The American Hall of Shame: A Not-So-Little List

For commentary, you can read You’re ALL out of order.

These are the details, the who’s who plus the what and when of America’s federal convicted political criminals. Note I say convicted because I’m sure there are lots more that weren’t caught … or haven’t been caught yet. This not only isn’t everyone at the Federal level, it doesn’t deal at all with the state and locally elected criminals, from governors, to mayors, judges and the thousands of local pols. Truly too many to name. That’s not a post. That’s a multi-volume book.


So, to reiterate, this list contains only federal officials, appointed and elected, indicted and convicted while in office. More than a few of them were re-elected after conviction and some while still serving time. You get the government you deserve.


Many people who were convicted during the term of one president did the crime and the time (and were elected or appointed) during an earlier presidency. Typically, regardless of political affiliation, new presidents pardon the miscreants convicted from earlier administrations. It’s a courtesy, one President to another. Nice.

On the other hand, it’s heartwarming to know if you get nailed, the next guy in office will pardon you too.

Obama (D) Presidency

Judicial Branch
  • Samuel B. Kent (R) The Federal District Judge of Galveston, Texas. Sentenced May 11, 2009 to 33 months for lying about sexually harassing 2 female employees. Appointed by George H. W. Bush (1990).
  • Thomas Porteous (D), Federal Judge of the US District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana), impeached, convicted and removed from office December 8, 2010. Charges of bribery and lying to Congress. Appointed by Bill Clinton (1994).
Legislative Branch

Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) pled guilty February 20, 2013 to fraud, conspiracy, making false statements, mail fraud, wire fraud, and criminal forfeiture after using approximately $750,000 in campaign money for personal expenses. Not yet sentenced.

2001–2009 George W. Bush (R) Presidency

Executive Branch
  • Lewis Libby (R) Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney (R). ‘Scooter’ convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame Affair, March 6, 2007. Sentenced to 30 months and fined $250,000. Sentence commuted by George W. Bush (R), July 1, 2007.
  • Lester Crawford (R) Commissioner of the FDA, resigned. Pled guilty to conflict of interest. Sentenced to 3 years suspended and fined $90,000 (2006).
  • Claude Allen (R) Advisor to President Bush on Domestic Policy. Arrested for multiple felony thefts in retail stores. (2006) Convicted and resigned.
  • Darleen Druyun (D) Principal Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. Pled guilty to corruption charges, sentenced to 9 months and fined $5,000, with 3 years supervised release and 150 hours community service.
Legislative Branch

Jack Abramoff CNMI congressional influence peddling scandal involving immigration and minimum wage laws. Congressmen convicted in the Abramoff scandal included:

  • Tom DeLay (R-TX) House Majority Leader. Reprimanded twice by the House Ethics Committee. DeLay resigned June 9, 2006. Illegally channeled funds from Americans for a Republican Majority to Republican state legislator campaigns. Convicted  in 2010 by a Texas court of money laundering and conspiracy. Sentenced to 3 years.
  • Michael Scanlon (R) former staff to Tom DeLay: working for Abramoff, pled guilty to bribery.
  • Tony Rudy (R) former staff to Tom DeLay, pled guilty to conspiracy
  • James W. Ellis (R) executive director of Tom DeLay’s political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), indicted for money laundering.
  • John Colyandro (R) executive director of Tom DeLay’s political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), indicted for money laundering.
  • Bob Ney (R-OH) pled guilty to conspiracy and lying in exchange for legislative favors. 30 months.
  • Duke Cunningham (R-CA) pled guilty on November 28, 2005 to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion (Cunningham scandal). Sentenced to 8+ years in prison.
  • William J. Jefferson (D-LA). August 2005, the FBI seized $90,000 in cash from Jefferson’s home freezer. Was re-elected anyway, but lost in 2008. Convicted of 11 counts of bribery and sentenced to 13 years, November 13, 2009.
  • Jefferson’s Chief of Staff Brett Pfeffer, sentenced to 84 months for bribery (2006).
  • Bill Janklow (R-SD) convicted of second-degree manslaughter for running a stop sign and killing a motorcyclist. Resigned from the House. 100 days in county jail plus 3 years probation (2003).
  • Jim Traficant (D-OH). Convicted on 10 felony counts of financial corruption. Sentenced to 8 years in prison. Expelled from the US House of Representatives. (2002)
  • Larry Craig Senator (R-ID). Married Senator and vocal critic of Clinton’s affair, pled guilty to disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis airport men’s room, after having been arrested on a charge of homosexual lewd conduct (2007).
  • Frank Ballance (D-NC) admitted to federal charges of money laundering and mail fraud in October 2005. Sentenced to 4 years.

