Are you ready for your cringe-inducing moment for the day?
Earlier this month, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) went after a US customs official named Thomas Winkowski. There was just one problem: McCain was having a senile moment, and meant to attack R. Gil Kerlikowski, a different customs official with a sort of similar name.
Itwas an embarrassing exchange to be sure, but it’s got nothing on the House Foreign Affairs Committee exchange that happened on Thursday.
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.
MSNBC reports that Clawson won a special election to replace Representative Trey Radel. Throughout the discussion, Clawson kept talking to the US State Department officials as if they weren’t US officials, saying,
“I’m familiar with your country; I love your country. Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I’m willing and enthusiastic about doing so.”
The Foreign Policy report added that Clawson, in addition to being confused by their Indian surnames and skin color, asked “if ‘their’ government could loosen restrictions on U.S. capital investments in India.” Clawson went on to add that “their” capital was “welcome here,” and that he’d like “[U.S.] capital to be welcome there.” He asked for “cooperation and commitment” from “[their] government.”
After an uncomfortable pause and befuddled looks, Biswal, an American official from the U.S. State Department, told the Florid congressman, “I think your question is to the Indian government.”
Clawson apparently didn’t apologize, either. In fact, he didn’t even see that he made a mistake. After Biswal attempted to correct him, the GOP lawmaker simply said, “Okay, let’s see some progress.”
MSNBC points that watching him address two senior US Representatives as foreign nationals because of their surnames and their skin color is “extraordinary — and not in the good way.”
Epistemic closure is a huge problem on the political right, but what Clawson displayed isn’t epistemic closure. It was epistemic decerebration.