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.