SENATOR Packwood should not be a scandal. He should be a dance.
Following in the great tradition of 1940s dances like the Shag and the Peabody, it will be called the Packwood. The dance steps can be found in the May report of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics:
"In his Senate office in Portland, Oregon, Senator Packwood grabbed a staff worker, stood on her feet, grabbed her hair, forcibly pulled her head back, and kissed her on the mouth, forcing his tongue into her mouth. Senator Packwood also reached under her skirt and grabbed at her undergarments."
Don't be put off by the balancing act required. Just grab an unsuspecting partner and give it a whirl, to the tune of "The Varsity Drag:"
Up on your heels, down on your
Stick out your tongue, learn how
Everybody do the Packwood to-
Bob Packwood deserves to be so immortalized because, at every turn, he has nimbly danced away from those who would hold him accountable on seamy charges of sexual misconduct, getting jobs for his wife from lobbyists and tampering with evidence in his diary.
More women have come forward to tell of kamikaze kissing attacks, but the master manipulator keeps on making speeches and casting votes as though nothing had happened.
His deviousness has paid off: First he managed to delay the publication of a Washington Post story detailing his sexual escapades until after the 1992 election, by saying that his women accusers had come on to him. (It's that old erotomania thing that John Doggett said Anita Hill suffered from -- the irresistible urge to get your hands on a truly repulsive man.)
Last summer, Packwood changed his stands on key elements of the Democratic health plan in a clear bid for future support from the GOP leadership. The payoff came Wednesday when
Republicans voted against public hearings. (The shameless Packwood oiled his way across the floor to vote in his own favor.)
Packwood's pals (read enablers) tried to keep the debate on procedure, rather than sex. But that fooled no one. The senators had that look of puzzled alarm you see in those grainy black-and-white monster movies, as the crowd flees down Main Street, fearing for their lives, glancing back at THE TONGUE!
Certainly his peers are embarrassed by Packwood's behavior. But it is not his droit du seigneur that makes them squirm. It is his maladroit du seigneur. The Bad Boys of Capitol Hill have always misbehaved grandly -- be it a wasted Wilbur Mills going onstage with stripper Fanne Foxe, a grinning Gary Hart with blonde in lap, or Teddy Kennedy and Chris Dodd making a waitress sandwich at a Capitol Hill boite.
Bob Packwood has reduced this opera buffa to a cartoon. He's like Mr. Magoo, groping indiscriminately, not knowing if he's going for a girl or a tree. This Lothario is his own worst enemy. And as Senators Kennedy and Dodd did their liberal duty and voted in favor of public hearings, what might they have been thinking? A fine institution sullied by such a pathetic record of incomplete passes?
Since the system can't be counted on to deliver justice, I have decided to take the law into my own hands. Bob Packwood will get a public hearing from me.
I'll call my friends and we can depose each other about our own Packwood experiences. There was the time he invited one reporter -- three days in a row -- to come to his office for a glass of wine. ("I've been wanting to discuss your work for a long time," he oozed.)
There was the time, after a big Washington dinner, he gave The Tongue to a journalist he had just met while she was trying to hail a cab. There was the time, just recently and in front of witnesses, that he made a pass at a woman when he really should have known better.
I called Packwood's press secretary to see if he wanted to testify, but she said he would only talk about telecommunications. I told her those were not the kind of communications I wished to discuss.
The Senate may want to dither about his punishment, but I don't. I order that from this day forward Senator Packwood must carry around a Harpo-style horn and honk twice whenever he gets the urge to do the Packwood and give chase.
That way, at least, the foxes will have a fair chance.
Maureen Dowd is a columnist for the New York Times.