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Political Animal

Not Forgotten, Not Gone

By Brian Morton | Posted 5/11/2005

When people quote F. Scott Fitzgerald—“There are no second acts in American lives.”—they forget that when he said this the three-act play was still a predominant form in theater. In essence, he was saying that, following the downfall, the middle part of life—the saga—often disappears; we just move straight into the triumphant return.

To be a Republican in ignominy these days is to be a great example of this notion. News comes to us of one Joseph Steffen, the self-styled “Prince of Darkness” and Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s former hatchet man, forced to fall on his sword after he was caught spreading rumors about the marriage of Mayor Martin O’Malley. Steffen made his apologies to the mayor and should have, by all accounts, trundled off into the sunset.

Now it appears that Steffen wants to sue the web site where he posted his rumormongering,, for the entertainment of the slavering knuckle-draggers who frequent the place. Without going into the amusement value of seeing a hypocritical “tort reform”-loving right-winger heading to the court to seek redress, note that Steffen is doing so because he thinks he was set up by another anonymous poster on the web site who went by the moniker MD4BUSH. I also won’t delve into the delicious irony of seeing a conservative who believes in personal responsibility whining the he-made-me-do-it argument. Steffen wrote what he wrote and paid the price for it—nobody sat him down at gunpoint during working hours and told him to libel his bosses’ potential future rival. Hoisted on his own petard: End of story.

But really, we will see him again. We shouldn’t be surprised if he pops up around next year’s gubernatorial elections. His kind are always needed, so they never truly disappear; the third act is usually right around the corner.

Elliott Abrams was convicted of lying to Congress. Bush I gives him a pardon, Bush II gives him a job, and next thing you know, he’s back in the White House, kicking around the National Security Council like it’s old times. Newt Gingrich gets run out of Congress after an ethics scandal, a six-year affair with an aide who later became his wife, and massive losses by the GOP in the 1998 elections. But now here he is, making noises about running for president in 2008 like we never saw him before.

The newest high-profile member of the Won’t Go Away Club is Manuel Miranda. Miranda, you may recall, had to resign his position as the counsel for judicial nominations for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist back in February 2004 after it became apparent that he had broken into the computer server that held the memos of the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. For months the contents of the pilfered memos began showing up in the right-leaning Washington Times and Wall Street Journal. Via, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call noted that “from late 2001 into early 2003, Miranda and a junior Judiciary staffer, Jason Lundell, accessed at least 4,670 documents from a computer server that was left without safeguards. Only a few of the documents were from Republicans, and the report portrayed Miranda as the leader of the effort in which he instructed Lundell to look through the Democratic files.” When Miranda turned in his resignation, he of course claimed he had done no wrong.

Republicans are expected this week to finally pull the trigger on the “nuclear option,” rewriting the rules after nearly 200 years of Senate precedent to eliminate judicial filibustering, the only tool left to the minority to register its disapproval of George W. Bush’s resubmitted judicial nominees. (Blogger Joshua Micah Marshall has quipped that it really should be “the crybaby option,” since the GOP is essentially bawling that the minority will only give it 90 percent of what it wants.) Like most political issues that haunt Washington, pressure is being applied by various groups to force a showdown. And guess who is the chairman of the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters. None other than Miranda, whose new job requires contact with his old boss Frist.

So disgraced functionaries like Joseph Steffen should take heart—the walk in the wilderness is never too long when you’re a Republican. Take some time off, go to the beach, take in a movie or two. There’s always tomorrow to jump right back in the business. Hypocrisy and shame are only troublesome if you allow them to be. To revise the old Latin phrase: “How quickly returns earthly glory.”

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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