Joel Mowbray

Stark stooped to name-calling, chastising his constituent as an idiot: ?Probably somebody put you up to this, and I?m not sure who it was, but I doubt if you could spell half the words in the letter and somebody wrote it for you.  So I don?t pay too much attention to it.?

Near the middle of his rambling message, the Congressman promised Dow, ?But I?ll call you back later.?  Why?  Stark explained, ?[To] let you tell me why you think you?re such a great, god-damned hero.?  (Stark did not call back.)

Maybe a case could be made that Dow, like any American who commits to serving his or her country, is a hero.  But Dow didn?t.  The letter was as free of self-aggrandizement as it was personal invective against the Congressman.

Dow?s letter, in other words, was also the exact opposite of Stark?s ?apology? issued Friday.

When this columnist talked to Stark?s press secretary, there was no chance to get background information or talk off-the-record, never mind a chance to interview the Congressman.  No, the only thing available to the media was a carefully-drafted prepared statement.

Stark?s remarks were a collection of digs at both President Bush and Dow, a hearty pat on the back for himself, and a lamenting of the ?obscenity? of the response to the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Proving that class is beyond his reach even with the benefit of a cooling-off period and staffers who presumably possess common sense, Stark started his statement with a subtle poke at Dow, referring to the original letter as a ?personal letter.? 

The implication, of course, is that Dow was somehow wrong to release to the media ?personal? correspondence.  The two men, however, have never met, and there was nothing ?personal? about Dow?s note.  It was a letter from constituent to Congressman, period.

And what would a statement from a rabidly partisan Democrat be without a slap at Bush?  Stark accomplishes that obligatory goal and touts himself at the same time by announcing in the ?apology? that he is ?a veteran who honorably served in our military ? with no unexplained absences from duty.?

His only regret?  ?I wish I?d used less heated language in my message.?  Heated language, though, wasn?t the problem.  His condescending insults of a man who had just returned from serving his country in Kosovo were.  Rhetorically spitting in the face of a constituent cannot be dismissed as ?heated language.?

Even that worthless stab at an ?apology? was robbed of any meaning, though, as it was immediately followed with a cheap diversionary tactic: ?the real obscenity is this Administration?s continued failure to respond to these acts of torture and abuse.?

This is not the first time that Rep. Stark?s big mouth and short temper and gotten him in trouble.  Last summer, even the famously liberal San Francisco Chronicle all but called on Stark to leave public life for his well-documented ?legend of buffoonery.?

Stark should spare his constituents further embarrassment and simply apologize?for real.  His ?legend? doesn?t need yet another chapter.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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