Morning Report 11/29/05
S.O.B. Story Makes You Weep

Corrupt congressman bites the dust. We get choked up.

Harkavy (U.S. House)

Cereal offender: In happier days, back in July 2004, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham was presented a box of Wheaties adorned with his own photo

It's enough to make a grown man cry — the public spectacle of corrupt San Diego congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham's tears, that is.

Ordinarily, you would like to see more grown men cry. Maybe they'd start fewer wars and foreclose on fewer widows if they had other ways of expressing their feelings.

But let's cut no slack for Cunningham, the disgraced California congressman. Tony Perry describes the scene yesterday in San Diego in this morning's Los Angeles Times:

    A tearful, trembling Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe) resigned Monday after pleading guilty to receiving $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors and evading more than $1 million in taxes.

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Let me remind you that the previous time Cunningham cried in public was on October 9, 2002, during the momentous House debate on the Bush regime's war resolution.

PBS reporter Kwame Holman told the nation at the time that of all the members of Congress who trooped to the microphone to make their feelings known on that crackpot scheme, Cunningham, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, was the "most emotional." Here's what Cunningham said on the House floor as he pleaded in favor of invading Iraq:

    Mr. Speaker, my eyes tear even 30 years later from friends that I saw die in combat. This is no simple thing. My mother was rushed to a hospital when she learned that I was shot down. I know the horrors brought on the men and women that we will ask to go to war. But I also know the heartache and the pain of the families that are left behind, and I would say to my colleagues, "Do we want to subject them to the horrors of war in our own country?" That's why I have this resolve. I think it's highly probable that that would happen if we don't act. And I ask my colleagues, don't let that happen. I yield back.

Oh, please. Cunningham was using his tears as a bludgeon for war — a war based on lies that as a loyal Republican congressman he dutifully swallowed. It was a war that Cunningham wound up personally making money from by accepting bribes from defense contractors.

Fast forward to July 14, 2005, when Cunningham announced he wouldn't run for re-election but maintained his innocence in that bribe scandal. Few believed him by that point. Even the conservative Washington Times laid it out this way:

    At the heart of the investigations is the eight-term congressman's dealings with Mitchell Wade, founder of Virginia-based defense contractor MZM Inc.

    MZM has received $163 million in federal defense contracts, many of which were for classified projects. Mr. Cunningham, 63, sits on the House Appropriations Committee's powerful defense subcommittee as well as the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, both of which handle the types of contracts awarded to MZM.

    It has been reported that Mr. Cunningham has resided free of charge on a 42-foot yacht owned by Mr. Wade. Moored in a Potomac River yacht club, the boat has been renamed the Duke-Stir.

    Questions also have arisen about Mr. Wade's 2003 purchase of Mr. Cunningham's California home for more than $1.6 million. He then sold the property for $700,000 less.

But Cunningham insisted last July:

    "I want to assure my constituents that I have acted honorably."

Now fast forward to November 2005, when that protestation of innocence turned out to be a lie. Once again the tears flowed — this time for the right reason, as he told a federal judge in San Diego:

    "I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my high office."

Cunningham refused to answer questions after his court appearance. But there are other congressmen and more questions.

Better put on your hip boots. With much bigger scandals revolving around extinguished "Christian statesman" Tom DeLay and Wampumgate lobbyist Jack Abramoff, we're likely to see a lot more weeping congressmen.

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