The Corner

JEFFERSON AND HIS REPUBLICAN PROTECTORS

In Salon, Joe Conason is calling for Rep. William Jefferson to resign, and, if Jefferson refuses, for his political allies to firmly explain to him that he needs to go.  It’s not a matter of proven guilt, Conason says:

He is entitled to the presumption of innocence, no matter how strong the evidence against him. (It looks considerably stronger, by the way, than the evidence produced so far against certain Republicans held up to scorn every day by Democrats)…But there is — or should be — a difference between the standard for service in Congress and the standard for conviction and incarceration as a felon.

That’s certainly correct, but what pressure is there on Jefferson to go when he is being protected by Republican leaders in the House, who are apparently ready to fight to the death for what they claim is the constitutional right to use their offices to hide evidence of felonies?  And now Jefferson has 45 more days to relax, since President Bush has ordered that no one can look at the evidence gathered from his office.

Could there be any series of events better tailored to intensify the public’s unhappiness with Congress?  Certainly Democrats are to blame, too — they also appear to believe the Constitution gives them the right to use their offices to hide evidence of felonies — but in a mood of widespread public disgust, the party in power will surely suffer more.  And who could argue that it shouldn’t?

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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