Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias All of the speculation about Rep. Bill Janklow's political future could have ended Monday.

The congressman could have announced that, in light of the fact that he likely will be brought to trial to face manslaughter charges, he had decided to resign his post as South Dakota's lone representative in Washington, DC.

But he didn't.

Monday's televised press conference was difficult to watch, even for people, we would imagine, who aren't Janklow fans.

Gone � at least temporarily � was the congressman's rapid-fire, quick-thinking style.

At times, he appeared confused. He admitted that his train of thought is still easily shaken off the tracks these days, after he suffered a head injury in an Aug. 16 crash.

Thanks to intense media scrutiny, practically every South Dakotan is well-versed in the details of the accident.

Janklow was speeding. He ran a stop sign.

He drove directly into the path of motorcyclist Randy Scott of Hardwick, MN.

Scott was killed instantly.

Janklow said Monday he "couldn't be sorrier" about the accident and Scott's death.

He gave no indication that resignation is in his future.

It would have been a rather easy decision to make.

On top of the fact that he accidentally killed a man and the pending court action, one can't help but wonder about Janklow's health.

He suffered a broken hand and a concussion in the accident.

If it were up to Ralph Nader, Janklow would be out of a job.

Nader, the nation's preeminent consumer activist, said in late August that Janklow should resign.

Nader sent a letter to Janklow � with copies sent to Moody County State's Attorney William Ellingson and state media � saying he should give up his seat.

"You should resign your congressional seat immediately in atonement for ? the taking of life by a driver relentlessly bent on turning his vehicle into a lawless, dangerous missile," he wrote.

Nader also recounted Janklow's decades-long history of speeding.

"You are clearly a person unworthy of public office, which involves responsibilities for overseeing the nation's motor vehicle and highway safety laws," he wrote.

Nader said the Janklow case is like none other he has seen with a public official.

"I've seen them arrested for drunk driving, for hitting another car," he said. "But here is a man with a record of premeditation that is unparalleled.

"He has been cited for speeding 12 times when he was out of office," Nader said. "He was involved in seven crashes. But he brags about it, laughs about it, mentioned it in one of his official speeches."

Most South Dakotans don't think Rep. Bill Janklow should resign immediately, but if he is charged and convicted of causing the accident that killed Scott, his political career should come to an end, according to a recent poll of South Dakotans.

Janklow should take more time before deciding his political future in the wake of his involvement in a fatal traffic accident, according to University of South Dakota political science professor Bill Richardson.

"Clearly he's not ready, nor should we have expected him to be ready, to make some definitive comment about what his political future will be," Richardson told the Associated Press following Janklow's press conference.

Janklow said Monday he has thought a lot about his political future but has made no decisions.

"I don't know what's appropriate at this point in time, candidly. And I did give it a lot of thought," he said. "I'm just trying to figure out what's appropriate."

"This case is not going to go the way of a lot of political fixes," Nader said. "If he thinks he has heat now in South Dakota, wait until he goes back to Washington."

We can't help but wonder if even a big political junkie like Janklow will eventually decide that the circumstances of his life right now will make it difficult for him to continue to serve in public office.

Janklow has proven time and again that he's not afraid to take on rather daunting challenges.

As Richardson pointed out, it's too early for Janklow to be planning his next political step.

His expression of public penitence Monday may help him personally deal with the tragic events of last month.

Janklow may well discover, however, that being sorry may not be enough when it comes time to map out his political future.

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