Sunday, November 13, 2011

Penn State Scandal Spreads into Politics

Based on reader comments, many hope that the sexual abuse scandal that has exploded at Penn State - and revealed a mindset for cover ups that rivals the Vatican's malfeasance - will be thoroughly investigated and that all the players in the heinous affair will be exposed and forced to be held accountable. As this process rolls forward, Pennsylvania politicians seem to be either running for cover - e.g., man on dog sex obsessed Rick Santorum had advocated for an award for Jerry Sandusky - while others seem to see the debacle as a means to further their careers - e.g., Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly. Politico looks at some of the political jockeying transpiring. Here are some highlights:

The shocking child sexual abuse scandal that ended football coach Joe Paterno’s storied career at Penn State University is reverberating far beyond the world of college sports, consuming Pennsylvania’s political class . . . . federal Department of Education announced Wednesday it would conduct its own investigation into how the school dealt with allegations against the former assistant coach at the football powerhouse.

For [Rick] Santorum, there is the prospect of damaging political fallout: Wednesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that, while serving in the Senate, Santorum sponsored Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State defense coordinator at the heart of the scandal, for a “Congressional Angels in Adoption” award, citing his work with a nonprofit group he founded for foster children.

Gov. Tom Corbett, a member of the university board of trustees and formerly the state’s attorney general, has been thrust into a very public role. He said Thursday that he welcomed the firings of Paterno and Spanier because he had lost confidence in “their ability to lead.”

Only hours after the announcement of the firings, Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey were dragged in: The Democrat and Republican said they were withdrawing their recent nomination of Paterno for the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor. “We hope the proper authorities will move forward with their investigation without delay,” said Toomey and Casey in a joint statement. “

GOP Rep. Glenn Thompson, a Penn State alum whose district includes the campus in State College, wouldn’t say whether he would sign on to the effort to withdraw Paterno’s name for the Medal of Freedom. It was Thompson who, in July 2010, nominated the coach for the award, writing a letter to President Barack Obama in which he called Paterno “an ideal of what student and college athletics should be.”

Other members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation have also seen the need to go on record about the scandal. GOP Rep. Bill Shuster, who represents a central Pennsylvania seat that abuts State College, said in a tweet that Paterno had “so fumbled his moral and professional responsibilities in this instance that it cannot be overlooked.” Freshman Republican Mike Kelly, who represents Erie, described himself as “sickened and saddened by the allegations against Jerry Sandusky.” On the other side of the state, in the Philadelphia suburbs, Republican Pat Meehan said that he had welcomed the news that a federal investigation had been opened into Sandusky’s conduct.

Democratic blogs highlighted Paterno’s well-known GOP ties and pointed out that he spoke at a George W. Bush campaign rally in 2004. When Paterno’s son, Scott, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2004, it was as a Republican.

Meanwhile, I'd predict that there will be some major law suits in the near future against both the university and those who chose to cover up abuse rather than rock the boat. Sadly, too often judgments in the seven or eight plus figures seem to be the only way to hold individuals accountable. Unless, of course, those guilty of orchestrating the cover ups are Catholic bishops and cardinals - or even a Pope.

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