Arnick's Strategic Withdrawal

February 17, 1993

Now that former Del. John S. Arnick has wisely made a strategic withdrawal, friends of the embattled District Court nominee should find a way to end this embarrassing episode without further public humiliation. Mr. Arnick may not be suited to serve in the judiciary but his skillful career in the legislature makes him an ideal candidate for any number of other important jobs in government.

At this stage, there is scant chance the Arnick nomination can be revived. Belatedly, senators realized that their earlier championing of Mr. Arnick was wildly out of sync with public sentiment. Public concern with Mr. Arnick's alleged hostile attitude toward women finally became so vocal and so adamant that even the cliquish General Assembly recognized that supporting Mr. Arnick's bid for a judgeship would be political suicide.

Yet despite his character flaws, Mr. Arnick's talents are considerable. He remains one of the best tacticians and shapers of bills in Annapolis. He has long experience in building coalitions and finding a consensus on hot topics. Gov. William Donald Schaefer badly needs that kind of expertise in his administration. He should jump at the chance to add Mr. Arnick to his team.

Once the controversy has died down, legislators need to take a hard look at what enraged the public. Why were leaders so blind to the public's ire over allegations of offensive behavior toward women? Why did they insist on trying to ram this nomination through despite warnings of trouble? Why did they so lightly dismiss the importance of scrutinizing judicial nominations?

The message from the public is that Marylanders consider the selection and approval of judges an extremely important role. No more rubber-stamp hearings. No more judicial nominees whose main criteria are political connections. The public is demanding more accountability and responsibility from its elected leaders in this vital area.

Restoring public faith in legislators won't be easy. The Arnick embroglio confirmed for many people a belief that lawmakers are out of touch with everyday reality, that they are so insulated and protected in their State House cocoon they are oblivious to what's important to ordinary citizens.

But Marylanders also have to recognize that legislators did wake up before it was too late. That's an encouraging sign, one of the few rays of hope in this unfortunate situation.

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