WASHINGTON -- The Senate is scheduled to debate the fate of confessed serial kisser Bob Packwood tomorrow, a debate that on the surface will be about sex, privacy and alleged criminal misconduct.
But that is only on the surface.
In reality, the Senate will be debating one of the oldest questions in politics: How dumb can you be?
How dumb was Richard Nixon, for instance?
Dumb enough to keep tapes that implicated him in the Watergate scandal and forced him to resign his office.
How dumb is Bob Packwood?
Dumb enough to keep diaries stretching over 25 years and totaling more than 8,000 pages, diaries in which he not only writes about sexual peccadilloes, but, according to the Senate Ethics Committee, a "possible violation of one or more laws, including criminal laws."
While the committee did not say which laws may have been broken, there are signs they deal with violations of campaign laws or improper use of campaign funds.
And Packwood writes that down in his diaries? How dumb can he be?
This latest accusation about possible criminal misconduct vastly raises the stakes. Before this, we were just talking about a geeky guy, who becomes a Republican senator from Oregon, and whose idea of being a playboy is to lunge at women and try to force his tongue between their lips.
What a smoothie.
Some of these women worked for Packwood, resisted his advances and have brought sexual harassment complaints against him.
But Packwood's defense was bolstered by the fog that surrounds attempts to define sexual harassment. The women who will testify against Packwood do not accuse him of taking revenge against them after they told him to keep his tongue to himself.
And few observers felt the Ethics Committee would do more VTC than reprimand or perhaps censure Packwood. After all, no senator has ever been expelled from the Senate for anything less than a felony.
But now, because of what investigators stumbled on when Packwood gave them 5,000 pages of his diaries, a criminal investigation could cost Packwood his job and possibly his liberty.
All because he kept a diary.
But that's just the point, Packwood howls. His diaries are deeply private, for his eyes only, containing not only his own love affairs but the love affairs of other lawmakers.
Sure he turned over 5,000 "relevant" pages to investigators, but now they want all the pages and it is not fair to invade his privacy in such a way, Packwood claims. Which is why he wants the Senate tomorrow to block attempts to get the rest of the diaries.
But wait. Are we really talking about private diaries that Packwood scribbled down each night and then safely tucked under his pillow?
Not at all.
"Senator Packwood's diaries were maintained in his Senate office, and for many years were transcribed by his Senate-employed secretary," Ethics Committee Chairman Richard Bryan of Nevada said in a statement Thursday.
So Bob Packwood shared this ultra-private stuff with his secretary? A secretary paid with public funds to do the public's work?
How dumb can he be?
And just what was the purpose of these diaries?
Packwood says they were to be used only for history. "The secrets in that diary are safe with me," he said recently from the Senate floor. And then he added that they would be turned over to the Oregon Historical Society, not to be revealed until years after his death.
Senator Bryan tells a different story, however. "Senator Packwood told the committee that he was considering using the diaries to write a book," he said.
In other words, Packwood was keeping the diaries for the same reason Richard Nixon kept the tapes: so he could get a juicy book deal some day.
One last question: Just how did the Ethics Committee learn of these diaries?
Well, it seems that Packwood mentioned them to the committee, when he tried to use them in his defense.
That's right: The bozo brought them up himself.
Just how dumb can Bob Packwood be?
I'd stay tuned if I were you. I have this funny feeling that we ain't seen nothin' yet.