bureaucracybusters

PRESENTING—SENATOR HYPOCRITE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2018 at 12:10 am

At the end of the 1987 movie, “The Untouchables,” a reporter accosts Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner): “Mr. Ness, they’re saying that Congress will repeal Prohibition. If that happens, what will you do?”

And Ness—who has just spent the entire movie trying to put arch-bootlegger Al Capone out of business—replies: “I think I’ll have a drink.”

“The Untouchables” (1987)

In 1920, America went “dry”—officially.

The reason: Congressional passage of the Volstead Act—named after Andrew Volstead, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who managed the legislation.

For Americans generally, the law had a shorter name: Prohibition.

For 12 years—from 1920 to 1932—the United States Treasury Department declared war on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the country.

It was a losing war. Untold numbers of local police officers gladly turned a blind eye—for a price—to the bootleggers operating in their midst. So did legions of agents of the Treasury Department’s Prohibition Bureau.

And police weren’t the only ones willing to ignore the law. So were politicians at all levels. At the highest level: Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States.

Warren G. Harding

Harding allowed bootleg whiskey to be served to his guests during after-dinner parties.  His wife, Florence, known as “The Duchess,” mixed drinks for the visitors.

Many of those public officials (and private citizens) who regularly indulged felt the law was needed to enforce “morality” onto others—especially the poor and immigrants.

Prohibition ended in 1932—to the sorrow of two major organizations. The first was anti-alcohol groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The second was the Mafia—which had raised millions of dollars via the sale of forbidden spirits.

Today Americans (except those living in officially “dry” states like Florida, Georgia and Alabama) can easily and legally obtain all the booze they can afford to buy.

But even in “wet” states, it’s illegal to drink and drive—as third-term United States Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) found out in 2012.

Mike Crapo

Crapo had been elected to the House of Representatives in 1992. After three terms in the House he successfully ran for the Senate in 1998.

On December 23, 2012, Crapo was arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, for driving under the influence. Crapo was pulled over after an officer saw him run a red light.

According to CBS News, Crapo failed several field sobriety tests and was taken into custody without incident. He was later released on an unsecured $1,000 bond.

On January 4, 2013, Crapo pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge and was sentenced to a  $250 fine and court costs, one-year suspension of his driver’s license, and court-ordered alcohol education and awareness classes.

But there’s more to this tale than mere political embarrassment. There’s also a story of religious hypocrisy to be told.

Crapo is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons. He graduated from the church’s Brigham Young University in 1973  with a B.A. in political science.

Among those acts that Mormons are forbidden to partake in is the drinking of alcohol. It’s part of the “Word of Wisdom” embraced by staunch church members: A ban on any use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea.

Indulging in any of these won’t get you excommunicated (as will, say, adultery or murder, which the church puts on the same level of evil). But it can get you banned from entering a Mormon temple, reserved for only the most devout members.

It is in their temples that Mormons perform such rituals as wedding ceremonies and proxy “baptisms for the dead.”

This inevitably came as a huge embarrassment for a man who represents Idaho, a state:

  • Where government maintains a monopoly over sales of beverages with greater than 16% ABV;
  • Where beer can be sold in grocery stores but not wine;
  • Where the sale of distilled spirits is allowed only in certified Liquor Dispensary stores;
  • Where 414,182 Mormons comprise the largest single religious group—at 26% of the population.

Thus, Crapo quickly released the following statement:

“I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance.  I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me.

“I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter.  I will also undertake measures to ensure that this circumstance is never repeated.”

In November, 2016, Crapo was re-elected to a fourth Senate  term. 

Among his legislative accomplishments: 

  • Opposing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which makes access to health care available to all Americans.  He did so after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999 and undergoing surgery to remove all or part of the prostate gland in January 2000.
  • Opposing expanded background checks for all gun buyers.  
  • Chairing the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, where he attacked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Urging President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the climate-change Paris Agreement.
  • Chairing the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, where he sought repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, its purpose is to prevent a repeat of the 2008 Wall Street “meltdown” caused by the unchecked greed of speculators.

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