A great point from Brian Beutler yesterday:
Americans, to some great extent, have internalized this cartoonish idea that politicians ought to be policy-making and policy-enforcing robots, but they almost never seem to bring the hammer down unless a politician errs in some extremely frivolous way. Some senators and congressmen, it’s worth pointing out, take legislative action to settle personal vendettas as a matter of routine. Some take bribes, both real and de facto. Others see prostitutes. If I had to pick, I know which “oops” I’d rather catch my elected official in–the only one, it turns out, that’s likely to put an entire career in public service at risk.
In some way, the best example of this was the Lincoln Bedroom fundraising scandal of the Clinton years. Appearing to auction off that kind of treat for campaign cash was tawdry as all hell, but Bill Clinton wound up catching more shit for it than his successor did for auctioning off vast swathes of national policy, even though the latter is clearly a more important sin in terms of its impact on people’s lives. It all goes back to the fundamental frivolity of the Guardians of our discourse — the whole political media is dominated by people who can’t think about policy without getting queasy.