Congressional Republicans are quick to criticize when it comes to the misdeeds of Democrats, but when it comes to fessing up to their own shenanigans, they're slow to act. That's the only conclusion that can be drawn from a GOP congressman's apology over the weekend for swimming naked in the Sea of Galilee while on a junket to Israel last year. Indeed, it's unlikely Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas would have apologized at all except that the incident was exposed, ahem, over the weekend in an online report by Politico.
Yoder wasn't the only one in the water considered holy by some Christians because they believe Jesus walked on water there. More than 20 individuals, according to reports, took part in the late-night frivolity, though Yoder, by all accounts, was the only one who was stark naked, a legal offense in Israel. Some who participated in the late-night swim have said privately that alcohol may have played a role in the frolic. Imagine that.
The spectacle of members of an official U.S. delegation to one of the nation's most important foreign allies jumping in a lake (the Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake) is simply embarrassing. Even Eric Cantor, the notoriously partisan and outspoken House Majority Leader and senior Republican on the trip, was taken aback by the antics. He wasn't present for the nocturnal event, but he severely rebuked those who were the morning after the event. Then everyone involved clammed up.
There was no public word about the late-night foray for a year. The GOP preferred it remain that way, but the Politico article forced it to deal publicly with the issue. Yoder, no doubt pressured by party leadership, quickly issued a mea culpa Sunday and then seems to have disappeared. He was supposed to speak at a public even in Wichita on Monday, but was a no-show. His absence, though, won't quiet the furor.
A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee already has wondered what "other inappropriate embarrassing behavior" involving GOP members of Congress are Republican leaders "keeping under wraps?" That's a fair question, but one that could backfire.
Democrats are no strangers to Congressional folly. Recent scandals in Congress have a bipartisan cast, though lately Republicans seem to be more eager than Democrats to call attention to point out the foibles of those across the aisle.
Whatever party points fingers, the result is the same. Public opinion of Congress -- fueled in part by scandals involving both Democrats (former Reps. Anthony Weiner and David Wu and Republicans (former Sen. John Ensign and former Rep. Christopher Lee, to name a few) -- is at an all-time low. Given the actions of Yoder and his fellow revelers, it's likely to sink lower.
Voters rightfully expect those they elect to Congress to behave in a seemly manner. Yoder and others did not on their trip to the Holy Land. They are an embarrassment to their offices and the nation.
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