Friday, November 25, 2005

Directions: Open mouth, insert foot

What makes someone say something?

Is it a need to be noticed?

Is it a need to get something off their chest because they think it is for the greater good?

Or is it simply to gain points with a few shallow-minded constituents?

For those of you who chose the latter, you’re right.

Of whom am I speaking? Why, Ohio Representative Jean Schmidt of course…

You know who she is, right? She’s the one who uttered… no wait, change that, the one who shouted the word ‘coward’ towards a war veteran, a highly-decorated war veteran at that, last week.

Did I mention she was on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time?


She tossed the word “coward” at Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.). BTW, Murtha suggested in a speech last week that the U.S. should immediately withdraw its troops from Iraq. Murtha, it should be known, is a 31-year House veteran and longtime military hawk. He’s also a retired Marine who valiantly fought in Vietnam and Korea.

Her words from that day: “A few minutes ago, I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”

(Bubp is a GOP state legislator and Marine Corps Reserve officer who campaigned for Schmidt in the August special election)

After the declaration that Murtha was a coward, the House chamber exploded into a chorus of boos and catcalls from Democrats and, while witness accounts vary on this, some Republicans. Within minutes of her declaration, Schmidt chose to have her words stricken from the official record and then sent an apology to Murtha.

Last Saturday (the start of a 2-week recess for Congress) she went home to her district where she discovered that tensions were still high and the calm water she had encountered when she left for D.C. had begun churning, with some supporters skulking away as she rushes to explain what she actually meant (I don’t know about you, but I think it is pretty hard to redefine the word ‘coward’… but that’s just me)

News and media outlets were not shying away from ridiculing her as “Saturday Night Live” satirized her (isn’t that what millions of Americans are getting ready to do to turkeys tomorrow?)

The Cincinnati Enquirer, (which, it should be mentioned, endorsed her congressional bid earlier this year) printed that she was “way out of line.” Add to that the fact the “friend” she had claimed to be quoting on the House floor last week declared that he had said no such thing. (Wait a minute… a Republican lied about something… about a conversation? Well, I am shocked… shocked to find gambling in this establishment. Shocked and appalled)

It should also be noted however that Schmidt recalls the Friday phone conversation a tad differently. “I wrote down what he was saying. He did ask me to send a message to Congress, and he also said send a message to ‘that congressman.’ He did not know that congressman's name, but I did. Neither one of us knew he was a Marine.”

Bubp released his own statement that stated: “The comments and concerns I shared with Congresswoman Schmidt were never meant as a personal reference to Mr. Murtha. We never discussed anyone by name and there was no intent to ever disparage the congressman or his distinguished record of service for our nation.”

Seemingly, Schmidt also does not understand what all the fuss is about and even sees herself as a victim, not a villain. (Come on… a Republican refusing to admit they were wrong and also refusing to be held accountable… I don’t believe it… do you?) In a statement released to the press, Schmidt remarked “I am amazed at what a national story this has become. I have been attacked very personally, continuously since Friday evening.”

Schmidt said she had not noticed the numerous references to Murtha's military background in the newspaper, radio and TV accounts of his troop-withdrawal proposal, made Thursday, saying that they are kept pretty busy in Congress. (That’s understandable, right? I mean no one wants their U.S. Representative to be aware of current events, do they? That’s something I constantly press on; get the facts before you speak)

The question then is this; if she had read some of the information that was flying through the cosmos about Murtha, would she still have spouted off? Well, when a reporter asked if she would change anything from her speech if she could, she replied: “I wouldn't have used Congressman Murtha's name.” (Hard to figure out if she learned anything from this little snag, isn’t it?)

Her congressional opponents had labeled her “Mean Jean” for the acidic tongue she possesses and brandished in the August campaign. Though now she is probably hoping that the din from this fracas will have faded by next month when Congress reconvenes.

I certainly hope it doesn’t… it makes for some good theater.

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