It was almost like an episode of "Dr. Phil." One after another, a dozen members of Congress walked up to the House lectern this week and confessed their sins to the American people.
"My wife, Niki, and I had been married a year, and we were struggling. I had been through several broken marriages, several episodes of broken relationships and financial problems because I had been living for myself. I'd been living a prideful, sinful, self-centered lifestyle," said Rep. Paul C. Broun Jr., Georgia Republican.
"I am a changed man; I am a new man. I don't have the same friends I used to have. I don't walk the same way; I don't talk the same way," said Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat.
The purpose of the unusual exercise was to encourage Americans to read the Bible during National Bible Week, the National Bible Association's signature event celebrated the week before Thanksgiving every year since 1941.
It's worth noting, meanwhile, that it was a certain goofy-looking gentleman who sports fans often spotted in the background during nationally televised sporting events from previous decades that caused Mr. Broun, a medical doctor by profession, to pick up a Bible and read it. The man and his familiar sign, he said, changed his life.
"I was watching a professional football game," Mr. Broun said, "and as the cameras panned the crowd, there was a banner hanging over a railing up in the stands. And the big banner was there. The gentleman had this big rainbow-type of hair wig on, and the banner said 'John 3:16.' At that time, it piqued my interest. I asked my wife, Niki, what John 3:16 said, and she didn't know. She wasn't raised in a religious household, either. We didn't even have a Bible in our home to find out."
It's been a tough, soul-searching, emotional couple of weeks for Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat, who made headlines after apologizing for suggesting that President Bush was sending U.S. troops to Iraq to get their "heads blown off for his amusement.""I want to apologize first of all to my colleagues, many of whom I have offended, to the president, his family, to the troops," he announced on the House floor. "With this apology I will become as insignificant as I should be, and we can return to the issues that do divide us but that we can resolve."
He then walked to the side of the chamber and for five minutes stood and wept.
Now, inserted into the Congressional Record this week by a fellow Democrat is an editorial from the Alameda (Calif.) Sun, which applauds the "normally calm, grandfatherly and moderate congressman" for daring to say "that paying for children's health insurance should come before throwing money at President Bush's bungling military adventurism."
The editors conceded that Mr. Stark's words "were crude and offensive but his frank oration is admirable."
"Stark could have chosen his words more carefully, a fact the Democratic leadership made apparent when they dragged him behind the woodshed. But love him or hate him, Stark had the guts to speak in a way that most of his 434 colleagues won't.
"Stark cut through the vapid pablum that passes for political debate in this country; the junk-food rhetoric composed by spin-doctors, tested by focus groups, and proofread by campaign consultants and lobbyists. Just listen to what emanates from the mouths of the leading candidates of both parties in the lead up to November 2008.
"Or watch the drivel passed off as incisive political coverage on the 24-hour cable TV stations. Whether it's Hillary, Romney, Guiliani, Edwards or McCain, not one policy or word is uttered without first being massaged and sanitized, calculated not to enlighten or lead, but to win votes without offending any demographic."
She didn't come right out and say that she and President Bush had spotted the forlorn ghost of Abraham Lincoln, but Laura Bush came close this week.
"I will have to say that living in the White House, the president and the president's family that we're most often aware of, of course, is President Lincoln," the first lady remarked. "He's the larger-than-life president that we're reminded of every single day when we walk the halls of the White House."
Otherwise, you might recall that Mary Evan was a servant to Eleanor Roosevelt until she claimed to have seen Lincoln's disembodied spirit sitting on the edge of a bed pulling on his boots. Or that Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, an overnight guest in the White House, heard someone knock at her door, got up, opened it and claimed to have seen the ghost of Lincoln staring back at her. She fainted, of course.
More recently, President Ford's daughter Susan and President Reagan's now-deceased daughter Maureen also claimed to have seen Lincoln's translucent form.