Corrupt, disgraced, and newly deceased Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) saw his career unspool over misused campaign funds and pled guilty to two counts of mail fraud and acknowledged creating phantom jobs for staffers and other layabouts. His case helped fuel the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994, as he was among the highest profile bum that voters wanted to boot (the whole House banking scandal, despite its telling bipartisanship, only added more stench to the bonfire).
Rosty wasn't all bad: He helped push NAFTA through, for instance. But he wasn't particularly good either, including backing away from Medicare reform after being cornered by a gang of old folks complaining about having to pay for new benefits (great video here). He became predictably upset at politics in the post-Rosty era because, well, the world didn't end with his fall from power. From the obit linked above:
But he believed in compromise and expressed dismay at the partisanship that descended on Capitol Hill after he left. He was fond of closed-door meetings where political dramatics were shelved in favor of deal making.
"We looked at politics as compromise," Rostenkowski said. "We were going to work together. We were going to get something done. We were Democrats and Republicans but we were also legislators. Politics is war today. Everybody wants to fight. Nobody wants to give in."
"As much as people criticize the back room, the dark room or the cigar or smoke-filled room, you get things done when you're not acting," he told an interviewer. In his day, he said, "we'd argue like hell on the floor of the House of Representatives but we were out playing golf that night."
That's what I want from my elected leaders: Night golfing. Though as a taxpayer, the green fees are always way too steep.
He wanted his epitaph to read "He wrote good law." Ultimately, he helped as much as anyone to make it increasingly difficult to believe that politicians weren't glad-hanginghanding thieves who can't be trusted. Which in its own way is probably a public service.
To get the full story on the stamp above, click here.