The congressional skinnydipping story continues to get a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder took his nude swim in the Galilee last year at a time when 20 percent of the House of Representatives was going to Israel at the behest of an American lobby group. But the media don’t care about that.
Last night Chris Matthews teased a segment about Yoder’s swim by saying that in sharp contrast to the “legitimate rape” story surrounding numbskull Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin, which exposes sexism inside the Republican Party, this was a funny story, not serious. In the actual segment Matthews played Letterman’s top ten.
CNN is also making light of the incident, getting the comments of nudists.
While Politico’s Jake Sherman was on NPR explaining why it’s a very important story that a congressman was naked. Note that the NPR anchor seeks to make it about the religious right:
SHERMAN: [A]fter this incident happened, Mr. [Eric] Cantor told the lawmakers that they were straying from the original mission of the trip, which was to meet very high level Israeli officials, very high level Palestinian officials and they thought that this was inappropriate, Mr. Cantor and his staff.
[Melissa] BLOCK: And did any of them say there was some religious component to why they immersed in the Sea of Galilee.
SHERMAN: People’s staff did say that to us. They made that point, that this is a religiously significant place. People wanted to cool off. Someone said they wanted to get water for a baptism. So I mean, this is – not everybody appeared to be in the same position as Mr. Yoder.
BLOCK: And beyond the wacky factor of, hey, a member of Congress going skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee, why should we care? There was a comment posted on your website from an associate professor of public policy at George Mason, Jeremy Mayer, who says this, “This is the biggest nothing burger I’ve seen Washington lunching on in quite a while.”
SHERMAN: Well, we appreciate his feedback, but I think the many people who have read the story have been off put by it. I think when members of Congress go overseas and are representing the country, folks in Washington and across the country don’t expect that they would dive into water nude.
Block is right, this is a religious story: it is about Zionism in American public life, and the degree to which our politicians have swallowed a biblical narrative that justifies a landgrab.
Medea Benjamin warned us about this. She anticipated the skinnydipping in the Sea of Galilee in a post she did for us about the political junket here. “Does your congressperson represent you or Israel?”:
But instead of opening their doors to their constituents, 81 members of Congress will be getting briefings from Israeli government officials, touring historic religious sites, and perhaps “seeking a salty dip in the Dead Sea.” Representative Steny Hoyer, who is leading the Democratic delegation, said he is pleased members of Congress have this opportunity “to gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved in increasing stability in the region.”