"It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain
Let's just get a few things straight:
1. In the matter of Rep. William Jefferson, a congressman from Louisiana, his fellow Democrats should make sure that Jefferson is assured his day in court, and then they should throw this corrupt scumbag under a bus.
Jefferson, with stacks of bribery payoffs hidden in his freezer (literally "cold cash"), has conveniently (from a GOP perspective) reminded the electorate that corruption is a bipartisan disease. So if the Democrats want to make a point about the culture of corruption in the DeLay House, they might want to start by dealing harshly with one their own.
2. In the matter of the FBI raid on Jefferson's congressional office, for which the FBI obtained a warrant: Screw Congress.
On Tuesday, Democrats joined Republicans to express their concern for the one thing they can all agree upon: They want to be above the law. The raid on Jefferson's office is believed to be the first search of a congressional office in the institution's 219-year history, and that precedent was all that seemed to matter to Congressmen on Tuesday. Rather than expressing outrage at the cheap sleaziness of Jefferson's sellout, Congressional leaders expressed alarm that an agency of the executive branch (the FBI) could impose its authority on the legislative branch.
Said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican: "My opinion is that (the FBI) took the wrong path."
Listen: When we elect someone to Congress, it is not our intent to give that person diplomatic immunity. Said Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid: "When people commit crimes, they should be prosecuted, whether that person is a member of Congress or driving a cab or a lawyer some place." Well, duh.
There are going to be more criminal scandals involving this Congress, and Hastert, et al, know this. With the FBI now willing to challenge the sanctity of congressional offices, it looks like our lawmakers are going to have to find another place to hide their incriminating evidence.
Is there a separation of powers issue here? Perhaps. But so long as the warrants are obtained via proper channels, and so long as there is judicial oversight, then any abuses of investigatory power should be identifiable and correctable. As we've said about the NSA eavesdropping story: the issue isn't law enforcement, but whether the government abides by its own laws.
That means you too, Congress.