Sunday, December 11, 2005

Duke's Promotion

Sunday's North County Times banners its opinion sections with a Thomas Oliphant column that appeared earlier in the week in the Boston Globe. Oliphant promoted Cunningham from a lowly Duke to "the king of congressional corruption". Far more of a promotion than the capability and leadership challenged Cunningham ever received during his tenure in the military. For San Diego county readers, Oliphant provides the view of Cunningham that most people outside his district held.

"Those of us who have derived comic relief from Cunningham's career know that this guy would screw up a two-car motorcade. Frustration looms, however, because the House leadership's ''ethics" machinery has been so completely and intentionally crippled that we will have to depend on the obligation in Cunningham's plea agreement to sing like a canary, and that means depending on Cunningham -- always a lousy bet."

More telling is Oliphant's juxtaposition of Cunningham's attacks on John Kerry for his opposition to the war in Iraq while Cunningham was pocketing huge bribes from defense contractors. Cunningham's patriotism seemed deeply rooted is his Republican values system. To the Duke, who's congressional career was itself built up his war time exploits, war was indeed designed for profit.

"In April 2004, Cunningham and Armed Forces Committee chairman Duncan Hunter of California took to the floor to denounce highly decorated Vietnam vet John Kerry for near treason in turning against the war. Kerry had ''energized the enemy," Cunningham thundered, adding that he voted as if he were Jane Fonda.

What no one knew then was that precisely one week before Cunningham had so loudly defended America, he had defrauded America by failing to disclose two $500,000 payments from the defense contractor on whose pad he served on his income tax returns.

In August 2004, as the defamatory attacks on Kerry were escalating, Cunningham affixed his name to a letter denouncing the Democratic nominee that the Bush campaign arranged. He signed it, according to the federal charging papers, on the same day he was cut two more checks for a half-million dollars."

With the Oliphant column on page one, the NC Times follows up with a scathing editorial attack on the congressional Republicans who looked the other way both before and after Cunningham's shady dealing became public.

"For five months after news broke that he had sold his home to a defense contractor at an inflated price, Cunningham was allowed to keep the plum posts given him by House Republican leaders. He sat on the House Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Defense; he was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism...

At a most critical juncture in the war on terror, a man with access to our most sensitive intelligence was in the most vulnerable position possible ---- and none of his fellow congressmen thought to have his security clearances temporarily suspended. A federal investigation was under way into one of their own taking bribes and capitalizing on his influence over the military and intelligence budgets, and Cunningham's peers in the House of Representatives took a pass on protecting the public...

Duke will pay for his crimes: The 50th Congressional District's eight-term representative is facing up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of $350,000, plus the loss through federal auction of the expensive gifts he squeezed out of his co-conspirators.

But what penalty awaits the leaders of Cunningham's committees ---- U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich.; U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands; and U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla. ---- for their failure to protect national security?

It would be too easy to let Cunningham go down alone. While his crimes are reprehensible, he wasn't the only congressman acting against the national interest in this unfortunate and dangerous scandal."

As Oliphant points out, Duke was a great attack dog for the Bush Administration. What we now know is that Cunningham was also a war profiteer and traitor to his country. The NC Times asks why his Republican cronies in the congress of corruption did everything possible to protect the traitor and nothing to protect the American people? It is a good question.