Any of you old enough to remember Wilbur Mills late night drunken dip in the Tidal Basin with Fanny Fox are gonna love this story. Last summer, Eric Cantor boasted that he would bring the largest Congressional junket to Israel ever. He did, bringing 80 House members. Aipac funded each tour member to the tune of $10,000 each meaning they blew at least $800,000 on just the Congressmembers. There were also spouses and children along, so the entire cost may’ve reached $1.5 million. This is one of Aipac’s most critical investments because it brings into the pro-Israel fold some of the best Congressmembers money can buy.
But apparently Cantor didn’t vet the members for their behavior while under the influence. When the delegation arrived at the Sea of Galilee it dined at a posh shorefront restaurant where members imbibed and the wine flowed freely. At some point, the diners left the restaurant and took a dip in the sea. A few swimmers removed the odd item of clothing but Rep. Kevin Yoder went all the way and completely disrobed.
Since almost all of those who joined this junket are good Christians, a number of them have tried to explain their behavior by saying their dip in the water was motivated by an attempt to commune with the spirit of Jesus who walked on these very waters. It’s too bad Rep. Yoder appeared to have different motives and wasn’t quite as infused with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps he thought Jesus walked on water “without a swimsuit” as Yoder has described his own actions:
“Part of the reason I made that decision at that moment was there was really nobody in the vicinity who could see me,” he said. “I dove in, hopped right back out, put my clothes on and, regardless, that was still not the behavior people expected out of their congressman.”
He said it was dark out with visibility limited to only a few feet, and said he was in the water for about 10 seconds before climbing out.
Apparently, Yoder was too drunk to realize that other people did indeed see him. Either that or he wasn’t drunk and is lying. If he was at a restaurant on the seashore it stands to reason the beach would have been lit which would’ve allowed people to see him. So much for “visibility limited to a few feet.”
In fact, one wonders whether Yoder has a problem with drink. He was pulled over by police and asked to take a Breathalyzer test and refused. Why would a sober man refuse? Why would a policeman even ask unless he thought he was drunk? Why didn’t Cantor know about the weaknesses of members of his own caucus and warn them in advance to shape up?
Another member of the GOP “swim team” was Rep. Michael Grimm, who’s being investigated for sleazy fundraising practices which subjected the followers of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto practically to extortion under the direction of Israeli “fundraisers” Ofer Biton and Ronn Torosian. Biton has just been indicted for his role in this scheme and for a related plot to extort money from the miracle rabbi. While this caper won’t harm Grimm legally, it can’t do much to improve his already slimy reputation.
This incident became public because the FBI investigated a separate aspect of the trip. Apparently, some participants pulled a bit of hanky-panky in how they accounted for their expenses, though we don’t yet know what that involved.
It would be unfortunate if Aipac came out of this smelling like a rose. It certainly knew of the misbehavior. One wonders what other sorts of behavior have occurred on Israel junkets and whether there has been creative accounting used on other trips. The main point is that these trips and those who sponsor them and even those who participate in them are engaging in corrupt acts. I don’t mean this legally since unfortunately these junkets aren’t illegal (though they should be). I mean, rather, that the trips, the enormous amounts spent on them, the wining and dining, the influence peddling–all of it is corrupt. It nourishes the dysfunction which characterizes the Congressional approach to Israel issues.
So the drunken swim is emblematic of a far greater problem: that Aipac can buy loyalty through the junkets and the open checkbooks of donors who fund their respective campaigns to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands (depending on committee assignments) each. The whole thing stinks to high heaven.