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The Nose

Model Behavior

Posted 10/23/2002

The Nose has heard once-and-possibly-future Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley called a lot of things: ornery, conservative, crusty, indefatigable, old-school--even crazy. But we were a little stunned--and amused--when we heard that Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, was coming to town to laud Bentley as her "personal hero." Yet according to a press release the Nose received from the Helen Delich Bentley for Congress campaign, the vice first lady called the former congresswoman "a role model for women" while stumping for Bentley at a campaign fund-raiser on Oct. 14.

Now, the Nose is not naive: We know that politicians in bed with their political parties have little choice but to bleat their praise for other party stalwarts, especially when there's an important political position at stake. This November Bentley is trying to make a political comeback--she's seeking election to the Second District congressional seat, which Republican Robert Ehrlich vacated after four terms to enter the gubernatorial race. Right now, Maryland's House delegation is split evenly by the parties, four to four. If the Republicans lose even one seat in the Nov. 5 election, the Democrats will control the state's House delegation.

But the Nose found it difficult to swallow Cheney's pronouncement of Bentley as a role model for women or a hero: Bentley is, after all, the same politician whose antics in office included smashing a foreign-made radio on the steps of the Capitol in 1987 to make the point that she did not approve of Japanese companies selling products to the Russians. She was named to the League of Conservation Voters' "dirty dozen" list as one of the most anti-environmental legislators in the House. For supporting Slobodan Milosevic's murderous regime in Serbia, she was lambasted by critics, who called her the "Washington voice for the outlaw regime." And let's not forget that she has, on a number of occasions, gone off on wild tirades in public--most recently on The Marc Steiner Show on WYPR (88.1 FM) in August. Bentley embarked on a cranky rant, discussing her feelings about national security, the reign of Milosevic, and expressing displeasure with callers who wanted to ask her questions about her career. To top it off, she reiterated the less-than-diplomatic feelings about Saddam Hussein she expressed when she was a U.S. representative in 1991: "I said it publicly in 1991 that we should nuke him," she declared. "I still feel we should have nuked him."

Is Bentley opinionated? Yes. Tough? Definitely. A good role model? Sorry Ms. Cheney, we just don't buy it.

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