A TALE OF TWO CROOKS…. The comparison is admittedly inexact, but consider a parallel between 2004 and 2008.

Four years ago, shortly after national elections, Republicans were forced to deal with the criminal indictment of a high-profile member — Tom DeLay. One of the House GOP caucus’ first major moves after the elections was to agree, behind closed doors, to change the rule forbidding those under indictment from holding leadership posts in the party. (Embarrassed, they later changed their minds.) Republican officials also defended the accused and lashed out, in a coordinated effort, against the prosecutor.

Four years later, shortly after national elections, Democrats have been forced to deal with the criminal indictment of a high-profile member — Rod Blagojevich. One of the Senate Democratic caucus’ first major moves after the elections was to agree, with full transparency, that they don’t want anything to do with the scandal-plagued governor.

All fifty members of the Democratic Senate caucus have signed Majority Leader Harry Reid’s letter calling on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to step down from his post and refrain from appointing anyone to the vacated Illinois Senate seat, a source confirms.

The development is noteworthy on several fronts. It signals that the Democratic Party, led by the Nevada Democrat, is organizing a united front against allegations of corruption — though, on this matter, it would be remarkable had any Senator refused to sign the petition. More importantly, it indicates that the Democratic senators are prepared to exercise their constitutional authority to undo any move that Blagojevich may make before he exits office. […]

The fact that [Harry Reid and] 49 other Democratic colleagues, including Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton, have signed this letter suggest that they are serious about pushing back against any 11th-hour Blagojevich move.

It’s not especially surprising, but the speed and efficiency Democrats have shown on this is encouraging. On Monday morning, the political world learned about Blagojevich’s alleged crimes. By Tuesday afternoon, the president-elect and every member of the Senate Democratic caucus had aggressively thrown the governor under the bus. The party, both in Illinois and D.C., seems to be speaking with one voice: zero tolerance for corruption.


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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.