It’s the principle of the thing, people exclaim… as they stubbornly head off to do some idiotic and destructive gesture. That self-righteous assertion tends to precede explosive confessions, the filing of vitriolic and/or quixotic lawsuits, the amputation of fingers by Mafia loan sharks, and the resigning of productive, lucrative jobs. There is something so liberating, so satisfying, so cathartic, about saying “Take this job and shove it” and striding bravely out into a life of macho unemployment.
No demographic group is more disposed to blow up their careers in this manner than Republicans in public office. Sure, it’s fun to show up to work in some stately government building and have burly guards wave you past all the proles. Yes, it’s neat to have a bunch of fresh-faced recent college grads catering to your every administrative whim. Interns and pages and aides, oh my! Yet apparently there is nothing more exciting than exiting.
“I really showed ‘em. Let’s see them try to run this bleeping government without me!”
Alas, Democrats do not share this delicate sensibility. You can be Senator Kennedy and leave your secretary at the bottom of the river while you sleep one off; you can be drunk in the mansion in Palm Beach while your cousin manhandles some waitress; you can be photographed having relations on a boat and have the pics passed around the halls of Congress; but you never ever give up your seat.
You can be Senator Byrd with a history of KKK membership; you can be Senator Leahy, chastised by Congress for leaking Intelligence Committee secrets to reporters; you can be Representative Barney Frank whose male lover was operating a prostitution ring in your apartment; you can be Senator Clinton with a hundred-thousand dollar payola dressed up as a profit in cattle futures; you can be Rep. Murtha with Abscam tapes of negotiating to sell your vote; you can be Rep. Hastings who was previously impeached as a Federal judge; you can be Rep. Jefferson, caught with ninety thousand dollars in cash in your freezer; but you never ever give up your seat.
Not so Republicans. They love to vamoose. They think it shows quality, even as they lose quantity. At one point the Reagan Administration was resignin’ ‘em as fast as they were signin’ ‘em. One National Security Advisor left because he failed to report the gift of a pair of cufflinks from South Korea. Now close your eyes and imagine a Clinton cabinet official bowing out over such a triviality. Ha! If a Democrat Treasury Secretary was caught with his personal truck pulled up to the Mint and loading stacks of hundreds, he would claim to be taking them home to study if his signatures were being printed uniformly.
Right now we are in the midst of another Republican fleeing frenzy. Karl Rove has left to free the administration of a lightning rod, in the process depriving it of much thunder. And just this week, after enduring months of the Dems hunting his head, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez has decided to hand his resume’ to the private sector headhunters. “I have lived the American dream,” he declared, as he lived the American nightmare.
President Bush loyally decried Al’s name being “dragged through the mud for political reasons.” The bottom line remains the same: the Democrat dogging will hunt.
Personal responsibility, public accountability, scruples and virtues, all these are admirable. It does say something positive about the GOP that it is the lone party encumbered by such niceties. That being said, there is little point in enforcing such a standard upon your own people. All it accomplishes, in real terms, is impose a hardship that is unilateral, ceding an unearned advantage to the Dems.
It is no easy feat to win election in a district that comprises 1/435th of the country or in one of fifty states. Nor to traverse the obstacle course to confirmation as a cabinet appointee. Giving up the result of all that hard work — and good will of voters — to express indignation, or even penitence, is to be a political spendthrift. You know what? I don’t admire Clinton for much, but he did show more gumption than Nixon in toughing it out.
One last point. Maybe you could sell me on the notion that scoring points for dignity is worth abandoning the pinnacle if the Democrats were forced to respect the flourish. Or if there was at least a balanced press to express appreciation. Instead the media join the Democrats in piling on and heightening the humiliation. Forget it, I say, no more Mr. Nice Guy. You won that election or confirmation fair and square, now hang on tight and make those creeps come and get you