The “Journal of Crazy Things Members of Congress Say” got a new entry last week during an otherwise unremarkable hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee courtesy of Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.).
The freshman has been on the job only a month after winning the special election to replace the coke-lovin’ Trey Radel. Anyway, Clawson thought the two folks with the foreign-sounding names and dark skin testifying before the committee were from the government of India. And he went out of his way to overflow with praise for the world’s second most populous nation. It was downright charming — until you realize that Nisha Biswal is the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs and Arun Kumar is the assistant secretary of commerce and director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.
Clawson: I am familiar with your country. I love your country. And I am hopeful with the new change in regime that the future and the land of promise and the land of opportunity of India can finally become so….
So, I’m enthusiastic about working with you all and anything I can do to make the relationship with India better….
So, just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there and there to be free enough capital so that both sides are on the same territory. And I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?
Biswal: I think your question is to the Indian government and we certainly share your sentiments, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the U.S. government.
Clawson: Of course. And I’m asking your opinion of how they view….
Biswal: Like I said, I think we have heard a lot of positive signals, a lot of positive intentions. And we will be engaging both through the state department, through the commerce department, through our USTR, through our treasury department to make sure that we are engaging on those issues and looking for the concrete steps forward.
Clawson: Okay, let’s see some progress.
The transcript above is from the video clip on The Post’s Web site. I point this out only because it is a more complete version of events than that presented by the clip made famous by the folks at “The Cable” at Foreign Policy. Their clip chops out everything after Clawson says “Of course” and all of Biswal’s follow-up response. The result is Clawson coming off as more of a total dolt saying, “Of course. Okay, let’s see some progress.”
Clawson has since apologized. “I made a mistake in speaking before being fully briefed and I apologize,” he said in a statement late Friday. “I’m a quick study, but in this case I shot an air ball.” Not nearly quick enough. Not only was he not briefed (as he claimed), but he also failed to look at the witness list provided to him or even listen to the introduction of Biswal and Kumar. As a result, Clawson’s case of mistaken identity produced a cringe-worthy moment in race that was gobsmackingly bad — even for Congress.
“It’s extremely uncommon for foreign officials to testify before Congress under oath,” Foreign Policy explained on Friday. Sadly, it’s becoming extremely uncommon for members of Congress to actually know what they’re talking about.
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