A long time ago, on Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy did a thing where he dressed up as a white guy and discovered that white people don't have to pay for anything. He walked through his daily life, except that he was white instead of black, and discovered that life for whites was ridiculously easy. For example, he went into a bank to take out a loan and discovered that white people didn't have to fill out paperwork; they just take as much money as they want. It was a funny bit of satire, but I'm reminded of it by Senator Chris Dodd's apparent assumption that, as a Senator, he lives in a world a lot like that. Specifically, he lives in a world where everyone gets breaks on their home mortgages:
Call it The Rostenkowski Trap, named for former Speaker of the House Dan Rostenkowski, who felt so entitled to special treatment that he no longer noticed that he didn't have to pay for his expensive steak dinners -- or just about anything else. It's the feeling of entitlement that seems to infect some people after long periods of holding unquestioned power. Falling into the Rostenkowski Trap is how Ted Stevens came to believe that the free stuff he was getting -- massage chairs, home remodeling -- didn't have any consequence. They were just things that appear wonderfully in his life, that have no effect on him one way or the other and that really aren't worth reporting on his financial disclosure forms. Would you report it if someone opened a door for you going into a restaurant? Of course not.
Chris Dodd was a powerful Senator with contacts in the banking industry, and that industry treated him well. They opened a lot of doors for him, sure, but not to buy influence. It was just the kind of thing that happens. What's the problem?
The arrogance of all this is that Stevens and Dodd and every other corrupt politician going back to the very beginning believe that living a friction-free existence has no effect at all on how they see the world. In their own minds, they're still just public servants, doing the people's business. They're convinced of their own purity, even as they preserve a status quo that works a whole lot better from where they're standing than it does for the rest of us.