A subject that has received heavy coverage here in Western Washington is the arrest of Washington state Supreme court justice Bobbe Bridge for DUI (her blood alcohol content was almost three times the legal limit) and leaving the scene of an accident. Many people are in an uproar; Bridges issued a lengthy apology but refuses to resign from her position. There have been calls from political leaders in the state for her to resign, but the (Republican) leader of the Senate Judiciary committee does not plan to take any action against her.
It is fascinating how people can take the arrest of a non-partisan judge and turn it into a partisan issue. Yesterday, the Seattle Times published 10 letters about the arrest and Bridges' subsequent activities. No fewer than three of them specifically mentioned George Bush's 1976 DUI arrest, and two of those specifically charged that Bush was unfit for office because of it.
One of the letter writers went a bit farther, and smeared two Republicans for their comments about Bridge, accusing them for being hypocrites for supporting Bush and not Bridges. Only one of the GOP sources said Bridges should resign; the other said the matter should be examined, but does not think that it will result in her stepping down from the court. (That article can be found here.)
There are three differences between the Bush case and the Bridges case that make all comparisons between the two irrelevant. First, there is the time issue; Bush's conviction was 27 years ago. He is demonstrably not the same person we has when he was arrested. Secondly, there is the issue of sobriety. Bush no longer drinks; I have not seen any indication that Bridges intends to give up alcohol. Lastly is the scope of their duties in their elected position; as a state judge, Bridges is likely to have to rule in cases in which alcohol plays a role; unless she recuses herself from all such cases, her ruling is likely to provoke a conflict-of-interest charge from the losing party in all such cases. Bush, as president, has no such impact on individual cases.
As to letter writer Schultz's charge of hypocrisy, where does she stand re: Bob Packwood vs. Bill Clinton? I wonder if she had her own case of divided loyalties for sexual harrassment, as Packwood was a Republican, and Clinton was a Democrat. Or maybe Ollie North and, again, Bill Clintonperjury is a serious offense. I could continue ad infinitum, but I think my point is made.
As an aside. yesterday's Seattle Times ran an editorial on Judge Bridges which contains the following statement, which reinforces by point about the difference between Bush and Bridges:
Forgive the blunt tone, but her drinking days are either over or she should resign. The choice belongs to the justice: the bottle or the bench.
Somehow, I don't think that message will penetrate.