Pete Stark's Mea Culpa
Close to tears, an emotional Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) apologized on the House floor Tuesday for offending President Bush and infuriating his Democratic colleagues with his controversial remark about soldiers in Iraq getting "their heads blown off for the president's amusement."
The mea culpa, which was strongly encouraged by Stark's Democratic leaders, came after House Minority Leader John Boehner offered a resolution to censure Stark for his "despicable conduct" and "personally abusive language toward the president and members of the House."
The resolution, which Democrats -- even though they were angry at Stark -- successfully killed, quoted verbatim Stark's offending comment. He made the gaffe last week during debate to override the president's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP.
"You don't have money to fund the war or children," the resolution quoted Stark as saying last week. "But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement."
House Democrats were furious with Stark -- a notorious loose cannon -- for taking them off message on the SCHIP bill, an issue that has given them a winning political strategy with voters. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, gave Stark a little talking-to Tuesday and asked him to go to the floor and apologize.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement late Friday condemning Stark's off-color comment, saying, "What Congressman Stark said during the debate was inappropriate and distracted from the seriousness of the subject at hand -- providing health care for America's children."
Stark, 75, has been putting his foot in his mouth for years. During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing in 1995, he called then Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) a "whore" for the insurance industry and said she learned about health care through "pillow talk" with her doctor husband.
At a hearing on welfare reform in 2001, he insulted former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) by saying Watt's "children were all born out of wedlock." (For the record, only one of Watts' children was born out of wedlock.)
At yet another hearing in 2003, Stark called Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) a "little wimp" after McInnis told Stark to zip it. "Come over here and make me," Stark said. "I dare you. You little fruitcake."
The list goes on. (Read more insults from Stark on the Capitol Briefing blog.)
Mary Ann Akers
October 23, 2007; 12:48 PM ET
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