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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."

Stark apologized to "first of all, my colleagues, many of whom I have offended, to the president, his family, to the troops." [View video of Stark's original statement and apology]

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.)

By Mary Ann Akers  |  October 23, 2007; 12:48 PM ET
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I don't believe Pete Stark had much to apologize for except that his remarks gave the members of the War Party something to carp about and thereby avoiding the issue at hand, children's health care.

Posted by: Gerald Sutliff | October 23, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Ridiculous. Republicans do and say much worse...but they're not pushed to apologize like a wimp.'re done.

Posted by: Destardi | October 23, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Close to tears? Are you kidding me? I understand the politically-driven need to apologize, and I understand why Democrats were furious at him for spoiling their only attempt this year to pretend like they were in control of something. But tears? Give me a break.

And where's a viable third party when you need one? Some of us are going to need a much better reason to vote next year than what we've seen. Somehow the intractable South-Parkian "Giant Douche v. Turd Sandwich" political landscape of 2004 has devolved even further, paving the way for next year's "Quasi-Fascists v. Spineless Jellyfish" traveling circus.

Posted by: Tim B | October 23, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

There was no reason for Pete Stark to apologize, he is absolutely correct, except for the fact that Americans can't face the reality that they elected (MAYBE...) George W. Bush, who is a mentally ill dry drunk, and more, a passive-aggressive murderer who has infused the U.S. government's bureaucracy with more of his sick ilk. They are called Republican apparatchik

He laughs and jokes as Iraqis die en masse.
His FEMA director didn't want to be disturbed at dinner as New Orleans flooded.
Some of his appointed military people believe their 'god' (small 'd' intentional) is more important than their job and America.

They are NEO-Fascists, and must be removed from their positions of power as rapidly as possible!

"One of the most disturbing facts that came out in the [Adolf] Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane. I do not doubt it at all, and that is precisely why I find it disturbing. . . The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous. . . It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the sane ones, have prepared. What makes us so sure, after all, that the danger comes from a psychotic getting into a position to fire the first shot in a nuclear war? Psychotics will be suspect. The sane ones will keep them far from the button. No one suspects the sane, and the sane ones will have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons, for firing the shot. They will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. And because of their sanity they will have no qualms at all. When the missiles take off, then, it will be no mistake. --Thomas Merton, "A Devout Meditation in Memory of Adolf Eichmann" in: Raids on the Unspeakable, pp. 45, 46-47 (1964)

Posted by: The Buffalo In Da' Midst | October 23, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"Strongly encouraged"? Let's not mince words here: Stark was told in, no uncertain terms, that he would have to apologize or the censure vote would go through.

That's not encouragement, that's blackmail.

Posted by: cab91 | October 23, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

First of all, Stark took the words out of the mouths of a significant percentage of Americans when he made the remarks that he did to Congress---the remarks that caused the apology.


I was so proud of the remarks he made! So proud!


Posted by: Rob | October 23, 2007 6:25 PM | Report abuse

These words are the most honest words that have spoken in Washington DC by any elected politician in over 7 years!!!! I wish that I had the opportunity to say these things directly to our "President"!!! :

"You don't have money to fund the war or children, 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,"


Posted by: Rob | October 23, 2007 6:35 PM | Report abuse


I miss the days that we were concentrated on whether Bill Clinton got his rocks off with his intern.

What's worse? A modern day Hitler or a womanizing man in his fifties? WHICH IS MORE THREATENING TO THE ENTIRE WORLD?


Posted by: Rob | October 23, 2007 6:39 PM | Report abuse

It made me sick to watch Rep. Stark apologize on the Floor today... America really is done.

Posted by: Terry | October 23, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Instead of writing feedback for this column, why not send your remarks to Nancy Pelosi's website so that she understands that we don't have an issue with insulting George Bush. There is no need for Pete Stark to apologize for his remarks about George W. Bush. For what the president has done, for the deaths and maiming of our troops and innocent Iraqi's, he deserves the worst insults imaginable. He obviously chooses to ignore anyone who opposes his war policy so maybe if he's insulted enough, we'll get his attention. Anything else falls on deaf ears and the killing goes on.

Posted by: Julie B. | October 23, 2007 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I love all you Bush hating liberals. You condemn conservative talk radio as "hate speech" yet when one of your own engages in it, you not only applaud it, you produce more of it. In the political world hypocracy rules!!!

Posted by: actuator | October 24, 2007 8:08 AM | Report abuse

If anyone deserves an apology, it's Pete Stark! He voiced exactly what a multitude of people have been trying to say.
It's not neccessarily an insult if it's true.

Posted by: Soitgoes | October 24, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Rep. Stark should never have apoligized for speaking the truth. For Nancy Pelosi and his fellow Democrats to chastise, him is disgusting. Who will speak up for the truth and America?? Everyone in Congress is spineless.

Posted by: azbirds | October 24, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Rep. Stark should not have apologized for telling the truth.

Is it harsh? Yes, often the truth is. But it always right to tell the truth. How can you make such a truth sound palatable. It is not palatable, and that is good!

Truth is neither ugly nor pretty; it is the truth. And it is, as Winston Churchill famously said, incontrovertible.

Posted by: rangeragainstwar | October 24, 2007 8:00 PM | Report abuse

It took four years for the Dixie Chicks to be vindicated. Unfortunately, we don't have four years for Pete to be.

Posted by: carlasdad | October 24, 2007 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Lets tell Hillary to step aside and put Pete in her place. He reminds me of Truman, and I have much admiration for both him and Pete Stark.

Posted by: Bert Russell | October 25, 2007 1:05 AM | Report abuse

It is sad to see that the most powerful society in the world is led by a bunch of chicken, who are afraid of telling- or even hearing the truth. If anybody should apologize it should be Nancy Pelusi for having Pete Stark blackmailed to back down.When you look at Bush strutting up to the podium with his smug smile on his face, I think, it is pretty obvious that he enjoys the situation, and is really quite amused.

Posted by: Svend Ove Jensen | October 25, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

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