Friday, December 05, 2003

Politics: Smith Recants... Under Pressure?

Timothy Noah of Slate reports Rep. Nick Smith of Michigan has backed off his earlier claim that House Republican leaders tried to bribe him into voting for the Medicare bill:
Earlier this week, Chatterbox urged Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., to reveal who attempted to bribe him into voting for the Bush Medicare prescription bill, which he opposed on the grounds that it was too expensive. After the Nov. 22 vote, Smith had complained to the Associated Press that somebody—the AP report, in a paraphrase, said it was "House GOP leaders"—had exerted "the most intense and strongest pressure to change my vote that I've ever experienced." Subsequently, Robert Novak had reported in his column that "On the House floor, Nick Smith was told"—by whom, Novak didn't say—that "business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote." Smith is retiring at the end of this term, and his son Brad is seeking the Republican nomination to succeed him.
Noah says we shouldn't believe Smith's recantation. I agree. Smith made repeated and specific references to specific offers of money to his son's campaign in exchange for the Medicare vote. Smith's change of position is likely the result of two watchdog groups filing complaints with the Justice Department alleging bribery based on Smith's earlier statements. It's hard to disagree with the statement of one of the group's leaders: "The attempted bribery and extortion of a member of Congress on the House floor destroys the heart of our democracy." Smith presumably doesn't want to get himself in any deeper with party leaders already fuming over his "betrayal" on Medicare.

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