Before I start, look at the picture of Newt Gingrich above and tell me … what the heck is he wearing? Is it a Batman cape, or is he unable to button his jacket around his waist? Or perhaps his momma never taught him the right way to wear his suit jacket? Curious.
In July, I awarded former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich my coveted Idiot of the Week award. Today, Mr. Gingrich remains as much an idiot as ever, proving yet again that Filosofa knows how to pick ’em!
In anticipation of the fact that Donald Trump and his staff are highly likely to march to their own drummer, play by their own rules, Mr. Gingrich, no doubt after much serious thought, has come up with a solution: change the ethics laws! So simple, right?
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 is a United States federal law that was passed in the wake of the Nixon Watergate scandal and the related ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ (Nixon’s dismissal of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and as a result the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on October 20, 1973, during the Watergate scandal.) It created mandatory, public disclosure of financial and employment history of public officials and their immediate families. It also created restrictions on lobbying efforts by public officials for a set period after leaving public office. Last, it created the U.S. Office of Independent Counsel, tasked with investigating government officials.
U.S. ethics laws cover a wider range of issues, including bribery, conflict of interest, impartiality, supplementation of federal salary, nepotism, and more.
Gingrich’s rationale for changing the ethics laws? Donald Trump’s wealth. In his mind, I suppose, the rich are special and laws should be changed to accommodate them. I call BULLSHIT!
“We’ve never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work. We’re going to have to think up a whole new approach. In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon. It’s a totally open power. He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules.’ Period. Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”
American University government professor James Thurber said, “Speaker Gingrich’s statement that wealth trumps the rule of law, basically that’s what he was saying, is jaw-dropping. I can’t believe it. He’s a historian. He should also know that we did not want to have a king. A king in this case is somebody with a lot of money who cannot abide by the rule of law.”
Richard Painter, a former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer, said Gingrich was off on his reading of the Constitution. “If the pardon power allows that, the pardon power allows the president to become a dictator, and even Richard Nixon had the decency to wait for his successor to hand out the pardon that he received for his illegal conduct. We’re going down a very, very treacherous path if we go with what Speaker Gingrich is saying, what he is suggesting.”
Gingrich himself has reason to oppose existing ethics laws, as he ran afoul of them in 1997, when as Speaker of the House, he was fined $300,000 by the House Ethics Committee for using poor judgment in his conduct. He engaged in tax fraud using tax-exempt organizations to finance the spread of his conservative political philosophy via distributed films of a college course he was teaching entitled “Renewing American Civilization.” The most serious charge examined by the Ethics Committee was an allegation that Gingrich intentionally provided inaccurate and unreliable information in two letters to the panel in an attempt to win a quick dismissal of the ethics case. Gingrich placed the blame on his staff and lawyer for the inaccurate and unreliable submissions. It marked the first time in the history of Congress that a House Speaker has received a reprimand for unethical conduct.
But back to present day. Gingrich’s suggestion that the ethics laws be changed to accommodate Trump, and that Trump use his ‘pardon pen’ to forgive any moral or ethical wrongdoing by his minions is beyond ludicrous. Ethics is defined as “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.” It seems to me that those ethics ought not be different based on how much money one has in the bank. It reeks of classism and sets a precedent that we can ill afford. Sorry, Newt, but Donnie, Jeff, Steve and all the rest need to play by the same rules those who came before them have had to play by. Otherwise, those of us who believe that “all persons are created equal” are going to scream FOUL so loud that you will hear it all the way down there in the Peach State!