Senator Torricelli

Originally published in The Daily Journal on 24 May 2001.

In the early 1980s, Joe Piscopo built his career at the expense of New Jersey (“I’m from Joisey. Are you from Joisey? What exit?“).

The armpit of America was the battle cry across the land.

In recent weeks, The Sopranos, a fictional cable television show, has again given New Jersey a sour taste in others’ minds. We apparently are nothing more than a bunch of mobsters here.

Yet, it is hard to fault those who pick upon us when we elect folks who do so little for us and so much to reinforce the stereotypes.

Robert Torricelli, now the senior senator from the Garden State, is the focus of a federal investigation that twice in the past weeks barnstormed county political offices to seize memoranda, files, and other evidence of possible wrongdoing from his 1996 campaign.

“I think there is a concern about the dignity of the Senate,” stated Torricelli, 16 January 1999.

Indeed. The dignity of the Senate and our fair state is at stake. This is not a late-night comedy skit or concern over a television show. This is real life. Torricelli’s problems reflect upon all of us.

There was a time when the senator was on all the Sunday morning talk shows and at the Capitol’s microphones sounding off about impeachment. We should have known.

An investigation does not make a man guilty. It does, however, say plenty that our senator cannot keep the appearance of impropriety from splashing the front pages. Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for the Rolex, the suits, and the quick money made on that IPO at his buddy’s bank. Nevertheless, he has brought shame upon us.

James Madison wrote, “It is a misfortune incident to republican government . . . that those who administer it may forget their obligations to their constituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust.”

The obligation, Sen. Torricelli, is to represent New Jersey and her citizens in a manner that commands trust. Federal investigations do nothing to instill trust.

Newsweek this week details a senator who pales in Madison’s description: tirades against other senators, jet-setting with the rich and famous, politics to enact personal revenge, and disturbingly similar politics from his college days (http://www.msnbc.com/news/575933.asp) The senator now refuses public appearances to duck the storm.

In a time when our young are so in need of men and women to respect, it is unfortunate that New Jersey elected a man who is derelict in his responsibility.

Let us not forget our obligation in 2002 to elect a senator who will make New Jersey proud.

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