Arnick is back, and we should have seen it coming


September 29, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

John Arnick, on his own, is neither interesting nor important. In fact, John Arnick is a washed-up nobody who barely merits attention.

He's a dinosaur -- not a cute, purple one and not a scary, Jurassicized one. Just an old creature, bound for extinction.

John Arnick is yesterday's news. He's about as relevant as the American League pennant race.

That he's apparently headed back to his old seat in the legislature is no big deal. Come on, folks. Arnick is probably no more or less corrupt, no more or less intolerant, than your typical, benighted lawmaker. Heck, they could have appointed Neil Solomon.

Does that sound tired and cynical? It's hard to sound otherwise these days.

That is what's so contemptible about John Arnick's yellow-ribboned rehabilitation as state delegate and, God help us, martyr.

It makes us more tired than outraged.

And, worse, it doesn't surprise anyone at all.

You see the headline, which might as well have said, "Pals Put Disgraced Old Pol Back in Business," and you shrug. What else is new?

That's the killer. His reappointment is not just a slap at women (for Mr. Arnick, read: "lying bimbos"); it's a slap at everybody. And all you feel is helplessness. Or disgust.

Seven months after the people spoke -- actually it was closer to a primal scream -- so loudly that the cowering legislators had to force Arnick to give up his nomination for a judgeship, it's as if it were all a dream.

There was a brief time of empowerment, when common folk thought they could make a difference.

We should have known better, right?

Now we do.

Who robbed us of our sense of power? It's the people who make up something called the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee. They have real power.

For some undemocratic reason, the committee gets to nominate a candidate to fill a legislative vacancy from its area. When Arnick's former seat came open, the apparatchiks jumped at the chance to reward their old friend and pal.

The vote was 26-2 with two bold abstentions. The two votes opposing Arnick were cast, of course, by women.

Now all that's left is for the guv to approve the nomination. Let's just say that's a better bet than keno.

Arnick's return is the old boys' revenge. Of course, there were some female quislings in among the old boys, which goes to show that the old-boy network will happily absorb some old girls if they're willing to play the game.

It is a game. It's their game. Isn't that the message?

You might well ask yourself why someone who is not fit to be a judge should serve in the legislature. If you ask, listen for the echo. You'll be all alone.

To the folks who made the decision, it doesn't matter what Arnick said or did or how he has become a working symbol for male abuse of power. And it doesn't matter what anyone (say, the voters) might think.

What matters is that Arnick is one of them. He will be taken care of. As committeewoman Marlene Pianowski said, Arnick "should go back to take his rightful seat."

Do you hear the sound of entitlement? His rightful seat.

I hear it, too. And yet, sometimes, almost reflexively, I find myself wanting to defend people in government. It's the seventh-grade-civics-class part of me that wants to believe those who govern, somewhere deep down inside, have our best interests at heart. That's what Miss Wise taught me, and I never knew her to lie.

But I read a book recently by William Greider called, "Who Will Tell the People?" It is subtitled: "The Betrayal of American Democracy."

Greider's theme is that democracy has given way to a governmental elite that the people are essentially powerless to overcome. And seeing this, he says, many people have basically given up. The voting numbers are, of course, way down. And PAC money, conversely, rises exponentially.

Who's in charge?

The president of the United States promises a bold new health-care package. And we wonder if "they," whoever they are, will allow it to become law.

The Arnick case is just a symptom of a system gone wrong. His appointment says only one thing: The interests of those who govern are more important than those of the governed.

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