You’re a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives and for whatever reason, you’ve decided it’s time to go.
Great ways to leave Congress:
1) Some sort of disease
This one’s hard to top, particularly if you’ve managed to stay in office for ten, twenty, or thirty years and in that time, have developed a reputation as an effective servant of the people and a reliable advocate for the disenfranchised. Because although it’s inevitable that you will have made some bad decisions and some enemies during your time in office, anybody who chooses to bring that up before your first posthumous biography is published will look like a total dick.
Dying from something that’s inoperable sucks, no question. But there’s definitely a silver lining.
2) Cash out and burn the bridge behind you
You spend your penultimate year in office researching and writing up a master list of every source of grift, graft, and grease that a member of Congress can legally pursue. It’s a long list. Let’s just say you keep your attorneys researching what you can absolutely get away with, and then you cut the list off after a year. You then spend your final year sticking your hands as deep into the till as you can get them. As a member of Congress, your sources of legal graft are similarly endless, but again, if you don’t set a firm deadline for the project you’ll never finish it.
When the year’s up and you’re fifty times wealthier than Scrooge McDuck, you call a press conference. Have a staffer leak that you intend to spend more time with your family. Better, but riskier: leak that you’ve contracted something inoperable. At the press conference, curtains part to reveal you sitting naked in a huge claw-footed bathtub filled with money, on a thick platform. You are wearing a tall, bejeweled crown and an enormous gold medallion. “Not only is it impossible to prosecute me for any of this,” you laugh, after explaining where the money came from, “but now I’m so goddamn rich that I’ve placed myself far beyond the reach of any earthly justice. So long, losers!!!”
You and the tub and the platform roll away. During your stately loop of the press room before rumbling out into the street, cameras note that the steam engine propelling the tub is being fed by a formally-attired butler, who shovels stack after stack of hundred dollar bills into it.
You’ll leave office with a huge pile of money. And a jaded populace will say “At least that one was completely honest about why he got into politics.” You will be able to parlay this grudging but sincere respect into a successful local chain of Rich Bastard Congressman Steak And Ribs restaurants.
3) The Bucket List
Freedom’s just another word for “I’m not running for reelection.” Spend the remaining few years of your term making fun of the Distinguished Senator’s obvious comb-over. When you’re on one of the Sunday morning news programs, amiably inform someone that they’re completely full of crap when they are, in fact, completely full of crap. Introduce one-page bills that say “All sick children should receive medical treatment,” almost solely to make other Senators and Congresspeople squirm when they explain why they aren’t supporting it.
“No, I voted against federal bailout funds for our 73-year-old roller skate factory,” you could tell your constituents, during a Town Hall meeting. “When was the last time you even saw a kid wearing one of these metal skates clamped onto their street shoes? It’s a mercy killing. Secondly, the owners have run this damn thing so deep into the ground that I wonder if the plan was to have it re-emerge in China. But that couldn’t be the case, because that would mean they were sharp enough businesspeople to realize how much cheaper these products would be to manufacture over there.
“Oh, and before I take your next question: let me tell you all how much extra the average American is willing to pay for a product just because it has a ‘Made In The USA’ sticker on the box…” And here you hold the microphone against your butt and punctuate your point in a dramatic and unequivocal fashion.
Say ridiculous things like “Sorry: we can’t guarantee you that the chance of being killed by terrorists will ever be zero. You’ll have to be satisfied with jillion-to-one odds.” And “Christ almighty! I’m your Congressperson, not your Dad. So long as I’m doing my job well, why should you even care that I cheated on my wife two years ago?” Or “All of these big flags in such a small space makes me uncomfortable. Doesn’t this room remind you a little of the opening ceremonies of the Berlin Olympics?”
