Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country; and if you happen to be from the US, you could do a lot worse than sending a campaign contribution to Joe Sestak. He's running against Curt Weldon, who is, in my completely unprofessional opinion, just the sort of lunatic we do not need in Congress. Many of you have probably seen the story about Rep. Curt Weldon's attempt to discover WMD in Iraq as a campaign stunt (h/t TPMMuckraker):
"A caravan of jeeps and heavy equipment crawls across the Iraqi desert, headed for a secret location on the banks of the Euphrates River.
Their mission: to dig 25 feet down into the riverbed and unearth concrete bunkers filled with chemical weapons produced by Saddam Hussein's regime and hidden before the outbreak of the Iraq war in 2003.
And who's that, dressed in a safari jacket and a pith helmet, supervising the dig?
None other than our own U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.), leading a secret mission to unearth the Holy Grail of the war: the weapons of mass destruction that have eluded every other U.S. search team since our troops invaded three years ago.
Does this sound incredible - or ludicrous? Not to Dave Gaubatz.
Gaubatz said that Weldon intended just such an expedition over the Memorial Day weekend, until Gaubatz put the kibosh on it. (...)
Gaubatz said he first contacted Weldon and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R., Mich.), head of the House Intelligence Committee, to share his info and get them to prod the Defense Department and intelligence agencies to do the WMD searches in the locales.
Instead, Gaubatz said, Weldon latched onto the idea as a "personal political venture" and discussed a Hoekstra-Weldon trip to Iraq, under the guise of visiting the troops, that would detour to Nasiriyah.
Once there, Gaubatz said, the congressmen planned to persuade the U.S. military commander to lend them the equipment and men to go digging by the Euphrates for the cache Gaubatz believed to be there.
He said that Weldon made it clear he didn't want word leaked to the Pentagon, to intelligence officials, or to Democratic congressmen.
As Gaubatz told me: "They even worked out how it would go. If there was nothing there, nothing would be said. If the site had been [scavenged], nothing would be said. But, if it was still there, they would bring the press corps out." (...)
"It was treated as an election issue that would get votes," he said. "I've never been involved in politics, so it was a very big eye-opener to me." (...)
After the meeting, he said, he called a reporter at the Washington Times and alerted her of the plan. In turn, he said, she called Weldon's office to get confirmation. That inquiry, Gaubatz said, scuttled the project."
Curt Weldon is really a piece of work. In fact, it's amazing how many stories that I had filed away under 'Congresspeople being bizarre as usual' turned out to be stories about Weldon. For starters...
there's his participation in the coronation (yes, coronation) of Sun Myung Moon in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. At that event, Moon said that “Hitler and Stalin have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons.” (Before or after the purges, concentration camps, gulags, and final solutions? Inquiring minds want to know.) Apparently, he added this: "In a vision, Moon said the reformed Hitler and Stalin vouched for him, calling him "none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."
Quite a testimonial.
Curt Weldon's staff denied that he had been at the coronation until they were shown this photo of him speaking at the coronation, at which point they had to fess up:
Yes, that is Moammar Qaddafi having a medal pinned on him by Curt Weldon. That brings us to the next point: Weldon's alarming fondness for undertaking freelance personal diplomacy to the world's dictators. For the record: obviously, I have no problem with non-governmental officials acting in a semi-official capacity when the government does not want to be directly involved. (The sort of thing that involves someone supposedly traveling to some country on his or her own initiative, but checking everything very carefully with the government first, and acting at the government's behest.) But if the alarmed statements by government officials that normally accompany Weldon's little forays are anything to go by, that's not what's going on here. He's just jetting off into the middle of various tense conflicts and freelancing. And that's really not a good idea for an official of the US government.
For instance: In the middle of the war in Kosovo, Weldon led a group of opponents of the war who met with members of the Russian Duma and produced a peace plan all their own, over the objections of the State Department. As one Congressman said: "legislators would have been branded as traitors had they tried to negotiate a settlement with Russia in the Persian Gulf War of 1991-92."
