Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii defended the Keating Five this week, saying of those five senators' unprecedented joint pressuring of federal regulators in behalf of a big campaign contributor, "I see nothing improper, possibly vigorous, but not improper." Senator Inouye is a fine man in many respects, but when it comes to ethical judgment of his colleagues, well. . .
The last time he was involved in one of these controversies it was as chief defense counsel for Sen. Harrison Williams of New Jersey, who resigned in 1982 hours before he was to be expelled for criminal financial acts. Earlier, he was one of only 15 senators to vote against a formal denunciation of Sen. Herman Talmadge of Georgia in 1979 for his financial misdeeds.
In the Williams case, Senator Inouye's co-counsel was Sen. Alan Cranston of the Keating Five. Maybe that's coincidence, maybe not. Maybe there just are senators who honestly believe nothing is wrong with doing a big contributor's bidding as long as it's legal. Former Sen. William Proxmire once said there were many senators like that. He also said they were wrong.