Thursday, May 11, 2006 | Randy Cunningham was a hero. Period. No two ways about it. You don’t receive the Navy Cross by being timid.
Many individuals in our society today who have never served in the military do not realize the importance of that honor. It is the second highest award our military can bestow. To put it in perspective, take a look at the heroism some of our valiant warriors perform on a daily basis and are not being recommended for one of the two highest medals but the silver star or bronze star. For his Navy Cross, Cunningham outmaneuvered an enemy that was shooting at him from both the air and the land. On a daily basis, he hurled himself through the air at over Mach 2 with people shooting explosive telephone poles at him (a surface-to-air missile is approximately the size of a telephone pole).
Randy Cunningham became a crook. Period. No two ways about it. One of the hallmarks of a military hero is duty and honor. And many years after he served so valiantly in the military, he took his honor and flushed it down the porcelain commode. Both civilian and military psychologists will spend years trying to understand what triggered his behavior. I certainly don’t have an answer.
Cunningham has put himself in to a category all by himself as to the brazenness and audacity of his criminal behavior. Political insiders from the Potomac to Mission Bay remain puzzled as to the notion that he actually thought he might get away with it. Of course there have been corrupt politicians before. But a rate card listing the price of the bribe including a sliding scale that spelled out when a larger contract required a larger bribe? This was a unique situation even in the annals of congressional infamy.
The past is behind us and we must deal with the present. Now, the loyal Republicans of the 50th Congressional District must answer within their political souls the tough question: Was Cunningham’s behavior systematic of the political structure or was it an aberration? And whatever their answer may be, will their disgust be so deep that they will stay away on election day?
The 50th District is comprised of some of the best educated, well-read and informed electorate in the country. It certainly has some of the priciest real estate in the nation. It has been somewhat amusing to see the Democrats crow to whomever will listen that they have a realistic chance of taking this seat into their column.
The constituency of this district is astute enough to realize that Cunningham’s actions were a deviation from normal human behavior. It was not by coincidence that 14 Republicans filed for the April election. This is a Republican district and that party’s nominee will become the elected official.
Having stated the case that the 50th is a solid Republican district, it still begs the question: Is it possible for the Republican to get defeated? Of course it is. History is riddled with examples of a sure thing that went awry.
If you don’t believe me, ask Presidents Dewey and Dukakis. But the threat to the Republican candidate in the 50th is not from the possibility that he will be tarnished with the brush of the actions of the former convict congressmen who was his predecessor.
The true threat, which has already materialized, is coming from his own party through measures they sincerely (I’m assuming) believe will assist his campaign. And they continue to make one mistake after another. Unbelievably, anti-Busby commercials sponsored as an independent expenditure continued to air the day after the April election. What a waste of resources.
And then, incredibly, the same committee aired a commercial linking Busby to a child molester. Hardball politics is fine. But this commercial didn’t even pass the smell test. This type of disingenuous, dirty, smear campaign will backfire.
Clearly the voters are smart enough to see through innuendos and skewed statements. The key is will they simply throw up their hands in disgust and stay away from the polls on Election Day? We will find out next month.
John M. Dadian is president of Dadian & Associates, Inc. a lobbying firm based in San Diego and a political analyst of San Diego, state and national politics. He is also a Marine Corps veteran. You can reach him at