You get the sense from the GOP that in its analysis of the election results the congressional seats lost due to Republican ties to public corruption shouldn't really count. Sort of like losing the game not because you got beat but because the refs made a bad call.
I think most people would view bribery, influence peddling, and sexually predatory congressmen as substantive problems, not mere technicalities. Maybe that's just me.
For its part, the White House would like to portray the corruption issue as a congressional problem. In his press conference, the President said, "People want their Congress -- congressmen to be honest and ethical." (That comment came just after the point in the press conference where he acknowledged deliberately misleading reporters the week before when he said he intended to keep Don Rumsfeld on after the election.)
For his part, Karl Rove was surprised by the significance of corruption in the election outcome:
"The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I'd expected," Rove tells TIME. "Abramoff, lobbying, Foley and Haggard [the disgraced evangelical leader] added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass."
One can forgive Rove his surprise. He was too close to the problem to see it for what it was. Funny how he describes it now like a detached observer of the passing scene, with the perspective of a political scientist. Let's take this apart, starting with Rove's old buddy Jack Abramoff.
By one account Rove arranged to meet Abramoff on DC street corners so as to avoid being detected by the White House visitors logs. Rove hired his former personal assistant, Susan Ralston, away from Abramoff, and just a month before the election she was forced to resign her White House position due to her contacts with Abramoff while at the White House. A congressional committee found evidence of 485 contacts between the White House and Abramoff and his lobbying team.
Foley, you may recall, was strong-armed by Rove into running for re-election, with Rove threatening to torpedo Foley's plans to start a lobbying practice after leaving Congress unless he ran again in 2006. (No evidence has emerged that Rove or the White House had any knowledge of Foley's page problem at that time.) Haggard, as is now widely known, was one of Rove's main contacts within the evangelical community, a regular participant in weekly conference calls with the White House political shop headed up by Rove.
And we've just begun to scratch the surface. There's Rove's involvement in the Plame scandal, and the RNC's involvement in the New Hampshire phone-jamming case. I could go on, but I think the point here is clear: Rove was and is the architect of a political machine that was probably corrupt from its inception and is certainly corrupt now.
The corruption manifests itself in everything from bribery (Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney) to influence-peddling (Abramoff) to the broader corruption of traditional conservative principles (budget earmarks and deficit spending).
That's not a lesson Republicans seem to be taking from this election.