It’s time to recall weird and wacky words our politicians uttered in 2005. Well, a few of them.
With Hurricane Katrina’s devastation still a national nightmare, we can only shake our heads at the e-mail Michael Brown wrote to an aide about looking good for TV cameras. As the storm intensified, Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, wrote about his shirt, “I got it at Nordsstroms (sic). Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home? “An hour later, he went on, “If you look at my lovely FEMA attire, you’ll really vomit. I am a fashion god.”
Not too long after that, President Bush told him, “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.” Shortly after that, the fashion god was fired.
Barbara Bush did her son no favors when she reflected on relief efforts, suggesting many of the hurricane evacuees “were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”
William Bennett, former GOP education secretary and drug czar, told his radio talk show audience, “You could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” Bennett, who opposes abortion, swiftly added that would be “an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do.” But the damage was done.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who is black, was asked on public TV about the president. “Well, I really think that he shatters the myth of white supremacy once and for all. It shows that, in this great country, anybody can become president.” Ouch.
White House general counsel Harriet Miers totally disagrees. She had a brief fling at being a Supreme Court nominee until she was overwhelmed by criticism of her total lack of judicial experience. She gushed to Bush that he had been “the best governor ever” and that he was “cool” and Texas was “blessed” to have him. Cronyism? Nah.
Bush had more nominee trouble with State Department aide John Bolton, a harsh critic of the United Nations. Bush waited until Congress was in recess and made Bolton U.N. ambassador. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said some thought this was akin to former President Nixon going to China, but “I’m concerned it will be more like sending the bull into a china shop.”
Rational discourse was not a 2005 hallmark. TV evangelist Pat Robertson, who once ran for president, was incensed when the citizens of Dover, Pa., voted their school board out of office for supporting “intelligent design.” Robertson said, “I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected Him from your city.”
In other proselytizing, Robertson called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. Trying to get his foot out of his mouth, Robertson protested, “I didn’t say ‘assassination.’ I said our special forces should ‘take him out.’ ” But then he said that if Chavez “thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it.”
It wasn’t California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best year. After calling a special election in which he lost the initiatives he put forth, he quipped, “If I would do another terminator movie, I would have the terminator travel back in time and tell Arnold not to have a special election.”
Another governor, New Mexico’s Bill Richardson, a Democrat eager to be president, long has said he was drafted by the Kansas City A’s in 1966. No, said a newspaper investigation, he was not. He issued this statement: “After being notified of the situation and after researching the matter, I came to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the A’s.”
The worst ad lib came from Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, who waded over her head into the war of words over the war in Iraq. Taking issue with Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who favors pulling U.S. troops out, she told the Vietnam War hero and former Marine on the House floor: “Cowards cut and run, Marines never do.” Democrats jumped to their feet in anger.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a surgeon, said while urging Senate intervention in the Terry Schiavo case that a video convinced him she was in “something very different” than a vegetative state. After an autopsy showed she had major brain damage and no cognitive ability, he said, “I never made the diagnosis. I wouldn’t even attempt to make a diagnosis based on a videotape.”
Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean’s trademark is verbal hijinks. He called the GOP “pretty much a white, Christian party.” He said a lot of Republicans “have never made an honest living in their lives.” In essence, he said, “they all behave the same, and they all look the same.”
One trembles to think what 2006 may bring.
(Ann McFeatters is Washington Bureau chief of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Toledo Blade. E-mail amcfeatters(at)nationalpress.com.)