It's a relief, isn't it, to hear that Ginny Brown-Waite is tanned, rested and ready?
Oh, I know. It's not fair to compare a U.S. representative who left office in good standing to a president who resigned in disgrace. (For you youngsters, Richard Nixon used the "rested and ready" slogan to launch his 1968 political comeback.)
But maybe manipulating history to make a point is okay by the current standards of public discourse. Because, as Brown-Waite told my colleague Tony Marrero last week — in the same interview that she revealed her health problems have cleared up and she is considering another run for office — the political atmosphere has become "downright nasty" in recent years.
I just watched a documentary about the 1965 riots in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, where 34 people died, which reminded me that things have been a lot worse. Still, Brown-Waite is right. It's pretty bad right now. And, though she says she's not sure where her own rhetoric measures up on the nastiness scale, I'd say it's pretty high, especially if we give her extra points for cynicism. You always got the feeling she knew better.
The highlights are familiar by now. Other than Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, all terrorists are Muslims, she said. Puerto Ricans are foreigners, and families of fallen soldiers buried in France should be able to disinter their remains — in the interest of patriotism.
She called the 2008 bank bailouts "extortion," which would have had more credibility if, while sitting on the committee overseeing the financial industry, she hadn't invested in two banks — one on the day before the House of Representatives voted to bail it out. (No laws were broken, and, she later said, she didn't profit from these deals.)
Likewise, her attacks on the cost of health care reform could be viewed as a principled stand against big government if she hadn't handed out $220,664 in year-end bonuses to staffers on her way out of office, according to a story this week in the Wall Street Journal.
True, she took some stands. Defying then-President George W. Bush, she supported the expansion of stem-cell research and opposed intervening in Terri Schiavo's end-of-life case. She helped shoot down the "death panel" lie about health care reform.
And, since the issue at hand is the desirability of Brown-Waite holding state or local office, nobody ever said she didn't work hard. As for the operation of her office, it was pure efficiency from my experience. You got the feeling nobody wanted to tell this particular boss they'd messed up, which is not a bad quality in a constitutional officer — the local job she seems most likely to seek.
But with these positions, cool, impartial administration is the goal. You don't need to be stirring things up politically, which is Brown-Waite's special gift. She did it when she left office, virtually handing it to then-Sheriff Richard Nugent. She even did it in ruling out positions she'd run for, including supervisor of elections, because "you break a sweat every two years." How does that reflect on current supervisor Annie Williams — a Democrat, by the way? I suspect that's the point.
That may even be what this talk about running again is all about, just stirring things up.
I hope so. Brown-Waite is 67 now and has held elected office for two decades. She's due for a rest. And so are we.