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A Bitter Exchange: The Letters

The following is an exchange of letters between Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) over statements a DeLay staffer made about McDermott’s visit to Iraq last year.

Dear Congressman DeLay,

Someone identified as a member of your staff is quoted in this morning’s Roll Call referring to “the points [Rep. McDermott] was making when he was attacking the United States on foreign soil.” If this person was not misquoted, I insist that you require him to retract this false statement about me.

Criticizing a President is not tantamount to “attacking the United States.” I resent and deplore that a Congressional staff member would make such an ill-considered remark.

I have indeed been critical of President George W. Bush, just as you were frequently harshly critical of President Bill Clinton. I assume that you criticized President Clinton because of your concern that he was not acting in our nation’s best interests. Because I love this country I likewise criticize President Bush’s action when I believe he is not acting in the best interests of the United States, and I will not stand for this being equated with attacking my country. Indeed, I believe that to fail to criticize actions I believe to be contrary to the interests of the United States would be to fail my country.

Please inform me whether the staffer was correctly quoted and, if so, what action you have taken to rectify this insult.

Jim McDermott
Member of Congress

Dear Congressman McDermott,

In receipt of your letter of October 21, I have reviewed the Roll Call article it mentions, as well as interviews you gave while in Iraq last year, which prompted my spokesman’s remark.

Upon reviewing both, it seems clear the citation in the Roll Call story was perfectly accurate, as was my spokesman’s assessment of your deplorable behavior in Iraq.

You traveled to Iraq on a humanitarian mission, and while there, enjoying the warm reception of Saddam Hussein’s terrorist regime, you attacked President Bush for “setting up to throw out Saddam Hussein,” the very proposition you voted for (H.R. 4664, 105th Congress) under the previous [Democratic] administration. You further accused the president of being willing to lie the nation into war, essentially accusing him of treason, again, while being escorted around a barbaric dictatorship by the dictator’s minions.

I’ve no doubt you love your country with patriotic fervor, Congressman. But your obvious dislike for President Bush — mixed with an opportunity to make national news — pushed your rhetoric over the line last September.

Such vitriol extended to the point where it willfully endorsed the propaganda of an international war criminal at the expense of American interests and credibility in the war on terror. Your words no doubt emboldened the Baathist regime, particularly your suggestion that the benefit of the doubt about weapons inspections be given to Saddam Hussein instead of the national security apparatus of the United States and the unanimous opinion of the international intelligence community.

Despite its hypocrisy and repugnance, your hate speech has become a rhetorical motif among Washington Democrats, a lame ploy used to mask your party’s weak and indecisive foreign policy. The troops, the coalition, the American people, and the greater cause of human freedom would be better served by a Democrat Party that realized the enemy in the war on terror is the terrorists, not our commander-in-chief.

Your words, had they been spoken in the United States, would have amounted to mean-spirited but predictably mediocre partisan hackery.

That they were uttered in Saddam’s Iraq, however, perhaps within shouting distance of a torture chamber or mass grave, elevated (or lowered) those remarks to the sickening embarrassment they were.

Your Democrat colleagues and you had the opportunity to right the wrong you committed in Iraq by supporting the supplemental appropriation bill to fund ongoing military and democracy-building operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Surprisingly, you did nothing to resurrect Democrat credibility on national security and foreign policy; instead, you voted against the supplemental and encouraged Mrs. Pelosi and the rest of your caucus to do the same.

Tom DeLay

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