This is a slightly expanded version of the column published Aug. 12 in The Moscow Times.
One of the grubby little secrets of the Great Potomac Grease Pit – otherwise known as the government of the United States – is that the massive amount of bribes given and taken there often has little effect on the final outcome of policy decisions and legislation.
Cynics – and you know you who are – tend to believe that Washington is overrun with sleazy bagmen prowling the halls of Congress and slithering down White House corridors, proffering baubles, trinkets, sweetmeats and other enticements to plucky public servants, drawing them away from the straight and narrow to do the bidding of rapacious elites. But like so many of the hateful canards issuing from the foul stithy of the liberal imagination these days, this fantasy contains scarcely a shred of truth.
The plain fact is, most politicians take bribes to push policies they already support. With very few exceptions, you are just not going to achieve a place of prominence in national politics unless you are already the kind of person happy to do the bidding of rapacious elites, whatever the cut of your rhetorical jib ("progressive," "moderate," "conservative," etc.). Like Macbeth's spectral dagger, bribery merely marshall'st the politician in the way he was going.