1993–2001 Clinton (D) Presidency

Legislative Branch
  • Mel Reynolds (D-IL). Convicted of 12 counts of bank fraud (1999).
  • Walter R. Tucker III (D-CA). Sentenced to 27 months 1996, extortion and tax evasion (1995).
  • Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI). Convicted on 11 counts of illegally using campaign funds for personal use (1997).
  • Austin Murphy (D-PA) convicted of 1 count of voter fraud for filling out absentee ballots for members of a nursing home (1999).

House Banking Scandal — 450 members of the House of Representatives overdrew their checking accounts and were never penalized. Six were convicted of related charges, and 22 others were sanctioned by the House Ethics Committee (1992):

  • Buz Lukens (R-Ohio) was convicted of bribery and conspiracy.
  • Carl C. Perkins (D-Kentucky) pled guilty to a check kiting multiple financial institutions including the House Bank.
  • Carroll Hubbard (D-Kentucky) convicted of illegally funneling money to his wife’s 1992 congressional campaign.

Congressional Post Office scandal (1991–1995) was a conspiracy to embezzle House Post Office money through stamps and postal vouchers to congressmen:

  • Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) — sentenced to 18 months, 1995.
  • Joe Kolter (D-Pennsylvania) convicted of 1 count of conspiracy. Sentenced to 6 months.
  • Jay Kim (R-CA) accepted $250,000 in illegal 1992 campaign contributions. Sentenced to 2 months house arrest (1992).

1989–1993 George H. W. Bush (R) Presidency

Judicial Branch
  • Robert Frederick Collins (D) Judge of the US District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana). Convicted of bribery. Sentenced to 6 years 10 months.
  • Walter Nixon (D) US Judge (Mississippi) (appointed by Lyndon Johnson,1968). Impeached by House and convicted by the Senate for perjury (1989).
Executive Branch

Catalina Vasquez Villalpando, (R) Treasurer of the United States. Pled guilty to obstruction of justice and tax evasion (1992).

Legislative Branch
  • Nicholas Mavroules (D-Massachusetts). Convicted of extortion, accepting illegal gifts and failing to report income. Pled guilty to 15 counts in April 1993. Sentenced to 15 months. (1993)
  • Albert Bustamante (D-Texas) — Convicted of accepting bribes (1993).
  • David Durenberger Senator (R-Minnesota) — Denounced by Senate for unethical financial transactions and disbarred (1990). Pled guilty to misuse of public funds. One year probation (1995).

1981–1989 Reagan (R) Presidency

Executive Branch

Housing and Urban Development Scandal concerned bribery by selected contractors to get low-income housing project government contracts:

  • James G. Watt (R) United States Secretary of the Interior, 1981–1983, charged with 25 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. Sentenced to five years probation, fined $5,000 and 500 hours of community service.
  • Deborah Gore Dean, (R) Executive Assistant to (Samuel Pierce, Secretary of HUD 1981–1987, and not charged). Dean was convicted of 12 counts of perjury, conspiracy, bribery. Sentenced to 21 months in prison (1987).
  • Phillip D. Winn (R) Assistant Secretary of HUD, 1981–1982, pleaded guilty to bribery in 1994.
  • Thomas Demery, (R) Assistant Secretary of HUD, pleaded guilty to bribery and obstruction.
  • Joseph A. Strauss, (R) Special Assistant to the Secretary of HUD, convicted for accepting payments to favor Puerto Rican land developers in receiving HUD funding.

