Those who have actually read my various posts on Jack Abramoff know that I see my charismatic former College Republican colleague as a complex man. I have never once defended his activities as a lobbyist, indeed, have criticized his behavior from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s.
But, just because a man engages in criminal activists does not mean that he himself is entirely lacking in good qualities. Were that the case, world literature would be poorer and Francis Ford Coppola would not be considered one of the giants of filmmaking.
Almost since the dawn of storytelling, our bards and playwrights have been exploring why good men go bad. Indeed, it often seems that religious literature (including ancient myth) serves to remind us of human weakness in order to prevent us for falling prey to our darker passions.
With that in mind, I ask you to consider a comment from one of our critics in response to my post on my old drinking buddy Ralph Reed and our past association with the aforementioned Abramoff. It offers an insight into the narrowness of certain narrow-minded liberals who blind themselves to the complexities of human conduct when it comes to conservatives caught in corrupt and criminal activities:
I mean this and the Abramoff piece from a couple of days ago. Coming out to the world as a friend and admirer of the absolute lowest corrupt scum in American politics.
You have zero credibility when it comes to criticizing anyone in politics, on just about anything. And judgement???? my gawd….
Yes, I once admired Jack and considered him a friend. But that was long before he had engaged in corrupt and criminal activities.
I wrote about Jack both to share my experiences with a man who suddenly found himself in the spotlight and to join in the conversation of the ages in attempting to understand human weakness, why men with such great potential do bad things.
But, when I blogged about Jack (here and here as well as the post to which he attached the comment), instead of appreciating the insights I could offer on a figure in the public eye based upon my past relationship with the man, the reader showed no interest in the real character of that individual and instead used my lament at his fall (while acknowledging his potential to accomplish great things) to chastise me.
In so doing, he provided a window into a worldview. First, folks like this reader aren’t interested in engaging the conservatives whose blogs they frequent, but instead in twisting our words in order to attack us. They don’t want to understand our ideas; they want to demonize conservatives.
And second, when it comes to conservatives, they refuse to understand the complexities of human character. Meanwhile, they accuse us of being simple-minded and refusing to understand nuance.
There is a great book to be written on Jack Abramoff. And it would not be about the rot at the heart of the conservative movement, but about human weakness and the temptations of power and wealth. It is a story as old as humanity itself. Only Jack’s story gives it a contemporary context. It would address the issue of why a man with such potential could so easily fall prey to greed.
We could also write such a book about such Democrats as Charles Rangel and the late John Murtha. Each man served his nation honorably in our nation’s wars, the former in Korea, the latter in Vietnam, yet once in Congress, became enamored with the perks of power. The only difference between them and Jack is the scope of their corruption and the nature of their wrongdoing.
Let us not excuse Jack Abramoff’s wrongdoing. He did get the punishment he deserved. But, let’s also understand his story. It is a tale of human weakness played out in the arena of contemporary politics.
ADDENDUM: One reader thought I was “glorifying” Jack in writing about him. If he read my posts, he would know I was doing no such thing.
TO OUR READERS: If you ever find a liberal blogger (or pundit) lamenting the good qualities of a Democrat caught in a scandal, please let me know so we can ask our critics if they will attack that blogger with the same venom they use in the comments referenced above.