Senator Bob Packwood, a left-wing Republican, enjoyed the support of Republican bigwigs, including Senator Robert Dole, until he crossed the path of left-wing Democrat Barbara Boxer, who finally brought him to book for molesting women. Ironically, Packwood was a darling of the feminists. On abortion, he was Mr. Reliable. He supported federal funding for Planned Parenthood (is there a conflict of interest here?), and even though many of them apparently spurned his many romantic overtures, Packwood tried to help the ladies girdle the Constitution with an Equal Rights Amendment.
On taxing and spending, Packwood had a mixed record. The National Taxpayers Union viewed him as a moderate who tried to help cut federal spending when he could, and his record in the 103rd Congress shows that he voted for decreasing federal spending by about $39 billion. Yet he sponsored or cosponsored legislation that would have increased federal spending by $669 million. Citizens Against Covernment Waste gave him a lifetime rating of about 50 out of a possible 100 for his voting record, but his latest annual tally dropped him below 40, a territory almost solely the preserve of Democrats. Among other things, he’s a famous supporter of energy research that has no end, such as that for the liquid-metal and fusion reactors. Packwood also supported the Pentagon’s Civilian Marksmanship Program, which predates World War I and teaches civilians how to shoot rifles, hardly a necessity in an age of laser sights. In any event, as he was on fiscal matters, Packwood was a mixed bag on gun control. He opposed cutting the congressional budget, and like many Republicans, even supported the federal program that pays to advertise the products of American corporations overseas.
As for Packwood’s rectitude as a public official, his diaries tell almost as sordid a tale on that subject as they do about his clumsy attempts at amour. They are full of references to illegal campaign fundraising activities. In one entry, Packwood admitted that a few ideas discussed at a private meeting with Senator Phil Gramm, if brought to fruition, would result in jail time.
Losing Packwood was hardly a setback for Republican conservatives, which poses the question of why they fumbled an opportunity to promote themselves as the pro-family party of morals and virtue. Dumping Packwood was a no-brainer, especially when it became clear he really was the lecher described by his accusers. But Dole and Company, bitter-enders when it comes to one of their own, never got the point. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentuckian in charge of the Senate Ethics Committee, strongly opposed holding public hearings on Packwood’s crimes and misdemeanors, and few if any Republicans, including presidential candidate Dole, said much about him at all. Instead of booting Packwood immediately, they began attacking Packwoodian Democrats.
What about Ted Kennedy? Hilariously, Republicans threatened to hold hearings on Chappaquiddick and perhaps explore Kennedy’s other exploits. Just as they must earn respect and love, men must also earn loyalty. Justice, however, is another matter. Everyone deserves justice, and sometimes, a man must administer just punishment to a friend. If the Republicans on Capitol Hill understood that, justice for their friend Packwood would have been summary, as swift and sure as the necktie party held for Steve when the Virginian caught his dear friend rustling cattle.