Pop Quiz: What’s the relationship between the following two statements which have appeared in recent news articles:
1) "Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s national profile rises in the wake of Penn State scandal."
2) "Tom Corbett has been mentioned as a possible Vice Presidential candidate."
Strangely, they are inversely proportional. When one’s profile rises, that’s typically a good thing. But as the nation learns about some very disturbing actions of Corbett related to the Penn State scandal, his Veep chances are plummeting. As a direct result, his chances of ever being a heartbeat away are between zero and forgetaboutit.
At this rate, he may be lucky just to survive his first term.
Why the cover-up, and how far up the ladder did it go? Why the lack of swift action, from not just the University, but from law enforcement? And how could football — no matter how storied a program — have risen above the protection of innocent children?
These questions were supposed to be answered by a thorough and unbiased investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office. But as more information emerges on that front, the less faith people have that justice has been — or will be — served.
Enter Tom Corbett.
For better or worse, Corbett has been a quiet, behind-the-scenes governor during his first year in office. Yet he felt compelled to address the state and national media on the scandal. In doing so, he said more in one press conference than he had in his entire governorship, despite the fact that he declined to answer most questions.
Interestingly, Corbett is wearing three hats. He is the Governor of a state that contributes millions to Penn State. He is a Penn State Board Trustee who participated in Board decisions, including the firings of Joe Paterno and University President Graham Spanier. And most significantly, he is the former Attorney General who launched the child molestation investigation of former football coach Jerry Sandusky in 2009.
Corbett has attempted to have the best of both worlds: national publicity where he touts the virtues of morality, and a free pass on accountability because of alleged confidentiality issues. But that tactic has backfired, as the media spotlight turned on Corbett himself. The more that is learned about Corbett’s actions — and inactions — regarding the investigation, the more his credibility tanks.
1) It took substantially longer for the Attorney General’s office to bring charges against Sandusky than it did for numerous politicians to be indicted in the Bonusgate corruption probe. Bonusgate was a very complex investigation involving crafty politicians with the best lawyers money could buy. Since much of what was being investigated in Bonusgate was not run-of-the mill illegalities, the investigators had to overcome a hefty, time-consuming learning curve to understand the subject matter.
So how can such a complicated investigation come to fruition more quickly than a black-and-white child rape case? And where is the rule against making an initial arrest to get the molester off the street — and warn the public — while continuing to build the case?
Given the appalling nature of the alleged crimes, and the real possibility that more young children were molested during the three year investigation, why did the Attorney General wait so long to make the staffing level as robust as it should have been from the start?
If the answer is that resources were limited — sorry, try again. As bad as other crimes may have been, such as those committed in Bonusgate, no one was physically hurt and the welfare of children was never an issue. Giving priority to children who are at risk of rape and molestation is a no-brainer. But inexplicably, that wasn’t done.
The Governor continues to defend his actions — scolding those who dare question him — by stating that it takes time to build such a case and that he can’t comment further, but three years? That’s an insult to everyone, especially the victims. Again, you can’t have it both ways, grandstanding for political points but clamming up when the questions get tough.
And fair or not, many are now asking if the investigation was delayed so that Corbett could avoid being the gubernatorial candidate who took down Joe Paterno and Penn State — both wildly popular among the hundreds of thousands of alumni living in the state.
2) This one is simply incomprehensible.
In yet another instance of Corbett finishing what former Democratic Governor Ed Rendell started (others being $20 million of taxpayer money to renovate the Yankees’ AAA stadium, and $42 million to bail out the Philadelphia Shipyard to build ships with no buyers), the Governor personally approved a $3 million taxpayer-funded grant to Sandusky’s Second Mile charity — just four months ago!
That bears repeating. Tom Corbett, with full knowledge that Sandusky was under investigation for multiple child rapes, still approved the money to his charity.
How is that possible? And why on earth is the national media not yet running with this?
In a response that was offensive to any rational person, here’s what his spokesman said, as reported in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:
"He (Corbett) couldn’t block that (grant) from going forward because of what he knew as attorney general…He couldn’t let on to anyone (including the governor’s office) what he knew…."
That is so wrong that it begs the question as to the real motivation behind approving the grant.
First, the fact that so many people had been interviewed by the grand jury made the investigation anything but a secret. Second, the Harrisburg Patriot News reported on the grand jury investigation —- in March. Corbett approved the funds — in July! So not wanting to "let on" was clearly bogus. The investigation was already well-established in the public domain.
Secondly, there was an incredibly easy way to deal with the grant without tipping off anyone: simply strike it. After all, the budget Corbett signed cut everything else, so a grant to a charity would have been seen as just another casualty of financial cutbacks.
Veto the grant (why taxpayers are funding that in the first place is obscene, but that’s another story) and be done with it. It should have been that easy. But it didn’t happen.
Well, consider if the following may have had anything to do with it. According to the sports website Deadspin.com, past and present board members of the Second Mile, along with their businesses and families, have donated more than $640,000 to Corbett since 2003.
That interesting — and massively significant — point seemed to have slipped the Governor’s mind during his press conferences. Go figure.
Something is rotten to the core about how this whole affair has been investigated. It’s time for the Feds to take the lead role in uncovering the whole truth, and that includes possibly looking into the Attorney General’s investigation.
It’s clear the Board of Trustees cannot be counted upon to conduct an unbiased investigation, nor can the local police, and, sadly, even the Attorney General’s office. And nothing emanating from the Governor’s office on this issue can be taken at face value.
In discussing why Paterno and Spanier were fired, the Governor said, "…the Board lost confidence in their ability to lead Penn State through this time and into the future."
With all the opportunities Tom Corbett has had to play it straight with the people of Pennsylvania — especially the victims — on his dealings with the Penn State issue, he hasn’t done so.
And that has caused an ever-increasing number of people to lose confidence in his ability to lead.
There is a great scene in the movie The American President where Richard Dreyfuss suggests that being president "was, to a certain extent, about character." And in classic Michael Douglas style, he replies, "I can tell you, without hesitation, that being President is entirely about character."
Well, character isn’t limited to the Oval Office. It resides in every one of us — and that includes Governors, Trustees, coaches, police and investigators.
Moving forward, let’s demand that a basic legal and moral principle be followed to the very end:
Fiat justitia ruat caelum —"Let justice be done though the heavens fall."
The victims deserve no less.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at [email protected]