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January 19, 2007


Peter Porcupine

I remember this, but had not thought of it in many years.

At the time, I wondered if he was trying to emulate a Roman ideal of killing himself for what he thought was a political reversal. Sort of a final and unanswerable protesttion of innocence.

But, at its root, suicide is usually an act that will make the grownups sorry, so there.


I have lived in Harrisburg all my life, although I was only about one month old at the time of Dwyer's press conference so I obviously have no recollection of the event. The funny thing is, I had never even heard of Budd Dwyer until earlier this morning when his suicide was referenced on the radio. I found it amazing that it took me 20 years of living in Harrisburg to even learn of his existence. It seems as if we've pretty much erased Budd and his demise from our collective minds. I went online and, against my better judgment, viewed the footage of Dwyer's last moments. Pretty gruesome stuff.


I totally agree with this article working as a mental health nurse you see the selfish act that is suicide daily and this my fellow humans is the axis of selfishness a man not only passing his personal suffering to his loved ones but also forcing the world to view his sorry last moments, i feel little sympathy for this man.


Very well written article: Mr. Dwyer, regardless of innocence or guilt, or a depressive illness, comitted a very unethical and selfish act on that day. He very well knew that children would have access to the footage and those who had nothing to do with himself- but commited the act regardless. His anger was obviously at the prosecuters, Muir and political opponents. His act was a way of making these people feel extreme guilt. Pity about the many others who have suffered real trauma from seeing such an act.


I remember when this happened, but they wouldn't replay the entire footage on the evening news due to the graphic content. I just recently saw the entire footage. I can't even imagine witnessing something like that in person. Looking back, it's too bad no one could have rushed him, but he may have ended up killing someone else and himself. I guess it's just as well that he was the only one who died. The worst part is that his family and all generations to come will have this video and story floating around forever. Horrible.


Budd Dwyer is a hero and his actions were anything but selfish. This was a man who was cornered by his enemies but also betrayed and abandoned by those he thought of as allies. Dwyer's action was of sacrifice and a final desperate cry for change from a voice that was being silenced by people who were driven NOT by justice but rather personal gain. So who was the selfish one here?

Please do not misunderstand me, I do not condone suicide, but I ask that Dwyer's death not be viewed as selfish or insignificant.


Mr. Eisenthal,
Your comments are not convincing. 1) Grandiosity has nothing to do with dignity. His suicide was grandiose and in that he was completly successful. 2) Many cultures find dignity in suicide. 3)In relation to your pop culture reference, there is no causality between loss of dignity and then his suicide used as a joke. I have heard many a joke about the Titanic.
4)If Dwyer was a victim whether of bias, foul play, or perhaps the passion of the judge then labeling his action as selfish would be a presumtous statement at the least. He was already a destroyed man. He was going to jail. His family's financials were in ruin. One could make a good argument for his love of family. Can we imagine how much fortitude it requires to snuff out the very essence of yourself? Even if he did believe in an afterlife, that can still be an extremly hard act. Remember the Jonestown massacre? Jim Jones had to be shot instead of drinking fruit flavored cyanide.
5)Furthermore, to call it a "destructive" act in reference to the larger population is a very generous use of the term. I presume you view all news footage as destructive since much is of violent acts. People watching a video of someone dying, I'm sorry, is usually not the same as being involved in such an incident.

None of your comments would refute the possible thoughtfulness, self-control, and perspective of Dwyer.

6)Now, with relation to affirmation of life, I personally agree with you and believe as Ecclesiastes wrote, a living dog is better than a dead lion. There are many who are not so convinced.

I can make no argument about what lessons should be drawn, if any! If one wants to easily sift and sort our life's events and problems into blacks and whites, then by all means, do so. Hopefully a little color here and there won't ruin your outfits.


In response to the above. Your refutation of Mr. Esenthal does little to negate his more cogent argument. You say Dwyer was 'a failed man' etc etc...your engaging in a logical fallacy- appealing to emotions. Furthermore you raise the issue of many cultures deeming suicide an act of dignity. Not true. In fact, there is none today that do. Certain Roman sects did, and other minorities, but suicide has always, by the vast majority of people, been seen as a sad, pitiful way to die. You do not seem to acknowledge the fact that Dwyer did what he did from a pathetic perspective: to run away, to inflict pain on the 'guilty ones', to inflict pain on his family and people who never knew him!

