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McFeatters: Republicans search Galilee for the naked truth

Kevin Yoder participates in a debate in Overland

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. Photo Credit: AP, 2010

In Washington, House Republicans come off as humorless, grim-faced budget-cutters, at least that's how they like to portray themselves, but get them out of town and it's, "Party on, dudes!"

According to an extensive account in Politico, discipline rather broke down on a House Republican fact-finding tour of Israel, resulting in "a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff and one nude member of Congress."

The skinny dipper was Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas, where, presumably, the roasting hot summers encourage that kind of thing. The rest of the fact finders kept their clothes, or at least most of them on. That must have been quite a scene -- 20 or so dripping wet American VIPs traipsing across the lobby of the Scots Hotel in Tiberias -- except, of course, for Yoder who had the foresight to keep his clothes dry.

The trip was sponsored by the pro-Israel American Israel Educational Foundation, which spent about $10,000 a head to help the lawmakers, their wives and aides find facts. The foundation set them up with meetings with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Shimon Peres, other top officials, and even the Palestinian prime minister.

House Republican leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy were the senior members on the trip but both left the festivities at the seaside restaurant before the group collectively decided that jumping in the water was a good idea.

Cantor does not seem like a candidate for that kind of unfettered fun and the next morning he is said to have chewed out the group for undermining the seriousness of the trip.

The fact that this incident happened in August 2011, and is only just now coming to light, probably points out how embarrassing the Republican leadership found the whole episode.

Galilee was where Jesus is said to have walked on the water. If one of the House Republicans had done the same, we would presumably have heard about it by now. It is also Israel's largest source of fresh water, but if Republicans jumping into their drinking water bothered them, they were too polite to bring it up.

And if the Republicans turned up any facts on their fact-finding tour -- other than keep your swimsuit on -- we're still waiting to hear them.

Dale McFeatters is a senior writer for the Scripps Howard News Service.