We can't nor will we even try to defend the indefensible, particularly as our governing institutions presently leave notions and expectations of democracy completely shattered. And, certainly, there are a lot of brothers and sisters out there (overpopulating our Apartheid-era like prison system at this very moment) being accused or incarcerated for crimes they never committed or petty misdemeanors they had scant resources to fight. Cunningham's crimes were not mere "ethical" violations or lapses in judgement. These were calculated, audacious crimes. But, as we focus for now on Congress, we have to reflect on the fact that, at least this guy finally admitted to doing something wrong. At least he accepted responsibility and avoided the ritual blame-gaming, feet shuffling and legal acrobatics that most politicians perform. Instead, he simply and bluntly admitted to accepting bribes, going so far to say during an emotional press conference that he now knew "... shame." Maybe that was staged, maybe it was intended to impress the prosecutors after his arm got twisted. But, we can't deny it left an impression and led us to thinking about it some more.
We respect that. We think his punishment should fit the crime and send a message to others, but we respect the fact that before sentencing took place, before he even stepped foot in a jail, he owned up to what he did. To say the least, the personal responsibility ethic is quite absent from modern society, so it's refreshing when an elected official cuts through the stench of denials and chooses the high road.
Which is why we can't help but find it awfully wrong and somewhat disingenuous when Republican leaders vehemently denounce Cunningham in an all out public relations assualt on the multi-decorated Vietnam War ace fighter pilot war hero (who, incidentally, inspired the film Top Gun). We just didn't think the GOP was in the habit of skinning war heroes, as hawkish as many in their rank are about dragging the rest of us into foreign forays for "freedom." We feel a Murtha Moment coming on: "Yeah - we like guys who get a string of draft deferments, avoid the front lines and now want to ostracize guys who put their lives on the line." Compared to the Delays, the Frists, Roves and Libbys clouding the Republican-run government, Cunningham opted the route of full disclosure. Certainly, we acknoweldge that - despite the indictments of two mentioned above - much of this is still allegations and charges heaped on top of fairly convincing speculation. The next big step is proving it. Still, there is a whiff of the blind leading the blind, and we think the GOP should leave Cunningham to his own misery. But, there must be some lesson in Cunningham's big brush with shame that can impart key lessons.