- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

This little tickler, courtesy of a friend and longtime D.C. politico: "How do you define a gaffe? That's when a politician puts his foot in his mouth by saying exactly what he means."
That joke circulated during the infamous flap over Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott's segregationist faux pas. But doesn't it brings to mind someone else with loose lips? Say, Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat?
"I've got to be more careful in the future to not say things I don't believe," is the turnabout statement the incorrigible congressman made to The Washington Times.
In his latest lapse, Mr. Moran flippantly chastened what he perceived as the influence the Jewish community holds over American foreign policy and the Bush administration's push for war.
"I made some insensitive remarks that I deeply regret," Mr. Moran said after his comments were disclosed. "I apologize for any pain these remarks have caused to members of the Jewish faith and any other individuals."
Said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat: "I think he said a stupid thing. I think Mr. Moran thinks he said a stupid thing. If we all resigned every time we said a stupid thing, we'd all be gone."
We pay these guys? Indeed, Mr. Moran has no record to demonstrate anti-Semitism, and his rhetorical support of the Palestinians' plight offers a different voice in the Middle East debate. Still, no matter how much Mr. Moran's comments are being defended by some witnesses after the fact, those accusatory words against Jews were inappropriate and inexcusable.
Digging his political grave even deeper, Mr. Moran, 57, said in response to subsequent calls for his ouster by Jewish leaders and a host of congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle: "I don't plan on resigning, but I do not criticize them for saying I should."
Who is "them"? Possibly the voters of Virginia's 8th Congressional District, including yours truly, who have had enough of Madman Moran's misdeeds and meandering? After all, for lack of a better analogy, Mr. Moran is, in some embarrassing aspects, Northern Virginia's Marion Barry.
Hey, does anyone remember when Mr. Moran, then the mayor of Alexandria, boldly challenged Mr. Barry, then mayor of the District, to a boxing match? Ahhh, my memory's a little hazy here, but didn't the Boston Bomber threaten to punch one of his colleagues in the nose?
"I know all of Jim's history," said Laura Ross Brown Miller, who has been active in Democratic politics nationally and in Alexandria since 1972.
"It's time somebody got on him. They should have gotten him on the money issue," she said referring to a questionable real estate loan Mr. Moran received last year from a congressional lobbyist.
In fact, Mrs. Miller said she hosted the first fund-raiser for Mr. Moran when he bucked the local party, "calling it irrelevant," and ran for mayor against the Democrats' chosen candidate, Chuck Beatley. "None of the Democrats showed up, because they were afraid to come," she said, adding, that "the black community raised [Mr. Moran] from ashes to become mayor." When it came time to return the favor, when Mrs. Miller was selected by Alexandria's black ministers to seek a seat in the House of Delegates in the Virginia General Assembly, Mr. Moran did not return the favor.
"Every time he's been in trouble, he has skated on it and gotten out of it," she said. "I think he's in big trouble now."
At a Wednesday evening fund-raiser to support City Council member William Euille's bid for mayor, held at the Old Town home of former Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer, Mrs. Miller said the Moran morass was all the buzz. So too was the "vulnerability" of the Democrats as a whole and Mr. Moran in particular.
The 8th District, which used to be the province of predominantly liberal Alexandria and Arlington Democrats, was redrawn last year to include portions of Fairfax County and is now seen as ripe for a Republican challenger.
Mr. Beyer, Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine K. Hanley and state Sen. Leslie Byrne are being mentioned as potential party challengers in 2004. "Everybody was asking Don to run, but he would only say he'd think about it," said Mrs. Miller, who supports the popular auto dealer.
Mrs. Miller said Mr. Moran has been "given a pass" because at least there was a Democrat in the seat. "But if a Democrat doesn't challenge [Mr. Moran] this time, a Republican will, and a Republican will win."
Few of her party members are willing to take that chance. "He's made too many mistakes," said Mrs. Miller, who hasn't voted for Mr. Moran since he first ran for Congress more than a decade ago.
It's time for new blood. It is a healthy political development for residents of the 8th District to finally have the field of candidates forced wide open so we can have better choices.
Here a disclosure: As a private citizen, and a registered independent, I cast a protest vote against Mr. Moran in the last election.
Mr. Moran ceased to be a real representative of his constituents when, like Mr. Barry, he allowed his personal problems to overshadow his public responsibilities. Like Mrs. Miller, I was skeptical of his extraordinary explanation of the loans.
His neighbors have reportedly complained of late-night parties and public disturbances.
More important, as a woman who knows of spousal abuse, I was deeply troubled by his former wife's accusations of mental and physical mistreatment. I have zero tolerance for even the slightest hint of abusive behavior.
Who can forget Mr. Moran's unwarranted outburst when he grabbed an 8-year-old Alexandria boy, who loved automobiles and made a comment about the congressman's car? Mr. Moran disparaged the black child and had him taken into police custody.
About the only good mark on the Moran record of late which I duly noted in a previous column was his championing the cause of displaced, low-wage airport and tourist workers after the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, which closed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for weeks. He pushed and helped get their unemployment benefits extended.
When the bad surpasses the good, it's time for a change. That's no passing joke.

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