Just how bad does it have to get before a Democrat resigns in disgrace? Politicians have always engaged in all kinds of reprehensible, totally disgraceful behavior, but in years past they at least had enough decency to resign and disappear into the night. Now, at least for Democrats, no amount of depravity seems to be grounds for leaving office. Take the case of Virginia Del. Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico) who recently pled guilty to charges stemming from an alleged sexual relationship with a 17 year-old receptionist who worked at his law firm.
The 57 year-old legislator is a former Commonwealth’s Attorney of Richmond, and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2007. According to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch the charges against him were brought after the girl was found in the legislator’s home late at night, and a subsequent investigation found nude pictures of the girl on Morrissey’s phone along with graphic text messages sent to his friend describing sexual encounters between the two. Morrissey claimed his phone had been hacked and the material was planted. Facing a possibility of 41 years in prison, he entered a plea deal that resulted in a 12 month jail sentence with 6 months suspended. Although Virginia Democrats have called on him to resign, he has declined to do so and said he would “Let God make that decision”. He is now enrolled in a work program that will allow him to continue his legislative duties while serving his jail sentence. Morrissey continues to proclaim his innocence, but a recent revelation that the girl in question is now pregnant with what could be his child may very well make those denials even less credible than they already are.
I suppose after Clinton’s Lewinsky and subsequent perjury charges didn’t result in a resignation, we shouldn’t be surprised that Morrissey doesn’t feel enough shame to do the right thing. It should be noted that Morrissey does have a rather checkered past which has not only resulted in numerous arrests, his law license was suspended and then revoked for over a decade (yet another parallel with Bill Clinton). When a person lives their life devoid of a moral compass and continues to get away with it the conscience begins to be seared and shame goes by the wayside. Apparently Morrissey believes this latest escapade will just blend in with the other stains in his background, and if so he may well be right.
What remains to be seen is whether his fellow Democrats are willing to share this particular stain with Morrissey, or will they make him the first member of the House of Delegates to be expelled since Reconstruction? Democrats are meeting today in Richmond to decide what to do about their wayward child, but for the sake of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state that gave us such honorable men as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Robert E. Lee, we can only hope that there are enough Democrats with a sense of decency left who will do what needs to be done.