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June 25, 2005, 2:40 P.M.

When I was a kid I had this friend, more like an acquaintance really, who used to go for hours without peeing. He would intentionally hold it as long as he could, until it actually hurt. He did so, he said, because it felt really good when he actually did go. I always thought he was pretty weird, but to each his own, I say.

I write my weekly newspaper column, and this website, because it makes me feel good. I like to think, and to write, and to occasionally say something that someone else thinks might be relevant or even pretty good. I do not, however, write it to please, or for that matter, to offend anyone. It’s about thoughts and ideas that come from my perspective. I welcome, encourage and enjoy the responses and the comments that I get from people who agreed or disagree with me. I do not, however, feel any obligation to argue from anyone else’s perspective.

This week’s column regarding the ethical or unethical conduct of Randall “Duke” Cunningham drew a rebuke from a Sun reader and regular critic, Bob Meade. His rebuke is reprinted below. Mr. Meade felt that I was biased in my column. Well, I was. It’s my column. I’m a Democrat and I am not a supporter of the current President, his policies, his politics or his congressional supporters. That is my perspective in writing the column. I’m glad that he took the time to read my column, and to write a reply from his perspective. I’m sure it felt good. The reply was well written, it was not a personal attack and it was, from his perspective, probably accurate. However, I don’t see it as my responsibility to make those arguments for him and, needless to say, I disagree with him.

More importantly however, I find it difficult to put the comments of Mario Cuomo about stem cell research or those of Dick Durbin about the Guantanamo prison camps in the same category as Cheney/Halliburton, Cunningham/MZM or Delay and his numerous ethical challenges. Cuomo, Durvin and I have a right, just like Karl Rove does, to say things that are not popular with members of the opposing party. Cunningham, on the other hand, is accused of, and has not denied, accepting, at a minimum, gifts and at the worst, bribes from his friend, Mitchell Wade of MZM. Yes, he is entitled to due process but because of his position he is also held to a higher standard than the rest of us. The allegations against “Duke” rise to the level of violations of the public trust. Mario Cuomo expressed an opinion that some people may not like. I happen to agree with him and I liked his article. There is no way to view Cuomo’s expression of an opinion as an ethical issue. My article was about unethical behavior, not about speech which some may find offensive. The former is punishable by law, the latter is protected by it.

What I really wanted to write about, however, is the pressure on public figures to apologize for statements that their opponents find offensive or even mildly disagreeable. The most recent manifestation is the letter from Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, co-signed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Democratic senators from Connecticut and New Jersey, which called the presidential adviser's speech "a slap in the face to the unity that America achieved after September 11, 2001." How dumb is that? There is no unity in this country. Our country is as divided as it has ever been. Rather than being hurt, shocked and offended by Rove’s comments, we ought to do what he would do; use them against him and his boys in the next election. Rove has every right to his opinion and there is nothing offensive or deserving of an apology in what he said; it was his opinion.

Rove, the man behind the curtain at the Bush White House, night told a gathering of the New York conservative party last Wednesday evening that "liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." Conservatives, he said, "saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war." He added that groups linked to the Democratic Party made the mistake of calling for "moderation and restraint" after the terrorist attacks. White House communications director Dan Bartlett , appearing on morning news shows Friday, said that Rove was referring in his talk to Moveon.org. Speaking on NBC's "Today" show , Bartlett said "It's somewhat puzzling why all these Democrats ... who responded forcefully after 9-11, who voted to support President Bush's pursuit of the war on terror, are now rallying to the defense of Moveon.org, this liberal organization who put out a petition in the days after 9/11 and said that we ought not use military force in responding to 9/11," Bartlett said on NBC's "Today" show. "That is who Karl Rove cited in that speech ... There is no need to apologize."

Appearing on CBS's "The Early Show," Bartlett said that Rove was "just pointing out that MoveOn.org is a liberal organization that didn't defend or accept the way that we prosecuted the war in the days after" the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington. Here again, Rove’s opinion. Of course I disagree and am more inclined to support House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who in recent days has been the target of Republican attacks for saying that the Iraq war was a "grotesque mistake." She also said “For Rove to try to exploit 9/11 for political purposes once again just shows you how desperate they [the Republicans] are."

Dick Durbin is also entitled to his opinion, and there is a lot of truth in what he said. Guantanamo prison is a concentration camp where prisoners are tortured and coerced into supplying information to our government. It is an abomination and another black mark on this country’s human rights record. Durbin happens to have been the only one with the stones to say it. If his remarks are truly offensive to his constituents, they should replace him. If he speaks for those who agree, but lack the ability or the courage to actually come out and say what he said, they should reelect him.

Democrats claim that Rove, and his Republican allies, are trying to rely on the patriotic fervor following 911 that facilitated the ill-conceived and ill-fated invasion of Iraq to try to regain support for a war that is increasingly unpopular, and to bolster sagging popularity ratings for his boy George. Ya think? Of course they are, it’s what they have going for them and it may be all they have going for them. Many Americans are becoming increasingly critical of the course of the war in Iraq, and Karl knows it. As the body count mounts, the rhetoric is becoming more desperate. The Democrats need to quit whining and do what Karl would do; use it against them. This is politics, not sibling rivalry. Suck it up. No apology necessary.