Wedtech scandal: Wedtech Corporation convicted of bribery for Defense Department contracts:

  • Mario Biaggi (D-New York) sentenced to 2½ years. (1987)
  • Robert Garcia (D-New York) sentenced to 2½ years.

Iran-Contra Affair (1985–1986) involved secret arms sales to Iran in an attempt to secure the release of hostages and let US intelligence agencies fund Nicaraguan Contras (violation of Boland Amendment):

  • Caspar Weinberger (R) United States Secretary of Defense, indicted on 2 counts of perjury and 1 count of obstruction of justice on June 16, 1992. Weinberger received a pardon before his trial from George H. W. Bush on December 24, 1992.
  • Robert C. McFarlane (R) National Security Adviser, convicted of withholding evidence. Given 2 years probation. Pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
  • John Poindexter (R) National Security Advisor, was convicted on April 7, 1990 for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair. Convictions were reversed in 1991 on appeal .
  • Oliver North (R) Member of the National Security Council, was fired by President Reagan on the same day Poindexter resigned. North was found guilty of perjury and conspiracy, but charges were overturned on appeal.
  • Elliott Abrams (R) Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, convicted of withholding evidence. 2 years probation, pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
  • Michael Deaver (R) White House Deputy Chief of Staff to Ronald Reagan 1981–85, pled guilty to perjury related to lobbying activities and was sentenced to 3 years probation and fined $100,000.

Sewergate: A scandal in which funds from the EPA were selectively used for projects which would aid politicians friendly to the Reagan administration:

  • Rita Lavelle (R), assistant EPA Administrator, US Environmental Protection Agency misused ‘superfund’ monies and was convicted of perjury. Served 6 months and fined $10,000 with 5 years probation (1984) (Note: And let’s not worry about cleaning up those hazardous waste sites.)
Legislative Branch
  • David Durenberger Senator (R-Minnesota), denounced by the Senate for unethical financial transactions (1990) and disbarred (1995). Pled guilty to 5 counts of misuse of public funds. 1 year probation.
  • Donald E. “Buz” Lukens (R-Ohio). Convicted of two counts of bribery and conspiracy (1996).

ABSCAM FBI sting involving fake ‘Arabs’ trying to bribe 31 congressmen. (1980). The following Congressmen were convicted:

  • Harrison A. Williams Senator (D-New Jersey) was convicted on 9 counts of bribery and conspiracy. Sentenced to 3 years.
  • John Jenrette Representative (D-South Carolina) sentenced to two years in prison for bribery and conspiracy.
  • Richard Kelly (R-Florida) accepted $25K. Claimed he was conducting his own investigation into corruption. Served 13 months.
  • Raymond Lederer (D-Pennsylvania) “I can give you me” he said after accepting $50K. Sentenced to 3 years.
  • Michael Myers (D-Pennsylvania) Accepted $50,000 saying: “…money talks and bullshit walks.” Sentenced to 3 years and was expelled from the House.
  • Frank Thompson (D-New Jersey) sentenced to 3 years.
  • John M. Murphy (D-New York) Served 20 months of a 3-year sentence.
  • Mario Biaggi (D-New York), Convicted of obstruction of justice and accepting illegal gratuities he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison, fined $500,000 for his role in Wedtech. Resigned just before expulsion from the House. The next year he was convicted of another 15 counts of obstruction and bribery (1988).
  • Pat Swindall (R-Georgia) convicted of 6 counts of perjury. (1989)
  • George V. Hansen (R-Idaho) censured for failing to file out disclosure forms. Spent 15 months in prison.
  • Frederick W. Richmond (D-New York),Convicted of tax evasion and possession of marijuana. Served 9 months (1982)
  • Dan Flood (D-Pennsylvania) censured for bribery. Deadlocked jury. Pled guilty, got 1 year probation.
  • Joshua Eilberg (D-Pennsylvania) pled guilty to conflict-of-interest. Convinced president Carter to fire the US Attorney investigating his case.
Judicial branch scandals
  • Alcee Hastings (D-Florida), Federal District court judge impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate of soliciting a bribe (1989). Subsequently elected to the US House of Representatives (1992)
  • Harry Claiborne (D-Nebraska), Federal District court Judge impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate on two counts of tax evasion. He served 1 year.

