NOTE: I have added some links to this piece, and made a couple minor edits on points of grammar and style.
Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis) has resigned from the Missouri State Senate today, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Smith and Rep. Steve Brown (D-Clayton) plead guilty to felony charges in St. Louis today, relating to Smith’s unsuccessful congressional bid in 2004. A possible resignation had been rumored in recent weeks, including on such sites as MOPNS.
Developments this month in the case of former Democratic operative Skip Ohlsen garnered media attention, suggesting Smith and Brown might be in hotter water than previously understood. Ohlsen was a central figure in the original incident back in 2004, which involved concealing the source of attack fliers against Smith’s opponent, now Congressman Russ Carnahan.
There will be a lot more on this story, including what type of sentence is handed down to Jeff Smith and Steve Brown. In politics, everybody has friends and enemies, and I know people who didn’t care much at all for Jeff Smith.
But let me say this. Jeff Smith made a major mistake, and that might even be putting it lightly. He obstructed justice, not once but in two cases. The fact that he was idealistic and inspired some others, particularly young people, does in fact make this case a particularly disappointing event and a sobering reminder of human nature.
But while I join others in condemning his actions, I will also say that in my observations of Sen. Smith, and my very limited direct interactions, I found him to be a reasonable man, clear thinker and generally well-intentioned lawmaker. Very liberal? Yes. But not so dogmatic in his commitment to ideology that he wouldn’t consider alternative solutions if they seemed to hold promise for serving the public in improved ways.
The prime case in point would be education. Smith surely upset some in his party with his willingness to consider certain aspects of real education reform. I think he did so because he was personally involved with education, and knew that students could not afford to be placed behind ideology and special interests when it came to policy-making.
He was also just a likeable guy, as far as I could judge. Educated and erudite, as well. And being young didn’t hurt him either.
As a Republican I could sit here and point fingers and try to tar the other side of the aisle with this downfall of one of their stars. I’m not going to do that, because it is a sad day. I honestly wish Jeff Smith the best, even as he serves out whatever punishment authorities hand down.
Anyway – perhaps some more on this later. Right now, I’m headed to a meeting on campus.