Saturday, February 05, 2005

Are Archpundit and Mark Caro applauding or deriding the Congressmen who dipped their index fingers in ink?

Archpundit[Larry Handlin] "sort of concedes" Berkowitz is right and Caro is wrong. Will Archpundit bite the bullet and state so unequivocally?
In my blog entry, directly below, I take Mark Caro, a Chicago Tribune Entertainment writer who was sitting in this last week at Chicago Tribune Columnist Eric Zorn’s Blog [], to task. As I put it, “Caro is apparently upset that a number of Congressmen dipped their index fingers in ink and waved their index fingers to show their solidarity with the Iraqis who risked their lives to vote on Sunday and then proudly held up their index fingers dyed with indelible purple ink as a sign that they'd voted.” I went on criticize Caro’s criticism of the Congressmen for as Caro put it “vicariously experiencing someone else's toils on the front lines.”

Caro fired back at "Public Affairs" in a parting shot, on Friday afternoon, as he executed his own "exit strategy" as Eric Zorn’s [] blogitter. I will respond to Caro in a separate post later this weekend.

Perhaps more interesting than Caro’s retort is that of my friend and fellow blogger, the well respected and unabashedly partisan Democrat Larry Handlin []. See the Archpundit entry dated February 5, 2005.

I would say Larry implicitly concedes his agreement with me that it makes little sense to criticize congressman, in general, who take symbolic action to demonstrate and publicize “their solidarity with the Iraqis who risked their lives to vote on Sunday.” At a minimum, Larry states no criticism of me and no defense of Mark Caro on that issue.

However, Larry seems to seek to distract us from the issue at hand by questioning the consistency of one of the Congressmen included in the group of those dipping their index fingers in ink. And that Congressman is one of Archpundit’s favorite targets over the last election season: Cong. Jerry Weller [R-Joliet, 11th Cong. Dist.]. If Archpundit is seeking to help Caro, he is doing so by taking the tack that the best defense is a good offense and Archpundit challenges me by asking:

“Maybe Jeff can tell us how El Geraldo [Cong. Jerry Weller] can both celebrate his solidarity with Iraqis when he got married at a lavish affair where his now father-in-law participated despite his father in law’s efforts to deny the right to vote to Guatemalans?"

"Doesn't that seem a bit hypocritical? And doesn't it suggest that Weller is less concerned about freedom and more about scoring political points?”

Nice try, Larry. But, before we get to Cong. Weller, you ought to make it quite clear that if a bunch of Congressman join together in a symbolic and even theatrical show of solidarity, and one of them has some conflict of interest problems that may also raise the issue of hypocrisy—that in no way dilutes the appropriateness of the actions of the other congressman in the group. Nor does the presence of one Congressman plagued by Conflict of Interest issues justify the silliness of those, like Caro, who criticize all of the Congressman in the group because they signaled their support of the Iraqi voters even though they had not borne the same costs of voting as the Iraqi voters who started the index finger ink symbolism.

Now, turning to Cong. Weller. As Archpundit may remember, I placed on this blog, on July 20, 2004, information regarding a Press Conference being held by Weller’s opponent, Tari Renner. Moreover, I quoted, [and I hope it was clear I was quoting with approval] media statements [including those posted on Archpundit] raising concerns about Conflict of Interest issues resulting from Cong. Weller’s wife to be:

"And, some argue, incorrectly, that I am not fair and balanced."

"But, here I am-- including on the "Public Affairs," blog some news of Tari Renner's (Democratic Candidate, 11th Cong. Dist.) coming up press conference re some of the recent, strange, romantic and re-location news relating to Cong. Jerry Weller (R- Morris, 11th CD). Another case of Republican family values?"

Renner Press Conference Promo:

"Tari Renner (pronounced Terry), Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress in Illinois’ 11th District, will ask Jerry Weller how he can represent the 11th district of Illinois after selling his home in Morris, buying a $594,000 condominium on Chicago’s lakefront, and commuting between Guatemala and his vacation property in Nicaragua, at 1 pm. on Wednesday, July 21, 2004."

"In addition to his Chicago condo, Weller also owns a home in the Washington D.C. area and vacation property in Nicaragua and has pledged to spend time in Guatemala with his fiancée."

Insert to press conf. promo:

"Of course, there are larger issues with Cong. Weller's decision to engage, so to speak. We are told by [] that Cong. Weller's fiancee,Rios Sosa, is a high ranking official in Guatemala (a 10th year Congresswoman) and also a daughter of former Army Gen. Jose Effrain Rios Montt, who seized power in Guatemala in a 1982 coup, but was deposed in another military uprising the following year. Rios Montt, who was widely criticized for human-rights violations during his regime, most recently lost a bid for the Guatemala presidency in 2003.(The Weller-Sosa Engagement adds a whole new meaning to international relations, or indeed to Affairs of State; let alone to is Sammy Sosa related?)"

The Daily Southtown via Larry Handlin at (July 14 blog entry) takes Cong. Weller to task:

"We're not going to try to tell Weller whom he should fall in love with. But we are concerned about the potential conflict of interests that his relationship with Rios Sosa presents. Weller is a member of the House International Relations Committee, and his betrothal to a high-ranking official of another country presents an obvious situation in which voters will have a right to wonder whether he is voting in their best interests or the best interests of the woman he loves. The people of Guatemala and its neighbors also will have a right to question American policy and Weller's role in it."

The above quoted blog entry can be found by going to the archives on this site [Hit the 07.04 archives icon near the top of this site, and scroll down to the July 20, 2004 entry].

Indeed, I would go further than the Southtown and argue that Congressman Weller has a conflict of interest that exists irrespective of what committees he sits on, although his committee membership exacerbates the conflict.

Also, with almost 300 million people in this country to choose from and 6 billion in the world, I would question the judgment and self-discipline of any Congressman who put himself in the position Cong. Weller did by marrying who he did.

I have not discussed these issues with Cong. Weller, but I have invited him on our show and if he chooses to come on, he will be treated fairly and I am open to being persuaded that I am wrong on the above. As to specifics of the allegations against Weller’s father-in-law, I think that issue is rather far afield from my criticism of Caro. But, for purposes of this discussion, I am happy to jettison Cong. Weller from the group of ink spots in an effort to get a more straightforward answer from Archpundit and to see whether he will join me in the criticism I made of Mark Caro.

We look forward to hearing more from Archpundit on Caro.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at