WHAT IS JOHN HARRIS TALKING ABOUT?….I’m not sure why the Washington Post is running this piece at all, much less on Tuesday’s front page, even if John Harris is usually an astute political observer. The headline is “Recent Washington Scandals Test ‘Honesty Is the Best Policy’”, and Harris asserts that lately politicians are learning that coverups aren’t always worse than the original crime.

But here’s his evidence: First, Sandy Berger. A weird situation, I’ll admit, but hardly one that was ever going to be a huge deal, whether or not Berger told the truth immediately or lied and then subsequently agreed to a plea bargain. C’mon…Berger is a former official from an administration two elections ago who did something stupid. You can never prove a counterfactual anyway, but it’s hard to imagine that this could ever have become some tempest in Washington.

Next, Tom DeLay. It’s far too early to claim that DeLay’s strategy of going on the attack is going to help him escape punishment from colleagues or voters. But that’s almost beside the point. What we have here is not proof that evasion works but rather that controlling every branch of government, purging ethics committees of independent-minded members and installing your puppets, and invoking divine retribution on those who disagree with you seems to work pretty darn well.

Finally–and most oddly–Harris relies on the example of Bill Clinton as someone who benefitted from an initial cover-up of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Hate to be rude, but it was precisely Clinton’s attempt to hide the affair that led to the whole impeachment proceeding to begin with. Sure, he didn’t actually end up forced to leave office. But I don’t see how this is an example of dishonesty triumphing over candor.


Amy Sullivan

Amy Sullivan is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about religion, politics, and culture as a senior editor for Time, National Journal, and Yahoo. She was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2004 to 2006.