NOW Is It “Too Soon”? Rep. Giffords Needs To Resign

Rep. Giffords' seat should be filled

Today the New York Times reports on grievously wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery, which appears to be going remarkably well. Back in January, I was much criticized for suggesting that Rep. Giffords had a responsibility to resign from her seat (“Unavoidable Ethics: Giffords Need To Resign,” 1/17/11), as it was obvious then (though not polite to admit) that her recovery from the bullet hole in her head could not possibly occur quickly enough to allow her to make a meaningful contribution in Congress during her current two-year term. Well, it is still obvious, and the ethical priorities remain clear.

We learn in the Times piece today (or at least I did) that the Congressman is still without half of her skull, which was removed to prevent damage from brain swelling. The skull pieces are in a freezer, and will probably be restored in surgery that is planned for May. The recovery from the surgery, I assume, will extend at least into June, and then she still has to travel the long and arduous road back to whatever her final cognitive and physical abilities will be—and they will not be what they were before the madman started shooting. At this point, doctors don’t seem to know what the exact consequences of her gunshot-caused brain damage will be, or if they do know, they aren’t telling the Times, or the public.

June. That’s 25% of her term gone for certain. But there is no realistic chance, based on the experience of similar victims, even assuming “remarkable” progress, that Giffords will be voting in Congress in 2011. Jared Loughner has robbed her, her district, Arizona, her party and the Congress of half of her term, and her corresponding opportunity to hlp the House craft responsible solutions to the nation’s many pressing problems.

Thus I say again: Giffords should resign. The Republicans won’t say so, because they know they will be attacked as mean and politically expedient; the Democrats won’t, because they would rather have a non-functioning Democrat in the seat than risk losing it to a functioning Tea Partier. Both parties, if they were interested in doing the right thing, should be saying this: the government of the United States is more important than any one individual, no matter how deserving, virtuous, sympathetic and courageous. The House of Representatives has 435 members, and every single one of them should be able to perform his or her legislative duty for the bulk of his or her term, and if not, they should resign in favor of someone who can. It is not fair for any district to be unrepresented (and no, the citizens in the district do not have the option of deciding that they would rather be kind to a wounded elected official than participate in the government of the United States.), and it is irresponsible to allow Congress to operate at less than full strength because of compassion and sympathy for Gaby Giffords.

Nobody is more important than the country, not even Charlie Sheen.

Giffords should resign. She should have resigned in January.

I hope I don’t have to write this again in July.

11 thoughts on “NOW Is It “Too Soon”? Rep. Giffords Needs To Resign

  1. My concern is about how you define ethics. While it may be best for the country if she resigns, although that is debatable because she serves as an inspiration to all — a hero and a role model when virtually none exist in this country, it shows a lack of empathy on your part to believe you are so “right” with your point of view. Apparently, she wasn’t even told until a few days ago about what happened to her. Let’s give her a chance to process it. It might be interesting to know what the citizens of her district believe she should do. If they say she should resign, then she should. Perhaps you know something none of us do in that respect. Finally, there is no urgent vote pending where the country will be negatively affected right now by her absence. Caring and compassion is a virtue lost on too many today.

    • Oh, come on. What is the real value to the nation of her “inspiration”? There are thousands upon thousands of inspiring stories. This isn’t even a close call. It makes as much sense as saying that we shouldn’t discount compassion for Bernie Madoff in balancing it against the Rule of Law. Is her position an important one or not? I’d say yes…do you disagree? If it’s important, than someone needs to DO it, and her district does not have the option of withdrawing itself from the Republic. I don’t care if her apathetic constituents care more about one woman than the country. They have a duty as citizens to care. I agree with your last sentence completely, but it is misapplied. And your next to last sentence is a jaw-dropper. That logic argues for not voting too.

        • You thought THAT was uncivil? Wow. Is “oh come on” really offensive to you? “Jaw-dropping’? If so, I apologize, and I’ll be happy to restrain my exuberant verbiage. I personally would not regard the tone or word choice as uncivil, and that was surely not my intent.

          Now, when I just told another commenter to “bite me,” that WAS intentional.

          • Calling a spade a spade is not uncivil. Jack used strong language because his point is strong.

            Also, how does Giffords resigning make her any less of a roll model?

            • I wondered that too. Or, a less popular point yet, how does getting shot make you a role model? I’d call her a role model if she didn’t the right thing and stepped down before being forced to. Courage requires choices. She didn’t choose to get shot, and her rehabilitation is really a choice either. But she can choose to let an able public servant do her job, until she can do it again.

  2. Perhaps the crux of the matter isn’t that GG hasn’t stepped down yet, but that there is no guidance or rule for how to replace an elected official whose recovery will be slow.

    What’s with the TV shows that have the spouse step in when the congressman dies? Certainly there has to be a rule about incapacitation. Do those around GG not feel it is necessary to invoke such rules, or do they simply not exist and the burden is on GG to resign?

  3. Jack,
    I love your article. My sentiments are the same as yours, Giffords should resign. But, I am betting that even at this point, she isn’t of “whole mind”. An article in the May 20 Chicago Tribune had a statement by Dr. Kim, the surgeon replacing her skull, and he said, “she has made tremendous progress. BUT WE CAN’T predict HOW MUCH more she will make going forward. We can’t predict IF and WHEN she can return to work.”
    If the doctors are no longer in a position to confirm she will make additional progress — I really think Congress should step up and do its job, and vote the seat vacant. After all, realistically, figuratively, and PHYSICALLY, that seat in Congress is vacant. And a vacant seat, can not represent the constituents in her district, nor can it vote.
    Under the U S Constitution, by NOT voting the seat as vacant, the Congress continues to deny the citizens of her district their rights to congressional representation, under the United States Constitution.
    Wonder when wake-up time will be in Washington DC?

    • I heard the press conference too, and had similar thoughts. She’s having her skull replaced; she has been cheered fr being able to “talk in short bursts” (“Good stuff!” “Good stuff! was the quote from the shuttle launch), and 25% of her term is gone already: who believes that she’ll be back in the House? I suppose it is soothing to know that the public and political system will put sentiment attached to one person over national interests,
      but are we serious about governing, or aren’t we?

      I was about to write my third “So? Is it STILL too soon?” piece when your comment arrived.
      Thanks for the kind words.

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