Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Deja Vu


It was flashback time over the weekend.

Former president Donald Trump predicted his own indictment.  I instantly went back to an afternoon in 1992.

Joe McDade represented the Scranton area and the northern tier in congress.  It was the 10th district way back when.  He was under investigation for taking gifts and trips in exchange for steering government contracts to certain groups.

McDade called a news conference to announce his own indictment, before the Justice Department had a chance to break the news.  It was stunning on a couple of fronts.  First, a popular local congressman charged with bribery and racketeering.  Second, he was the one who told his constituents.

Even though McDade was acquitted, the trial did uncover some questionable behavior.  He was living fairly large at taxpayer expense.  McDade kept a nice house in his district.  He didn't live there.  The congressman spent the vast, vast majority of his time at his home in Virginia.

In spite of it all, Joe McDade was immensely accepted, winning most of his recent elections by huge margins.  He had people believing that if he left congress, the Tobyhanna Army Depot would be shuttered in days.  McDade retired in 1999.  Tobyhanna is still there, even though we had a revolving door of congressman.

Some called McDade the "king of pork."  He was responsible for a lot of government spending around here.  The Steamtown National Historic Site immediately comes to mind.  He had the National Park Service take over a pile of rusting junk and turn it in to something nice,  and a source of some local pride.

One of my first encounters with the good congressman was at a tank plant in Lackawanna County in the early 80's.  The place was still cranking out tanks, even though many people weren't sure we needed them.  I asked McDade about that.  He was incensed   He believed jobs now were better than mortgaging our kids' future and saddling them with debt.  I'll leave the final determination up to you.  I dared to take on the congressman with a critical question.  I clearly irritated him and it made for good radio.  My brethren were satisfied to go along on the photo op and the happy happy joy joy atmosphere of that Saturday afternoon.

Getting back to my original point, announcing your own indictment was sheer genius.  McDade got to put his own spin on it, and portray himself as the victim of a vindictive Justice Department.  It worked.  Local voters kept sending McDade back to Washington, even with that major black cloud over his head.

Joe McDade died September 24, 2017 in Virginia.