Gabby Giffords, Member of the House from Arizona, resigned today in a tear-filled ceremony on the House floor, after showing up for Barack Obama's State of the Union last night. She says she'll be back; I wouldn't bet against her.
I think the thing to remember about Giffords is that before she was shot she was widely regarded as having a huge future. Of course, one can never tell how these things will play out, but she certainly would have been on the short list of Democrats to run for the open Arizona Senate seat this year; her mentions for that after Jon Kyl announced he was retiring may have been unrealistic during her recovery, but she was very much a rising star in Democratic politics, and my guess is that without the assassination attempt she would have run, won the nomination, and had a very solid shot at winning in November. And if that happened? With four years in the Senate, a presumably moderately liberal voting record, and a great personal story, she would certainly have been at least mentioned for Vice President in 2016. And after that? Who knows?
Now, of course you could probably say similar things about a few dozen Members of the House...but that leaves a few hundred who have no such potential. With any luck, Giffords will have as full a recovery as possible, and go on to whatever accomplishments she wants, whether in politics or not. It's great to see how far she's already come. But for now at least, the people of Arizona and the US House have really lost a good one.