June 25, 2005, 2:41 A.M.

Reprint of Robert Meade's letter from the June 23, 2005 issue of the Laconia Daily Sun:

To the editor:

One again, the Tuesday, now Wednesday, pundit has chosen to verbally convict a Republican, without the benefit of due process. This time, his assault was on Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Republican Representative for Califoria’s 50th district.

Mr. Cunningham is under investigation concerning real estate transactions; the sale and purchase of a home and the use of rental property, and whether those transactions influenced his votes for a defense contractor. It should be noted that vitually every Representative and Senator does everything with their power to support businesses within their District or State – that is not a crime. Unlike Mr. Philpot, I don’t know what will unfold. If Mr. Cunningham is guilty, he should be punished. If he is not guilty, will Mr. Philpot and his ilk write full columns of apology? Probably not.

Somehow, our friends of the left seem to have the unique ability to overlook the shabbiness so often exemplified by their political friends. For example, I was hoping the pundit would have written an article chastising Democrat Senate Minority Leader Reid for tilling a group of school children that the President “is a loser.” Mr. Philpot chose to bypass that opportunity.

Similarly, I was looking for an article chastising Democrat Senatorial second in command Dick Durbin for likening our military’s treatment of prisoners at the Gitmo prison to that of Nazis or the Soviet Gulags. Again, Mr. Philpot took a pass.

When a bunch of Democrat Congressmen scrambled to amend their historic travel records as a result of charges leveled against House Minority Leader Delay, the pundit was silent. And when former Democrat Governor Cuomo sharp penciled the Roman Catholic Church position on when life begins, Mr. Philpot again took a pass.

Also going without acknowledgement by the pundit is the fact that the current administration has systematically prosecuted corporate executives who have violated their trust and broken the law. This is a significant change from the previous administration where pardon was substituted for prosecution.

Representative Cunningham is a highly decorated war hero, an “ace” Navy fighter pilot during the Viet Nam war, who survived a bailout into the sea when his aircraft was hit by a surface to air missile. He deserves better than Mr. Philpot’s premature conviction -- a little due process, please.

Bob Meade

June 21, 2005, 7:30 A.M.

Ethics Overboard: It seems that Tom DeLay is not the only member of the U.S. House of Representatives who is taking full advantage of the House’s inability to police its own ethics violations. Add Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R) of California to the list. According to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Mr. Cunningham sold his former home to a defense contractor, Mitchell Wade, head of MZM, Inc., for about a million dollars more than it was worth.

The Washington Post reported last Friday that Cunningham also lives on a 42 foot yacht owned by Wade, and that Wade’s company got Cunningham’s support for government contracts. Cunningham serves on a House subcommittee that appropriates money for defense contracts. Wade bought Cunningham’s California home and immediately put it on the market for resale. After languishing on the market for several months, Wade sold the home for a $700,000 loss.

For his part, Cunningham admits that he supported government contracts for Wade’s company, but he maintains that he has done nothing wrong. Wade founded MZM in 1993 and according to the Post, in the last fiscal year, the company had about $65 million in Pentagon contracts, ranking it among the 100 largest federal information technology contractors.

Of course, MZM and Wade contributed to Cunningham’s recent re-election effort and the company and its affiliates contributed nearly $20,000 in “soft money” to his “American Prosperity” PAC between 2000 and 2002. Last year, Cunningham was a keynote speaker at a Christmas party for 385 MZM employees and guests. The links go even deeper, as Cunningham and his family are linked to various other charities and events with Wade and his family.

While living in Washington, Cunningham lives on the 42 foot yacht “Duke Stir,” which is currently berthed at the Capital Yacht Club. Interesting name, it probably has nothing to do with the Congressman’s nickname, though! We may find out more, however, since the FBI has opened a preliminary investigation into Duke’s activities and his relationship with Wade, Cunningham claims to be getting together all of his proof of rental information regarding the yacht.

Apparently and according to reports in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Cunningham also used his position on the defense appropriations subcommittee, which oversees the District of Columbia budget, to earmark $3 million to refurbish the waterfront that he calls home. Cunningham previously lived in the same slip on the DC waterfront at the time of the appropriation in a 65 foot yacht that he actually owned.

In November 2003, Mitchell Wade paid $1,675,000 for Cunningham’s Del Mar, California home. The price was set by Elizabeth Todd, a realtor who took no commission on the deal and who had no experience in transactions at that time. Her first transaction occurred when she was hired to help Cunningham purchase a $255 million estate in Rancho Santa Fe. Todd and her husband are longtime political contributors to Cunningham’s campaigns.

Of course, all of this reinforces my belief that campaign finance reform is essential to cleaning up the influence of big money in politics. What scares me, however, is that the likes of DeLay, Cunningham and Cheney can continue to hold office in the fact of this sort of corruption. I guess what scares me more is that people like Cunningham keep getting elected and keep getting caught, yet the House under the leadership of DeLay seems to have completely abandoned all sense of ethics or accountability.

There seems to be little doubt that Duke is in trouble and his “rental” records should provide some interesting reading, provided that they didn’t fall overboard.

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