- - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

RAPIDAN, Va. — In the latest “scandal” to rock Washington, a group of congressmen on a policy trip to Israel ended a hot day of touring the Holy Land with an unscheduled evening dip in the Sea of Galilee.

This, according to reports, came after the drinking of wine. And one particularly enthusiastic and earthy member of Congress, apparently unprepared for his now-infamous sojourn into the holy waters, went in au naturel.

The news was properly announced Washington-style — like trumpets blaring upon the queen’s entry — with urgent “Breaking News” alerts, followed up by meticulously reported accounts complete with unnamed sources and an official probe by authorities. And, finally, the kill shot: a remorseful statement from the free-swimming congressman.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the Beltway media’s idea of a conservative, spat condemnation on his party.

“This is so bad for the Republican Party,” he moaned on his morning show, which is highly popular among Beltway types.

He suggested the foray into the sea was some kind of desecration of a “sacred religious site for evangelicals.”

The fallout, Mr. Scarborough predicted, “reverberates from church to church, from pew to pew, from family to family, from preacher to preacher.”

And, Code Red among these people: “This is a base problem,” Mr. Scarborough declared. “They have offended their base.”

Mark Halperin, a frequent guest on Mr. Scarborough’s chat show, wondered humorlessly whether President Obama or Nancy Pelosi would weigh in on this crucial and dastardly deed and turn it into an issue on which to campaign. That, Mr. Halperin declared, “could drive this into the fall.”

The MSNBC host even compared the situation to the notorious House page “sexting” scandal that brought down ex-Rep. Mark Foley in 2006 and was the precursor to waves of GOP losses later that year.

Boy, these people really need to climb out of their television sets, get some fresh air and maybe get out of town a little.

Don’t get me wrong. Skinny-dipping overseas isn’t exactly the campaign commercial you want to run for Congress on, but the notion that leaping into the Sea of Galilee is somehow an offense that churches and synagogues all over the country are suddenly fretting about seems a wee bit overblown.

I mean, where I am from, if you were to pass the Sea of Galilee and NOT leap in, you would be eyed with great suspicion for your lack of enthusiasm over one of the holiest sites in Christendom. And to miss the chance to dunk thyself in the very waters that Jesus walked upon?

It would be about as scandalous as crossing the River Jordan without stopping the motorcade to sample the waters that baptized Christ himself!

The mere fact that the congressman jumped into the Sea of Galilee wearing only what God gave him is worth little more than a chuckle. I seriously doubt it will be a major topic of conversation with Peter at the Pearly Gates.

This occurred in the town of Tiberias in northern Israel. Today, it is basically a resort town revolving around, well, swimming in the Sea of Galilee. As for swimming naked in the moonlight, it can’t be nearly as offensive as some of the tight fig-leaf numbers Europeans tend to wear in the broad daylight at the beach.

Even by Washington scandal standards, this is no Wilbur Mills with his “Argentine Firecracker” splashing about in the Tidal Basin. And certainly no Mark Foley situation.

The only serious question about the whole affair is why on earth the FBI was, as reported, investigating such trivial nonsense by a congressman nobody outside of Kansas had ever heard of?

It raises alarming questions about why Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. would deploy scarce and valuable resources investigating members of Congress over such foolishness — especially at a time when Mr. Holder finds himself under such harsh and justifiable scrutiny from Congress over his disastrous and quite possibly dishonest handling of the botched, deadly and illegal transport of U.S. guns into the hands of Mexican drug warlords.

But, alas, we are talking about Washington. Don’t expect the media to track down answers to such serious questions. They are too busy ferreting out the story of some no-name congressman who bared his backside in the darkness 6,000 miles away last year.

Charles Hurt can be reached at charleshurt@live.com.