Washington has a cynical history of devouring its own, and this particularly seems to be the case for those in Congress who rise to prominence.
We are more than mindful of that today as we reflect on the initial reports that the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog agency on the Hill, is calling for an investigation into a curiously funded trip Rep. Peter Roskam and his wife took to Taiwan in 2011.
The Wheaton Republican and others have characterized this as a tiff between the ethics office and the more powerful House Ethics Committee, which had preapproved the trip before the Roskams boarded the plane for the Far East. And no doubt, there is a great bit of truth to that.
This, more than solutions to problems, is what Washington seems to spend most of its time doing -- sullying those on the other side of the aisle whenever it has the opportunity. Or even when it doesn't have the opportunity.
As an increasingly visible chief deputy whip in a highly partisan House, Roskam has put himself in a position where his downfall would especially excite the opposition.
How it all will play out, only time and political intrigue will tell. For the moment, we'll leave the determination of whether Roskam broke any laws or rules to the investigators and to his colleagues in Congress. Don't get us wrong. Laws and rules matter. But we're more concerned in this case with whether Roskam did what is right than whether he may have complied with ethics laws that don't seem nearly stringent enough.
In response to the call for an investigation, Roskam's communications director Stephanie Kittredge said, "The record reflects that Rep. Roskam fully complied with all laws, rules and procedures related to privately sponsored travel ... The OCE is wrong to take issue with the involvement of the Government of Taiwan in planning and conducting the trip, a matter that is routine, allowed under the law, and was known to the House Ethics Committee as they thoroughly vetted and approved the trip."
Congressman, we strongly beg to differ.
On many counts.
Complying with the laws, rules and procedures related to privately sponsored travel is not good enough. Please explain to us and to your suburban constituents why, legal or not, you should accept a free junket apparently engineered by a foreign government that is interested in influencing your exercise of power? In fact, why should you accept a free junket sponsored by anyone seeking to influence you?
Please explain to us why, legal or not, you should accept a free trip for your wife, paid for by a private grant that apparently had been engineered by that same foreign government?
The answer, it seems obvious to us, is that you should not. Whether those favors were legal or not, vetted or not, cynically routine in Congress or not.
To those of us back home, Congressman, the morality of your choices is more important than the legality.
We respectfully await your explanation.