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Wish We Could Trust Them

I'm tired of political scandals, aren't you? I don't mean that I'm tired of scandalous behavior coming to light. I mean, I'm tired of people in power acting scandalously. Now we're in the midst of the Tom Delay-Bill Frist-Scooter Libby-Karl Rove accusations. Before you start your e-mails, I know that none of these guys has been found guilty of anything. All of the alleged improprieties might turn out to be groundless. But if they are, I guarantee there will be others either in the administration or in Congress who will be found to have committed crimes and/or ethical lapses. That's just the way it's been with all the administrations in recent memory. Now, you can say that some people in all walks of life commit crimes. But doesn't it seem that the people we have entrusted with power are crooks at a higher rate than the rest of the population?

Every Administration is criticized and scrutinized by the party not in power. Innuendos are whispered, charges are brought, and hearings are held. But in every Administration — certainly since the Nixon days — someone in power, or close to it, is found to be guilty of wrongdoing. It's not a partisan thing. There are people on both sides of the aisle who turn out to be bad. Each time a new party wins the national election, those who support that party breathe a sigh of relief and exclaim that "at last, we can clean up Washington, restore ethics, and get rid of all the sleazy _____________(fill in the outgoing party)." And then the new scandals begin.

I know government officials aren't the only people who commit crimes. There were the big business scandals that involved Enron and other companies. But compared to the number of big businesses, those scandals only involved a small percentage. Most people don't work for companies where the people at or near the top are being given federal indictments.

No one in the office down the hall at any job I've held has even been accused of lying to the American people, fraud, leaking the name of a secret agent, or war profiteering.

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How about you? Have you worked with anybody ever accused of a cover-up to hide a federal crime? Has anybody in your carpool served time for conspiracy? Has that kid who brings the coffee and doughnuts been guilty of obstruction of justice?

Yet it seems that all these crimes are considered "business as usual" in American politics. And that's the outrage. The people we trust our government to should have a higher standard of ethics, not a lower one. If someone we've given power to lies, cheats, or steals, it's unforgivable.

Is this just the nature of the beast? Is it like complaining about the weather? Maybe not. I've got one suggestion that might help. It's time we pressure the lawmakers to have stronger penalties for those in power who commit crimes. Politicians are always calling for stiffer laws, so how could they not approve of this idea? Let's just double the fines and sentences for crimes that public officials commit. If perjury is a two-year offense for you or me, make it a four-year offense for a Congressman. If misappropriation of funds can get the average Joe 10 years, it should get the average Senator Joe 20. And make them serve their sentences in jails surrounded by prisoners whom they represented.

The FBI reported this week that the crime rate is down in almost all categories. That's something to celebrate. One of the categories they didn't mention was "Crimes Committed By Public Officials." If the day ever comes that they announce that those crimes are down, they should declare it a national holiday.

Lloyd Garver writes a weekly column for He has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver

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