The Spine

Congressman Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts: Pompous, Pretentious, Ineffective. Going The Way Of Martha Coakley. Or Worse.

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Republican Scott Brown beat Democrat Martha Coakley by five points in the senatorial contest to succeed Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts. But, in William Delahunt’s congressional district, Brown beat the lady by 20 points. This was not good news for Delahunt, not good news at all.

He’s serving his seventh House term in a state delegation that is all Democratic (which, alas, it won’t be come Election Day 2010). The tenth C.D. has been Democratic since Gerry Studds won it in the seventies, and Studds held the seat for nearly a quarter-century. The only chance the Dems had of retaining the seat was for Joseph P. Kennedy III, one of the twin sons of Joe Kennedy Jr. (with whom, you may recall, I’ve had my quarrels) and grandson of JFK’s brother Bobby, to leave his job as a prosecutor in Barnstable County and run. But JPK III ruled out that prospect Sunday in an interview with the Boston Globe. I don’t know the man, but I am reliably told of his seriousness, diligence, and wit. I wouldn’t have minded at all if there were someone in American politics who had the gene for responsible patriotism in his blood.

Alas, Delahunt does not. Not even in the elemental sense of reliability as a prosecutor. Back in 1986, Delahunt, now the morally haughty congressman, was the unbelievably casual district attorney in the Bay State’s Norfolk County when Amy Bishop was arrested for shooting her brother. Yes, the University of Alabama professor who killed three of her colleagues (and wounded others) in mid-February had a record. Police suspected she sent a mail-bomb to her Harvard Medical School thesis adviser, Professor Paul Rosenberg, in 1993. And nothing happened.

Her record was clear despite the murder of her brother. Now, to be sure, former D.A. Delahunt doesn’t remember much about the case. Of course. But others do, and they testify to being stunned that he didn’t even order a psychiatric exam for the suspect. His judgment: It was an accident. So Delahunt has three other lives on his conscience, if he has one. But he is one of those people who seems not to be able to contemplate having done anything wrong. Poor pure soul.

Delahunt is one of those congressmen who sponsors lots of bills. It is a way, after all, of pleasing your constituents. But I swear I couldn’t find more than one that passed, and it was one to transfer U.S. property to a town in his district. Very brave. I do admit that there may be others. The fact is that I can’t handle the software programs that help one search for such matters.

The congressman’s career has a continuous thread of more-than-suspicious spending from his campaign coffers. Last year, he spent nearly $560,000much of it on jobs for relatives, lavish parties, questionable reimbursements, etc. But this behavior dates back to the seventies, according to a July 1996 article in the Globe.

Tacky though Delahunt is, he has placed himself in the “progressive vanguard,” so-called, of the House Democratic caucus.

He has slithered public relations victories for Hugo Chavez into American opinion at virtually no cost to Venezuela. And he has exaggerated (or invented), in reporting and prophecy, reforms of Raul Castro following his takeover of Cuba after more than a half-century of continuous tyranny under his brother Fidel. These reforms have never taken place.

It should not be surprising that a slippery and portentous politician like this would try for redemption by putting himself on the side of what he deems the future. What a fool. In recent weeks, Delahunt has at least twice demonstrated his lack of sympathy for Israel’s predicaments. He signed a letter demanding that Israel end the blockade of Gaza when, in fact, the blockade is strategically selective. Despite the noise, there is no starvation in Gaza. And civic life goes on. An article in Sunday’s Globe verbally describes and visually depicts a well-functioning Hamas-sponsored Islamic University in Gaza--more than a little bit nutsy, but still... After all, that comes with the territory. The fastidiousness of the Israeli hindrances are actually a tribute to the country’s respect for human life. Not the reverse. What would America do if, from Vancouver or from northern Mexico, terrorist gangs were arming themselves and routinely rocketing the country with an aim to destroy it? Of course, they couldn’t destroy it. But the model holds slightly different prospects for Israel.

Congress also passed a resolution overwhelmingly rejecting the Goldstone Report and its dishonest accusations. Read Moshe Halbertal’s definitive TNR essay on the Report and Alan Dershowitz’s Goldstone rebuttal, which advances Halbertal’s argument. This is now the ideological possession of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic obsessives. Even the ultras of the European Union have quietly dropped it. Delahunt, however, didn’t vote for the measure. He did what cowards do. He voted “present.”

The congressman was in Israel last week on one of those “fact-finding” missions where the visitors see what they want to see. He went along with a few other members of the House on a trip put together by J Street, the self-described “pro-Israel” organization that does not approve of any Israeli policies--literally none. Well, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, would not see Delahunt and his colleagues. Ayalon refuses to bestow legitimacy on the organization. Anyway, Delahunt went rip-shit about the temerity of this non-diplomatic ideologue. I myself would have no interest in seeing Ayalon. He is a nutcake from the nutcake party of Avigdor Lieberman, who may soon be in jail, and Ayalon’s career specialtyjust like Lieberman’sis to cause embarrassment for Bibi Netanyahu, whom he considers a raving dove, an unreliable peacenik. The Delahunt delegation did not see many official Israelis. (Israelis are already burdened by too many visiting semi-official but not-really-significant American pols, which is exactly what Delahunt is. I can’t remember who else was on the junket.) But they did waste the time of Dan Meridor, who is the deputy prime minister and an intellectual powerhouse in the Likud.

By all indications, Delahunt will not run for re-election. Yet he will not disappear. He’s just the kind of guy--morally obtuse and avaricious, as we’ve seen in his career--who would be ideal for a position in the Arab lobby. Perhaps Chas Freeman can offer him a job.

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