And it is silly to compare the news on TV to a graphic display of a man shooting himself in the head, and the moans and wails after people realise a life is ended. People can, and HAVE suffered PTSD from viewing EXTREME violence of this nature. All copies of this video should be burnt- it is sick and perverted nonsense.

It's funny- the history books, and all the scholarly political journals tend to ignore Dwyer because of his silly act, and if they do mention him, stated he died by 'suicide before sentencing' In other words, he lessened his own (rightful?) plight by doing what he did. Instead he attracted a whole lot of sick, disturbed (mostly teenagers) to watch his video with no interest in the context. And also he managed to hurt a lot of others-

Imagine seeing your own father do such a thing- it's very funny/ironic that Dwyer could be so selfish as to commit such an act that his own family would see.

His narcisstic selfish act teached us little.

It is obvious that he was guilty. Even an inquiry one-year after his death still found nothing to refute EVIDENCE that HE COMMITTED CRIMES.

But as always, people have to have these stupid conspiracy theories.

Live on.

Neil Fiertel

I cannot comment on his guilt. It is interesting that his selfless act of suicide was to guarantee his family financial security. Doing it in public as disgusting as the act is, does smack of a man who lost all balance in his sense of injustice at the court system. The innocent are convicted all the time of heinous crimes and only decades later is the error found...sometimes. At least this man would not spend his remaining years being hounded and beaten daily by the convicted pigs in jails. It is a sad commentary that he could have been innocent. The powers of government conveniently find nearly always that they were right and the convicted were guilty..even when the evidence has to be lost or fabricated. Just because a guy is ELECTED a judge does not make him a fair judge. a 55 year sentence for bribery? How very nuts when armed robbers and pedophiles walk away in ten. How about some balance in the courts? How about 5 years for bribery and 55 years for armed anything or child molesters with no chance of parole. One can give THEM a gun and let them shoot themselves but only if they are guilty.


It must be so difficult for his family members to live with this footage always there.

Ninja Soul Reaper

Here is my two cents (for whatever it's worth). People such as myself would be the type to see the act and find out why he went so far to begin with. I have to agree with a few of the above statements that say this taking this route was foolish because of the family he left behind, there is no real glory behind suicide; however, you can not look at Mr. Dwyer's emotions and not see that he didn't want to have to go out that way. From my reading, Mr. Dwyer was a man who was committed to his family and his community and those whom he served as a member of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania State Senate, and as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. My Opinion is that if we aren't going to let Mr. Dwayer rest in peace then we should at least make sure that we are getting to the truth and not simply judging him before we see all the evidence. For having a crappy defence, you can't help but wonder if the courts were really fair and if Judge Muir isn't guilty of some kind of Conflict of Interest. That's my two cents on this (for whatever it's worth).


Generalizing suicide as cowardly, easy, pitiful, etc is an untruth, and a cop out. Furthermore, it does nothing to help a suffering person in times of torment nor does it help those that may be trying to understand the suicide of a stranger or a loved one.

If your religion teaches that suicide is a sin, it would take a great deal of courage to commit such a serious offense against your spirituality.

If you are an atheist, it would require at least as much courage to end everything forever, irrevocably.

If you are a cancer patient, destined for death and suffering tremendously, it will not be easy for you to pull the trigger, still.

It is unfathomable to me that so many otherwise intelligent people follow this common misconception. Just because you repeat it to others and receive their affirmation does not make it any more truthful. It does, however, keep you from having to seriously think or understand. It also gives you a free pass to not discuss a very difficult topic with your children.

Dwyer, guilty or innocent, brave or cowardly, did us all a favor by ending his life grotesquely on television. He forced parents to discuss the subject with their children. He forced people to think about it, which is something that is obviously needed. He proved to us that we cannot hide the facts of life from ourselves or our loved ones.

