The Gaby Giffords saga has officially moved from irresponsible to offensive.
If Rep. Giffords, shot in the head by Jared Loughner in January, is able to return to her challenging job after such a violent brain injury, she will be the first such victim to do so in medical history. She has been incapacitated for three months, and her inability to return to her duties for the rest of 2011, one-half her term, is assured barring a miracle of Biblical proportions. But no effort is being made to fill her de facto empty seat, and it increasingly looks as if her staff, party and supporters are determined to keep her in a job she cannot perform, Arizona and the Congress be damned, for her entire term.
This is irresponsible enough, but now there is this: the New York Times reports that Giffords’s aides, backers and supporters are seriously laying the groundwork for Giffords—who currently cannot speak, except in short sentences—to run for retiring Senator Jon Kyl’s seat 2012:
“Ever so quietly, Ms. Giffords’s political allies are laying the groundwork just in case. Friends and allies held a fund-raiser for her on March 15 in Washington — trying to supplement her Congressional campaign war chest, which totaled about $285,000 at year’s end and could be tapped for a Senate bid. Her former campaign manager, Rodd McLeod, has been brought on staff, to fill in for an aide who is also recovering from the Jan. 8 shooting that left 6 people dead and 13 injured. While these efforts might be normal for a member of Congress in a competitive district like hers, other Democrats see them as signs that those around her want to keep her political options open.”
What this demonstrates is the ethics-free determination of 1) her aides and staff to hold on to their jobs and keep their access to the machinery of power, with or without a competent Giffords; 2) the shamelessness of her party, which would apparently be willing to run Woodrow Wilson*, El Cid** or a lawn chair if it would mean picking up a Senate seat from the GOP.
The Times writes…
“…Some of her most ardent backers are so enamored of the idea of her running for the Senate that they describe the inevitable campaign commercials: the deep-voiced narrator recounting what happened to her, the images of her wounded, then recovering and speaking into the camera alongside her astronaut husband to call on Arizonans to unite.”
Brings a tear to the eye, no? And of course, that’s the idea.
Horrible. Crass. Unfair to Arizona, the nation, and Giffords. Unfair to other Democrats, who the Times story says are afraid to announce their own candidacy for Kyl’s seat for fear that they will be accused of exploiting Giffords’s current disability…by those who are actually exploiting her.
This is cynicism melded with irresponsibility, dishonesty and, frankly, insanity. Aided and abetted by the secure knowledge that too may members of the public allow sympathy and sentimentality to overwhelm common sense.
Gaby Giffords has a bullet hole in her brain. She cannot give a speech or walk to a podium. She may be in the general state of a stroke victim, or worse. If she is ever able to perform the tasks a Representative is supposed to perform—talking with constituents, learning about issues, creating legislation, public speaking, assessing critical bills, reading them and voting on them, it is not going to happen any time soon, and, I repeat, probably will not happen at all. Planning of any kind aimed at a U.S. Senate bid is not motivated by concern or respect for Giffords by aides and party operatives, but is an exploitation of Giffords by unethical politicos who see her as a means to an end, not as a human being.
UPDATE (8/1/2011): Today, in a surprise appearance, Rep. Giffords appeared in the House for the first time since her shooting to vote for the debt ceiling compromise bill. I don’t want to be overly cynical, but this was theater, and nothing else. It has no bearing on Giffords’ fitness to serve.
* President Woodrow Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke in his second term, but his wife and his doctor effectively hid the severity of his disability from the public for the remainder of his term.
**For those who don’t know their lesser Charlton Heston movies, El Cid was an 11th century Spanish warrior and ruler who, according to legend, was placed in his armor and on a horse to lead his army to victory after his death. (It didn’t happen, however.)