? A couple of robbers were struck with an attack of honesty in Oakland, California, recently. After zipping away with $110 from a grocery store stick-up, the pair returned the loot with a note conceding the crime, explaining they were very drunk, "did a prank," and that it was one of the "stupidest things" they had ever done. In Washington, D.C., the seat of our national government, no such post-crime conscience is to be found. When the FBI's "Abscam" operation was prematurely terminated (several consenting adults in the Congress had already agreed to terms and were awaiting their "sting" when the case was blown open), the biggest commotion in the capitol was in the race for alibis. Out of the dozens of public servants contacted by undercover G-men posing as wealthy Arab sheiks in search of New Jersey casino licenses and other public services, 8 congressmen and 14 other officials were implicated. There is no report of any of the politicians reporting the bribery offers to the authorities. One reason for the lack of law-respecting diligence, some politicos claimed, was that the offers were taken to be absurd. As Charles Stanziale, son-in-law of New Jersey Democratic Cong. Peter Rodino, details: "I mentioned the telephone call to Rodino, saying that some person suggested paying me $50,000 to get to meet him. Rodino shook his head in disbelief, and the matter was dismissed out of hand and forgotten as ludicrous." No surprise there. We all know that anyone smart enough to have $50,000 would know that a US congressman can be bought retail for a small fraction of that.
? The general reaction in the capitol was outrage: over the FBI's tactics. Undercover operations against mobsters and drug traffickers go on around the clock, but when you do it to the nation's leaders…that is entrapment. California Democratic Rep. Norman Mineta may have stumbled onto a bit more of the truth than he bargained for when, in his moment of great relief that he had not been one of the low-lifes approached by the plainclothed officers, declared his shock at such FBI procedures. "It seems any of us could have been set up," he quivered. Indeed it does.
? The most novel approach of the wrongdoers was advanced by the esteemed Republican Cong. Richard Kelly. Ascending from the Florida swamps just long enough to stuff a wad of C-notes totalling $25,000 into his suit pockets, the Southern thinker came clean with the Feds and the press after the headlines hit by declaring that he had only taken the cash as part of his own investigation of "shady characters." Did he call in the police? No. Did he report the bribery offers to the House Ethics Committee? No. Did he keep the money or spend it? He spent it—but only to divert the "shady characters" from his investigative spirit, making sure they would not get suspicious about his keeping the cash on hand. Oh, my. How we would have been punished for such stories as small children.
? Why the national leadership went to such lengths in what appeared to be valiant attempts to top Sen. Edward Kennedy's explanation of what actually happened at Chappaquiddick is unknown. Their partner in other crime, Rep. Daniel Flood, has been able to pull a clean $50,000 in bribes that the feds know about while spending not even a lunch break in jail—and suffering a fine of only $25,000, half of what he stole. In copping a plea to conspiracy in exchange for rolling the much more serious (felonious) counts of bribery and perjury down the chute, the mustachioed crook claimed, "I don't think I have the physical or intellectual resources to defend myself adequately." A more subtle feel for the language has never been had.
? A couple who cannot conceive a child on their own has been enjoined from paying a woman to conceive their baby through artificial insemination and bearing the child for them. The Detroit family wanted to hire the woman by paying her medical expenses plus $5,000 in exchange for a promise to give up the newborn for their adoption. The Michigan attorney general's office fought the request on the grounds that it would lead to such evils as "baby bartering" and a "commercial market for babies." That a government which subsidizes the purchase of abortions should outlaw this sort of voluntarism is nothing short of a phenomenon. Here a couple not blessed by nature can solve the most crushing of problems, a woman can perform heroic duties and emerge with what she values as a profitable transaction, and a baby is born into a family that has proven in the most direct manner possible that this child is not an unwanted accident. What could be a more deliberate satisfaction of the wants and desires of all parties concerned? And to this Judge Roman S. Gribbs rules, "The evils attendant to the mix of lucre and the adoption process are self-evident and the temptations of dealing in 'money market babies' exist whether the parties be strangers or friends." Let there be no dismay. That such a marvelously beneficial exchange should be chastised as crass commercialism is simply the reductio ad absurdum of the age-old view that the system of voluntary trade is, at bottom, exploitation. Judge Gribbs may be a grim and despicable character, but his philosophy says nothing more than that which was embodied in the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".