The brewing scandal over the FBI search of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office is stultifying on a few levels. In case you haven't been watching: Jefferson is suspected of taking bribes.
First, the FBI found some $90,000 in the Louisiana congressman's freezer. This is incriminating. But there are two explanations: He was hiding the money or it was his. (OK, maybe he was holding it as evidence in his own investigation into congressional corruption and planned to turn over to the FBI.) But if Jefferson is innocent ... do we really want a congressman who thinks wise money-management is shrink-wrapped cash in the Frigidaire? No wonder we're in such a national economic mess.
Second, Congress' leadership is now whining that congressional offices should be (and have historically been) free from legal searches. It's how we keep the Executive and Legislative branches separate, they say.
Well, I disagree. Why should they be free from legal searches? If a congress-person is breaking the law, he shouldn't have any safe harbor, especially not a taxpayer-supported hideout on Capitol Hill. And if we can expose a president who gets, um, oral pleasure in the Oval Office, I certainly think we can look in a congressman's freezer (and why did he have a freezer in his office anyway?)
Congress had no difficulty creating or endorsing invasive new incursions on our civil liberties, from airport searches that seize our fingernail clippers to monitoring whom we call on our private telephones. For them to express their discomfort with being subject to the laws (and lawmen) of this country is disingenuous.
We might be heading into a new era of government mistrust if our leaders see themselves as having privileges that ordinary Americans don't have.