The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Congressional Black Caucus stands by Jefferson

Some slight missteps in handling the politics of Jefferson's pending indictment might have caused an unwelcome problem for House Dems. Nancy Pelosi wrote a brief note asking for Jefferson to resign his Ways & Means Committee post this week, and Jefferson refused. Now the CBC is circling the wagons around Jefferson and, regrettably, making race a central focus (no, he hasn't been convicted in court yet, but things really couldn't look worse for him). They would've been better off leaving that to Republicans.

Outraged that one of its members was being picked on even though he has not been charged with a crime, the Congressional Black Caucus had intended to issue a defiant statement against their leader but agreed after the meeting to pause, at least briefly, for reflection.

Earlier this week, Pelosi approached Jefferson and told him that she thought he should resign, according to a Democratic aide. Later, at the Democratic caucus meeting yesterday morning, she took him into a side room and told him that she had prepared a letter calling on him to resign the committee seat and that she would allow him one hour to withdraw gracefully before she sent it, according to the aide. In both instances, Jefferson remained defiant.

Pelosi’s one-sentence missive to Jefferson called on him to vacate his committee seat “in the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus.”

Jefferson promptly refused, calling her request “discriminatory” and “unprecedented,” and suggested that she was employing a double standard by failing to ask other lawmakers facing ethics questions to relinquish their committee assignments. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) has come under fire for earmarks he secured through his seat on the Appropriations Committee.

Pelosi's quick response might not have been the brightest solution, but it was a natural political response. Jefferson is everywhere in the news, and the GOP is eager to capitalize on a corrupt Dem by using his name as a blanket defense for Republican corruption. Pelosi might've been remiss with Alan "Who?" Mollohan, but his name isn't the one making national headlines. And earmarks just aren't as damning these days.

Instead of this turning into a big fight, why didn't someone simply suggest that Jefferson temporarily step down pending the outcome of the investigation? Less harsh, fewer bruised feelings, Jefferson looks like less of a weasel, and the Dems get to look like they're committed to ethics reform.