Much Ado About Nothing

I'm shocked. Shocked.  A congressman went skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee. It's an outrage.

Not the late night swim.  The big kerfuffle is an outrage. 

Have we become so puritanical that we hound public officials out of office for minor indiscretions? Or just hypocritical?

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) is a 36-year-old freshman who went to Israel last year on a trip for GOP lawmakers sponsored by an arm of AIPAC. The American Israel Educational Foundation paid upwards of $10,000 per participant, according to House Ethics committee records, Politico reported.

When I worked at AIPAC and later as president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington I accompanied many such trips to Israel for local, state and federal officials. 

These trips are valuable lobbying – some prefer calling them "educational" – tools, and are an opportunity for participants to learn more about Israel and for the sponsors to build relationships with the pubic officials. It’s very above-board; it’s not a golf junket to Scotland.

The days are long, busy and hot. Several of the lawmakers, staffers and family members decided to cool off in the Sea of Galilee.  Some went in fully clothed, some partial and Yoder went au natural.

This raises a critical question:  So what?

Some claimed the swim was for spiritual reasons; no doubt the bottled spirits they consumed were as well.

No laws were broken, the Israeli government wasn't offended by the incident and the FBI looked into it and found nothing of concern.  After all, people have been swimming and skinny-dipping in the Kinneret for at least 3,000 years.  It is one of Israel's most popular recreation spots.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), head of the 30-member Republican delegation, reportedly scolded his colleagues for their misbehavior. 

Instead of all this righteous indignation over a harmless swim, the media, hypocritical politicians, partisan opportunists, Congressional leaders and their constituents should be paying more attention to the junkets disguised as study missions by lame duck lawmakers looking for a final all-expenses-paid foreign vacation courtesy of the American taxpayer they claim to represent.

I can't recall a single leader of either party ever blocking a farewell junket by their lame duck colleagues.

They should focus on their own waste and abuse, not the late night dip in an Israeli lake, if they want to reverse Congress' sinking public approval.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.