Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger could have learned a lesson from his fellow Republican, the late Richard Nixon: What does you in is usually not the crime, but the cover-up.
Last May, State Rep. Roy Schmidt, a Democrat, decided to switch parties and run for re-election as a Republican. That isn't a crime. But he didn't want any opposition, so he and Mr. Bolger conspired to rig this year's election.
Mr. Schmidt didn't announce his switch until the last possible day to file for the election. Worse, the lawmaker recruited a phony candidate to run as a Democrat, offering to pay him to put his name on the ballot. Mr. Schmidt wanted to do this to prevent a legitimate Democrat from running a write-in campaign.
The ringer, a store clerk, couldn't legally run because he didn't live in the district. But that evidently made no difference to Mr. Schmidt, and perhaps not to Mr. Bolger either.
When the phony candidate got cold feet, Mr. Schmidt went to his workplace to plead with him and more than double the amount of the thinly veiled bribe. When that didn't work, he lied publicly, claiming he didn't know the man. We know all this because of a string of now-public text messages.
There were immediate calls for Mr. Schmidt to resign and for Mr. Bolger to step aside as speaker, but both elected to tough it out. The county prosecutor in Mr. Schmidt's district and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette declined to bring charges against their fellow Republicans. A state police investigation was prematurely closed down.
But now a state court has impaneled a one-person grand jury to investigate and possibly hand down indictments. That is bound to hurt Republican efforts to keep control of the Michigan Legislature.
In 1972, had President Nixon immediately apologized for his campaign's break-in and attempted bugging of the Democratic national headquarters, Watergate might have been a mere footnote to history. Forty years later, Michigan Republicans could have avoided a bigger scandal by repudiating Mr. Schmidt and having Mr. Bolger step aside as speaker, at least until after the election.
Philosopher George Santayana's wisdom really does apply: Those who refuse to learn from the past are, it seems, condemned to repeat it.