Goodbye (sniff) St. Bob
10/4/2002 12:00:00 AM - Mona Charen
O what a hero we have lost this day! What a patriot! What a
self-denying battler for noble causes! But don't take my word for it, read
it yourself in New Jersey Sen. Bob Torricelli's withdrawal announcement.
Embark with him on the emotional journey back to his first
political race. Chuckle as he recalls that his mother put him on the ballot
for county committeeman when he was a mere college tyke -- and revel in how
he won "two to nothing." Our knight is modest and self-deprecatory.
Not for Bob Torricelli the selfish pursuit of riches. No, he
cared too much about other people. "I have witnessed friends build families
and businesses, sometimes fortunes, and I never had any regret." It was that
love of the people, and not ambition, that propelled him to "get here first
... leave last" when he got an internship in the governor's office. Yes, and
he told the governor just that, explaining, "I'm going to do good things."
It was the same when, traveling with then-Vice President Walter Mondale, he
met Egypt's President Sadat, and proclaimed, "I'm going to be a member of
the United States Congress." It sends a chill down your spine, does it not?
He achieved his goal and "fought" tirelessly for things he
believes in. Not only that, but he doesn't ask for credit. "I think about
the trophies of my life with a great and quiet satisfaction. ... If you
actually seek more than satisfaction for yourself in the things you achieve,
you will always be frustrated."
Well, perhaps the Torch's satisfaction isn't all that "quiet."
He elaborated: "Somewhere today in one of the several hospitals in New
Jersey, some woman's life is going to be changed because of the mammography
centers that I created for thousands of women. ... Some child in Bergen
County will play in a park that I funded, in land that I saved. Somewhere
all over New Jersey, some senior citizen who doesn't even know my name and
nothing about what we're doing today will live in a senior center that I
helped to build."
That's what we need to remember -- that St. Bob "fought" to
spend other people's money (ours) on projects he thought worthy. Let's not
dwell on smaller matters. Let's not recall, for example, that in a meeting
with Muslim extremists, Torricelli said that "America has little to teach
and much to learn." Or his grandstanding stunt in 1997 when he proclaimed
that his sensitivity to ethnic profiling began in his youth when he watched
Sen. Estes Kefauver's senate committee traffic in Italian-American
stereotypes: "It is among the first memories I have of government of the
United States, and probably the first hearing of the United States Senate I
ever witnessed. It was only a flickering television screen, but I will never
forget it, and even if I tried, my family would never allow me."
Turns out that little St. Bob was 5 days old when the Kefauver
hearings ended. What more evidence of precocious political sensitivity do
Above all, we must not be distracted by the senator's receipt of
an $8,100 Rolex watch, a $4,000 grandfather clock, 12 handmade Italian
suits, a stereo, a big-screen TV, three sets of diamond earrings and $53,700
in illegal campaign contributions from a favor-seeking businessman -- nor
the rebuke from the Senate Ethics Committee. We mustn't even consider the
2001 surveillance tape from a convenience store that caught the Torch
meeting with a solid-waste contractor and David Chang, his Rolex benefactor.
Don't most sensitive senators hold meetings at 7-Eleven?
No, the nation has lost an irreplaceable man. Well, that is,
except on the New Jersey ballot, where -- Torricelli and the Democrats
insist -- he is eminently replaceable. A tame New Jersey Supreme Court has
permitted this sleight of hand, despite the clear wording of the law that
forbids it. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., assures us that this switch in time is
the only way to assure New Jersey voters of a choice. But it was Torricelli
who denied them the Torricelli/Forrester choice, wasn't it? Presumably, the
New Jersey Supreme Court will approve if Forrester drops in the polls and
then pulls out in favor of someone else.
In his farewell address, Torricelli apologized to Bill Clinton,
saying, "I did not have his strength." Maybe not. But he had his morals.