“‘Must’ is not a word to be used to princes,” Elizabeth I said to Robert Cecil when he urged the ailing monarch to retire to bed. One assumes that John Conyers will have a similar reaction to the demand from the editors of the Detroit Free Press, who urge the 26-term Congressman to retire to anywhere else other than Congress. After all, Conyers has reigned supreme in his congressional district for longer than Gloriana — 52 years, compared to Elizabeth’s 45 — and has had about the same amount of accountability over the years.
The sexual harassment scandal and the corrupt use of taxpayer dollars to cover it up provides the final straw, according to the editors:
He has been an undisputed hero of the civil rights movement, a legislator of uncommon influence and power, and an aging icon whose felonious wife and sometimes-wandering pace have confounded his place in history.
But the revelations of Conyers’ alleged sexual harassment scandal and his documented use of taxpayer dollars to bury that scandal, in violation of congressional ethics rules, is less ambiguous.
It is the kind of behavior that can never be tolerated in a public official, much less an elected representative of the people.
And it means that whatever Conyers’ legacy will eventually be, his tenure as a member of Congress must end — now.
He should resign his position and allow the investigation into his behavior to unfold without the threat that it would render him, and the people he now represents, effectively voiceless.
Yes, well, don’t hold your breath. After a hiccup yesterday in which Conyers denied that he’d settled any complaints, the man who got first won his seat the year LBJ won the presidency has adamantly insisted that the settlement meant nothing. He has denied all of the allegations in two complaints, and Conyers also insists that the settlement included the stipulation that nothing untoward had happened. If that was the case, though, why launder the settlement money through his office’s payroll rather than the settlement fund that paid out $17 million over the last 20 years?
Don’t expect Conyers to retire anywhere, regardless of his hometown newspaper’s editorial position. His fellow House Democrat wonders, though, whether Conyers should at least be retired from his position providing oversight of the US justice system. Gregory Meeks suggests that an Ethics probe and the ranking-member position on the House Judiciary Committee don’t combine for a great look:
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said it “would not be appropriate” for Conyers (D-Mich.) to stay on as the panel’s top Democrat while congressional investigators look into multiple accusations of sexual harassment.
“He should step down as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and be subject to this ethics investigation so it can be determined whether or not there’s a practice or pattern,” Meeks said on CNN. …
Meeks is the first Democrat to go so far as to say Conyers should step aside as ranking member. Other Democrats, including House Democratic leaders, issued statements saying the Ethics Committee should look into the “disturbing” allegations against Conyers but did not call for him to step down from the committee or resign from Congress.
Meeks is right, but again, it seems doubtful in the extreme that Conyers would comply. It would appear to be an admission of guilt, or at least that anything significant might have happened, and he’s using the full-blown denial strategy for now. Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leadership could act to strip him of the assignment, but Pelosi will have little desire to invoke the wrath of the Congressional Black Caucus, which Conyers helped found (although Meeks himself currently chairs its political action committee). Why get out over her ski tips when the Ethics Committee will take its sweet, sweet time in dealing with Conyers?
Unless the House acts to expel Conyers, he’s not going to leave office any other way than Good Queen Bess did, no matter what the Free Press thinks about it.