“It’s extremely uncommon for foreign officials to testify before Congress under oath. Even so, it’s unclear if at any point Clawson realized his mistake, despite the existence of a witness list distributed to the various members detailing Biswal and Kumar’s positions. Clawson’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“During the hearing, he repeatedly touted his deep knowledge of the Indian subcontinent and his favorite Bollywood movies. None of his fellow colleagues publicly called him out on the oversight—perhaps going easy on him because he’s the new guy.”
Until last week, if you had heard of Rep. Curt Clawson (R), the congressman from Florida’s Nineteenth Congressional District, it probably would have been because he was the second string, the backup, the special election favorite to replace fallen Tea Party angel Trey Radel.
That was then. John Hudson of Foreign Policy explains what boosted the Bonita Springs backbencher’s profile:
In an intensely awkward congressional hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday, freshman Rep. Curt Clawson misidentified two senior U.S. government officials as representatives of the Indian government.
The two officials, Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, are Americans who hold senior positions at the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively. Although both Biswal and Kumar were introduced as U.S. officials by the chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, Clawson repeatedly asked them questions about “your country” and “your government,” in reference to the state of India.
“I’m familiar with your country; I love your country,” the Florida Republican said. “Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I’m willing and enthusiastic about doing so.”
Apparently confused by their Indian surnames and skin color, Clawson also asked if “their” government could loosen restrictions on U.S. capital investments in India.
Yes. Really. And what really hurts is that we all know it doesn’t end there.
There is a stock-still moment in the playback, as the witnesses from State and Commerce, taken aback by not only the question, but also the insane ignorance and haughty comfort shown by the Distinguished Gentleman from Florida’s Nineteenth, the spirit of Fort Myers, Lee County, and environs.
As the saying goes, America’s Wang.
Or, as Steve Benen explains:
Clawson added, “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. I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”
After an uncomfortable pause and befuddled looks, Biswal, the American official from the U.S. State Department, told the Florida congressman, “I think your question is to the Indian government.”
Kudos to Biswal for showing great restraint. If I were in her shoes, a variety of other responses might have come to mind.
But here’s the kicker: Clawson didn’t apologize. He apparently didn’t even realize that he’d made a mistake. After Biswall gently tried to set him straight, the GOP lawmaker simply said, “OK, let’s see some progress.”
Yes! Really! Hence the Smarmy One in that moment of absolute, crystalline vice. The self-satisfaction that rises from such ignorance is its own reward.
Hudson, John. “Freshman Congressman Mistakes Senior Government Officials for Foreigners”. Foreign Policy. 25 July 2014.
Benen, Steve. “An ‘intensely awkward congressional hearing'”. msnbc. 25 July 2014.