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Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Shameful Double Standard

It appears that the good ol' boys in the Minnesota Senate are going to cover for Majority Leader Dean Johnson and allow him to get away with his serious breech of ethics without significant personal or political consequences. This action is just one more example in the continuing history of DFL shenanigans (e.g. "phone gate", the unethical treatment of Governor Pawlenty's secretary of education nominee a couple of years ago, the open violation of senate rules regarding the use of alcohol in the office without consequences, forcing a state shutdown and blaming it on the governor, etc.).

Senator Johnson and his minions have been invoking every procedural maneuver available, often with questionable justification, to block the floor debate of legislation to allow the voters to decide whether or not the traditional definition of marriage should be constitutionally protected. In an attempt to remove some of the political heat he is taking for his actions Senator Johnson flat-out lied (or, as the good Senator put it in classic Clintonian double-speak, "embellished") to a group of clergy when he tried to assuage their doubts about the DFL position. Johnson tried to convince the clergy that they need not worry that the Minnesota Supreme Court would throw out an existing state law that protects traditional marriage, as several other state supreme courts have already done, by very strongly implying that the "fix" was in and that several sitting judges had personally assured him that they understood the politics of the situation and "would not touch" any case that challenged the law. Senator Johnson did not just hint at this with a wink and a nod. He named specific judges and directly attributed quotes. Unfortunately for Senator Johnson, a member of the audience had a recorder running and captured this incredible breech of ethics for posterity.

If Senator Johnson was telling the truth about his conversations with the judges he is guilty of attempting to tamper with the independence and separation of power of the judiciary, regardless of how the judges responded. If he is to be believed, the judges who were approached should have notified the Governor and the Legislature what had occurred and publicly state that, as an independent coequal branch of government, such actions would not be tolerated. At the very least, if the judges decided to give Senator Johnson a break by assuming he had not considered the ramifications of his actions, they should have given him a blistering lecture to let him know in no uncertain terms that any attempt to influence the judiciary would not be tolerated. If this had happened Senator Johnson, an ordained minister, should have had the fear of God put in him about ever mentioning that any such conversations with the judiciary ever took place. It's also intersting to note that all of the judges named by Johnson vehemently deny that any conversations took place.

Senator Johnson has put himself in a position that should, at the very least, cost him his senate leadership position if not his senate seat. It's a good thing for him that he is a DFLer as a Republican would never be allowed to skate so easily for a similar offense.

As a hypothetical, consider what the DFL reaction (and that of the liberal media) would be in the following situation:
The US Supreme Court at long last overturns Roe v. Wade and leaves the way abortion is regulated to the individual states. The DFL minority is promoting an amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution to guarantee abortion rights. Republicans are doing all they can to keep the question off of the ballot by blocking it in the legislature. In an attempt to relieve the political heat, a member of the Republican leadership addresses a liberal group and tells them that he has assurances from influential members of the Minnesota Supreme Court that they will never take up any case that challenges the current law that makes abortion legal so the "bother" of a constitutional amendment is not necessary.

My money would be on the Republican leader getting savaged by the media and eventually being forced to resign his or her leadership position, if not forced from office. If you have any doubts about this just ask US Senator Trent Lott. He lost his leadership position in the US Senate for being gracious and expressing some flattering platitudes at a birthday celebration for a 100 year old colleague. State Senator Johnson is guilty of a legitimately serious offense and is apparently going to get off with a little more than a well rehearsed, tearfully theatrical non-apology that acknowledges no wrong doing and expresses no remorse for anything other than getting caught.

Where is the Senate GOP on this? If the DFL is looking to make a political deal part of the price should include the DFL dropping the procedural roadblocks to allow the Defense of Marriage Amendment legislation to be debated on the senate floor.

Unfortunately Senator Johsnson and the DFL will probably get away with this--for now. As voters we need to make sure that proper retribution is made at election time by voting out the shameless "embellisher" Senator Johnson, as well as his spineless DFL colleagues (including Senator Satveer Chaudhary, one of the hardest core DFL hacks) that don't have the ethical backbone to punish one of their own when he clearly deserves it.

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