his donors, and taxpayer money.” Worse still, he “has lived excessively off the backs of taxpayers who must be reimbursed and off of donors to whom he is now a servant.”
Erickson is absolutely correct, and, for conservatives, the charge is devastating. There is no virtue at all in the Republican party’s vehemently decrying the largesse and the arrogance of Washington, D.C., if those who are sent to cut the place down to size end up living like Lucrezia Borgia. In recent years, Schock has explained that “exercising humility is important to” him; that he hopes not only to “stand for [his] principles but . . . to work for them”; and that his conservative and Christian upbringing has informed his political outlook. He “didn’t grow up dreaming of being George Washington,” he confirms. Perhaps, though, it would have been better if he had, for there it is no good talking a good game unless you are prepared to live it out, too.
“In politics,” Schock has noted drily, “you never know who’s going to die, retire, or — in Illinois — get indicted.” Or, for that matter, who will have to resign in disgrace having treated the nation’s capital city as a ticket to the high life. Time to go, Aaron. Politics isn’t for you.