The Giffords Fiasco, Continued: “Gaby Giffords For Senator”

Would Arizona Democrats run El Cid for the Senate?

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.)

13 thoughts on “The Giffords Fiasco, Continued: “Gaby Giffords For Senator”

  1. You can throw me into the group who would be more than happy to have a Democrat fill that Senate seat, but I’m also starting to feel like the black sheep of the party. I’m a frequent HuffingonPost user and had my ass handed to me early in March when I suggested that Giffords had a duty to her constituents to resign her seat. The replies? “Give her more time!” “Seats are always empty in the House for various reasons!” “There’s no reason for her to resign!”

    Even though she has a loyal staff carrying out functions for her both in Arizona and DC, and even though she’s doing remarkably well for someone with such a traumatic brain injury, she is unable to perform her duties. Many people keep pointing to Senator Johnson from South Dakota, who was out for several months for cancer treatments, but fail to recognize the difference between a months long recovery, and what will most likely be years for Giffords. If her basic cognitive skills really are intact the way her family and staff keep saying, then it is time for her husband to ask her to resign, let her say yes, and sign the papers.

    What gets me most about this situation is the party politics; when Republicans pull these types of stunts or shirk any number of ethical duties to the public, we’re quick to call them on it and whip out the pitchforks. Instead of leading by example, we just repeat the same behavior. But it’s ok, because we’re the good guy Democrats. *rolls eyes* The logic…it hurts.

  2. Giffords should resign, NOW. She cannot perform her duties, and NO ONE ELECTED HER STAFF TO PERFORM THEM INSTEAD. It was a tragedy, yes, but there is no precedent, legal or otherwise, for a severely impaired person to allow his/her staff to do the job only she was elected to do.

    Sounds crass, but if and when she has some miraculous recovery and wants to run in 2012, she’d better be able to prove she can do the job.

    “Tragedy” makes for bad decision-making, and poor ethical choices.

  3. I think you’re all resisting well the human instinct of hope and the near-universal urge to find triumph in tragedy. I HOPE Giffords recovers fully and is able to make a Senate run. Her friends are, according to the Times, laying the groundwork, JUST IN CASE (my emphasis). It seems to me they’re being human and following their hearts.

    Republicans have hearts, too. I recall James Brady not giving up his job as Reagan’s press secretary for months, well after it became clear that he’d never again be able to do the job. Meanwhile he kept the title and someone filled in.

    Have a heart, guys!

    • That was because every White House would like to have non-functioning press secretary, and Brady’s injury was a great excuse. Why else would Obama have tolerated the fumble-tongued, “ahhhh”-addicted boob who preceded Jay Carney?

    • Ethics Bob:
      Meantime, who the heck is doing her job? Let’s all be kind, but realistic, too. Who says her staff has the right to do her job because she just “can’t?”
      Jim Brady should have resigned, too, and lived on a big government pension with full health care. What’s he doing now? How’s his recovery coming along? Get real.

      • Elizabeth, nobody is doing her job of voting or participating in committee work, Her staff handled the constituent work before and after the shooting. I believe in leaning forward to ease the pain of victims of tragedies. Give her some time…

        • Keep being kind. I agree with you, in part. You remind me that once as an adolescent and (presumed) Christian, I commented to my Dad that I couldn’t possibly “love” everybody, as I interpreted the demands of the faith. His response: “God doesn’t ask you to love everyone, he asks only that you ACT with love.”

          However, Gifford’s case is a different story. Acting with love, in this case, is harming our country. Where’s her vote? Members of Congress are supposed to vote. Giffords CAN’T vote, or even express her opinion on an issue. What Committee work is she doing? Don’t you think we need every single member of Congress to take their positions seriously, do their jobs, try to get away from partisan politics, and address some of the crucial issues facing our country? What, exactly, is Giffords doing in this regard? I suppose she could blink her eyes for yes or no, or squeeze her husband’s hand in some significant way to express an opinion…

          I don’t mean to sound cruel, but facts are facts. Keep being so kind, and acting with such love, and one day we’ll have a Terri Schiavo sitting in Congress.

  4. I hope Giffords recovers fully, too. I hope she’s able to do the job.

    I also hope that her campaign will focus on her capabilities as a leader and her positions on the various issues of the day–rather than exploiting name recognition and aiming for (oops, sorry, violent rhetoric there) casting their nets for sympathy votes.

    But I know that they won’t. Mark my words.
    She might even run for President.
    It’ll be THIS all over again.


    • Oh Dwayne. You scare me. From deceit and phony leadership to a brain damaged successor. Woodrow Wilson all over again.

  5. So she’s talking on the phone? What about? “Hi” to the kids? Her position regarding our newest “war?”

    She can’t vote over the phone. She can’t attend committee meetings over the phone. Talking on the phone may be an improvement, but it doesn’t mean she can do her job, or is doing it.

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