If you have managed to convince someone that suicide is an easy and cowardly way out, that may even help them decide that suicide is what they want. Easy way out sounds great when you're suffering. If you already believe that your life is not worth living, why not go ahead and be a coward, too?

Christopher Spratt

The RBD Farewell Performance is the greatest act of defiance and rebellion performed in recent history, and maybe all of history. You pinheads are all hung up on the degree to which suicide is selfish, but you miss the point that R. Budd delivered a huge slap in the face not only to the institution that would have destroyed his life anyway but also to the whole stupid "civilized" world. Forget that it got him out of his jail sentence even-it was a symbolic victory for every individual who has felt oppressed by the world; it was as punk rock as it gets. Hail R. Budd Dwyer!


I find this article absolutely appalling.

There were two 'wrongs' in Budd's situation that had negative effects.

Budd's suicide.

Dangerous holes in the justice system.

The greater evil was the fatal pitfall in the justice system that Budd encountered. The negative impact his public suicide had on witnesses (even children) is inferior to the negative impact a dangerous justice system can have on a peoples wellbeing.

Which is more important? A number of adults and children emotionally damaged by Budd's suicide, or an entire nation victimized by a dangerous justice system?

The point is, it doesn't matter how good you are, how law-abiding you are, how much you love your family, how much you give to the nation through your work and labor; there will always exist the possibility of being innocently condemned to death, and losing everything you have worked for and accumulated over your lifetime. In Budd's case, even his family was going to lose its livelihood, as they weren't going to inherent his life's work (47+ years of labor), instead it would vanish into the courts. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it if the evidence doesn't support you. And no one will listen to you. So there is absolutely nothing you can do to change anyone's opinion. We've all seen this movie, where only the audience knows the hero is innocent, but everyone else in the movie does not, but we are unable to help the hero prove his innocence, because the evidence is simply against him.

What options do you have then, if no one will believe you? No one will listen to you, they've made up their mind that your guilty, and will continue to think of you in that way until you are dead, and even after you are dead--you are powerless.

Budd knew that he was beyond rescue, as a judge had already decided his doom, so he turned his attention to helping others.

He wanted the public to know that it could happen again, to anyone, given the right circumstances. He wanted to warn the public about such reality.

He had only a few choices available to him.

Go along with the sentence, resign his position, impoversh his family, and spend the rest of his life in jail.

Continue to resist the sentence and end up in the same jail with his family still impovershed.

Find some way to scream out to the deaf public to get their attention, and find a way to keep his life's earnings out of the courts and place it in his family's hands.

Violence is the ultimate expression of the human will. Violence is the oldest form of communication. Budd decided to use violence to get the public's attention, as they wouldn't listen to any other form of language/communication he could offer as a living human.

It was his last resort, to change the mind of the public, and to reject the sentence given him by life.

Additionally, only by 'dying' in office was it possible for his family to receive his life's earnings, which they did.

I think this is evidence enough to show that his act was not a selfish one at all, but intended for the benefit of others. In this light, it was more of a sacrifice than a suicide.

Also, be careful when you view suicide as a single, generic phenomenon. A drug-user who kills himself due to his addiction is of a different nature than a NASA astronaut who is stranded in space and takes a poison pill as an alternative to suffication. Think of the hollywood character who 'sacrifices' himself to save the earth. Sacrifice and suicide, what is the difference? The difference is the social context. The more a suicide benefits others, the less 'evil' it is. Inversely, the more selfish and socially pointless a suicide, the more evil it is.

In this light, Budd's act was more of a sacrifice than a suicide.

The truly sad thing, in all of this, is that justice is, by nature, an imperfect tool. No one is ever completely safe.

I think this was Budd's message, and I think we should honor his decisions, and respect his display of willpower.

