AS WE UNDERTAKE the War against Terrorism, President Bush should simultaneously announce a "War against Chutzpah."
New York Rep. Nita Lowey, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairwoman, stands near the top of the Most Wanted List in our new War against Chutzpah. Lowey announced a series of television ads against Republicans, pronouncing the economic downturn as "George Bush's recession."
George Bush's recession? The National Bureau of Economic Research last week announced the recession, stating that the downturn began in March 2001.
Let's see, the president took over on Jan. 20, 2001, and the recession began a month later. So Bush committed budget missteps, destroyed consumer confidence and trashed the economy – all in 39 days. This guy is good. The National Republican Congressional Committee called the ad campaign "despicable," and questioned the judgment of ad attacks on a president with a near 90 percent approval rating. Despicable, no. Nervy, yes.
Congressman Gary Condit, D-Calif., deserves a spot on our list in this War against Chutzpah. Condit, by collecting signatures, took a step toward announcing his re-election campaign. The congressman, of course, reportedly refused to cooperate with the police and their investigation of missing intern Chandra Levy. He allegedly initially denied, through his aides, a romantic relationship with the California resident, who has been missing since April 30, 2001. While not a suspect, Condit received heated criticism for taking a polygraph outside of the purview of the Washington, D.C., police and reportedly ditching a personal item from his apartment hours before police searched it.
Perhaps Condit might like to seek advice from another nervy colleague, Congressman Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. According to The Almanac of American Politics, "Alcee Hastings (is) the only member of Congress ever to have been impeached and removed from office as a federal judge ... Hastings was charged with conspiring with a friend to take a $150,000 bribe and give two convicted swindlers light sentences."
After Hastings' impeachment, he described himself as a victim of a witch-hunt, argued that he declared himself victimized by racism, unfairness of the judicial system, blah, blah, blah.
Condit might also seek advice from former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who made a dramatic return from the political ash heap. There on the videotape we saw the married mayor of Washington, D.C. smoking crack, trying to sleep with a woman whom he later, on the tape, refers to as a "bitch." But that's municipal. A jury convicted him of a misdemeanor, he returned to the city council, and then, incredibly, got elected again by D.C. residents.
Another disgraced former colleague of Condit might provide some advice on making a comeback. Former Illinois Congressman Mel Reynolds served two and a half years in prison following his 1995 conviction relating to his sexual relationship with a former 16-year-old campaign worker. He was convicted in 1997 on federal campaign fraud charges. Only months after the commutation of his prison sentence by former President Clinton, Reverend Jesse Jackson hired Reynolds to work in Chicago's Operation PUSH. In his PUSH job, Reynolds consults on prison reform.
So no, Condit's possible re-election campaign does not go down as the cheekiest second act in American politics. Yes, most predicted Condit's political doom, with few expecting Condit to summon the gall to run again. But the congressman remains a non-suspect. His colleagues did not vote for his impeachment. And no law obligated him to talk to the police, let alone the media. So let's count our blessings. If Condit played starting quarterback for some teams, he'd be invincible.
A couple of weeks ago, UCLA football coach Bob Toledo started quarterback Cory Paus. Two days before the game, the school learned Paus received a drunk-driving conviction over the summer. That marked the second drunk-driving incident involving Paus within 15 months. After the first, he pleaded guilty to a wet reckless. And in the second case, he pleaded no contest. Paus apparently did not inform the school about the second charge. The coach, according to The Los Angeles Times, said, "I wanted to wait until I had all the facts," before determining his course of action. Paus played.
But just when standards seem abandoned, up steps Ohio State University and the Air Force Academy. A few weeks ago, Ohio State starting quarterback Steve Bellasari was arrested for drunk driving. The team immediately put him on indefinite suspension. They didn't await criminal court proceedings or say, "I wanted to wait until I had all the facts."
But the Air Force Academy, not surprisingly, set the gold standard. On Nov. 30, 2001, 12 team members violated curfew. Not drunk driving, mind you. The football coach immediately suspended them indefinitely.
As we fight our War against Terrorism, and as we place our heroic, well-trained military personnel in harm's way, know this: Higher standards of excellence and consequences for negligence, insubordination and failure define the military. Just ask Fisher DeBerry – the football coach at Air Force Academy.