One of the fascinations about politicians is the way they try never to take the blame for their own failings.
This habit didn't start with Hillary Clinton's insistence that philandering Bill was merely the victim of "a vast right-wing conspiracy," or with Richard "Watergate" Nixon's insistence that the Jews were out to get him (he ordered an aide to "count the Jews" in the federal bureaucracy). In fact, you can go all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, who responded to reports about his affair with slave Sally Hemings by insisting that Federalist gossips were out to get him (the affair is now established as true).
But, in our current era, the blame-shifting is often even more pronounced, because we have such a strong cult of victimhood. Which brings us to the winners of this week's Woe is Me Awards. In the spirit of bipartisanship, I bestow one to a Republican and another to a Democrat.
My Republican winner is Tom DeLay.
He's the guy who lost his post as House GOP leader because he was indicted by a Texas grand jury on charges of money laundering and conspiracy, and because he remains under a cloud due to his extensive ties to his former dear friend, the felon-lobbyist Jack Abramoff (who was sentenced to six years in prison early last week). DeLay has fallen so far that he's fighting now to hang on to his congressional seat, and the fact that a second former DeLay aide has now pleaded guilty to taking illegal gifts from Abramoff probably won't help his status among swing voters.
But are these really the reasons why DeLay is down for the count? No way. Not according to DeLay and his loyalists.
They say that DeLay is being persecuted because he is a Christian.
DeLay showed up in Washington the other day at a conservative conference that was convened to discuss "The War on Christians." The host, Texas pastor Rick Scarborough, introduced DeLay with these words (none of which DeLay took issue with): "I believe the most damaging thing that Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously into public office, which made him a target for all those who despise the cause of Christ...This is a man that I believe God has appointed!"
DeLay then spoke, casting himself on the side of virtue: "Sides are being chosen, and the future of man hangs in the balance! The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will."
Now, I did find this enlightening. I had never realized there was a war on Christians, certainly not when I hang out at holiday time in my favorite coffee shop and routinely hear 90 minutes of thunderous Christmas music pumped through the PA system; or when I see people in my neighborhood filing peacefully into church every Sunday without anyone firing at them; or when I visit my favorite southern town and, while shopping for hiking gear in a public store, find that I'm being serenaded by a Christian conservative radio show; or when I read polls which say that 85 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian.
Seems to me that, suggestions of a "war" notwithstanding, Christians have things well in hand in America, which is fine - and that DeLay's problems seem far more attributable to the secular world, namely the Texas election laws, the Texas courts, and the U.S. Justice Department.
The Woe is Me Award-winning Democrat is Cynthia McKinney.
She's the Georgia congressman who allegedly struck a Capitol Hill police officer the other day, apparently hitting him with her cellphone during a scuffle - when the officer sought to bar her entry. She had circumvented a metal detector staffed by the cops, but was stopped because she was not wearing the requisite lapel pin that would have identified her as a congresswoman.
That's when the physical encounter apparently ensured. The officer involved in the incident might file assault charges as early as next week, according to one reliable report; he also drew support from his colleagues, who said he was merely fulfilling his "duties and responsibilities" at a checkpoint where security has been beefed up since 9/11.
Yesterday, McKinney held a press conference. She said it was the cop's fault. She said she had been harassed because she is black.
Now, at this point, it's important to bring up some of McKinney's history; she has a penchant for provocative statements and behavior. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she contended that President Bush had received, in advance, "numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11," and that he had decided to do nothing; in that way, she charged, he and his cronies could "make huge profits off America's new war."
These charges were judged to be a tad too inflammatory for the voters of her Georgia district, who tossed her out of office in 2002. (She won the seat back two years later.) In the wake of that 2002 defeat, the most noteworthy reaction came from her father, who shared with an Atlanta TV station his theory of why she lost:
"Jews have bought everybody. J-E-W-S."
There is no information about whether the officer in the Capitol scuffle is Jewish. He is, however, white. And that was enough for her lawyer to contend yesterday that "Ms. McKinney is just a victim of being in Congress while black.”
McKinney then tried a new tack, arguing that the cop simply should have known who she was. "The issue," she said, "is face recognition."
No, congresswoman. The issue is, just wear the lapel pin.