Matthew J. Curtis

Well. I have to say, all of the comments about the article as well as the legacy of Mr. Dwyer are well put, well thought out insights to an incredible moment in history. I would, however, have to side with Mr. Christopher Pratt's comment, as this comment reflects mine own thoughts about the subject almost precisely.
Therefore, there is not much for me to say on the subject that Mr. Pratt hasn't already said. I suppose I will have to leave a few words that aren't mentioned in Mr. Pratt's article. There are, in fact, only a few.
I would have to say that R. Budd Dwyer's "savage" act is really admirable in the most arcane, twisted sense of the word. Here we have a man, late into his life, who has no where to go, no one to help him. Not even a high priced lawyer, who, no doubt, assured him that he would get off or get a light sentence as Mr. Dwyer signed a large check off to that lawyer. We have a man who spent much of his life upholding the pillars of a society which he no doubt loved very much, only to be dragged into a pit by that very same machine he oiled for so long, so faithfully. This man very likely believed in duty, responsibility, and doing the right thing, no matter what the cost.
Was his suicide, a very public one, the "right thing"? Most would say no...go down in flames in prison, Budd, that's the "respectable" thing to do, no? I think that most of you who've seen the film of his last moments would agree that his final action was what he considered the absolute right thing to do. Who could blame this man for his decision? Once honorable, now, his whole life decayed due to a Judge's possible lust for attention and respect for putting the bad man down. A power trip, a need to show that Judge Muir was not to be messed with. Is it right to gamble a man's honor, a man's livelihood and the livelihood of his family, over building your own professional reputation?
I will have to assume that once in a while, however seldom, Mr. Muir has to, has to, feel a little bit of guilt. He has to lay in bed, close his eyes, and see the fountain of blood cascading out of Mr. Dwyer's nose, hear the background screams off camera. He has to be haunted sometimes, the only thing to silence it might be a Sapphire and Tonic and a strong Pharmaceutical pill. Otherwise, he might actually have to face the demon that is his decision, a decision to throw a man into the fire. He may have to look into the dull and robotic eyes of a dead, bleeding R. Budd Dwyer, and see a reflection of his own misgivings, his own mistakes.
And what about Joanne Dwyer? Would she, after 21 years, feel that after all the smoke cleared, justice was done to her husband? That, had he lived, it all would have been okay because he was serving his time? It's hard to do anything BUT speculate. Even so, human nature dictates, at least to me, that she may feel, hard as it may be to absorb, that Mr. Dwyer did the right thing.
Sadly, all of this has really done nothing to change any of the things Mr. Dwyer encountered, whether he was guilty or not. And the only thing that will make that horrible revelation quiet down is to have a Sapphire and tonic, and maybe a strong prescription pill.

Steve Lang

I guess the thing is that most of us don't have any idea whether he was guilty or innocent, which really affects how one reacts to the video.

The fact that he committed suicide on live television doesn't lead me to conclude one way or the other- it was either the final flailing of a cornered, desperate, and guilty man, or a final act of defiance or protest against a corrupt system.

I'm not so certain that committing suicide in public ultimately raises any more awareness of the root issue- was Dwyer guilty, or was he framed by a far more insidiuous establishment? But I guess we're all talking about it.

Buzz Lightyear

Guilty or innocent Dwyer's act is fodder for caricature. Yes, I believe he did it so that his family would be provided for, something that would not happen had he resigned or been removed and gone to prison. In that regard it was a cold calculated act to provide for the family he surely loved.

The forum he chose, a live press conference, is a slightly different matter. There was no way he could've known when scheduling the press conference that schools would be closed and that children could be watching. He had already decided at that point what his action would be and given that it was the day before his sentencing and forced removal from office, his last opportunity to ensure his family's future. There was no turning back.

The fallacy of the assumptions in this article and in many of the comments is that Dwyer was of his right mind and I don't think he was by that point. If he indeed was innocent, he was under immense pressure and stress as well as the anger some here have mentioned. Rational thought wouldn't necessarily be the order of the day.

As to Dwyer's guilt or innocence, there was never any physical evidence whatsoever linking him to a crime. No money trail, no secret taped recording of his asking for or being offered a bribe. Natch. The only evidence he was convicted on was the testimony of a convicted felon who had cut a plea bargain to reduce his sentence. And the terms of that plea bargain were to testify against Dwyer.

I seriously doubt that Judge Muir lost one night of sleep over Bud Dwyer, that's just the kind of man Muir was. There is a lot of this story that has yet to be told and now, because of Dwyer's suicide, likely will never see the light of day.

