WASHINGTON, D.C. -- So Sen. Robert Torricelli bows out in
disgrace. As I watched his 30-minute farewell address and testimonial to
himself, his wolfish head bent over the microphones, his dark eyes
suspiciously darting from one camera to the other, I was reminded of
Virginia Woolf's old line, "He's not as nice as he looks." At one point, he
bawled, "I'm a human being." Alas, it is true. Genetic engineering might
have more to recommend it than I had hitherto thought.
Torricelli is, despite all the love he has for himself, a nasty
little man, given to delusions of grandeur. In his embarrassing speech of
conge he blubbered, blinking back the tears,
"Somewhere today in one of several hospitals in New Jersey, some woman's
life is going to be changed because of the mammography centers I created."
And more, "Somewhere all over New Jersey, some senior citizen who doesn't
even know my name lives in a senior center that I helped build."
Oh, unfortunate senior citizen -- Sen. Torricelli cares for
thee. Do you know how this loving public servant addressed the aging Sen.
Frank Lautenberg, before a group of fellow Democrats at a closed-door caucus
meeting in the Capitol in 1999? According to the May 7, 2001, New Republic,
"The Torch" addressed him thus: "You're a fucking piece of shit, and I'm
going to cut your balls off."
Needless to say, this fat little butter ball of a foul-mouthed
senator was not actually going to visit violence on the elderly Lautenberg.
Lautenberg even in old age could stand his ground against this impostor.
Torricelli is a political bully who uses political power to do
what he is physically impotent to do. As the months have passed since he was
severely reprimanded by the Senate Ethic Committee for taking gifts from a
former campaign contributor, the evidence of his coarseness mounts. For
instance, there is the tape showing Torricelli accompanied by a shadowy thug
hounding the aforementioned campaign contributor. Doubtless there was more
evidence to come before he cut and ran.
I have had my own experiences with his bully-boy tactics. After
The American Spectator published a well-substantiated report in 1998 that
the New Jersey senator had received $136,000 in hard money from the
Mujahedin-e Khalq, a group involved in the murder of American servicemen in
Iran and in the subsequent takeover of our embassy in Teheran, he threatened
us with a libel suit through his agile lawyer Abbe Lowell. I ignored his
When empty threats of libel did not work, Torricelli led in
ginning up a year-long government investigation of the magazine, complete
with a grand jury to look into our revelations of the misbehavior of his
friend Bill Clinton, another of Lowell's unsuccessful clients.
It all began on a gray Sunday morning in Washington on ABC's
"This Week With Sam & Cokie." There, Torricelli denounced the Spectator,
accusing us of money laundering, which is a felony. Then he wrote Attorney
General Janet Reno and demanded an investigation. The charges they settled
on were witness-tampering and threatening murder -- the last, perhaps,
provoked by our deadly prose. Of course, unlike the senator and his friends
in the Clinton administration, we cooperated fully with the authorities and
were completely vindicated. Thus here I am today, a free and happy man,
while Torricelli shuffles off into ignominy.
"There are times in life you rise above self," he said as he
maundered on utterly absorbed with self -- not even sparing us the story
about his patriotism as a 5-year-old. "When did we become such an
unforgiving people?" he asked, his dirge taking on themes eerily reminiscent
of the likewise disgraced Rep. James Trafficant bidding Congress adieu.
Despite the Senate's reprimand, he even boasted of his
integrity, "How did we become a society where a person can build credibility
their entire life and have it questioned by someone who has none?"
That reference was apparently to his former contributor whose
testimony convinced prosecutors of Torricelli's guilt, as their recently
divulged documents attest. In our 1998 piece on him, our writer Kenneth R.
Timmerman noted: "Torricelli has never had a reputation for impeccable
probity. During his stint on the House Intelligence Committee, he was
several times accused of publishing classified intelligence information to
suit his own political agenda."
Torricelli had no "credibility." That is why the Democrats
forced him out of his re-election campaign with their anonymous leaks. He
was losing badly, and despite his delusions of being a tough guy he did not
have the courage to fight.
Now the Democrats, in keeping with their behavior in the 2000
presidential campaign, want to change the rules of the race. They feel that
in New Jersey they should have two chances to beat the Republican candidate.
New Jersey law says Torricelli withdrew too late for another Democrat to
replace him, but the Democrats want to replace him with Lautenberg.
Perhaps if Lautenberg is doing badly in a week or so they will,
notwithstanding the law, seek to run yet another candidate. In a way, the
Democrats of New Jersey had in Torricelli a candidate just like them, a man
above the law, a bully.