Thursday, June 14, 2007

DeLuca’s From Venus, Healy’s From Mars

The Chris Healy disaster, following closely upon the heels of the Lou DeLuca disaster, caused one agonized and/or furious Republican to burst forth with a comment on a blog site: “You guys are killing us.”

Healy is the Chairman of the state Republican Party arrested the day after a Republican presidential debate at the University of South Carolina for driving while under the influence, and DeLuca is the former Minority Leader in the state senate who recently gave up his position after he had been arrested on a misdemeanor threatening charge.

Following DeLuca’s tete a tete with James Galante, who is in the trash hauling business, during which Galante offered to have someone “talk with” DeLuca’s son in law, DeLuca was quickly set upon by political commentators. Republican Party officials closed ranks and went into their omerta mode, but DeLuca probably was encouraged privately to do the right thing.

Although he has resigned his leadership position in the senate, DeLuca still can be censured or removed from office by his fellow legislators. He cannot be impeached. Healy can only be removed through votes cast by a Republican Central Committee that seems indisposed to replace him.

Healy’s difficulties provoked a more nuanced response from many commentators. Unlike DeLuca, Healy is not a congressman. The chief duty of the Republican Party Chairman is to churn out propaganda for Republicans, a stressful chore that some believe might be softened by an occasional bout with the bottle. Healy’s position is appointive, not elective. Healy has said that he has struggled with alcoholism most of his adult life. Having been arrested once before for DWI, he was duly repentant and promised to seek help for himself.

So then, there are some important differences between the DeLuca orange and the Healy apple. The FBI hadn’t had an opportunity to interpose itself in the Healy mess and offer the Republican chairman a bribe, as was the case in the DeLuca mess. DeLuca refused the bribe but failed to report it, perhaps because he had on a previous occasion called upon the services of Galante, and the bribe was being offered, so DeLuca thought, by a Galante associate.

Memo to Healy (assuming he retains his position, as I think he should): Why don’t the Republicans construct a bill that would sanction, with the loss of a political position, any servant of the people who declines to report a bribe? Not only would such a bill make moot any disagreement about the details of impeachable offensives, it would, if adopted nationally, clean the Augean Stables of our national government of many an odoriferous congressman.

My feeling -- subject to further revision as the poisonous flower unfolds its petals -- is that Healy should stay at his post because he is redeemable, like Ralph.

Mark Twain painted a picture in one of his writings of the amiable drunk. Twain himself was born in a town, he said, so small that it had room in it for only one drunk.

Ralph was our drunk. He used to come around the house when ever I was outside doing chores, or – more likely – arranging not to do chores. He would steer himself carefully up the drive, pause before me like a preacher about to let loose a sermon, and say in as steady a voice as he could command, “Is Frank home?”

Ralph was always careful to steer a course around my mother, who never was successful in persuading my father that he should not contribute to the delinquency of town drunks.

So, I’d summon my father, he’d have a few words with Ralph, and soon a bit of green would pass from my father’s hand to Ralph’s, over the hearty protestation of my mother.

Everyone in town had a try at Ralph – priests, his nieces and nephews, his aging and ailing mother, the local doctor, who told Ralph that he would possibly die from cirrhosis of the liver, but who confided to my father in private that Ralph’s innards were so pickled he probably would survive well into the next two centuries. Nothing worked. Words just slid of him without doing the usual damage.

Ralph would use the dollar or two my father gave him either to buy a bottle of cheap hooch or to take a drink in one of the many pubs that used to line the Main Street of Windsor Locks. My brother and I counted these pubs one day and stopped at eight.

Ralph would wend his way down the driveway, careful to thank my father, and we wouldn’t see him again – until the next time.

I lost track of Ralph when I graduated from High School, just one of the many people who dart in and out of our lives like vagrant ghosts.

One day, on a visit home from college, my father mentioned Ralph to me, and I prepared myself to receive the news he had passed on, for he was an old man when I was a young and stupid idiot.

But no, my father said. Ralph had stopped drinking and taken up his old profession once again.

What was that, I asked?

He was a master carpenter before he fell into the bottle. Ralph made the most beautifully delicate cabinets my father had ever seen, and now, after years of drinking, he had returned to making lovely things. It was this idea of beauty locked in some sober part of his soul, my father thought, that in the end proved to be Ralph’s salvation.

My father was very quiet about the kindnesses he extended toward all, who knew him. And I discovered later that he had never given up on the man. Not only was he making an occasional contribution to Ralph’s delinquency, but my father was helping him in other ways.

“You don’t want to give up on people,” he said.

Never give up.
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