POLITICS
08/01/2010 10:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bill Kristol: Republicans Should 'Just Shut Up' About Charlie Rangel's Ethics Charges

Some conservatives on Sunday pointed to New York Congressman Charlie Rangel's ethics charges as evidence that Democrats had failed to "drain the swamp" in Washington. Activist Liz Cheney, for example, accused Rangel of "real imperial arrogance."

But even as the GOP piled on -- and Democrats established their distance -- there were those in the Republican tent who expressed caution about suddenly becoming ethical crusaders.

"Just shut up," the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol said on "Fox News Sunday" when asked what Republicans should do about Rangel. "There is a bipartisan ethics committee. Let the process go forward they don't need jump on this -- they will just get questioned. Believe me there are plenty of congressman in both parties who have been imperial and arrogant and who have centers named after them ... The idea that republicans should go around throwing stones at Charlie Range; is just foolish on their part."

Even before Kristol's remarks, other Republicans exhibited caution too. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for one, was forced to sidestep questions about the various ethics scandals involving fellow Senate Republicans -- notably John Ensign (R-N.V.) and David Vitter -- during a sit down with "Fox News Sunday."

"I think it's important for members of Congress to have the highest possible ethical standards," he said. "And a number of members over the years got in trouble, some have them have had to leave Senate as a result of it."

And when pressed to place the Rangel ethics charges in the context of the 2010 elections, McConnell declined.

"Spending too much, taxing too much, borrowing too much and their job killing programs are what's on the mind of the American people," he said on Sunday.

While McConnell was hesitant to jump on Rangel, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) could not resist.

"I expect, and the American people expect, the highest ethical standards from their members of Congress," Boehner said, sitting alongside McConnell on Fox News. "Nancy Pelosi said four years ago that it was time to drain the swamp. I can't believe it's taken some two years to investigate the Charlie Rangel case. But the fact is she has not kept her promise. The swamp is alive and well."

Host Chris Wallace suggested that Boehner might be on shaky ethical ground by setting up a so-called cash-for-Speaker program in which the National Republican Congressional Committee was soliciting major donations in exchange for offering access to the minority leader.

Rangel is facing ethics charges, in large part, because of the tougher ethics rules that Democrats have put in place. In a different Congress, the New York Democrat might have flown under the radar or simply received a slap on the wrist. Was it not a signal of success that a trial was set to happen much to the detriment of the party in power?

"When I came in, I said we're draining the swamp. And we did. We have passed the most sweeping ethics reform in the history of the Congress" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told ABC'S "This Week." "Any personal respect and affection we may have for people makes us sad about the course of events, but we have to pull the high ethical standard and none of our personalities is more important than that."

As the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly noted: "[T]rials like that in September right before the mid-term elections would be an enormous liability for the Democratic Party no matter how much they talk about how they did, in fact, create this new independent office to investigate these cases and it is, in fact, doing its job."