"Collateral Damage." What a lovely phrase that is, especially when it comes to Democrats.

This paragraph from FirstRead (“First thoughts: So who’s corrupt now?“) (via Instapundit) has so much to play with I have to break it down. So let’s get started, yes?

*** Collateral damage: Where to begin?

Indeed, it’s a smorgasboard.

First, there’s the case of Charlie Rangel. Could he and his Ways and Means chairmanship become the first real casualty of the Blagojevich scandal?

Nope: that honor goes to Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr – who, as John Kass assures us, is no crazier than any other Chicago politician.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told NBC’s Meredith Vieira earlier this week that Rangel shouldn’t have to step down as chairman for allegedly preserving a tax loophole that benefited a company whose executive had pledged $1 million to a center named after the New York Democrat. “Mr. Rangel, he loves our country,” Pelosi said. “He loves this Congress. He wants to do nothing but bring credit to it. And he’ll be the first one to know what his course of action should be.” But does the Blagojevich mess make it more difficult for Democrats to continue to defend Rangel, even if he hasn’t been charged of anything yet?

It doesn’t make it “more difficult:” that would imply that a critical mass of Democrats-who-matter have a working sense of shame. It does give the rest of us more ammo with which to shut up that dearly-loved, yet annoying family member at Christmas dinner, though (assuming that reminding him or her that they spent two years supporting a guy who’s going to keep Iraq, FISA, and Gitmo after all doesn’t do the trick). Be sure to mention Mahoney and Chris Dodd, the latter especially if anybody at the table’s having trouble with their mortgage.

Think of it as a teachable moment.

And Rangel’s chairmanship isn’t the only possible collateral damage here. All gubernatorial appointments to fill Senate seats — including Ruth Ann Minner’s surprising pick of Biden friend Ted Kaufman in Delaware, as well as David Paterson’s upcoming selection of Hillary’s replacement in New York — are going to receive extra scrutiny.

You know, I had forgotten about Biden… I was going to add a “…’s plan to pass on his seat to his son and heir,” but really: that sentence works just fine as is. As for Paterson, hey: remember why he’s Governor and not Spitzer? That’s right: HOOKERS! Tons and tons of HOOKERS! Hmm. Now that I think about it, Paterson admitted to getting a little something on the side, too. And then there was McGreevey… there are Democratic politicians in NY/NJ that don’t have a taste for adultery, right?

And, oh yeah: Torricelli (although that was ordinary, normal Democratic corruption). Just in case any of you thought that we had forgotten about him.

And then there’s the damage to all Chicago politicians. Does this make it more difficult for someone like Bill Daley to run for governor?

God, I hope not. Patrick Fitzgerald going three-for-three on indicting sitting Illinois governors would be epic. Although I suspect that Fitzgerald would prefer to indict Daley while he was still mayor. Nobody’s ever convicted one, I believe.

The fun part is that we haven’t even really started. There’s been an impressive amount of Democratic politicians sunk for crimes and general naughtiness lately, usually with a lot of kicking and screaming involved: Jefferson, Kilpatrick, Mahoney (and isn’t it a shame that incoming Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel won’t have to face a panel explaining that one)… I’d add John Edwards to the list, except of course that he’s not worth linking to, and barely worth mentioning. And those are the ones that have been caught, or at least brought to bay: we’ve also got Reid, Dodd, Feinstein, Conrad, Pelosi, Murtha… I can keep going, but after a certain point the eyes glaze over. Suffice it to say that there’s no shortage of material to work with.

So let’s do that.

Moe Lane