Jim Moran is very sorry. The congressman from Northern Virginia is often sorry. He is sorry about the things he says, the money he takes, the people he insults.
On the eve of war, Moran tells an audience: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."
It doesn't matter whether you think this war would be right or wrong: What we have here is a United States congressman endorsing and spreading one of the oldest and most pernicious myths in the annals of ethnic hatred: It's those all-powerful Jews.
Jack Moline, rabbi of Agudas Achim synagogue in Alexandria, knows that Moran is much beloved by many of his constituents. "I like him, too," says Moline. But yesterday the rabbi -- along with many other Jewish leaders -- called on Moran to resign. "He feels compelled to speak up for groups that do not have a spokesperson," Moline says. "He considers the Palestinians one of the most oppressed groups in the world, and I would agree. But it's not necessary to bash Jews to support the human rights of others."
Blanket assertions about Jewish influence ring all the wrong bells for many Jews. It's easy to recall why: In January 1939, Adolf Hitler told the German parliament, "If international Jewish financiers inside and outside Europe again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war, the result will not be . . . the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe."
Moran's excuse for his remarks ignores the fact that American Jews are as split over war with Iraq as any other Americans. He ignores that it is a born-again Christian president who is leading the charge to battle. The congressman offers this: He spewed stereotypes about American Jews only because his questioner identified herself as Jewish. Hey, he says, my own daughter is marrying a Jew and converting to Judaism.
Back in 2000, after he grabbed an 8-year-old black boy in an Alexandria parking lot and hauled him off, kicking and screaming, Moran's version was that the manhandling had nothing to do with the boy's race but was only an impulsive reaction to a threat from the boy. The 8-year-old boy. Hey, Moran said, I'm no bigot: My own children went to schools that were majority African American.
Later that year, Moran was shamed into giving back $25,000 he had borrowed from drug company lobbyist Terry Lierman. Moran signed the note on that loan five days before he signed up to co-sponsor a bill to help Lierman's client extend its monopoly on the allergy drug Claritin. Hey, Moran said, the loan was just a personal favor from an old friend.
Moran has repeatedly taken money from people with whom he does political business -- such as a $447,000 loan from a credit company that was pushing bankruptcy legislation that Moran signed on to support four days after he got the moola.
Moran's history as a brawler goes way back. There was his 1995 shoving match on the House floor with Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), a threat to punch Dan Burton (R-Ind.) in the nose and a nasty confrontation with his wife, who quickly sought a divorce.
It will be argued that Moran's constituents do not mind their congressman's misdeeds. They routinely reelect him by handsome margins. He draws only token opposition from the Republicans and none from fellow Democrats.
It will also be argued that Moran is a rare, valuable advocate for Muslims in this country -- also true. But it is not necessary to blame American Jews to give American Muslims the support they deserve. Religious minorities come here for the promise of a life free of official intolerance. The last place any Muslim or Jew should hear ancient slurs is from Congress.
Moran has repeatedly sullied his public office with ugly words, shady deals and a volatile temper.
Accept his protestations that he is neither a bigot nor corrupt. Accept his excuses that he lets his mouth get ahead of his brain and that he's terrible with his finances. That would make Jim Moran a man who is chronically unable to control himself.
Always, Moran is sorry; always, he has an excuse.
He is right: He is a sorry excuse for a congressman.