Rep. John Doolittle’s political career ends on waxen wings |

Rep. John Doolittle’s political career ends on waxen wings

By all arm-chair political pundit accounts, it appears Rep. John Doolittle took one for the team Thursday. After 17 years in Congress the stalwart Republican soldier announced his retirement.

But more confounding was he didn’t say why.

So Doolittle ” who as one of the “Gang of Seven” rode into Washington, D.C. with guns blazing; who never hesitated to excoriate liberals; who defended former Republican House Majority Leader and protege Tom DeLay, even as the “Hammer” resigned under a cloud of controversy ” leaves with a tired wave good-bye.

Instead of a fiery, not-guilty condemnation of his prosecutors and detractors, what constituents in the Fourth Congressional District got was the party line.

Doolittle mentioned all that conservatives have accomplished: Defeating Communism, the “continuation of funding for the anti-ballistic missile defense program” and the “enactment of tax provisions designed to stimulate job creation and economic growth for the long-term.”

Whatever. What most people ” I’d say supporters and detractors alike ” wanted to hear was what the hell went on with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Yes, yes, we know: Can’t talk, ongoing investigation and all. We know Doolittle maintains that he and his wife, Julie, never did anything illegal, that the protracted federal investigation is itself corrupt and that he’s an upstanding guy.

So then why bail out now?


With the stench of the Abramoff scandal finally fading from around House Republicans but the 2006 election debacle still in the minds of the national GOP braintrust, Doolittle’s lingering ” legal or not ” ties to the lobbyist are a huge liability. So big that in the 2006 general election, Doolittle barely fended off Democrat challenger Charlie Brown in an ironclad Republican district.

Doolittle, the good Republican soldier, fell on his sword long ago when he “temporarily” relieved himself of his seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee early in 2007.

That move and Thursday’s retirement announcement epitomize Doolittle’s loyalty to the party. One thing with Doolittle was that you always knew where he stood ” like it or not. There are many of his supporters in the Fourth District who cannot fathom their man doing anything untoward.

But something happened during the height of the Republican’s control of Congress, when Doolittle was ascending the party apparatus and rubbing shoulders with the likes of DeLay and Abramoff.

It very well could be that that ascension was like the flight of Icarus: Our man in Washington got a little too close to the sun.

Too bad, after a nearly 20-year run in Congress and a celebratory retirement tour, what we got Thursday were more unanswered questions, an unresolved federal investigation and another all-too mortal career politician with waxen wings.

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