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Please Advise! Is This a Golden (Bar) Age of Corruption?

Nostalgia aside, Dr. Steve has to admire the nervy graft of the new era.

Steve Burgess 27 Sep 2023The Tyee

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

Do you think political corruption is getting worse?

Signed,

Honest Abe

Dear Abe,

Worse? Come on, man. It’s clearly getting better. When it comes to corruption we are literally living in a golden age — solid gold.

A U.S. federal indictment filed last week, naming both New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine, alleges lavish compensation for their efforts on behalf of Egyptian business interests and the Egyptian government. It’s tempting to refer to this scandal as a pyramid scheme. Menendez, however, has issued a firm de-Nile. (That joke works better in the original hieroglyphs.)

The alleged payoffs include over half a million dollars, a Mercedes-Benz, various gifts and, yes, several gold bars. Attention, corrupt politicians! The (gold) bar has been raised. If you are not receiving ingots as payment for your efforts, ask yourselves: Are you really doing corruption right?

According to the charge from the Department of Justice, Southern District of New York, Menendez made contact with the Egyptian government offering confidential details on military procurement. The information could have helped the Egyptians acquire weaponry — perhaps rifles, maybe ammunition, possibly the all-powerful Ark of the Covenant (Dr. Steve is speculating here, based on a documentary he once saw starring Harrison Ford).

A day after returning from a visit to Egypt, the indictment claims, Menendez did a Google search for “How much is a kilo of gold worth?” Considering the legendary curses associated with Egyptian treasure, perhaps he should have Googled “Are Egyptian tombs ventilated?” Just look at King Tut. Having a whack of Egyptian gold obviously didn't work out so well for him.

Menendez is a Democrat, which could prove to be another positive development in the corruption field. Bipartisanship is important, but U.S. corruption has lately been a Republican-dominated sphere. And why not? You have to play to your sleazy strengths, and the Republicans are led by the Babe Ruth of bullshit, the Fellini of fraud, the golf cheat who ruined a perfectly good verb.

As Dr. Steve has pointed out before, Trump is so corrupt he doesn’t even understand the concept. For Trump, corruption is like oxygen — necessary and omnipresent. It’s the banana in a banana split, the libretto in a Broadway musical, the phosphoric acid in a Diet Coke. Corruption is what happens on days that end in “y.” This is the man who answered Hillary Clinton’s accusation of tax evasion with "That makes me smart"; the man who told former vice-president Mike Pence, "You’re too honest." Trump believes rules are for suckers. In the Gospel of Trump, the Good Samaritan is a chump and the Golden Rule is the current exchange rate for krugerrands.

So it’s great that Menendez may have a chance to score some corruption points for the Democrats for a change. Dr. Steve is puzzled by the Republican response so far, though. As charges have piled up against Trump, GOP stalwarts like Jim Jordan have been howling about the weaponization of the Department of Justice and the unfairness of state indictments in Georgia and New York. So you might expect Republicans to be outraged at the official persecution of poor Menendez, who, it could be argued, is simply exercising his constitutional right to prop up his wobbly kitchen table with gold bricks. They work just as well as top-secret documents.

Apparently not, though. This week Republicans seem to have decided that corruption is bad. Some Republicans are even admitting that perhaps this Menendez indictment shows Lady Justice really is blind. That’s bad news for Trump and his claims of persecution. Trump might even feel the need to pledge solidarity with his fellow indictee. Don’t be too surprised if Menendez starts hanging out at Mar-a-Lago. Vultures of a feather...

You have to tip your cap to our American friends — they always put on a hell of a show. North of the border we have tried to keep pace, notably with Doug Ford’s Greenbelt scandal. Last week the Ontario premier finally took the delayed step of cancelling the sketchy land deals and apologizing. As scandals go, the Greenbelt affair has looked like a first-rate example of shady dealing. But is it truly state-of-the-art perfidy? Does it have solid gold bars from the Land of the Pharaohs? No, it does not.

We’ve had some scandals, though. Once upon a time B.C. had Faye Leung. We had Flying Phil Gaglardi. "Bingogate" was fun to say.

Dr. Steve can only pray to Horus for the return of those golden days. He would really rather not move to New Jersey.  [Tyee]

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