(After a few weeks of this, you might be tempted to hire Aaron Sorkin to write some of your speeches and most of your off-the-cuff remarks. Resist that urge. Nobody will believe that an actual person would ever say any of those things under any circumstances. If you absolutely must pursue this idea, make sure that you budget and staff the project accordingly. Your regular Starbucks guy will definitely not provide you with the perfect casual setup for a two-minute monologue linking America’s lack of involvement in the Syrian crisis with Reagan-era deficit spending. You’re definitely going to need to put your own guy behind the counter.)
In the end, you’ll be the first lawmaker to read the opening three pages of “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” into the Congressional Record while wearing full scuba gear. Which is definitely worth something. As is pointing out that everybody involved in every level of the political process is somehow culpable for its problems.
4) The Yoda Exit
Hard to pull off, but worth the effort. Step One: get elected to the House or Senate. Step Two: Repeat Step One seven to twelve times without losing an election or dying. Step Three: be one of those members of Congress who can pretty much do whatever they want because they’re 90 years old and kind of adorable and yes, you rarely say anything that makes any sense but everyone figures that Death has been circling your building for the past three years looking for a place to park, so why be the person who works hard to get an adorable tiny old guy out of a job?
Three days after a Congressional page notices the change in the smell from your office, lots of people will line up to say nice things about you. They won’t even bother mentioning the fact that the last time you actually appeared on the Senate floor was four years ago, and even then all you did was complain about how “the TV clickers are much more complicated than they used to be.”
5) Ex-Congressperson With Benefits
Remember, you can’t collect unemployment insurance if you voluntarily quit. You need to do something to get yourself fired. And that’s no easy feat when you’re working as a Congressman. Almost anything that would get you fired from Walmart is perfectly aboveboard (see Suggestion One).
Furthermore, the populace has such low expectations from our elected officials these days that we just can’t whack up the motivation to put together the tar, feathers, and a rail necessary to run a Senator out of town. If you were to drop your pants at a state fair and violate a butter sculpture of a goat, we’d still patiently wait for you to play the “My lovely daughter Joycelyn needs some dental work and I’ve chosen to resign my seat so that I can properly focus on my family during this difficult medical crisis” card.
No, you really have to throw your shoulder into it. Don’t go halfway. Claim that if a so-called “rape” victim is impregnated by her “attacker,” then it almost certainly wasn’t really rape because women’s bodies don’t work that way. And that even in those freakishly-rare cases when the “victim” isn’t lying, she should carry the fertilized egg to term anyway.
That’ll do it for sure. Have your driver take you right from your Congressional offices to the Unemployment Office and then begin your cozy new lifestyle of sitting on your sofa, rockin’ the Playstation and waiting for that next sweet check to come in. Ka-CHING!
So I can only offer my congratulations to Congressman Akin, and my sympathies to anybody who encounters “JerkJiggler696969” in “Call Of Duty: Black Ops.” The man is about to finally secure the free time he needs to become one seriously dangerous mofo.
For the rest of us, let’s take a step back and recap what’s happened. A deeply stupid man in a position of great power and influence over the lives of all Americans demonstrates his codswalloping ignorance and idiocy. “This man should be run out of office,” you think. “He should never, ever be allowed anywhere near the dashboard of democracy. He’s such a complete moron that he shouldn’t even be allowed to stand behind a commercial deep-fryer while wearing a paper ‘Trainee’ hat.”
And then it turns out that the entire world agrees with you. Nobody, but nobody, is supporting him or giving him cover. Even his own political party is damn-near demanding that he drop out of politics. The lone voice of GOP support of any kind comes from a Republican congressman who has offered the use of his Dad’s Chevy van on the day he needs to clear out his Congressional office.
More than that: it’s not even sufficient for lawmakers to respectfully decline comment. Politicians of all sides are lining up in front of cameras and microphones to publicly underscore the fact that as deeply divisive and ideological modern politics has become, as desperate as both parties are to appeal to every last dark, crusty corner of their respective voting base, there is in fact a line that no politician dares to cross, and a calibre of stupidity that mustn’t be tolerated.
You know what? I worry that any minute now, Woody Allen is going to look into the camera and say “Boy, if only real life were like this!”