Thursday, May 21, 2009

SAY WHAT? A Week of Legislators' Gaffes

What is it with powerful legislators who simply do not know when to shut up? This past week or so has been rife with regretful comments from some of our highest profile government elite. Some examples:

Vice President Joe Biden: At the recent Washington Gridiron Dinner, Biden (below, right) inexplicably revealed that under the Vice-Presidential residence at the Naval Observatory is a secure bunker where his predecessor, Dick, was sent for safety during the 9/11 debacle. What on earth would possess a guy with Biden’s decades of experience and awareness of the critical importance of secrecy about such things to let this out? A few too many martinis, perhaps? According to the New York Post, not only did the VP reveal the location, he rambled on with a detailed description of the place. It begs the question: Now that the entire world knows of this “undisclosed location,” where would Biden go in the event of another national security crisis? I’m thinking a suite at the Hay Adams Hotel perhaps?

Nancy Pelosi (below - illustration by Darrow, New York Magazine) has never been the darling of a majority of Democrats, but her latest foot in mouth moment really seals the deal for some of us. As to whether the CIA revealed to her and other members of Congress the details of alleged waterboarding used on accused terrorists, Pelosi said, “They mislead us all the time.” When pressed further about whether she means that the CIA lies to her, the Speaker of the House said, “Yes.” Now, here we have the person who is second in line for the Presidency of the United States, alienating the country’s highest level civilian intelligence agency. One wonders what would happen if Madame Speaker was suddenly elevated to the Presidency during a national security crisis, and fully unable to collaborate with the country’s highest level security organization. Did she just not consider that, or is it possible Pelosi is simply not the right person for her current position? Legislators on both sides of the aisle are now asking that exact question.

David Carney is a political strategist in the employ of Texas Governor Rick Perry. This week, Carney said the GOP should not “open itself up like a whorehouse” to new voters. David, David, David….don’t say “GOP” and “whorehouse” in the same breath, especially when you’re already working for a guy who has stirred up enough controversy for a lifetime with his own Texas secession from the U.S. comments. By mid-week, reaction to the thoughtless gaffe ranged from alluding to “the best little whorehouse in Texas,” to the more serious response from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s camp. Hutchinson (pictured above, right, alongside Perry) reportedly has her eye on the Governor’s seat. Perry & Co. may have just given her an unexpected boost.

I find it interesting that all of these individuals are of a generation that did not really grow up in the world of instant digital communication. It seems that so many people born before or during the mid-20th century still don’t get it: If you are a high profile person and you say something stupid, it travels the entire globe in a millisecond. The media is now necessarily predatory because of constantly increasing competition and the need to find the perfect sound bite to attract the consumer’s attention. A Speaker of the House who outrightly criticizes a national security agency does so at her own career peril. A Vice-President who does not understand the need for confidentiality does so at his own personal peril, and a Governor who cannot reign in his own strategists may do so at the expense of his own political future.

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