The best thing Dwyer could've done was appeal his conviction if he was indeed innocent because then, eventually, the truth would come out. The worst thing, ironically, he could've done if he was innocent was what he did because it pretty much stopped the story in its tracks as well as making Dwyer a grotesque caricature as the life bled from him.

I'd really like to know if Dwyer was truly guilty but I doubt I'll ever find out as the bodies were buried long ago.


Very interesting reads....

I believe most of you have made valid points. So I will reference Plato. Forgive me if you know the story but not all are knowing. "Only he is wise who knows that he knows nothing".

Socrates was a Greek philosopher around 300B.C. In his seventies he was accused of crimes that are similar to the situation in which Dwyer found himself. He was accused of crimes which could not be justly proven and was sentencd to death. The greeks simply sought to stop his teachings and did not really care to kill such an old man. The prison guards gave him many opportunities to escape his fate. He chose to stay in prison and face his punishment of death. Every friend that Socrates had in the world tried to convince him otherwise but he would not waiver. I believe that Dwyer was in a similar situation. I don't believe that his suicide was out of desperation in the fact that it was so thought out. I think that he was an honorable man and rather than go to jail he stood his ground and basically gave everyone the finger. However wrong and grotesque you may view his response, he made his statement as did Socrates.


Only Mr Dwyer knows if he was guilty or not. The fact remains, he chose to take his own life in an instant, irreversible fashion. Be that through guilt or the frustration of innocence, I am of the opinion that this was the action of a man who was desperately hurting. Yes, the fact that his dying moments were aired and continue to be available for all the world to see is traumatic for others. But people can get over trauma. They don't get over suicide. It is a sad society if we continue to blame people after they have paid the ultimate price. RIP Mr Dwyer.


Eisenthal's piece is a pointless, self rightious tacking to task of a lost and desperate man. Dwyer, guilty or innocent, could not face the humiliation of having his entire reputation and life accomplishments destroyed in public. He thoughtfully prepared care for his family then went out in a rage unintentionally hurting more than the targets of his anger. He deserves our sympathy, not further humiliation from pious pop psychologists like David Eisenthal.

"Nice Shot Man" is a song SYMPATHETIC to Dwyer. Not a moking of him. Try giving the song a LISTEN some time Dave.


I disagree with your pop-psych conclusion that he was making an ego tistical, or "grandiose" gesture by killing himself. I believe he was an innocent man who was about to be sent to jail and to that end he would never be able to provide for his family (his savings were consumed by his legal costs) and the people who had knowledge of his innosence were testifying against him since they were in fact guilty themselves.
There is no question they were trying to bribe Dwyer, but Dwyer did not know about it. You may disagree, but this explains his actions. He had no mechanism for appeal, since he couldn't prove his case except by saying he didn't know about it and didn't take any bribe.


I agree with Mike. In this culture we're raised to view suicide as a shamefull act. Look at sepaku (sp) in ancient Japan. It was dignified suicide because you were taking your own life, you were cleaning up your mess, you were paying for your sins, so therefore it wasnt viewed as cowardly but doing your duty as a man responsible for his actions. I don't know how any of you can sit there and bad mouth this man and not feel for him. Just watch the video and tell me you can't feel his pain and fear right as he's speaking his last words. My advice to you: don't judge him till you walk in his shoes, and pray you never have to.


"As to Dwyer's guilt or innocence, there was never any physical evidence whatsoever linking him to a crime"

Not true. Documents were found in Dwyers house implicating him in the crime.

Anybody who does what he did is a fool.


As the crooked politicians all got off scott free and got to keep their ill-gotten mony, and the one innocent man died, I would say, "Situation normal, welcome to America"


I went to school with his daughter in the small town he was from. I was invited to their house for a girl scout meeting and I meet him there. He was the only politician I have ever met in person like that. We moved away from that small town across the country and the news comes on with his picture and I tell my Mom, I met him once. The next thing you know the news is annoncing that he killed himself on live television. What kinda of crap was that. For a long time I kept thinking of his daughter and how she doesn't have a father anymore and he choose to go out like that.

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