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It's no mystery why Zach Wamp's opponents are reduced to straw-grabbing zaniness in their efforts to smear him. He is capable and well-regarded as a congressman, and he regularly nets two-thirds or more of the votes in his district. What's left for the critics but hyperactive nitpicking?

Recall - if you can - the madcap attempt months ago to link Rep. Wamp to segregationists after he pointed out what was apparently news to his detractors: that the Constitution limits the power of the federal government. That line of attack got all the traction of a banana peel on a marble floor.

But in further adventures at Petty-Coat Junction, we now have this blistering quibble against Rep. Wamp: that he is paying "only" $600 - plus board and other expenses - to rent an 8-by-10-foot room in Washington for the six or seven nights he stays there each month. A "shadowy religious organization" owns the house, the obscure grumblers say, and is part of this dastardly, supposedly below-market intrigue. Purported co-conspirators include not only Republicans but equally shadow-loving Democrats such as Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina.

Among other nefarious deeds by the group that owns the building is sponsorship of that creepiest of creepy assemblies (insert scary music here) - the National Prayer Breakfast! If you are not acquainted with the National Prayer Breakfast, let me set your heart a-quail with terror: Its speakers have included notorious right-wingers such as Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and, yes, Barack Obama.

But while we lament the distressing ownership of Rep. Wamp's Washington abode, let us not fail to simmer with indignation at the shocking extravagance in which he luxuriates while there. The rented shoe box he calls home in D.C. is so replete with fanciness that he need only walk to the other end of the house for the privilege of using the bathroom. That's correct, reader: The Beltway Taj Mahal in question has indoor plumbing. What's next? One of those newfangled contraptions on the wall that let you punch a few buttons and talk to somebody miles away?

To compound the monstrosity of those lavish amenities, the bipartisan representatives and senators who live there do not even do all their own cooking and cleaning. The nerve of them! You'll certainly share my view that the best use of Rep. Wamp's time in Washington isn't working to repeal ObamaCare but debating with Bart Stupak and Tom Coburn over whose turn it is to take out the trash and stir the oatmeal. ("Doggone it, Stupak, I scrubbed the floors last week!")

Verily, the blood doth boil to learn of these outrages. But no doubt our stunned, silent fury will find words to express itself.

Just anytime now.

Whenever you're ready.

Don't hold back.

Anyone?

The eyes of Newt

More clearly than most, Newt Gingrich sees through the left's bogus sense of grievance against anybody who questions ObamaCare - and debunks it with his trademark crispness.

Interviewed by columnist Cal Thomas, he noted, "For the mugger to complain that people are objecting vociferously to being mugged, I think that's an act of chutzpah on a grand scale."

No fair

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner thinks it's "deeply unfair" that some banks have recovered after getting bailouts from taxpayers while millions of Americans remain unemployed.

I'll see Secretary Geithner's whine and raise him a foot-stomping: I think it's deeply unfair for a tax cheat not only to be appointed head of the federal department that oversees everybody else's tax collections but then to tell Congress he plans to go after "tax shelters and other efforts to abuse our tax laws ... ."

Guess that makes us even.

To reach Steve Barrett, call 423-757-6329 or e-mail sbarrett@timesfreepress.com.

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