Editorial: Politics get uglier and uglier

08/25/2018 6:00 AM |

As weeks go, this one has been a real doozy so far.

On Tuesday, 12 jurors in a federal courtroom in Virginia showed us that American democracy works because of the rule of law. On the same day, in a separate federal courtroom in Manhattan, the rule of law was showcased again. Thanks to both events, our democracy is better and stronger than it was just days ago.

American democracy — grounded in a constitution forged in Philadelphia after we showed the British that we would govern ourselves — has made us what we are in the world today. We are not a country where leaders decide what laws will be followed and which ones will be ignored or shoved aside.

The conviction of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, on eight felony counts, and the guilty pleas of former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, should embolden our political leaders to put country ahead of party and commit themselves to discovering the truth about Russian interference in the 2016 election — and who in the Trump campaign abetted it.

That is not a liberal position. Nor does it suggest that we don’t like the people in the White House because they are Republicans. Scores of Republicans and Conservatives feel the same way. Why? Because the rule of law must be followed.

Clearly, if the tables were turned and a Democrat in the White House were facing the same issues, the GOP majority in the House and Senate would move quickly toward impeachment hearings.

Also on Tuesday, California Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted on charges of using campaign funds to pay for luxury travel, their kids’ school lunches, medical bills, clothing at a golf course and a host of other items, big and small — all meant to enrich their lifestyle.

The list of what the Hunters bought with campaign funds ranges from family vacations in Italy, Hawaii and Las Vegas to tens of thousands of dollars in purchases at Costco, Walmart and Target. In just one instance out of dozens, Mr. Hunter dipped into his fund to the tune of $2,000 so a family member could attend a Pittsburgh Steelers game. When his campaign treasurer asked if that expense was campaign related, Mr. Hunter responded: “Yessir.”

Mr. Hunter’s seat, a GOP stronghold in San Diego County, is now at risk in the November election — one more indication that the House of Representatives may swing Democratic on Election Day. There truly is a swamp of corruption in Washington, D.C., and the American people, Democrats and Republicans alike, have to drain it in the best interests of the country.

What comes next?

One hint was supplied Wednesday morning by Michael Cohen’s lawyer, who said his client was willing to speak with special counsel Robert Mueller about a “conspiracy to collude” with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The lawyer went on to drop this bombshell: In addition to paying hush money to two women — a porn star and a Playboy playmate — Mr. Trump knew about the Russian hacking of Democratic Party servers before it took place.

As we know, all politics is local. Events happening nationally — and the ugly tone surrounding them — are surely in play here. We were reminded of that Tuesday when political graffiti was sprayed outside the Mattituck home of celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. In a tweet, the chef said the graffiti “was in response” to a Perry Gershon campaign sign displayed at his home.

Mr. Gershon is the Democrat running against Republican Lee Zeldin for the 1st Congressional District seat. Adding an ugly element to this incident, the graffiti also appeared to take aim at Mr. Colicchio’s wife, Lori Silverbush, who tweeted: “Cute touch: my name & a defaced Jewish star.”

Mr. Zeldin, who, like Mr. Gershon, is Jewish, spent part of Tuesday at a fundraiser attended by Donald Trump Jr. He did not comment on the Manafort convictions or the Cohen pleas. However, he did post a comment about the Mattituck incident: “This coward needs to be identified and prosecuted.”

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