1977–1981 Carter (D) Presidency

Legislative Branch
  • Fred Richmond (D-New York) – Convicted of tax fraud and possession of marijuana. Served 9 months in prison. Charges of soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy were dropped after he agreed to counseling (1978).
  • Charles Diggs (D-Michigan). Convicted on 29 charges of mail fraud and filing false payroll forms in kickback scheme. Sentenced to 3 years (1978).
  • Michael Myers (D-Pennsylvania) Received suspended six-month jail term after pleading no contest to disorderly conduct charged stemming from an incident at a Virginia bar in which he allegedly attacked a hotel security guard and a cashier.
  • Frank M. Clark (D-Pennsylvania) pled guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion, June 12, 1979. Sentenced to 2 years.

Koreagate scandal involving alleged bribery of more than 30 members of Congress by the South Korean government represented by Tongsun Park:

  • Richard T. Hanna (D-California). Convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison.
  • Richard Tonry (D-Louisiana) pled guilty to receiving illegal campaign contributions.

1974–1977 Ford (R) Presidency

Legislative Branch
  • James F. Hastings (R-New York), convicted of kickbacks and mail fraud, he also took money from his employees for personal use. Served 14 months at Allenwood penitentiary (1976).
  • John V. Dowdy (D-Texas), Allegedly tried to stop a federal investigation of a construction firm. He served 6 months in prison for perjury (1973).
  • Bertram Podell (D-New York), pleaded guilty to conspiracy and conflict of interest. He was fined $5,000 and served four months in prison (1974).
  • Frank Brasco (D-New York) sentenced to 3 months in jail and fined $10,000 for conspiracy to accept bribes from a reputed Mafia figure for truck leasing contracts from the post office and loans to buy trucks.
  • Richard T. Hanna (D-CA), convicted in an influence-buying scandal (1974).

1969–1974 Nixon (R) Presidency

Watergate: A Really, Really Big Scandal

Watergate (1972–1973) was about Republican “operatives” bugging Democratic Party National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel entailing a burglary. Which was discovered and exposed in the biggest and baddest government scandal of modern times and the only one that led to the resignation of a sitting president. The only resignation of any sitting president.

If you are too young to have watched the spectacle on television, you can catch up by watching “All The President’s Men.” It’s not as good as the real thing, but it’s as close as you’re going to get. You might watch “Frost-Nixon” too.

The attempted cover up of the affair by President Richard Nixon (R) and his staff resulted in 69 government officials being charged and 48 pleading guilty, including 7 for actual burglary. Eventually, Nixon resigned his presidency. It wasn’t what he did that got him. It was his stupid attempt to cover it up. If he had admitted it and apologized, it probably would have blown over.

Eventually all the malefactors found Jesus, wrote books, and made a fortune on the lecture circuit. Presumably, justice was served. There’s a moral in there. I have no idea what it is.

The following were indicted and convicted:

  • John N. Mitchell (R) former Attorney General, convicted of perjury.
  • Frederick C. LaRue (R) Advisor to John Mitchell, convicted of obstruction of justice.
  • Richard Kleindienst (R) Attorney General, found guilty of “refusing to answer questions” given one month in jail.
  • H. R. Haldeman (R) Chief of Staff for Nixon, convicted of perjury.
  • John Ehrlichman (R) Counsel to Nixon, convicted of perjury.
  • Egil Krogh (R) Aide to John Ehrlichman, sentenced to 6 months.
  • John W. Dean III (R) Counsel to Nixon, convicted of obstruction of justice.
  • Dwight L. Chapin (R) Deputy Assistant to Nixon, convicted of perjury.
  • Charles W. Colson (R) Special Consul to Nixon, convicted of obstruction of justice.
Legislative Branch
  • Cornelius Gallagher (D-New Jersey) pled guilty to tax evasion. Served 2 years.
  • J. Irving Whalley (R-Pennsylvania) In 1973, received suspended 3-year sentence and fined $11,000 for using mail to deposit staff salary kickbacks and threatening an employee to stop her from informing the FBI.
  • Martin B. McKneally (R-New York) 1 year probation and fined $5,000 in 1971 for failing to file income tax return. He had not paid taxes for many years prior. (Note: They’d have tossed me in jail and thrown away the key.)
  • New York US Representative James Fred Hastings (R-NY) was a delegate to the 1968 Republican National Convention and the 1972 Republican National Convention. Elected to Congress in 1968. Served from January 3, 1969 until he resigned January 20, 1976 after being convicted of taking kickbacks and mail fraud. Served 14 months at Allenwood penitentiary (1976).

