The Ecstasy of Defeat

The most entertaining spectacle of the election season so far was surely the second consecutive voting meltdown in Florida, an event made all the more enjoyable by the fact that it ended with Janet Reno losing. Now another, similarly pleasurable story is transpiring in Maryland: the ongoing implosion of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's gubernatorial campaign.

In this state, it's a rare feat for a Democratic candidate to find herself behind in the polls: The last time Maryland elected a Republican governor, his name was Spiro Agnew. Already, other Democrats are quietly distancing themselves from the woman at the top of their ticket. Few Townsend lawn and window signs are in evidence, even in solidly Democratic Baltimore. Her opponent, a vaguely Kempian Republican named Bob Ehrlich, has signs everywhere; many of them read, "Another Democrat for Ehrlich." He may yet lose the race, but he's already achieved the impossible in making the race his to lose.

Kennedy-haters aside, why should people be so pleased to see Townsend go down in defeat? It's not for the merits, such as they are, of her opponent. It's not even for the simple fun of watching an electoral upset. It's for the same reason it was gratifying to see Florida voters reject the woman whose decisions led to all those deaths at Waco, and whose handling of the Elián Gonzalez case somehow reached the point where a little boy found himself staring down a machine gun. As lieutenant governor of Maryland, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was putatively responsible for overseeing a boot camp program for drug offenders. Her praise for the program faltered, along with her eagerness to take responsibility for it, when the state had to compensate inmates who had been repeatedly beaten and otherwise abused.

It's bad enough to let something like institutionalized torture slip by on your watch. It's worse still to put your political career ahead of your job, and to brag about the program that's employing the torturers instead of giving it the oversight that might have uncovered their crimes earlier. There are mistakes that should simply disqualify a politician from future positions of authority. Janet Reno is one such politician, and so is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

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