John McCaslin

Republicans launched an attack yesterday on freshman Rep. Patrick J. Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat who served as an Army lawyer in Iraq — a war he otherwise does not support — who days before becoming a member of Congress "struck a questionable book deal" that nabbed him a $100,000 advance.

And what's wrong with that?

The lucrative deal surrounding the book, which arrived in stores yesterday (already it's "been panned by literary critics, but the literary quality of the book is not what remains in question," states the National Republican Congressional Committee), was cut in December 2006 — just days before Mr. Murphy was sworn into office on Jan. 4, 2007.

House ethics rules bar members of Congress from receiving advance royalty payments, which Mr. Murphy was warned about during his freshman orientation before he was sworn in. The book is titled, "Taking the Hill: From Philly to Baghdad to the United States Congress."

Extended misery

Last week, when writing about a physician-turned-congressman, we recalled Benjamin Franklin's familiar saying that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes.

Texas Republican Rep. Michael C. Burgess argued that from a medical standpoint "sometimes death even seems a little less complicated than our tax system."

Inside the Beltway reader Marc Zimmerman of Vancouver, Wash., now writes: "In the modern era, we can edit that saying to be more accurate: Nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes; one of which you can get an extension on."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

Be the first to read John McCaslin's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.