Roger L. Simon

Mr. Hastert, sit down

Back in the early eighties when I was working at Universal Studios, Ned Tanen, then head of production, used to tell the writers and directors on the lot regarding their work: “If one person tells you you’re drunk, ignore him. If six people tell you you’re drunk, sit down.” Evidently a rather large percentage of Americans (86!) are telling Hastert and his Congressional cronies to “sit down” on the “Separation of Powers” issue and allow the FBI to get on with the business of investigating criminality in the House.

Some defenders of Hastert, et al, have asserted that we critics “don’t understand” the “Separation of Powers.” Oh, really? The US Constitution is a complex and remarkable document, but it is not Einstein’s “unifed field theory” or the like and nowhere near as difficult to understand (and those hiding behind it at the moment are, I think it is safe to say, “no Einsteins”). We do get the principle of separation, its use – and misuse. We also get that the Constitution is a document written in 1789 when there were slaves in the country and women couldn’t vote. Regarding it as holy writ is reactionary, just as running rough shod over its ideas is foolhardy and destructive.

But speaking of foolhardy, in the Abramoff Era [But it’s always been the Abramoff Era.-ed. Yes it has – and that’s the point], public disgust with elected officials is growing. And in this era of the Internet, we are watching more than ever. Public corruption cannot stand.

One other thing: I watched a smattering of Constitutional lawyers attacking the FBI in front of the House Judiciary Committee. One of them was the ubiquitous Jonathan Turley. He put me in mind of one of Woody Allen’s better recent film jokes. In a mock contemporary version of Dante’s Inferno, Woody consigns to one of the lowest rungs “lawyers who appear on television” .