Some question why if it’s so easy to fire guys like Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose we can’t do the same and clean the house of our politicians. Chuck Todd questioned that recently and it shocked me he seemed not to understand the difference.
Harvey Weinstein, Lauer, Rose and others nearly all have contracts with a morals clause and one boss who can say, “You’re fired.” They might litigate pay, but they are out of a job. Politicians on the other hand work for a lot of bosses — the voters. We hire them and in nearly every case it is left to us to fire them by voting them out of office.
It boggles the mind 62,984,825 people actually voted for the sleaze bucket now in the White House. They heard what he said about grabbing pussy and what he felt entitled to do. They heard at least 11 women accuse him of inappropriate conduct; heard the stories of his walking in on Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA contestants while they were undressed yet still cast a ballot for him.
So ridding ourselves of disgusting politicians and determining what is morally acceptable behavior to voters is very much a question yet to be answered. We will know on Dec. 12 what is acceptable to the voters of Alabama. Their Republican governor, a woman, has said she believes the woman who said Roy Moore molested her when she was 14 yet said she will still vote for him.
The debate goes beyond what voters will do to what political parties will do. Will they sanction someone like Moore to be their candidate? Will they try to kick him off a ballot once they hear charges against him? The Republican Party in Alabama said no. The president has urged people to vote for him. What is acceptable behavior shouldn’t be based on political party.
Once someone is elected to Congress it is very difficult to do much about them if they won’t agree to resign. Article 1 Section 2 Clause 2 of the Constitution allows for a Congressperson or Senator to be removed if they don’t meet the constitutional requirements for office. Those are basic requirements of age, length of citizenship and being an inhabitant of the district or state from which they are elected. There is no morals clause in the Constitution or for that matter any education or other requirement to serve. Interestingly, after the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment added an additional stipulation, which states, “No one may seek federal elected office if they engaged in rebellion against the U.S.”
Article 1 Section 5 of the Constitution provides that each house of Congress may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.”
Accordingly, both the Senate and House of Representatives have set their own guidelines for punishment and expulsion, which almost never happens. In the history of the Senate there have been only 20 expulsions and only one, Sen. William Blount of Tennessee who was expelled for treason, was for reasons other than supporting the confederacy. The most recent case that drew a recommendation for expulsion from the Senate from the Ethics Committee was in 1995 when Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon resigned due to sexual misconduct and his attempts to enrich himself through his official position.
The most recent case of a vote and expulsion from the House was in 1980 when Rep. Michael Myers of Pennsylvania was expelled for bribes in connection with the Abscam scandal. In 2002, Rep. Jim Traficant of Ohio was expelled after he was convicted on numerous counts of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.
So the reality we face is it will be up to society and voters to make the decision on what they will accept from their politicians with regard to their moral behavior, including sexual harassment and inappropriate acts. Let’s hope we turn a new leaf and demand equality for women. That we will not elect individuals to represent us who don’t live up to a much higher set of standards than they have in the past. Electing more women would help.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.