“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Are public figures more corrupt and depraved than they used to be? Or has the Internet simply transformed our world into one huge goldfish bowl? Are we now privy to bad behavior that could more easily have been covered up in a pre-IT age?
While it’s easy to rationalize the shenanigans of politicians and diplomats (aren’t they human after all?), we shouldn’t feel too sorry for them. There is life after a scandal. You can run for mayor of New York (Anthony Weiner), become a partner in an investment banking firm (Dominique Strauss-Kahn), ride it out on your wealth (John Edwards); or you can start a foundation (Bill Clinton).
While it’s naïve to expect that ethics improve the way, say, software and automobiles do, it is surprising how soon the lessons of the not-too-distant past are lost on public figures. The upside of this moral morass, one can only assume, is that writers continually need material for Saturday Night Live.
Let’s have a look at three recent shining stars of the Public Affairs Human Comedy. I can’t promise you’ll be able to divine some kernel of moral truth from their wacky ways. But — hey! — maybe you too will be inspired to write for SNL.
Victoria Nuland — No slacker in the prestige department, Ms. Nuland is Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State. A graduate of the preparatory boarding school Choate Rosemary Hall and Brown University, she chose a career in foreign service and has been known for her forthright public manner. None of her pristine education got in her way the night before the Olympics, when she was busted on a leaked cell phone call, a discussion of the difficulties of the European Union in trying to resolve the Ukraine’s political challenges.
Nuland’s suggestion for getting the job done? “F*** the EU!” she said in her phone conversation,” according to Bloomberg.com. We needn’t worry about Nuland though, it looks like her job remains secure. In a meeting last year with US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergeo Lavrov commented that Nuland no longer had her customary spot around the negotiating table. “John, I see you finally fired that Toria Nuland.” “No,” responded Kerry, “I promoted her.”
Michael Grimm — The distinguished United States Representative for New York’s 11th congressional district can boast a background as a businessman, an attorney, an FBI agent, and a US Marine. Maybe it was his confidence in his résumé, or his testosterone at work, when he responded to TV reporter Michael Scotto’s probing question about his campaign finances, on a balcony in the U.S. Capitol building, immediately after the President’s 2014 State of The Union Address.
Wanting to keep on-air questions to the subject of the President’s address, Grimm told Scotto: “Let me be clear to you: If you ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this f***ing balcony.” When Scotto insisted he was simply trying to ask a “valid” question, Grimm continued: “No, no. you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half, like a boy.”
We’re not at all surprised that, since this sticky incident, Grimm has apologized to Scotto and offered to take him to lunch. In fact, if you’ve been reading Red Tea News diligently, you’ll know where we’d like to see Grimm take him to lunch.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier — One of the duties of people in high places is to attend the funerals of other people in high places. It was entirely fitting then for Steinmeier, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, to attend the state funeral services on January 13, 2013 for Ariel Sharon, Israel’s eleventh Prime Minister of Israel.
Fair enough. But Steinmeier’s public behavior after the funeral was, well, tacky. He seized at the opportunity to criticize Israel to reporters for building settlements in Judea and Samaria. And on the sidelines, during the burial of Sharon, he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “refrain from additional construction.” Mark Twain once said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Germans telling Jews where they can’t live: now there’s a rhyme not easy to forget!
Incidentally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has let the United States know that Victoria Nuland’s phone comment about the EU was “totally unacceptable.” As far as we know though, she’s offered no comment so far on Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s lack of diplomatic grace during the funeral of Ariel Sharon.