"When Weldon asked for a military plane to make the trip, Defense Department officials claimed none was available. "They were saying, 'They're going to manipulate and use you,'" Weldon says. Weldon managed to wrangle a plane from a National Guard base in his district and departed with a delegation of six fellow congressmen. When the group reached Hawaii for a scheduled crew replacement, however, the replacement pilots were nowhere to be found: They had been told the mission was off. (Weldon says he knows who in Washington recalled the crew, but he won't say.) "Now, that's one thing you don't do to me. I'm a pit bull," Weldon says. After angry calls to Powell and Andy Card, the trip was back on.
In Pyongyang, Weldon was welcomed by such iconography as a billboard showing North Korean soldiers bayoneting American GIs. But his visit with senior North Korean leaders--not including President Kim Jong Il--brimmed with bonhomie. "We treated them like human beings, like members of Congress," Weldon says. "We slapped each other on the back, we told jokes, we made them do shots with us." Inspired during a fit of insomnia in his hotel room one night, Weldon flipped on a light at 3 a.m. and scrawled a ten-point peace plan onto the back of an envelope. He presented it to North Korea's vice foreign minister the next day. "He looked at me with a big smile on his face and said, 'Congressman, this is exactly what we're looking for,'" Weldon said.
That, in the eyes of Bush hawks, is precisely the problem. Weldon's plan calls for incremental concessions by both the United States and North Korea, leading to an end to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs in return for a U.S. nonaggression pledge and up to $40 billion in international economic aid. "Most Republicans are flabbergasted he would make this proposal," says the Republican foreign policy aide"
I'm flabbergasted too, not because of anything about the proposal itself -- the description is much too vague to allow for that -- but because, according to me, Congressional representatives just shouldn't go around making proposals like that without very serious coordination with the State Department (and any other relevant agencies.)
Besides interjecting himself into Kosovo and North Korea, he has also gone on little jaunts to meet with Qaddafi, Lukashenko of Belarus, and all sorts of delightful people in Russia. He was also at the center of the Able Danger story -- if you could make head or tail of it, you're a lot smarter than I am, but my fairly clear sense was that Weldon was infatuated by conspiracy theories, and ended up very seriously overstating both his case and the evidence he had for it.
At least, that's the charitable version. I didn't pay much attention to it, since a few months before the story broke, I was stuck in a traffic jam in DC and spent the better part of an hour listening to Weldon talk about his book. By the time I got out of DC and onto the 95, I had concluded that Weldon was, um, not someone whose judgment I was inclined to trust. At all. And that was before I found out that the book was based on one source, a friend (and, apparently, emissary) of Manucher Ghorbanifar. (For those of you who don't remember Iran-Contra, trust me: Ghorbanifar is bad, bad news.) Here's one of the CIA officials who had already determined Weldon';s source to be unreliable on Weldon's book:
"What’s far more important, says Murray, is that Weldon’s freelance 007 crusade to be his own spymaster has ultimately done a disservice to the American people and to national security.
“Most of us [CIA officers] have been consumed with preventing real terrorist threats to the U.S. for the past four years,” he said with a fierce squint. “And virtually everything Ghorbanifar and his people come up with diverts us. I have hard-working people working for me, and they don’t have time for this bullsh*t.”"
But wait! There's more!
* Weldon's inexperienced daughter keeps getting hired as a lobbyist by people her father then turns around and does favors for. What's more, some of them are linked to war criminals.
* After Weldon went to bat for another company, it turned around and hired his other daughter.
* Weldon has spent campaign contributions on dinners for himself, landscaping (landscaping? a campaign expense?), and "some $13,000 in unitemized personal reimbursements."
* And who could forget Weldon's tasteful attack on his opponent's decision not to get treatment for his five year old daughter, who has cancer, in Pennsylvania?
"Weldon also suggested Sestak should have sent his daughter to a hospital in Philadelphia or Delaware, rather than the Washington hospital."
Beating up on someone for his choice of an oncologist for his five year old child: that's what I call class.
Weldon, like Duke Cunningham before him, is not someone we should have running loose in our government. His opponent, Joe Sestak, is a good guy: a recently retired vice admiral with good positions on the issues. He would deserve our support even if he were not running against a certified loon. Since he is, supporting him is a no-brainer. Like Weldon himself.