Sen. Packwood's antics don't deserve more time

ROGER SIMON

November 03, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

WASHINGTON -- Bob Packwood is currently starring in a movie of his own mental creation.

He has become "The Samurai Senator!"

Packwood, R-Ore., stalks back and forth on the floor of the senate, wheedling and whining one moment, thundering and slashing the next.

He is one vs. many, a warrior hopelessly outnumbered, waging a war he cannot win.

But he does not care. All he cares about is going down fighting, a hero in his own mind.

Which is yet another example of Bob Packwood's arrested development.

Like a schoolboy, he grabbed the girls and kissed them against their will. (Forgiveable in a boy, but not so in a man.)

And like a schoolgirl, he wrote everything down in a diary. (Like a smart schoolgirl: He was going to turn it into a book.)

Now, still acting like an adolescent, he threatens the senators one moment -- he will reveal their affairs if they reveal his -- and then begs them for fairness the next.

Throughout it all, he is consistent in one thing only: He continues to keep his diary.

Every morning between 6:15 and 6:45, Packwood pours his heart out into a tape recorder for later transcription.

I wonder what he will dictate this week? "Dear Diary: Made an ass of myself again on the Senate floor. Don't care. Intend to hold my breath until I die. Then they'll all be sorry."

That politicians don't always tell the truth is no longer a revelation to any of us, but for sheer disingenuousness, it would be hard to beat Packwood's performance this week.

Again and again, Packwood has sought to portray the attempt by the Senate ethics committee to see the rest of his diaries as a violation of his constitutional rights and an invasion of his privacy.

In fact, the constitutional question is easy to deal with:

Packwood has never invoked a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. And, as this right applies only to oral testimony and not to diaries, it would make no difference if he did.

Nor does Packwood have a Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure: Having used the diaries in his own defense, he cannot now refuse to let the opposing side use them, too.

In any case, the ethics committee is only too willing to let the courts decide whether subpoenaing his diaries is legal or not.

It is Packwood who didn't want the courts to decide. He wanted his formerly all-boys club to decide.

What about the issue of privacy, however? Is it fair, is it American, to make anyone reveal his diaries?

Look at it this way: Let us say you join the Elvis Is Still Alive Fan Club. To belong, you have to set a place for Elvis at your dinner table each night.

One day, a dozen people come forward and accuse you of breaking this rule. And the club's ethics committee asks if they can come over and check out your dinner table.

You refuse. And you hire a lawyer to go on the TV talk shows and say, "Nobody should be forced to reveal anything as intimate as a dinner table! It is un-American!"

But some club members scratch their heads and wonder why you joined the club in the first place.

Nobody attached electrodes to Bob Packwood's head (though if they had, this would explain a lot) and forced him to join the Senate.

He did so voluntarily. And by so doing, he agreed to play by the rules, one of which says the ethics committee gets to fully investigate all complaints against senators.

Bob Packwood doesn't want to give up his diaries because they are too personal?

Fine. He does not have to.

But then he will have to quit the club.

A tough choice, but adults have to make tough choices every day.

The U.S. Senate is not a day-care center for those who will not work and play well with others.

Nor is it a TV studio where anyone with an overdeveloped sense of his own importance can strut back and forth without end.

Believe it or not, the Senate has serious matters to debate, even though it has given no signs of doing so for the last two days.

Bob Packwood has had his hour upon the stage. Several of them in fact.

Now, it is time for Packwood to grow up and shut up and let the Senate move on to the real business of this nation.

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