Opinion Opinion L.A.
Opinion

After Leland Yee's alleged corruption, other pols must feel like slackers

Anything can be a point of pride. Your local baseball team. The weather. Political corruption.

The genesis of Thursday's cartoon is a barroom argument I found myself having at least 20 years ago with a Chicagoan. "The Illinois state Legislature," he stated confidently, "is the most corrupt in the country." I made cases for my home state of Ohio and my adopted home of New York. Overhearing us, a third man approached, loaded for bear, to make clear that anyone who challenged Harrisburg, home of Pennsylvania's statehouse, as the stinkiest cesspool in all of American politics would have to deal with him and his voluminous knowledge of the Keystone State's seemingly infinite list of dirty deeds.

There was never any doubt that this week's piece would be about Leland Yee, the pro-gun control state senator accused of attempted arms trafficking. As they say, you can't make these things up. To think that people still ask me where I get my ideas!

PHOTO GALLERY: Ted Rall cartoons

"[Yee] held press conferences denouncing violent video games and helped pass legislation in California prohibiting sales of such games to minors. And yet, secretly, he was living the life of a Grand Theft Auto character," Scott Shackford writes in Reason. Me, I thought Walter White from "Breaking Bad." Whatever. Hand slaps forehead, jaw drops.

But how do you cartoon a story whose central character is itself a cartoon? Exaggeration isn't possible; it's already too extreme.

You can go with straightforward editorializing. "Isn't it just awful." "One more reason people don't trust politicians." "What a hypocrite." Trouble is, the ball-peen-hammer-to-the skull approach disproves the cliche that "it's funny because it's true." It's true — Yee's alleged misdeeds are awful and do nothing to help citizens feel good about government ­ — but it's not funny. Nor interesting.

Instead I approached this story through the back door. Inspired by having recently watched the finale of "Breaking Bad," a show in which viewers are simultaneously appalled by and admiring of a criminal character, I decided to turn the perspective around. Rather than single out Yee as a bad apple (who, thanks to the FBI allegations, has been extracted from the newly virtuous political gathering in Sacramento), I depict his corrupt colleagues bemoaning their own lack of ambition and scope compared to Yee's staggeringly over-the-top perfidy.

Given the string of recent scandals out of the state capital — the Senate suspended Yee and two of his colleagues last week for alleged or proved criminal wrongdoing — Yee's arrest does not likely signal a 99 44/100ths pure Legislature. It makes a bigger point about a more important issue.

With a little luck, it might even make you laugh.

Bitterly laugh, but still.

ALSO:

It's no surprise we can't find Flight 370

Warning: College students, this editorial may upset you

Girls shouldn't wear leggings to school -- and progressive parents should agree

Ted Rall, who draws a weekly editorial cartoon cartoonist for The Times, is also a nationally syndicated opinion columnist and author. His new book is “Silk Road to Ruin: Why Central Asia is the New Middle East.” Follow Ted Rall on Twitter @TedRall.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Greece's revolt against austerity
    Greece's revolt against austerity

    Greek voters collectively shouted “We're mad as hell!” last weekend, sweeping into power a radical left-wing party that campaigned against austerity. The election didn't improve the country's fiscal health; the government is so deep in debt, it could very well default if...

  • In lethal injection case, high court has a chance to take a bold step
    In lethal injection case, high court has a chance to take a bold step

    In the effort to find less gruesome ways to execute condemned prisoners, more than two dozen states — including California — adopted a lethal injection protocol developed by Oklahoma in the late 1970s in which the prisoner is rendered insensate with one injection, then given a...

  • The influence of science and reason on moral progress
    The influence of science and reason on moral progress

    A century and a half ago, an abolitionist preacher named Theodore Parker noticed something striking about the moral universe: “The arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways,” he said, but added that “from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” Fifty...

  • Obama, ignoring realities, sticks to his comfort zone
    Obama, ignoring realities, sticks to his comfort zone

    A week after his State of the Union address, political observers are still trying to figure out what President Obama's game is. That's how bizarrely untethered from reality the speech was.

  • U.S., Russia should return to on-site inspections for treaty claims
    U.S., Russia should return to on-site inspections for treaty claims

    The ongoing diplomatic back-and-forth between the United States and Russia would have you believe that the future viability of the history-making Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is nil. That would represent a major setback for arms control — and the security of the world....

  • 6 lessons from 'Selma' for Black Lives Matter and other political movements
    6 lessons from 'Selma' for Black Lives Matter and other political movements

    Amid the controversies over Academy Award nominations and presidential portrayals, it can be easy to forget what Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” is at its core: a distinguished piece of allegorical art. It stands in a long tradition of historical dramatization that extends from ancient...

Comments
Loading