Recent events are proving the old theorem that a criminal record, or least the promise of a criminal proceeding, has become an essential requirement for holding or pursuing political office. Sexual scandal, of course, has always been a condition of political life--vide Francois Hollande of France, simultaneously cheating on three different women or Anthony Weiner preening his weiner on the Internet. (Now a movie documentary near you.)
But the epidemic of corruption, theft, plagiarism, bribe-taking, bridge blocking, and just plain venality that now characterizes public life has become unprecedented since the "avaritia" of the ancient Romans, whose passion for greed and luxury set a standard that American politicians have long ago surpassed. Even the Nixon administration, with its passion for dirty tricks, looks spotless compared to the present situation. Now both Democrats and Republicans can boast of real scandals based on indictable crimes.
If you put the parties on a scale, the Republicans would no doubt have the edge. Avid to protect the ill-gotten gains of its wealthiest constituents, the Party has been converting the money-laundering techniques of the one percent into prime political strategems.
Some time ago, there was the case of former Virginia Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell, convicted with his wife, Maureen of taking $160,000 in bribes from a constituent in return for business favors (in return, McDonnell bribed the donor with the favors of his wife). Then, there was the case of the Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who was indicted on two felony counts for illegally trying to dump his democratic Attorney General.
Four of the last seven Illinois Governors, ending with Democrat Rod Blagojevich in 2011, have spent time in prison for corruption. And if we count American Mayors, then jail time, either before, during, or after serving in office, seems to be almost a precondition for the job.
Typical of the syndrome is Dennis Hastert, the Illinois Republican Speaker of the House, who was accused of molesting at least four boys in the their locker room or at a motel while coaching wrestling at Yorkville High School. He was recently sentenced to fifteen months in state prison.
And now we have the opposing candidates for president of the United States qualifying for office by being accused of criminal action. Hillary Clinton has been cited for conducting government business on her own official stationary, which, though it appears to be more an epistolary error than a felony, has been cited by the FBI as a potential crime. And Donald Trump is raising suspicions for refusing to release his tax returns, though every previous candidate has done so.
Rather than force all these unfortunate politicians to undergo hurtful publicity and public humiliation after taking office, there ought to be some way to short circuit the process and make life easier for them.
Here is what I propose. Why not set up an independent school inside the prison system where people running for higher office could get higher honors in crime, combining their criminal records with their school records, and graduating with an advanced degree in Felony? This would put the heavy financial burden for indicting his or her own crimes on the politician rather than the state, and allow the media to reserve more air time for under-reported events like the Boeing Egypt-Air crash. It would also position the candidate for election without the distractions (and expenses) of indictments, court time, convictions, and prison time.
Courses and seminars at the School for Crime might include How To Shake Hands Without Exposing the Check (Bribery 101), How to send Email Without Attracting Attention (HillaryPost 202), How to Muddle the Facts About the Size of Your Hands (TrumpFictions 303), How to Remain In Office as a Convicted Criminal (Persistence 404), and How to Ignore All Requests for the Truth (Fuddle the Facts 505). Shirkers of the World unite! You have nothing to lose but your ankle chains!