Unfit to serve
Elected officials who attract attention through scandal or conflicts need to go.
Members of the U.S. Senate and House this week returned to Washington, among them the formerly obscure Rep. Henry "Trey" Radel of Florida.
It's fair to say the "formerly obscure" Radel because the first-term Republican House member recently drew significant attention following his guilty plea to a charge of cocaine possession and admission to a rehabilitation facility.
That's the kind of thing that does, and should, generate headlines. In our view, Radel's use of an illegal drug and his guilty plea undermine confidence in his judgment and character to the point that he should resign. If he refuses, Radel should definitely not seek re-election.
Members of Congress, like many other people, have their own weaknesses and flaws. But when their behavior descends to the level of criminality, it's impossible to justify their continuation in office.
So far, Radel has resisted calls for his resignation, and no one can force him to do so. But he has not said whether he will seek re-election, and the public will have a lot to say about that.
It will be a big mistake for him and a disservice to the voters if he chooses to run again. The public deserves an issues-laden campaign, not another tiresome discussion about whether problem-ridden candidates like Radel have learned from their mistakes.
It's become fashionable, of sorts, for public officials who become mired in scandal either to try to cling to the office that they've disgraced or seek an electoral comeback after being forced to resign. Two recent examples include former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner.
People like Spitzer, Weiner and Radel are the last thing the public needs, either on the ballot or in office. Their extracurricular behaviors and the excruciatingly poor judgment that drive it render them unfit to serve.