1963–1969 Lyndon B. Johnson (D) Presidency

Legislative Branch

Ted Kennedy — Senator (D-Massachusetts) drove his car into the channel between Chappaquiddick Island and Martha’s Vineyard, killing passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended sentence of two months (1969). He also went on to be one of the nation’s finest legislators. Again, there’s a moral in there. Having taken that drive, it’s hard to believe it happened the way he said it did. I liked Teddy. I just didn’t believe him.

1961–1963 Kennedy (D) Presidency

Frank Boykin (D-Alabama) was placed on probation and fined $40,000 following conviction for conflict of interest and conspiracy to defraud the government. Pardoned by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.

1953–1961 Eisenhower (R) Presidency

  • Thomas J. Lane (D-Massachusetts) convicted for income tax evasion. Served 4 months, but was re-elected three more times before his 1962 defeat due to re-districting (1956).
  • Ernest K. Bramblett (R-California) Received a suspended sentence and a $5,000 fine in 1955 for payroll padding and getting kickbacks.

1945–1953 Truman (D) Presidency

  • Walter E. Brehm (R-Ohio) convicted of accepting illegal contributions from employees. Received 15 month suspended sentence and a $5,000 fine.
  • J. Parnell Thomas (R-New Jersey), member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), was convicted of salary fraud and given 18 months and a fine. Resigned from Congress in 1950. He was imprisoned in Danbury Prison with two of the Hollywood Ten he had helped put there. (Note: Karma’s a bitch.) After serving, 18 months, was pardoned by Truman (D) in 1952.
  • Andrew J. May (D-Kentucky) was convicted of accepting bribes in 1947 from a war munitions manufacturer. Sentenced to 9 months, then pardoned by Truman (D) in 1952.

1933–1945 Franklin D. Roosevelt (D) Presidency

John H. Hoeppel (D-California) convicted in 1936 of selling an appointment to the West Point Military Academy. He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to 4–12 months.

1921–1923 Harding (R) Presidency

Teapot Dome Scandals: The Harding administration was rocked by scandals caused by Harding’s old Ohio friends who he had appointed to positions in his administration, known as the Ohio Gang. My mother to her dying day was convinced Harding was poisoned by his own “people.”

They did say it was food poisoning. Perhaps what they left out was what kind of poison was in the food?The list of the convicted included:

  • Albert Fall (R) Secretary of the Interior, bribed by Harry F. Sinclair for control of the Teapot Dome federal oil reserves in Wyoming, the first (but by no means the last) U.S. cabinet member to be convicted. Served two years (1922).
  • Charles R. Forbes (R) appointed by Harding as the first director of the new Bureau of Veterans Affairs. After constructing and modernizing VA hospitals, convicted of bribery and corruption. Sentenced to two years.
  • Thomas W. Miller (R), Head of the Office of Alien Property: convicted of fraud by selling German patents seized after World War I and bribery. Served 18 months.

1901-1909 Theodore Roosevelt (R) Presidency

  • Henry B. Cassel (R-Pennsylvania) was convicted of fraud related to the construction of the Pennsylvania State Capitol (1909).
  • John Mitchell Senator (R-Oregon) was involved with the Oregon land fraud scandal, for which he was indicted and convicted while a sitting US Senator (1905).
  • Joseph R. Burton Senator (R-Kansas), convicted of accepting a $2,500 bribe (1904).

