C Street House Making Wamp a National Joke


They don't know how to spell his name, but the national media just keep pounding "Zack" Wamp for his connection to all those adulterous Republicans who have lived with the Chattanooga congressman in that newly notorious C Street house. The latest: Politico reports that eight days after Nevada Sen. John Ensign admitted his affair, Wamp took $5,000 from Ensign for his gubernatorial campaign.

Why this is supposed to matter is left unstated by Politico. But we guess it's sufficient to understand that it's bad (or maybe just politically stupid) for Wamp, a social conservative, to take campaign cash from a senator who's caught up in a sex scandal.

All the sinning at C Street, which is run by a shadowy Christian fellowship, has become a national joke as well. They've been slapping their knees about it almost every night on MSNBC since it became known that not only Ensign but two other GOP adulterers--Mark Sanford and Chip Pickering--lived there. And we only just discovered another really wacky C Street resident, Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt. He stood on the House floor last week and urged Congress not to pay for abortions in D.C., observing that had such funding existed years ago it could have spelled doom for Barack Obama and Clarence Thomas when they were only little wiggly fetuses. From TPM:

Thanks to its ties to three recent Republican sex scandals -- those of Nevada senator John Ensign, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, and former congressman Chip Pickering -- C Street has started to get a reputation as somewhere between a halfway house and frat house for conservative politicians looking to cheat on their wives while convincing themselves they're still upstanding guys.

And from the transcript of one MSNBC show last week:

SHUSTER: Eugene, wow--that C Street fellowship was busy.


ROBINSON: It sure was. And you know, they were doing--did a lot of Bible study there and you have to wonder what parts of the Bible they were reading. I mean, they--some parts they obviously kept reading again and again, the part where so and so begat so and so and somebody else begat somebody else. You know--and all the lying with that they did in parts of the Old Testament.

What do you think Pith Nation? Is this hurting Wamp's campaign for governor? Or, as Wamp claims, do most Tennessee Republicans still think it's cool that he lives in a house of Christian fellowship? How long before Wamp is attacking the liberal national media à la Sarah Palin? More for your reading pleasure: See Politico and Roll Call in which lawmakers defend C Street and the Fellowship as a friendly prayer group offering counseling, Bible study, camaraderie and a safe haven for the powerful from the terrible pressures of life in the nation's capital. And there's this tidbit from Salon's article on "sex and power inside the C Street house:"
Rep. Zach Wamp, one of Ensign's fellow C Streeters who's been in the news for defending the Family's secrecy, has teamed up with Family-linked Reps. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., and John R. Carter, R-Texas, on an obscure appropriations committee to help greenlight tens of millions in federal funds for new megachurch-style chapels on military bases around the country.

Here's the complete transcript of David Shuster's MSNBC interview with the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson on the C Street house:

SHUSTER: And today, a cold case in the area of politics, sex, and hypocrisy has suddenly become white hot--thanks to a lawsuit filed by the wife of a former Republican Congressman Chip Pickering who served 12 years representing the third congressional district until his retirement in January. In the lawsuit filed against Pickering's mistress, Pickering's wife claims that the adulterous relationship ruined both the marriage and Pickering's political career.

Leisha Pickering claims that Mississippi Governor Hailey Barbour actually offered then-Congressman Pickering the Senate seat of Trent Lott in 2007. And the lawsuit further claims that Pickering's mistress, Creekmore Byrd, insisted that if Pickering accepted the position that their relationship would not be able to continue.

A spokesman for Barbour denies that the governor ever offered Pickering that seat.

But here's the real curiosity: Not only did Mr. Pickering campaign on family values and pushed a constitutional amendment against gay marriage, not only did he call for the resignation of President Bill Clinton, but Mr. Pickering was living in the Christian fellowship home on C Street in Washington, D.C. otherwise known as the fellowship or the Family while he was allegedly carrying on his extramarital affair.

The C Street fellowship home was also occupied by the Nevada senator and now confessed adulterer, John Ensign, as well as former congressman and now confessed adulterer Mark Sanford.

Let's bring in "Washington Post" associate editor, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, and MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson.

Eugene, great to see you.


SHUSTER: Eugene, wow--that C Street fellowship was busy.


ROBINSON: It sure was. And you know, they were doing--did a lot of Bible study there and you have to wonder what parts of the Bible they were reading. I mean, they--some parts they obviously kept reading again and again, the part where so and so begat so and so and somebody else begat somebody else. You know--and all the lying with that they did in parts of the Old Testament.

Clearly, they seemed to keep going back to the racy parts and took that as some sort of example.

SHUSTER: Obviously, Democrats sometimes have affairs, too. But on the Republican side, there seems to be that extra layer. These Republicans campaigned on family values as if they had them and their opponents did not.

ROBINSON: They did. And, you know, obviously, the Republicans have no sort of lock on the market of sin. Democrats, sure, if they were all to be found out, it would balance out. But that is a crucial difference, because it does bring the whole hypocrisy question into play.

And, you know, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Well, clearly, the Republican lawmakers are not without sin. They keep throwing the stones. And their glass houses keep getting shattered.

SHUSTER: As a party, have Republicans learned any lessons about the family values stick or are there still plenty of office-holders and candidates ready and willing to go there?

ROBINSON: Ready, willing, and able--and, you know, it seems to me, almost, and this will sound silly, but it seems the way it's happening, that it has to be learned, you know, one congressman and one senator at a time. After someone is found out in one of these affairs and there's a scandal, you don't hear a whole lot more from that individual whose sex life has been exposed in that way, you know, preaching to everybody about family values.

But it's--it seems that the party as a whole doesn't quite get the hint. It's not that you have to be in favor of immorality as a party. It's just that if you claim to hold yourselves to some sort of impossible standard--well, doggone it, you don't make it because it's an impossible standard.

SHUSTER: And getting back to this C Street stuff at the house, a cautionary tale there. I mean, should religious right Republicans seriously not--seriously consider not living together ever? And on top of that, should spouses now be skeptical when a congressman says, "I won't be home this evening because I'm studying Bible with the guys"?

ROBINSON: I think a lot of spouses probably have already put that house off-limits to their lawmaker hubbies. And, you know, I think one lesson to be learned here--you can imagine an atmosphere that something like the atmosphere of a very pious frat house. And even a very pious frat house is not, perhaps, the healthiest atmosphere for someone to spend those long nights, you know, away from home here in the Sodom and Gomorrah of Washington.

And once again, we find that--you know, it's better if they just, at the end of the day, go home.

SHUSTER: And just like their fraternity houses where things are all fine and on the up and up, there are also, of course, religious study groups where these things don't happen, where they do actual religious study and studying the Bible as opposed to studying, I don't know, other things. Those people have to be the most infuriated of all because it essentially diminishes their work.

ROBINSON: It does. And unfairly, as you point out. Of course, there are--there are Bible study, religious study classes and seminars and groups that get together, and this sort of thing doesn't happen. But, you know, it's a bunch of Republican congressman and it's this one C Street house, it just--there seems to be a tendency there and one hopes we've heard the last of it, but who knows?

SHUSTER: Some of us hope that we haven't heard the last of it, Eugene.


SHUSTER: Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winner, a native South Carolinian, Eugene Robinson of MSNBC and "The Washington Post"--Eugene, thanks as always.

ROBINSON: Good to be here, David.

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