"The founding fathers, in their wisdom, devised a method by which our republic can take 100 of its most prominent numskulls and keep them out of the private sector where they might do actual harm," P.J. O'Rourke wrote a decade ago, regarding the modern US Senate. But eventually, like the participants in Monty Python's Upper Class Twit of the Year contest, many Senators venture forth beyond their protected environment, causing no small amount of harm to others and themselves, as we've seen in recent weeks.
First up, Mark Steyn on Chuck Hagel, our would-be president's would-be secretary of defense:
Unfortunately, as Hillary said the other day, "our policy is prevention, not containment". So five minutes later the handlers discreetly swung into action to "contain" Hagel. "I was just handed a note that I misspoke," he announced, "that I said I supported the President's position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say that we don't have a position on containment." Hagel's revised position is that there is no position on containment for him to have a position on.
Carl Levin, the Democrat chair, stepped in to contain further damage. "We do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment," he clarified. "I just wanted to clarify the clarify."
Containment? Prevention? What difference does it make? Could happen to anyone. I well remember when Neville Chamberlain landed at Heston Aerodrome in 1938 and announced the latest breakthrough in appeasement: "I have here a piece of paper from Herr Hitler." Two minutes later, he announced, "I have here a second piece of paper from my staffer saying that I misspoke." Who can forget Churchill's stirring words in the House of Commons? "If, indeed, it is the case that I said, 'We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall never surrender!,' then I misspoke. I meant to say that we're keeping the situation under review and remain committed to exploring all options."
It's easy to make mistakes when you're as expert in all the nuances of Iranian affairs as Chuck Hagel. After he'd hailed Iran's "elected, legitimate government," it fell to another Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, to prompt Hagel to walk it back. Okay, delete "elected" and "legitimate": "What I meant to say, should have said, is that it's recognizable."
As Steyn writes, "You don't have to be that good to fend off a committee of showboating senatorial blowhards. Hillary Clinton demonstrated that a week or so back when she unleashed what's apparently the last word in withering putdowns: What difference does it make?"
Which brings up the question that Elizabeth Scalia, the Blogosphere's Anchoress asks, regarding another US Senator who has left the preserve: "How Do We Respond to ‘So What?’"
It is a question that conveys a dare in its follow-up, whether spoken or not: “Just what are you going to do about it?”
In a three day period, I encountered three variations of this oddly innovative argument. Testifying on the deadly attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deployed it against a U.S. Senate Committee in order to divert attention from the single hardball thrown her way. Asked why the administration spent a week blaming American deaths on a little-seen video and reports of a “spontaneous protest”, when the true circumstances could have been known “within hours.” Clinton blared, “What difference at this point does it make?”
So, what? So what if, during an election season, we told the nation an untruth for an entire week, when we could have just queried thirty consulate evacuees and gotten our facts straight in a day? So what if we have been touting our defanging of Al Qaeda while blurring over the fact that Al Qaeda was connected to the attack? So what?
Bill Whittle's latest Afterburner video explains exactly what difference it makes:
Then there's John Kerry, who replaced Hillary as Secretary of State. At the Boston Herald, Howie Carr sticks the shiv in repeatedly; this is merely a sample:
Everyone has their own favorite John Kerry moment, and this is mine, from 2004, when he announced that his vice presidential running mate was U.S. Sen. John Edwards. Liveshot, always a superb judge of character, said this about the ambulance-chaser who touched everything but the third rail:
“I know his skill. I know his passion. I know his conscience. I know his faith. He has honored the lessons of home and family.”
Yes, Mr. Secretary, but did you know his pregnant mistress?
Kerry’s acumen doesn’t end at the ocean’s edge either. Here is Mr. Secretary on Syria and its very ethical leader: “Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region. … President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had.”
On the dedication of the Big Dig tunnel: “This tunnel will be a bargain!”
This is a guy who makes Ed Markey look in touch. Remember when the Herald caught Liveshot trying to beat the $500,000 state sales tax on his new $7 million yacht, the Isabella? As reporters swarmed, he jumped into his Chevy Volt, er, SUV, and issued this clarion explanation:
“Can I get outta here please?”
As the reporters kept pestering him with questions, perhaps because he’s never seen a tax he didn’t like, unless it was on himself, of course: “Let’s not get silly here.”
Meanwhile, the crosstown Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, which, as Jonathan Stein noted in 2004 was joined at the hip to Kerry's hapless presidential campaign, now has a man on his staff: "Glen Johnson, political editor for Boston.com, is joining Secretary of State John Kerry’s staff," the paper reported on Thursday. But then, working for the MSM and working for BHO and vice-versa is a lateral move for both parties these days.
Finally, Glenn Reynolds links to an article that asks, "Where Are The Bicycles In Post-Apocalyptic Fiction?"
Regarding another former US Senator who somehow escaped from the padded room where he could do the least harm, I'm much more concerned about the bicycles in post-apocalyptic, postmodern "reality."
Update: "Hagel may be an incompetent fool, but he's definitely the guy Obama wants. And that should tell us a lot about Obama," Betsy Newmark writes.
Indeed it does.