The Augusta ChronicleIs this the leadership we deserve?In Washington, they had to turn the lights on in the U.S. Senate last Sunday for senators to get their work done at the last minute on the expiring Patriot Act.They still didn’t get it done. They work overtime, costing us more money to operate the Capitol, and they routinely spend more money than we can send them in taxes, and they still can’t get their work done.In South Carolina, the legislature meets for half the year ‘“ and yet couldn’t get a commonsense gun reciprocity bill done, and waited largely until the last minute to work on the state’s crumbling roads.In California, the state Senate actually used taxpayer money to hire workers to give free rides home to drunk senators ‘“ the helpless, penniless little dears.And back in Washington, yet another former speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, is embroiled in a scandal that includes past allegations of illicit sex and millions in hush money. Was this how it was during the last days of the Roman Empire? Imperious, self-indulgent, out-of-control rulers ‘“ not leaders ‘“ running their country into the ground? What passes for leadership in this, the mightiest nation on Earth, boggles the mind. In 1998, even as the House was impeaching President Clinton for his various and sundry misdeeds, Speaker Newt Gingrich had his own sexual peccadilloes to hide. The man picked to replace Gingrich as speaker, Rep. Bob Livingston, R-Texas, abruptly withdrew after a magazine moved to expose his alleged affairs.Now, years later, the man who replaced Livingston ‘“ Hastert, R-Ill.’“ is fighting allegations that he took illegal steps to pay $3.5 million to an undisclosed recipient to cover up ‘past misconduct.’’Sources say Hastert paid the hush money to cover up alleged sexual misconduct with a male that took place sometime between 1965 and 1981, when he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville (Illinois),’ one news report said.The irony is, as the Chicago Sun-Times noted, ‘Denny Hastert became speaker of the House because of sex scandals.’One other aspect of all this is: Where did Hastert get that kind of money to begin with?Not from coaching wrestling!These people go up to Washington and, more often than not, they get fat, fat, fat financially ‘“ despite the atrocious behavior and work product cited above.Republican presidential candidate and political outsider Carly Fiorina noted recently that ’82 percent of the American people now believe that we have a professional political class that is more focused on preserving its power and privilege than it is on doing the people’s work.’Writer John Fund argues Hastert’s ‘fall from grace should prompt other questions about how a former high-school teacher who held elective office from 1981 to 2007 could leave Congress with a fortune estimated at $4 million to $17 million.’Some get rich, Fund writes, due to the freewheeling spending of taxpayer money ‘“ and inside knowledge of where it’s going to be spent.And, of course, lobbyists are all over our elected representatives to get more of our money and favorable legislative treatment.Much of these shenanigans ‘“ potentially fatal for the republic ‘“ might be highly unlikely were it not for the fact that, at least in Congress, we have a permanent ruling class with near-life-tenure in many cases. Such intimate and long-term proximity to power, money and fawning is a seductive force indeed.We need to have a national debate on the merits of term limits.We also need a more engaged citizenry ‘“ and news media that are better watchdogs. A little more attention and revulsion might help ‘drain the swamp.’Either way, this much is certain: We will get the kind of leaders we deserve.