The political insider’s method of dealing with scandal since President Richard Nixon’s 1974 resignation has evolved. President Bill Clinton marshaled the stonewall defense, and his scandals didn’t quite stick, even as incriminating facts came to light. Nowadays, it seems like politicians can stay in office no matter what the misstep, what the folly, what the crime.
So it’s heartening to see a scandal actually lead to a sitting, elected executive leave office under a cloud, in full Nixonian fashion.
It happened recently, in Oregon. Democratic Governor John Kithaber had stuck himself in a deep series of fixes, having to do with a girlfriend, green energy, insider advantages, influence peddling, and even the destruction of emails to avoid getting caught. He had hung on in the face of bad press, trying to pull a Clinton, but couldn’t manage that feat.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Kate Brown, next in line, took the oath of office as governor.
There is no reason to pour salt on the former governor’s wounds, or bring down hasty anathemas against his replacement.
But let’s take the occasion to state the obvious: Kitzhaber was an old hand. He was serving a fourth term. He obviously succumbed to the temptations everyone in power faces.
He might have avoided his current ignominy had Oregon established term limits for the executive position. Though some governors manage criminal corruption in their first term — former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell comes to mind — one sure way to avoid corruption is to limit one’s exposure to corrupting influences.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.