The members of the incoming Democratic majority in Congress are not without some bad baggage from their pasts.
Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida recently was passed over for the Intelligence Committee chairmanship he'd expected because of his impeachment back in the '80s for bribery and his removal from his position as a federal judge. One of the people who voted for his impeachment was incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, so it's perhaps not surprising that she wouldn't stick Hastings in one of the most security-sensitive positions in the House.
But perhaps the new congressman with the most egregious act in his past is John Hall of New York's 19th District.
You remember "Still the One"? The insanely bouncy and smarmy little '70s tune by the band Orleans? Maybe this will refresh your memory: "You're still the one who can scratch my itch. You're still the one and I wouldn't switch." As a member of Orleans, Hall wrote both that tune and their equally hideous follow-up single, "Dance With Me" ("I want to be your partner, can't you seeeeee ").
It's dreck like that that makes me wonder how I made it through the Seventies with my sanity intact. (Actually I do know, but my parents read this column, and I'm not sure if all the applicable statutes of limitations have run, so let's just drop the subject for now, shall we?)
Well, Hall's a bit older now, with a lot less hair than he sported in the '70s. He's shaved his beard and gotten all serious. Even so, when the very liberal Hall ran for Congress in the usually Republican N.Y.-19, very few people gave him much of a chance against the well-funded six-term incumbent Sue Kelly.
Then something happened. Several things, actually. Growing unease about Iraq. Duke Cunningham. Jack Abramoff. The Foley page scandal. Suddenly, it wasn't the greatest time to be a Republican incumbent.
Hall kept the pressure on by talking about Iraq and asking pointed questions about Kelly's membership on the House Page Board. Kelly tried to fight back by publishing fliers showing Hall half-naked with his bandmates on the cover of their "Waking and Dreaming" album, one of the most horrifically misconceived album covers of all time.
None of it worked. Hall won by 4,300 votes. Maybe if Kelly, instead of concentrating on the album cover, had actually published some of Hall's lyrics, like "Fantasy/could never be so killing/I feel free/ I hope that you are willing," she'd have had a better chance.
So now what? Will other rockers decide to try for higher office? After all, if the actor whose major claim to fame before entering politics was acting in a movie called "Bedtime for Bonzo" can achieve the presidency of these United States, what's to stop, say, Ozzy Osbourne from running for Senate?
Oh, sure, he's a little addled, but have you heard some of the stuff that comes out of the mouth of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)? Who can forget the shot of Stevens -- the head of the Commerce Committee, mind you -- standing in the well of the Senate bellowing, "[The internet] is not a truck! It's a series of tubes!" And let's face it, in Strom Thurmond's last couple of terms, he appeared to have roughly the cognitive ability of quartz.
No, if there's one thing recent history has taught us, it's that severe brain damage is no disqualification for the U.S. Congress. Now, I know Ozzy's British. But people have overcome worse handicaps to serve in politics. Or maybe I'm just pushing this because I really would like to see the look on Nancy Pelosi's face when Ozzy finishes off a rousing speech on the House floor by chomping the head off a bat. Hey, a man can dream.
But let's face it, Congressman Ozzy's unlikely to happen. What's more likely is that we'll get somebody like, say, Bruce Springsteen.
Now don't get me wrong, I love Bruce's music, especially the rockers. He puts on one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen, and he's one heck of a songwriter. But Bruce has this regrettable tendency to suddenly up and decide that he's this generation's answer to Woody Guthrie.
Sometimes he can pull it off, as on a few of the tracks of his recent "Seeger Sessions" collection of folk standards. But when he starts crooning something like "We Shall Overcome," you just want to take him by the shoulder and go "Bruce. Dude. No. Just....no."
Still, Bruce has that populist, friend-of-the-working-man thing going on. I suppose we could do worse, even if there's little chance of bat-munching from Congressman Springsteen, the honorable gentleman from New Jersey.
What the heck. I'd even vote for him, except I'd have to move to Jersey to do that. And the chances of that are about the same as my chances of buying "Orleans' Greatest Hits."
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. He says he might also be persuaded to vote for Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.