1869–1877 Grant (R) Presidency

Whiskey Ring: Massive corruption of Ulysses S. Grant’s (R) administration involving whiskey taxes, bribery and kickbacks ending with 110 convictions (1875).


  • Matthew Lyon (Democratic Republican-Kentucky). First Congressman to be recommended for censure after spitting on Roger Griswold (Federalist-Connecticut). The censure failed to pass. Also found guilty of violating John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts and sentenced to four months in jail, during which period he was re-elected (1798). Setting a precedent, I guess.
  • John Pickering, Federal Judge (appointed by George Washington) was impeached and convicted in absentia by the US Senate for drunkenness and use of profanity on the bench though neither act was a high crime or misdemeanor (1804).

Obama wins second term!

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

Elected on hope in a season of despair, President Obama won his first term by being the right guy at the right time. He won his second term making Mitt Romney the wrong guy.

Obama turned what could have been a stinging referendum on his economic stewardship into a pass-fail test on Romney’s character. A multi-million dollar media blitz casting aspersions on his extraordinary wealth and successful business career began weeks before Romney had even earned enough delegates to claim the nomination. In a campaign reminiscent of former President Bush’s takedown of John Kerry’s military record in 2004, Romney was not only stripped of his greatest asset in a race about how to stimulate economic growth, it became a liability.

“Obama won by thoroughly and completely trashing Mitt Romney and his reputation,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “It is the classic definition of winning ugly.”

But to exclusively blame the attacks from Obama and his super PAC allies for Romney’s defeat overlooks the Republican nominee’s own shortcomings. The smoothly coiffed, buttoned-down financier struggled to come across as a man of the people, a problem exacerbated by his vow to perpetuate tax breaks for the wealthy, several foot-in-mouth gaffes on the campaign trail, and a secretly recorded video of him at a tony fundraiser dismissing “47 percent” of Americans whom he said pay no income taxes and consider themselves “victims.”

The first African-American president also capitalized on an increasingly diverse electorate and used sophisticated turnout tools to make sure supporters, even casual ones, cast votes. “It’s like the demographic changes are making the old rules about unemployment sinking an incumbent obsolete,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. “The Obama campaign knew they weren’t supposed to get re-elected, so they figured out who they needed to register to vote and turn out to change that.”

Again, Romney didn’t help himself amid the changing demographics, alienating the fast-growing Hispanic community by shaking an iron fist at illegal immigrants during the GOP primaries. He would have persevered over his more conservative but politically implausible Republican rivals, anyway — though as a Mormon who had spearheaded a government-led overhaul of health care as governor of Massachusetts, Romney was ill-suited to tap into the energy of the social conservative and tea party movements. He accepted the nomination as the least popular nominee from a major party in decades. Wrong guy, wrong time.

Romney badly misread the electorate, assuming the dragging economy would automatically turn voters against the president. Yet many still blamed the recession on former President Bush and were growing accustomed to incremental economic growth. It was a pitiable recovery, but a recovery nonetheless. Offering few details about his economic agenda, Romney didn’t look like a tempting alternative.

“The Romney team was convinced it was a time when likability was a secondary factor,” said Republican strategist John Brabender, who advised Romney’s one-time GOP rival, Rick Santorum. “They forgot they had to give people a reason to vote for Romney, not just against Obama.”

While Romney was still fending off Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, Obama was quietly opening campaign offices all over the country, re-launching his vaunted ground game from 2008. Then the Obama campaign went into overdrive; from the time Romney emerged as the likely nominee in April through most of September,

Obama outgunned him on television nearly three times over with predominantly negative ads, according to Kantar Media CMAG. Republican super PACs evened the score but didn’t control the damage. The Obama campaign and its allies branded the former chief executive of Bain Capital as a tax-dodging, job-outsourcing villain who would shred the safety net holding up the elderly and the poor.

