Ticket Replay: Did you hear the one about U.S. politicians lecturing Afghans on corruption?
During the holiday season, as in years past, The Ticket is republishing some of our favorite items from the previous political year. This story was originally published on July 1, 2010:
ROFL! OK, So these two House members walk into a bar and....
This week the country was treated to some mid-summer levity as a bunch of U.S. House members manufactured and professed grave concern and quite possibly outrage about the possibility of ongoing political corruption -- way over there in Afghanistan.
This is the upside-down red-blooded American political institution where folks have stored $90,000 in cash in their food freezers. Doesn't everyone? Where phone calls from substantial political donors get passed right on through to the elected member while ordinary citizens can leave a message.
Where members on banking committees can acquire below-market mortgage rates from private companies and successfully claim ignorance of the going rates. Where members live rent-free for years in apartments owned by advisers to giant corporations allegedly regulated by the federal government.
Where members vote themselves automatic pay raises years in advance to avoid publicly discussing such awkward details so often. Where a so-called ethics committee takes how many years to figure out if not reporting all of your income is cause for member discipline.
And where a go-with-the-flow politician out of the aptly-maligned Chicago Democratic machine can get elected president as a reformer.
So this week a House foreign aid appropriations subcommittee voted to cut off nearly $4 billion in aid to Afghanistan over concerns -- even suspicions, mind you -- that some people in that war-torn, lawless, fractured land might quite possibly be ripping off some of the aid money.
If you can imagine such a thing in a decidedly foreign place where U.S. taxpayer money helped fund and arm the deadly anti-Soviet mujahideen violence of the 1980s.
"I do not intend," said panel chairwoman Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, "to....
...appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that U.S. taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists.”
In an unusual display of contemporary bipartisanship perhaps somehow mysteriously connected to the imminent midterm elections on Nov. 2, Lowey was joined by Texas Republican Kay Granger.
"The administration's policy of providing direct assistance to the government of Afghanistan assumes a great deal of risk," she said, "and with ongoing corruption inside the Afghan government, it is difficult to justify.”
(Speaking of House members running for their lives, a Gallup Poll late last month found national approval of Congress at only 20% just four months before the midterms, an ominous sign for President Obama and his Democratic Party's two-house majorities. In five previous midterms when approval of Congress was below 40%, the average loss of seats for the president's party was 29.)
Both Lowey and Granger want a government investigation to ensure the sanctity of that $4 billion in precious U.S. taxpayer aid money. As well they should!
Now, as for the $787 billion approved 16 months ago for stimulating the domestic economy, a sum almost 197 times larger than the controversial Kabul aid package, well, that money is obviously in safe, clean, English-speaking American hands. No need to examine that spending too closely.
-- Andrew Malcolm
Photo: Associated Press