Recent events are proving that a criminal record, or least the promise of a criminal proceeding, has become an essential requirement for holding or pursuing political office. Sexual scandal, of course, has always been a condition of political life -- vide Francois Hollande simultaneously cheating on three different women or Anthony Weiner exposing his weiner on the Internet.
But the epidemic of corruption, theft, plagiarism, bribe-taking, bridge blocking, and just plain venality that now characterizes public life has been unprecedented since the "avaritia" of the ancient Romans, whose passion for greed and luxury set a standard that American politicians are working hard to equal. Forget the Nixon administration, which was mostly addicted to dirty tricks. Both Democrats and Republicans now can boast of real scandals based on real crimes. If you put the parties on a scale, the Republicans would probably have the edge. Avid to protect the ill-gotten returns of its wealthiest constituents, the Party has been noteworthy for using the economic techniques of the one percent in the most extravagant, defiant and ambitious manner.
Most recently, there has been the case of former Virgina Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell, convicted with his wife, Maureen, for taking $160,000 in bribes from a constituent (in return, McDonnell bribed the donor with his wife). Then, there is the case of the current Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who was recently indicted on two felony counts for illegally trying to dump his democratic Attorney General. Four of the last seven Illinois Governors, ending with Democrat Rod Blagojevich in 2011, have spent time in prison for corruption. And if we count American Mayors, then jail time, either before, during, or after serving in office, seems to be almost a precondition for the job.
Rather than make our politicians go through all that bad publicity and public humiliation after taking office, there ought to be some way to short circuit the system and make life easier for them. And here is what I propose. Why can't we set up some kind of school inside the prison system where people seeking office could get a higher degree in crime, combining criminal records with school records, and graduate as fully-convicted felons? This would put the financial burden for indicting his crimes on the politician rather than the state and allow the media to reserve more air time for under-reported events like Malaysian flight 370. It would also position the candidate for election without the distractions (and costs) of indictments, court time, convictions, and time in prison.
Courses and seminars at this school might include How To Shake Hands Without Exposing the Check (Larceny 101), How to Use Language to Obscure the Truth (Babble 56), and How to Smile Convincingly While Under Investigation (Theatre 600--for Master of Fine Arts candidates in Acting only). Politicians of the Future unite! You have nothing to lose but your prison chains.