By Tony Russell

... Read more at tonyrussell.blogspot.com

"Hello. You've reached the Moral Values Speakers Bureau, specializing in providing moral leaders and keynote speakers for your church rallies, political fundraisers, business conventions, and get-out-the-vote drives. This is Jason. How may I help you?"

"Jason, this is Martha Billingsgate from Ohio. I hate to call on such short notice, but we're looking for a dynamic speaker Friday night to kick off the last month of the Congressman's campaign. Who do you have available?"

"Give me a second while I check our bookings on the computer here, Martha. Let's see…. You're in luck. I can get you Tom DeLay. He's the whole package! A born-again Christian, staunch supporter of the conservative agenda, and one of the most powerful men in Washington. But shoot, you know all that. A lot of your big givers already have a history with him, and he has an opening this weekend."

"I'm sure he does. The man is under indictment for laundering corporate money, Jason. Once upon a time Tom was golden, but we'd prefer to avoid his Midas touch at this point."

"After all the cash Mr. DeLay raised for the Congressman in the past?"

"Jason, I will forget you said that, and I suggest you forget that inconvenient fact as well. Do I make myself clear?"

"Sure, sure. Sorry, Martha. Look, let's go with Ralph Reed. The shining star of the party's moral values agenda. Former leader of the Christian Coalition, currently running for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. I think I can get him booked on a flight into Columbus, if you can pick him up there."

"The man has a suit against him charging that he ran a fake moral crusade to squeeze out an Indian tribe competing against one of Jack Abramoff's clients, for Christ's sake! He took millions of dollars in fees and scammed the churches who trusted him. The Congressman already has enough hanging over him; do you think he wants Ralph Reed coming to town? Where is your head?"

"Oh. Well, thanks for the information, Martha. I'll just jot myself a note here to update Ralph's bio. We can substitute Grover Norquist. He's the genius behind the party's economic platform. Your base loves to hear him talk about cutting taxes and 'starving the government beast.' He'll really draw a crowd for you."

"I'll bet he will. A crowd of auditors and investigators. A Senate committee just reported that Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform appear to have laundered money for Jack Abramoff. The Congressman has enough problems of his own, Jason, without importing new ones."

"Come on, Martha, that's just business as usual! It's not like Grover's been indicted yet. But if you're going to be squeamish, let's see who else we have. Hmmm…. I can get you a real stemwinder! Duke Cunningham. Recently resigned from the House of Representatives. The guy's a former hotshot pilot, and a real red meat conservative."

"Who also admitted he sold his vote and influence to the highest bidder, betrayed his oath and office, and brought disgrace on himself and his family. Don't you even read the news, Jason?"

"Was that Duke? I wondered why his fee had dropped. Oh, I see that Don Sherwood, one of your guy's fellow Congressmen from Pennsylvania, could make it that night."

"When he could be out abusing his mistress?"

"They reached a settlement on that choking thing, Martha. No legal action pending that I know of."

"Just the same, Jason…."

"Okay, okay. Let me scroll down here. Say, why don't you use Bob Ney? He's a Buckeye too, and he and your guy have been good buddies since Bob did him a few favors as chair of the House Administration Committee. Bob would probably cut you a good deal on the speaker's fee, too."

"We're already paying Bob Ney to stay away from the campaign, Jason, and shredding every photo we can find that shows him standing on a golf course with his arm around our candidate."

"Personally, I think Bob should have fought those charges rather than pleading guilty, Martha."

"Your legal opinions are noted, Jason, but if we could move along…."

"What about Mark Foley, Martha? He's a hell of a fundraiser, and the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children."

"That's 'former chairman,' Jason. And when the person charged with watching out for young people is actually sending them smutty e-mails and asking for their photos…."

"Hey, don't blame me. How was I to know?"

"What are you, out of the loop? It looks as if everybody else in Washington knew about Foley for years."

"To be honest, Martha, there's such a demand for lecturers on moral values that I have a hard time keeping up with the news."

© Tony Russell, 2006

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