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This Week - The House will take up several measures this week. They begin with H.Res. 543 to express the sense of the House that Congress should complete action on making the marriage tax relief permanent. They will also take up the long awaited Department of Defense Authorization bill. Finally, since a new fiscal year began on Tuesday and the current, continuing resolution ends on Friday, they will also pass another CR - although the length of time has not been decided.
The quicksand pit of the federal government, otherwise known as the U.S. Senate, will begin the week with the issue of homeland security again. However, since there is no end in sight to the debate, they will push it aside mid-week and take up the President’s resolution on Iraq.
Arrogance… Thy Name is Torricelli
Tales abound of Washington’s self-absorption, of our Prima Donna legislators and candidates who will sell themselves for a vote. But, even veteran politicos were surprised on Monday by the sudden and unusual decision of Senator Torricelli (D-NJ) not to seek re-election. The decision itself was remarkable. Known as The Torch, for his fiery and unyielding style, everyone expected him to have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of office. The speech, a self-indulgent rant of momentous proportion, represented the worst of Washington and was, in itself, a perfect example of Washington arrogance.
The story began during the late 1990’s, when Senator Torricelli maintained a questionable relationship with Mr. David Chang. Over the span of a few years, it is alleged, Mr. Chang gave the Senator several very nice gifts. Those gifts to the Senator included a Rolex watch, valued at over $8,000, and some Italian suits. In the meantime, Senator Torricelli happened to be working on certain policies that proved to be quite beneficial to Mr. Chang and his new company. While this may not be enough evidence to hold the Senator criminally liable, it does demonstrate a stunning lack of good judgment for someone in public office. Throughout the entire fiasco, the Senator has claimed his innocence and fought the accusations. And, despite an investigation by an independent counsel and a serious admonition by the Senate ethics committee (which includes Democrats), he still claimed that he would continue his bid for re-election. It was only after his poll numbers dropped precipitously that he decided to turn tail and get out of the election before being handed an embarrassing loss. However, even this had to be done “his” way.
To begin with, rather than apologizing for his questionable behavior, he refused to take any responsibility for his own actions and, instead, questioned the values of the American people:
“When did we become such an unforgiving people? How did we become a society when a person can build credibility your entire life to have it questioned by someone whose word is of no value at all? When did we stop believing in and trusting in each other?”
This protestation of innocence, of course, sidles past the question of how a jury of his peers, the Senate Ethics Committee, found him guilty enough to warrant a severe admonishment.
He also took several unnecessary and untruthful potshots at his opponent, Doug Forrester:
“Doug Forrester believes in none of that. [several issues mentioned previously] Simply because I'm making the decision today, do not think that I fight any less hard or I could be any less combative. Doug Forrester does not belong in the United States Senate.”
After this petulant attack, I would say that neither do you Senator.
His message was clear. He did nothing wrong. But, since people thought he did something wrong, he was in danger of losing his election, potentially giving control of the Senate back to the Republicans. Therefore, 35 days out from said election, it was time to nobly back out, giving Democrats a chance to win with another candidate. Indeed, the message was presented with theatrics reminiscent of Bill Clinton, whom he evoked several times with sycophantic praise.
The fact that he resigned only because of sinking poll numbers sets an unbelievably bad precedent, and points, again, to the inherent arrogance. He waited until the eleventh hour, when he finally realized that he was going to lose. If his poll numbers had leveled out or were closer to Forrester’s, there is no way he would have quit. And, what about this kind of campaign strategy? Does this mean that every time the Democratic party feels that it may lose an election it can try to rig the election law in their favor - running candidate after candidate until they can find someone who can win?
In two to three weeks, Congress will wind down for the year and go home to their constituents, and Senator Torricelli’s career in our government will be over. I say good riddance, and I am glad that, in leaving, he reminded us all so vividly of why he and this type of Washington braggadocio won’t be missed.