I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.
-- Mark Twain, 1875
When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.
-- Shirley Chisholm
Cong. "Jack" Murtha is a sort of local legend here in Western Pennsylvania.
He delivers the goods, as they say. The pork. He has steered plenty of money into his district. He's from just over the mountain from me, in Johnstown.
Local boy makes good and all that. We forgive him for "going native" a bit after all these years in Washington's corridors of power. He's smoothed off a lot of his Allegheny mountain "frontier-coal-steel" coarseness. Carefully cut business suits. That white hair. A very studied establishment look. Great stuff.
And now he's in line to be Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. A lot of people around here are rubbing their hands because they figure that then old Jack will really be able to ladle out the pork.
I'm impressed with how far Jack's come.
But I just have a question.
What did Mr. Murtha mean that day, January 7, 1980, when he met with those guys in that Washington, D.C. townhouse - the guys with the cash sitting right there in a drawer - what did Mr. Murtha mean when he said:
...I want to do business with you. I mean I want to get the goddamn jobs in the area, you know, a few bank deposits in my area. Nothing I'd like better. Later on, after we've dealt a while we might change our mind - we might want to do more business.
What was that all about?
What did Mr. Murtha mean when, apparently knowing he was talking to men bent on bribing members of Congress, he told them "we might want to do more business?" You can see the whole FBI tape of the thing here.
I know, I know. I've heard his explanation before he clammed up to the press for good - that he was just looking for jobs for his downtrodden district. But that just doesn't stretch far enough to cover everything said in that townhouse that day.
Yes, he has "long experience" in Congress. And, yes, a great military record, blah, blah, blah. All well and good.
Look, maybe that whole Abscam thing was, as the Washington Post has since called it, "an ethical scrape" for Mr. Murtha, a real learning experience from which the good congressman emerged a thoroughly chastened individual.
All Mr. Murtha needs to do now is explain what he meant by being willing to "do more business" with strangers that he met in a strange place; strangers with cash on hand.
Oh, and one more question. Why has the mainstream media, including big local papers in the area, like the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, put forth barely a word about all this?