In the name of God, go!
State Representative Jeff Wood, recently arrested for the fifth time for OWI, announced Friday that he is not seeking re-election in 2010.
“I am deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I have caused for my family and regret any disgrace I may have brought on the Wisconsin State Legislature. I believe it is in my family’s best interest for me not to seek re-election to the Assembly next year, and I plan instead to focus on recovery.”
He did not comment on efforts in the Assembly to remove him from office. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheridan is finally moving forward with Representative Nass’ resolution and will be naming the six members to the committee to consider Wood’s expulsion. Governor Doyle has called for Wood’s resignation.
Wood’s statement included a bizarre story that he was out of the in-patient rehab program on a day pass looking for his roommate who had left suddenly when he was arrested the fifth time.
The police report says that Wood was pulled over after being observed swerving in traffic and hopping the curb in his 1998 Buick. Wood failed a field sobriety test after falling down and the police ended it for fear of Wood’s safety.
Since Wood’s third arrest for OWI (last December) and the series of lies that followed, Wood’s resignation has been demanded by me and others, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus.
The fourth arrest of Wood for OWI resulted in Representative Nass introducing his resolution calling for Wood’s expulsion. For his troubles, Nass has been attacked in a bizarre attempt to save Wood, including by the Capital Times.
Now we’re to number five. Ryan Gruber at Playground Politics believes that because the legislature is populated with drunks and adulterers, we should wait and let Wood’s constituents deal with the matter if Wood does not resign. Gruber lists some of the previous offenders and points out that none of them were removed from office. Gruber would support a recall of Wood instead. Gruber points out that Republicans should have known of his alcoholism from when he caucused with them instead of the Democrats.
I don’t believe we should only be looking for saints to sit in the legislature. We’d never be able to have a quorum. However, the past behavior of others does not excuse the current behavior of Jeff Wood, nor does the previous arrests of legislators for drunk driving rival Wood’s record. Wood’s behavior is above and beyond what a legislative body can tolerate in it’s midst. He clearly has no regard for the public’s safety, and if left in office will likely be the instrument of some tragedy on Wisconsin’s roads.
Whether or not his colleagues knew of his alcoholism prior to last December is irrelevant. What is relevant is the conduct that has resulted in such embarrassment, not only for the Assembly but for the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin already has a terrible reputation for drinking and driving. As Hamlet observed,
This heavy headed revel east and west
Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations
They clepe us drunkards and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition and indeed it takes
From our achievements though performed at height pith and marrow of our attribute.
But it’s not just the embarrassment; it’s the danger he places Wisconsin’s residents whenever he climbs behind the wheel of his 1998 Buick Skylark.
With his statement on Friday, once again Wood has not shown the remorse necessary for his actions that would compel his resignation. He claims his decision not to seek re-election is so that he may concentrate full-time on his recovery. If such is the case, then leaving office now would only speed the process. Instead, Wood is more likely trying to forestall his removal.
The legislature should not be tamed by promises of an eventual departure. So long as Wood is present in that body, it ceases to have any moral authority or leadership. The Democrats controlling the legislature have coddled this embarrassment too long in their pursuit of power. What is one more vote when it cannot be cast without doubt of its sobriety?
Recalling Wood would not be able to begin until January, and the process at the earliest would end in late February. That is far too long for his constuents, and for Wisconsin to wait. Not three months more, not one month more. The Assembly has the power and the responsibility to expel Wood now.
In the words of Oliver Cromwell, “Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”