The story starts in early February, when the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal was making headlines. John T. Doolittle, Congressman from California, was getting lots of free publicity for both his and his wife's involvement. You see, John Doolittle has the unique distinction of being the only member of Congress that's actually entangled in BOTH the Abramoff and Randy "Duke" Cunningham corruption scandals -- both of the big Congressional corruption scandals of our time.
John announced he would be going to Iraq to check up on the morale of the troops, see what they need, take videos of soldiers from his District, and talk to them about the war.
The Air Force called up a C-130 transport aircraft to fly them. The C-130 crew was waiting and ready to go as the Blackhawks were coming in, and they got a couple of messages from the tower. "Is anyone from the crew from Florida?" Because Katherine Harris was part of the delegation. (Yes, that Katherine Harris.) "Is anyone from the crew from Connecticut?" Because Christopher Shays was part of the delegation. And the crew gets one more request: "Can one of the members of the delegation ride up in the cockpit?" You see, C-130s aren't real comfortable - there are only troop seats in the back cargo area. The cockpit isn't a lot better, but it's a little more comfortable, quieter, and it's not a troop seat. The crew wasn't crazy about visitors riding up there with them, but you can't say no to a Congressman.
Of course, this member of the delegation was John Doolittle. John sat down in the cockpit and spoke for a minute with the aircraft commander. He didn't say anything to the rest of the crew. Nothing to the flight engineer. Or the navigator. Or the copilot. He didn't ask any of them where they were from. Or what it's like in Iraq. Or what he and the rest of Congress could do to help.
The flight was just over an hour up to Talafar and uneventful. As the congressional delegation was climbing off the airplane, the copilot leaned over to ask the aircraft commander to give John a message. So the aircraft commander went down to the ramp to see the delegation off, and as John stepped off the C-130 and onto the ramp the aircraft commander said to him: "Congressman Doolittle: Charlie Brown and his son hope you had a nice flight."
The copilot was my son, Jeff Brown, Air Force Captain.
John Doolittle sat next to my son for over an hour and didn't ask him his name. He didn't ask him where he was from. (Jeff, of course, is from John's District here in California.) He didn't ask how long Jeff had been in Iraq. (It was Jeff's third tour, and he's now scheduled for his fourth.) And he didn't ask what Congress could do to help him and the rest of the troops there in Iraq.
But I've asked. And Jeff told me, that if John had asked what he needed, he would have asked to make sure Congress fixes the cracks in the C-130 wings, because many of the aircraft are grounded, and many more are restricted on how much weight they can carry, and they're flying the heck out of those planes. Jeff would have asked to make sure Congress gives good medical care to the wounded, because he flies them out of Iraq. And Jeff said he would have asked to make sure Congress gives the best care to the families of the remains of fallen soldiers, because he flies them out of Iraq too.
But John Doolittle didn't ask. He didn't talk to the airmen. They were just his drivers that day. John Doolittle sat next to my son for over an hour and didn't have the courtesy to even ask his name.
My name is Charlie Brown, Lt. Colonel, USAF, retired. I'm running for Congress because we need Congressmen and women who care.
Learn more about our campaign at www.charliebrownforcongress.org.
Contribute to our effort at http://charliebrownforcongress.org/SPM/donate.html