Romney also blew silver-platter opportunities, fumbling through a high-profile trip overseas and allowing a cringe-worthy bit by Clint Eastwood to overshadow an otherwise carefully choreographed convention. In contrast, Obama made hay of his accomplishments, touting the auto bailout to overcome resistance from blue-collar workers and brandishing Osama bin Laden’s death to shore up his party’s traditional vulnerabilities on national security.

Democrats also drove wedges between Romney and two influential swing voting blocs – women and Hispanics – with ads attacking his positions on abortion and immigration. The ads suggesting Romney opposed birth control and abortion even in cases of rape and incest simply weren’t true, but he, not Obama, paid the bigger price.

It wasn’t until after the convention in September that Romney got serious about investing in Spanish-language advertising, and it wasn’t until the October debates that the self-described “severely conservative” candidate narrowed the gender gap by pitching himself as a political moderate. Then came Hurricane Sandy. In the pivotal homestretch, the focus moved off of Romney’s momentum and onto Obama’s role as commander-in-chief.

In the end, the damaged wreaked by the storm on the New Jersey shore was an apt metaphor for what Obama and his allies had done to Romney’s reputation.

See on

If you are human, you know right from wrong …

I voted for Obama four years ago and I don’t regret it. I thought we needed to do something different. I didn’t think that continuing to do the same things that had landed us in a mess were going to get us out of it. It’s foolish to believe that repeating the same behavior will eventually produce different results.

If Obama had lost and McCain had been elected, aside from living in fear that he’d die leaving us with Sara Palin, John McCain was qualified to be President of the United States. He was not my choice, but he was not ridiculous or evil, just not the guy I wanted as President.

This year is different. Rather than feeling like an election, it feels like a referendum, the results of which will define who we are as a nation. We are about to make a statement that will tell the world whether or not the U.S. retains a moral compass.

No government is entirely on the side of the angels, though every government will protest otherwise. Regardless, there are obviously better and worse governments. No one will argue that Germany under Hitler was merely expressing a difference of opinion with other nations, or that Idi Amin was a bit wrong-headed but his heart was in the right place.

I’ve studied, read, argued and reargued this issue for the past 50 years. You don’t have to agree with me, but I believe knowing right from wrong is the essence of being human. I think it has little or nothing to do with your upbringing. Bad kids come from good homes and good kids emerge from bad ones.

Here’s a personal example.

My husband was raised by Christian parents, attended church regularly. He credits many of the values that have guided his life to his upbringing. He doesn’t push his beliefs on anyone else, including me. He would never presume to force anyone to his way of thinking.

On the other hand, I was raised by wolves. I’m kidding. Only one of my parents was non-human and he was a snake, not a wolf. I like wolves.

My mother called herself an atheist, but blamed the God she claimed to not believe in for failing to prevent the world’s ills. We attended neither synagogue nor church. I have spent most of my life trying to understand why God seems to be persistently MIA when bad things happen to good people. I’m not an atheist, but I am a skeptic.

Garry and I have been married for 22 years. I don’t believe anyone who knows us who would call either of us immoral or without conscience. We hold different beliefs, but respect each other’s points of view.

Garry thinks he developed his morals, conscience and understanding of right and wrong because his parents provided positive role models. He also gives credit to his church. I, on the other hand, believe we are all hard-wired — designed by our Creator — to know right from wrong. I think that is what distinguishes human beings from other species. If we were created in the image of God, but God has no physical aspect, then in what other way than by our ability to know right from wrong could we resemble God?

I don’t think it matters whether you are brought up Christian, Jewish, Muslim Buddhist, nothing at all or any combination of the aforementioned. If you are human, you know it’s wrong to murder, steal, cheat, lie or for that matter, let your neighbor die of starvation or lack of medical care. Even — maybe especially — if it costs you something to save someone else, you know in your head, your heart, and your guts that it’s the right thing to do.

The irony — or perhaps one of many ironies — of this election is that a group of so-called Christian Conservative fundamentalist whack jobs are leading a charge against the very things that every religion on earth values. The very things that Jesus advocated are the things that these phony Christians would abolish.

