Packwood's a serial kisser, but do voters even care?

ROGER SIMON

May 12, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

Katherine Meyer just doesn't get it.

She is the attorney for about 250 people who want Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., thrown out of office because they say he lied during his re-election campaign in 1992.

We now know that Bob Packwood is a serial kisser.

More than 20 women have come forward to accuse him of grabbing and kissing them against their will over the last 24 years.

In the most serious accusation, a woman says Packwood tried to pull her girdle off in 1969.

While refusing to discuss specifics, Packwood has apologized for his behavior.

The accusation were brought to light by the Washington Post a few weeks after Packwood won re-election to a fifth term with 52 percent of the vote.

Before the election, Packwood had denied the allegations to the Post.

Now, Meyer and her group of angry voters want the Senate Rules Committee to kick Packwood out of office because he lied to the newspaper and, thereby, the people.

(The Senate Ethics Committee is already investigating the sexual misconduct charges.)

"Mr. Packwood stole the November 3 election," Meyer told the Rules Committee Monday. "He wouldn't have succeeded in winning re-election if the information had been known."

To which I say: Oh, yeah? Says who?

Actually, I think Packwood might have gotten more votes.

I'll bet out in the logging camps of Oregon there were people saying: "Bobby Packwood shouldn't be penalized just because he couldn't get that girdle off! Let's give him another six years to try again!"

No way, Meyer says. And she has proof: An opinion poll taken after the election shows "in the face of the evidence of sexual misconduct, only 34 percent of the voters would have voted for Mr. Packwood."

But if we accept that as real evidence, it would make Packwood the first senator defeated not by a vote of the people, but by an opinion poll.

The danger of democracy by poll is apparent. Take a poll on any politician -- the president of the United States, for example -- and ask: "If you knew before the election what you know about this politician now, would you have voted for him?"

And I'll bet every politician in America would suffer from such a poll. Bill Clinton sure would.

And when Clinton's numbers get bad enough, what should we do with him? Remove him from office?

But Meyer is convinced that if voters had known that Packwood had tried to kiss women against their will, the voters would not have voted for him.

But I think Meyer has not gone out among the American people lately. I think she believes that because she is politically correct, everybody is politically correct.

Think I'm exaggerating the public's tolerance for "sexual misconduct?" Consider this:

At the 1991 White House Correspondents' Dinner, Dr. Burton Lee, the White House physician, grabbed a female reporter around her thighs, yanked her onto his lap and then threw her onto a dinner table in front of 3,000 people.

What do you suppose happened to Dr. Lee the next day? Do you think George Bush ordered an investigation? Do you think there were pickets at the White House? Phone calls? Public outrage that forced Dr. Lee to apologize?

"I'm in no trouble, God almighty," Dr. Lee said the next morning. "The guys [at the White House] all think it's funny, that I'm basically a minor-league hero. The women are all concerned that I'll be labeled a bad guy. But it's not going to happen. I had a perfectly good time."

Packwood's opponents believe mightily in the power of the press. If the Post had only printed its revelations before the election instead of after, Packwood surely would have gone down in flames, they say.

I wish. Though people tend to forget it, the Post printed plenty of Watergate revelations before the presidential election of 1972 and Richard Nixon went on to win every state except Massachusetts.

I think what Bob Packwood did was wrong. I would not have voted for the guy. But I don't presume to think my feelings are universal or even in a majority.

And I'll bet there are plenty of people in Oregon right now saying:

"Bob Packwood was in the Senate for 24 years and all he tried to steal was a kiss? Heck, we need more like him in Washington!"

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