Skinny-Dipping Congressmen Don't Need an FBI Investigation

GOP House members made poor decisions on their trip in Israel, but drinking and skinny-dipping don't warrant an investigation.

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In this Oct. 6, 2010 file photo, Kevin Yoder participates in a debate in Overland Park, Kan. The conservative Republican congressman, unopposed for re-election in Kansas' 3rd District, has apologized for any offense caused by his naked swim in the Sea of Galilee last summer.

Is this what that P90X super-training is really all about?

Some of the House's young Republicans, including GOP presumptive vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, are denizens of the grueling workout regimen. And it shows: Some of those guys are in phenomenal shape.

Imagine how handy that would come in if you're on an overseas "fact-finding" trip with staff and family and decide to have a couple of drinks and jump naked into the Sea of Galilee?

[See a collection of political cartoons on Paul Ryan.]

According to an I-needed-that, hilarious report in Politico, the FBI investigated an incident last summer in which GOP congressmen and their entourage took a late night swim in the Israeli lake—one of them, Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, without his clothes. The late night, the religious significance of the sea, and, OK, maybe a bit of alcohol led to the decision to wade in the water, Politico reported.

The lawmakers were reportedly dressed down for the undressing by their leadership. But really, is this such a big deal? Why would the FBI need to get involved at all? Unless there's something we're not being told, this was just a case of people unwinding (one of them maybe a tad too much) late at night and indulging in—perhaps too nakedly, in one case—what must truly be a profound experience.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

I'd like to go on record  saying I do not want to see any member of Congress naked. Not even the good-looking ones. There's a time and place for nudity, and with the exception of a few areas of commerce—some of which are illegal—nudity is not really appropriate in the workplace. But the hyperventilating over the incident is unnecessary.

So what if they were drinking? It's not like they got trashed and started undoing international trade agreements, or hit on the spouse of a foreign leader. And it's not even as though they were in a Muslim country where drinking is forbidden, or at least forbidden for Muslims and locals (in Islamabad, foreigners could go to the "Bassment," a basement bar at the later-bombed Marriott hotel, to get a drink legally). Unwinding with a drink is normal and can help create a social bond among members.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the turmoil in the Middle East.]

And while skinny-dipping was a poor decision in a mixed group that included staffers and family members, it's not a high crime. If anything, visits overseas can be a good influence on Americans who are way too scandalized over nudity or always connect nudity with sex. I don't want to see a congressman frolic naked in the sea, but that's a preferable transgression to, say, former Attorney General John Ashcroft covering up the bare breasts of a statue in the Department of Justice building.

It's an embarrassing revelation for Yoder. But it's not a scandal.

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