Imagine if the New York Yankees reach the World Series this month. In Game Three, Derek Jeter breaks his leg while he and his teammates lose their third consecutive game to the St. Louis Cardinals. With a World Series loss just nine innings away, Yankees manager Joe Torre calls Scott Brosius and asks him to return from retirement, rejoin the Yankees and rally the squad to defeat the Cardinals in four straight victories.
The Cardinals would scream “Foul!” — and deservedly so.
The same thing is afoot in New Jersey where Democratic U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli, torched by a bribery scandal, withdrew from his reelection bid on Monday. Last night, Garden State Democrats recruited former Senator Frank Lautenberg to run on the November ballot against Republican nominee Douglas Forrester. Both parties are in court today, wrangling over whether Democrats have the right to do this. They clearly do not.
Torricelli was not hit by a bus on the way to church, nor did he collapse from a coronary during a Senate floor speech. Torricelli, national and state Democratic leaders and rank-and-file Democratic voters all knew Torricelli was severely ethically challenged. And yet they allowed him to secure his state’s Democratic senatorial nomination without opposition.
On July 31, he was “severely admonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee for receiving and not declaring gifts given to him by David Chang, a Democratic donor who, even today, sits in jail for making $53,700 in illegal donations to Torricelli’s 1996 campaign. In turn, the senator personally assisted Chang by writing State Department officials asking them to help secure funds the North Korean government owed Chang. Torricelli also brought Chang to a meeting in South Korea with government officials while Chang aimed to purchase an insurance company there. (Torricelli claims that Chang snuck into that meeting.)
Torricelli fought sedulously to keep sealed a May 21 letter in which prosecutors asked a federal judge to treat Chang leniently for cooperating with the Justice Department. A federal court released the letter on September 27. It details Torricelli’s relationship with Chang and deems as “credible information” Chang’s allegations that he gave Torricelli additional gifts, including an envelope containing $25,000 in cash.
Any or all of these circumstances would have been sufficient to pressure Torricelli off of the ballot by September 15. That was 51 days prior to the November 5 election, the deadline specified in New Jersey law on which nominees are affixed to the ballot. In fact, not only have ballots been printed; Absentee and military voters already have cast their ballots. “This election is happening now,” Forrester told Fox News Channel. Surely, some of these voters already have picked Torricelli. Why should they be disenfranchised?
Now, 34 days before the election, Garden State Democrats argue before their Supreme Court in Trenton that New Jersey election law is mere Kleenex before the greater good of keeping the United States Senate in Democratic hands. The justices should greet these pleadings with derisive laughter.
Put the Gucci loafer on the other foot. Suppose the ethically-hobbled candidate were not Torricelli, but Forrester. Imagine that 30 days before the election, he were hit with a bombshell regarding his private-sector business practices. Is the law so flexible and the goal of a GOP Senate so tantalizing that Forrester could withdraw from the race and invite former Republican governor Christie Todd Whitman to step in for him, like a relief pitcher? If so, would Democrats understand, or would they burst their carotid arteries screaming “Fix!” at the tops of their lungs?
Should New York’s Republican governor, George Pataki, find himself 13 points behind Democratic challenger Carl McCall come mid-October, wouldn’t it be convenient for him to step aside and ask civic deity Rudy Giuliani to run for the governorship and win by near-acclamation?
It is ironic to watch Democratic so-called lawmakers act like lawbreakers in their desperate effort to ignore New Jersey’s election statutes and cling to Torricelli’s Senate chair as if it were an airplane seat cushion after a water landing. If a GOP takeover of the Senate is truly so horrifying, why doesn’t Torricelli stay in the race and make that the issue?
Democrats, more contemptuous of the law than ever, deserve to get thrown out by the umpires on the Garden State’s Supreme Court. Robert Torricelli should remain on the ballot. Then he should stand at the plate until election day and face Douglas Forrester’s pitches — one by one — like a man.