I hate it when politics sullies the memory of a favorite
film but I couldn’t help thinking this weekend about Claude Rains in “Casablanca” being
“shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in here” and then leaving
with his winnings.

What’s that have to do with politics? Well, this time
anyway.

Meet Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Christopher Dodd,
D-Conn.

Conrad and Dodd got sweetheart deals from Countrywide Financial
Corp., a central player in the meltdown of the U.S. mortgage market.

Each senator acknowledged making a personal call to
Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo seeking a mortgage. Then, when the story surfaced
last week on Conde Nast Portfolio magazine’s Web site, each professed surprise, insisting they
had no idea they were getting special treatment.

Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee (i.e.,
one of the people with primary responsibility for laws governing the mortgage
industry) said he and his wife “did not seek or expect any favorable treatment.”

“Just like millions of other Americans, we shopped
around and received competitive rates,” he said.

Uh-huh.

Conrad described his loan application this way: “I called
(Mozilo). I said, ‘I’m buying this property. Would you be interested in the
mortgage?’, and he said, ‘Yeah. Call these
people and we’ll take a look.’ “

Special treatment? No. Everybody gets to call the CEO
directly for a loan, right?

Maybe there’s another movie I should be thinking about. You
know, “Pinocchio.”

— Jim Sweeney