Monday, November 17, 2008

A Sad Commentary on American Politics

Ted Stevens, the current Republican Senator from Alaska, was convicted of lying on Senate disclosure forms regarding renovations on his home and other related matters. He claimed that the $250,000 in work were not gifts. Though convicted he refused to heed calls to step down from the Senate and withdraw from his reelection.

Stevens proclaimed that he was not convicted as he was going to appeal his case. This is an interesting as Stevens is thereby saying hundreds of thousands currently in prison are wrongly incarcerated as they are still writing and filing appeals from prison for years.

By rational reasoning, he should lose the election badly. Yet on election night he was ahead over his Democrat opponent by 3,200 votes. For some, the attitude is that he may be convicted but it was not a serious crime. With about 30,000 absentee and early voting needing to still be counted (out of about 90,000 such votes), Democrat Mark Begich is ahead by about 810 votes.

If he wins, Stevens is forcing/daring the Senate to remove him for his crimes. First the Ethics Committee of the Senate need to investigate and come forward with a finding that he be removed. Then the full Senate will debate the finding before voting to remove him. An interesting twist of the rules allows Stevens to not only speak as a fellow Senator and lobby them to his side, but he is also allowed to vote on the motion to expel him. This process will not start until late January and go on as long as a eight to ten months. In the meantime, Stevens remains in the Senate.

If he is removed from the Senate, which is likely as the Senate will not tolerate having a convicted felon in the Senate, the Governor of Alaska will appoint his successor. Governor Palin has not ruled out appointing herself and has implied that “If he’s (God) got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state’s best interests, the nation’s best interest, I’m going to go through those doors.”

There is a possibility that Stevens will still in the Senate for years. As one of his final acts before leaving office, President Bush could give him a Presidential pardon. Given other things Bush has done, a pardon is a stronger possibility.

Hopefully the Democrat will win at the end of the day and put an end to this sad commentary on American politics.

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