This is the year when many shameless congressional Democrats became U.S. Rep. John Murtha, the powerful Chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Committee and dispenser-in-chief of goodies. Any superfluous submarines that have come Connecticut’s way in the dying last days of the Bush administration have Murtha’s fingerprints all over them.
Rep. John Larson of Connecticut’s impregnable 1st District was a pioneer in this regard. Way back in April, the Journal Inquirer reported in a flashy first page story that Larson had struck up a very close friendship with the earmark king of Pennsylvania, then under scrutiny for the second time by the FBI.
The first time, FBI agents attempted to ensnare Murtha in a tit for tat scam involving wealthy Arab sheiks, FBI plants in disguise. One of the sheiks brought a briefcase full of cash with him, passed its fragrance under Murtha’s nose and begged favors of him.
Murtha suggested the money be laundered through his favorite charity, a constituent who had asked if Murtha could help him in the launching of a start-up business enterprise. The FBI did not get their man this time, but the resulting ABSCAM scandal – all caught on tape -- proved embarrassing to the earmark king.
Much later Murtha would best be known for his strenuous opposition to President George Bush’s “war of choice” in Iraq. Murtha abandoned his principled opposition once it had become fairly certain, very late in the day, that General David Petraeus’ strategy was succeeding. In war and business, nothing succeeds like success. Copying Murtha’s feint, Dodd asserted in a Providence Journal report way back in March, 2007 that he had no difficulty in declaring that he “would be moving our troops out of urban areas tonight.” Dodd called his earlier 2002 vote to authorize Bush’s war of choice “a mistake” and quipped according to the report, “I’m Catholic; I’ve been to confession.”
Someone once asked Murtha about earmarks, globules of tax money furtively inserted into bills to reward friendly legislators or to persuade reluctant legislative comrades to swallow an unpalatable piece of legislation they swore would never go down their gullet without a manful struggle. Weren’t these earmarks indisputable signs that the givers and takers were somewhat, you know, corrupt? Murtha looked at the naïf asking the question as if he had just arrived from Mars and said something to the effect that this was the time honored way in Congress of purchasing loyalty. Without bought legislators, political business simply could not go forward at all.
When Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was deflected from his ‘principled’ non-support of a health care bill that, it was plausibly argued, would force religious objectors to finance abortions through their taxes, Nelson was bought off with a generous bribe from President Barack Obama's Chocago mob: No more forever would “cornhuskers” have to pay for the additional Medicaid spending imposed on Nebraska by the bill. Dodd was put very much in the running for a multi-million dollar gift that had the words “UConn Health Center” penciled in on it, a bonbon from a grateful administration for Dodd’s support in fashioning a bill that when fully perfected, some argued, would unfavorably impact jobs in his home state, once known as “the insurance capitol of the world,” now a shadow of its former self.
No submarines were exchanged for votes this time.