Time to resign

At a press conference last week, Congressman John T. Doolittle emphatically announced that despite being a target in a major federal corruption investigation, he would not be resigning. “There is no way I am stepping down,” he said. “They would have to drag me out of here.”

Taking him at his word, it looks like its time to call the junkyard hauling crew.

There are obvious reasons why Doolittle would want to remain in office. The salary is better than his pension. He has staff paid for by taxpayers. He probably has an easier time raising money for his legal-defense fund in office than out. And at any upcoming trial or negotiation with prosecutors, he can use his hold on the office as some kind of card to play. After nearly $300,000 in campaign contributions made their way from special interests into his wife’s pocket, Doolittle will need all the cards he can lay his hands on.

But none of this means much to his constituents here in the Sacramento region, or those scattered throughout the mountain counties that are also contained in his district. In fact, these are all reasons why Doolittle should resign. Already, Doolittle must be spending a significant portion of his waking hours preparing for his indictment and trial, including fund raising to pay for his lawyers. However efficient and practiced a politician he might be, and however conscientious his staff, someone in Doolittle’s circumstance simply does not have the ability to give proper attention to the great and small issues facing the country and his district.

With his typical willful defiance, Doolittle is thinking about himself above all else, just as he has done throughout his 30-year political career. There is no member of his own Republican caucus who he ever hesitated to destroy if it meant his own advancement. Plenty of retired California Republican politicians will attest to that. There is no need of the people that he wouldn’t sacrifice if it helped promote himself as ideologically pure.

Doolittle’s most ardent enemies in the Democratic Party hope that he will keep his word and remain in office and run for re-election in 2008. They believe their best hope of taking over his congressional seat, with its decisive edge in Republican voters, is to run against a grievously wounded Doolittle. But, again, this has to do with the interests of a party and not the interests of the people.

With 17 out of 24 months left in Doolittle’s term of office, there is too much time left to sacrifice it to someone’s personal advantage or some party’s political stratagem. The urgent requirement now is for the people of the 4th Congressional District, and especially its many leaders in business and community groups and the media, to create a unified voice in requesting Doolittle’s immediate resignation. Should that occur, the governor has the ability to call a special election to fill the vacancy. A new Congress member could be in place when more than half the term in office is still to be served.

But success in this would still depend upon Doolittle showing a dignity that he has yet to find. What was the number of that junkyard hauling crew?