In a few weeks, we get to choose a president — and whether or not we are the kind of people who throw our elderly, sick, disabled, and just plain unlucky fellow citizens under the bus … or throw them a lifeline. We choose whether we will be ruled  by fear, prejudice, and hate … or by our inherent understanding of right and wrong. It’s awful that we’ve come to a point where we are so divided along racial and religious lines that such a choice is part of the electoral process. We appear to be standing at the edge of a deep chasm . I’m not sure we could climb out of that hole once we are in it. No one is pushing us over that edge. If we wind up in the chasm, we get there because we chose to jump.

I have always loved elections. They are my favorite spectator sport. During Presidential election years, I am usually glued to the television watching debates, analyzing political advertisements, reading the latest poll numbers.

I have watched many candidates for whom I voted lose. I was not thrilled about it, but I wasn’t scared to death, either. We’ve had a lot of Chiefs of State that were not my choice, but that’s the way the process works. You win. You lose.

Losing is disappointing, not catastrophic, It is one of the reasons this country is great. In the United States, we peacefully pass the reins of power from one administration to another. We don’t need a revolution to change the composition of Congress or the President. Good choices or bad, we have always managed to retain our fundamental principles, our sense of purpose and identity. We have regularly scheduled elections at which time we can replace former elected officials with different ones. Between elections, we cope and get on with our lives. In the end, to quote Tip O’Neil, “All politics is local.” No matter who is president, we have local representatives to help us. Most of the time, all we need to do to get help, is to ask for it.

This year, it’s come down to moral choices about what kind of people we are. Do we really, truly not care if everyone suffers as long as we advance our own agendas? Are we actually willing to vote for someone entirely because of his skin color? Have we gone so far backward that we don’t remember that we fought a bloody war that was supposed to settle that issue?

You don’t have to agree with me and I don’t have to agree with you. I shouldn’t have to worry that you’ll kill me because I don’t agree with you or vice verse.

Except, this year it is different. The amount of hate in this campaign shows a massive failure of basic civility, of our fundamental sense of fairness. The willingness to believe anything as long as it supports our position without regard to facts, right, wrong, or common sense demonstrates how far we have NOT come.

How many people see that our first amendment right to freedom of religion  is under attack? It’s as if we no longer have a constitution. The conservative fundamentalists who are pulling the strings in this election support the right of everyone to have a gun or, for that matter, an assault weapon, but not the separation of church and state. When did my rights go up for grabs? Didn’t we settle that 250 years ago? Didn’t we duke it out with Great Britain on this very subject? And yet, here we are again. What happened? How can we let ourselves be so manipulated and used to support an agenda that the vast majority of us disagree with?

I am trying to hang on to my belief that Americans are not fools, that we won’t elect a government whose principles are contrary to those of the nation we all love.

The system isn’t bullet proof. We can ignore our own better selves in the name of saving a few bucks. We can let our worst impulses, our hatred, our bigotry, our ignorance dominate our world. We can destroy ourselves. It isn’t easy, but it’s doable.

Here’s how. Instead of reasonable people, elect fanatics, haters,  and folks with lots of loose screws. When the haters, fanatics and crazies comprise a group large enough to form a swing vote, they will be the ones who decide what laws are passed. They will tell us what we can do with our lives, what to believe, what we can do in our bedrooms and of course, with whom we can do it.  They can upset the balance of powers to such a degree that the system stops working.

voting day in a small town

Small town voting. It looks like home to me! (Photo credit: Muffet)

However you choose,  VOTE. Vote for principled men and women who take the job of governing seriously and will work for the common good. Vote for positive reasons, not out of hate. Never in human history has hate been the foundation for anything good. It does not work that way. Karma is a bitch. Finally, don’t assume your vote doesn’t matter. We are as strong as our willingness to participate in the process. We have a good system. Support it. Be part of it. Whatever your feelings, our current problems are a bump in the road. A big bump to be sure, but not the end of the world unless we make it so. Win or lose, it’s a good system. It is my system, your system. Treasure it. Keep it strong.