Gov. Phil Bredesen and the State Legislature are working on it. So is the Congress and Justice Department. They are investigating themselves to see who and how and where corruption has tainted the process of governing. Here in Tennessee, and perhaps nationwide as well, citizens have hardcore belief and hardcore doubt in reforms that will effect change.
I know there is a sense of Ethics Exhaustion among the general population. A good example of what brings that about is the long-fought legislation to create an anti-torture bill in Congress which the president signed and yet he also signed a statement saying his office was not legally bound to uphold or enforce the law.
Here in this state, as in many others, influence peddling and lobbying play a cash game - and the recent revelation that Jack Abramoff will "talk" about his work has many officials and party supporters scrambling like bugs running from a blast of insecticide. I doubt much will take place to correct or punish those who broke the law since Abramoff and the Justice Dept. have worked on his "plea bargain" for a year and a half. Some will be sacrificed for the Greater Good, but many will skate away to safety.
Wailing about federal corruption often misses that the most damaging and corrupt administration was a previous Republican-led disaster: Ronald Reagan's legacy is the leader, with nearly 200 administration officials indicted or investigated. Selling arms to Iran, the multi-billion dollar collapse of S&Ls, the fastest growth of federal power and government in general - seems as if the door was kicked open to allow for anything with a response that "the ends always justifies the means."
Perhaps all this "corruption" really has become the status quo.
Another recent example here in Tennessee is the nearly two dozen findings that the Tennessee School Board Association's director Dan Tollett grabbed money like he was on a game show. But the TSBA is working on it. I'm sure it will be better .... soon ... one day .... maybe.
Governor Bredesen today made these comments to legislators:
"In the months since last spring, I have traveled a great deal across our state, and it is gratifying to me to see the amount of plain old common sense on this subject. Most Tennesseans believe in the integrity of their government, of their elected leaders.
They know that there are bad apples once and awhile – I’m dealing with similar issues myself. They also know that public officials aren’t vacuum-wrapped in plastic; we all live in the real world and there are always potential conflicts and cross-currents. But they trust us, when things go wrong, to move forward, to learn from the experience, and to do the best job we can of fixing the problem.
Tennesseans still trust their government.
I ask us now to join together – Governor and Legislature, Democrat and Republican – to prove once again that we are worthy stewards of that trust."
If you've bothered to read this far, how do you really think all these Ethics investigations will fare?