‘Freshman” is an odd term to describe new members of Congress who typically range in age from their 20s to their 60s. But it never seemed more apt than it did Sunday, when word got around that a group of GOP lawmakers, including numerous first-term House Republicans, had plunged into the Sea of Galilee in various states of undress last summer, prompting a furious scolding from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
The cavorters were among 30 lawmakers — some of whom brought family and staffers — on a junket sponsored by an AIPAC-related group. While the ostensible goal of the trip was to bring these already pro-Israel House members up to speed on the latest developments in the Middle East, the boozy rambunctiousness in the Sea of Galilee is hardly the stuff of a serious fact-finding mission. Politico helpfully provides a list of who dived in fully clothed, partially clothed, and, in one case, totally unclothed.
But let’s be clear: This is a trivial matter, and a report that the FBI stepped in to investigate only serves to raise unpleasant memories of Hoover-era snitching and blackmailing. Many of these same freshmen made a far worse display of callowness in Washington last year, when they threw the solvency of the nation into doubt by threatening to place the government in default. Their refusal to raise the debt ceiling, a move made necessary by the House’s own passage of an unbalanced budget, proved to be an effective way to show they were opposed to business as usual, without having to make any hard budgetary or tax decisions. It was, in every respect, juvenile. It pushed the political system to the brink, sent alarm bells ringing throughout the economy, and brought about a so-called “sequester” that will force deep, automatic cuts to the Defense Department at the end of the year, unless further action is taken.
Yet many of these representatives actually scored points with their Tea Party supporters for creating a budgetary tsunami. If those same supporters are now shocked by their representatives’ late-night dip into the Sea of Galilee, it’s just deserts. But those supporters should engage in some soul-searching of their own about what does and doesn’t constitute a scandal.