Scandal Simplicity, Not Severity, Most Important

Steven Taylor, noting the current argument by Democrats that the William Jefferson bribery scandal and others affecting that party pale in comparison to the DeLay and Abramoff scandals plaguing the Republicans, argues that this is not the most important thing from the voters’ perspective.

The thing that the Jefferson scandal has that the others don’t is videotape of a Congressman (allegedly) on the take. Further, the salacious factoid of $90,000 in cash hidden in the Congressman’s freezer screams “guilty.”


[T]he depth of the scandal isn’t the issue in terms of political impact—like most things in electoral politics the relevant issue is how easily understood it is by the electorate. Influence peddling by Jack Abramoff on behalf of Indian casino interests is difficult to understand—taking bribes on videotape is extremely easy to understand.

That’s likely quite right. It’s a perfect correlatory to Taylor’s observation that it’s the sound bytes played on the news the next day, not the delivery of the speech itself, that matter.

Fair or not, people think it’s the system that’s corrupt, not the handful of individual politicians involved or either party.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jwb says:

    The Democratic leadership really should turf this guy out of all his committee assignments (Ways and Means, notably, and the Trade subcommittee), and then demand his resignation.

    Instead of bitching about an FBI raid the House needs to give Jefferson the boot.

  2. This is right on. Cunnigham and Jeffords are clear cut bribery.

    Earle with his grand jury shopping (and failures) on Delay is so far from clear cut as you can imagine. When a judge takes all the assertions (not even evidence) in the most favorable light for the prosecution and then says you don’t have a case, that is an example of very poor legal work done with what seems to be a political bias. The other charges are likely to be also dismissed.

  3. Herb says:

    The Democrats are Corrupt.

    The Republicans are Corrupt.

    In one way or another, They are all Corrupt.

    All the pots in Congress are and can call the kettle BLACK.

  4. Bithead says:

    Ah, yes… the ‘they all do it’ defense.

    How very Clintonesque of you.