- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Virginia Gov. James Gilmore's resignation Friday as chairman of the Republican National Committee has been seized by pundits as evidence that the governor is a fading political star. Some anti-Gilmore snipers have sought to blame him because Democrats captured the Virginia and New Jersey governorships last month, two painful losses for Republicans.

The reality, however, is very different. Take a look at the elections, which Mr. Gilmore has been scapegoated for losing. New Jersey has not elected a conservative like Bret Schundler to statewide office in modern times. In Virginia, victorious Democrat Mark Warner campaigned as a fiscal conservative and moved quickly to distance himself from liberals on gun control and other crime-related issues. Even as Mr. Warner was winning, Virginia Republicans picked up 12 seats in the 100-member General Assembly. Perhaps Mr. Gilmore will be "blamed" for that as well. Instead of sneering at Mr. Gilmore for wanting to take a break from politics for a while, Virginians and Americans in general should be thanking him.

In an era in which too many Clintonesque politicians are hostage to polling data and focus groups, Mr. Gilmore has shown himself willing to do the right thing even if it wasn't politically popular at the moment, and even if many members of his own party were heading for the tall grass. Two issues in particular illustrate this point. Mr. Gilmore, who in 1997 campaigned for governor as the man who would abolish the hated car tax, this year was forced to battle some members of his own party in the General Assembly because he was determined to keep his promise to phase out the car-tax by next year.

As head of a federal commission studying the issue of taxing the Internet, Mr. Gilmore strongly opposed the tax. Mr. Gilmore, who openly clashed with pro-Internet tax governors like Utah Republican Mike Leavitt, is said to be decidedly unpopular with many of his fellow Republican governors because of his opposition to such taxes. He also found time to head a congressionally created commission on terrorism, which since 1999 has been tirelessly sounding the alarm on problems most Americans didn't know about until September 11.

What's more, Mr. Gilmore, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election to a second consecutive term as governor, understands some things that many of his critics just don't grasp: There is a world outside of politics, and some things in life are more important than criss-crossing the country campaigning for candidates and going to party caucus meetings. Although Washington's chattering classes often react with ridicule when a politician expresses a desire to spend time at home, the great majority of folks living outside the Beltway understand perfectly well why Mr. Gilmore with a wife, Roxane, two children and his elderly father living with him made the decision he did.

Still, with all that Mr. Gilmore has to offer his country, chances are that this is not the last we will see of him. Here's hoping that he will see fit to return to public service soon.

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