Well, I had one Saturday night, which is how I came to be in the Colonnade Room of the Fairmount Hotel, Washington DC with about 250 of my closest friends, in a classic shawl-collar tuxedo, attending one of the most exclusive “passing of the torch” ceremonies in recent Washington memory.
And when it was all over, Douglas Feith was a happy man.
Respect to your great place! and let the devil
Be sometime honour’d for his burning throne.
-- Duke Vincentio, from William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”.
There are probably some of you who are thinking: “That Feith name is familiar, but why?”
You know the name because, as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, he was the guy who basically planned how the Bush Administration would run the Iraq War.
To suggest he was not exactly a genius in the job would be the charitable interpretation; General Tommy Franks is famous for referring to him as the “dumbest mother@*er alive”, which is the official title he’s carried ever since.
But on Saturday night, the torch was passed.
And by the time the speeches had ended, and the applause had died down, Texas’ Congressman Joe Barton was the new keeper of the sputtering flame.
This was not the outcome most observers expected.
When my invitation arrived on Monday, it looked as though BP’s Tony Hayward would be wearing the sash and carrying the scepter (for those who don’t know, the scepter is a gold-colored three foot long extension cord...and if that’s the stupidest thing you ever heard in your life, you get the idea), having basically earned himself a “Lifetime Achievement Award” in a mere 60 days.
This was going to be tough for Hayward, of course, because he was already planning to skip his Farr 52 (I’m told he calls it “Bob”) in the 79th “Round the Island” race, back home in the UK on the same day (and he had a good race, too, coming second to “Leopard”).
But before BP could really address the question of who would accept the award on his behalf, Congressman Barton pulled off an amazing feat; eclipsing Hayward’s 60 days of corporate idiocracy in a mere five minutes by actually apologizing to BP for the Obama Administration’s insistence that they don’t go through all the necessary legalities before BP actually begins paying claims for damages.
Considering how he got the title in the first place, it’s fair to say Barton’s acceptance speech began with some classic “message confusion”...
“...Where I come from what we'd do about it would be take 'em out and string 'em up...We wouldn't go through the legalities that we have to because of our due process...”
...and then went on to include a few more pearls of wisdom:
“...If homosexuality was normal we wouldn't any of us be here...You have to have heterosexual behavior in order to recreate the species...”
“...In January 2009, I introduced the College Football Playoff Act of 2009. This isn't a government gridiron takeover. It simply says that the BCS can't call a game the "national championship" unless the participants are determined by a playoff. It doesn't dictate what kind of playoff or how many teams have to be involved—those decisions would rest with the BCS or NCAA.
The biggest complaint about my bill is that Congress shouldn't get involved. While this doesn't rise to the level of healthcare reform or climate change legislation, it is more important than honoring the 2,560th anniversary of the birth of Confucius—one of dozens of resolutions passed by the House in the past few months (I voted against it)...”
Luckily for me, my own prior life experience as a caterer had prepared me for the evening; I had tipped our server at the beginning of the meal, and with the amount of wine available at the table, I was already well enough along that there were no “spit takes” during Barton’s speech.
Possibly the happiest person in the room was BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. When I caught up to him over a glass of champagne he was happy to explain Hayward’s absence, although it’s clear he really isn’t a native English speaker:
“After it became obvious he wouldn’t be leaving with the award, I told him he needed to get back and replace Captain Neil; that he should handle the “Bob” himself, and I talked to him today, and he said he got all the way to second...”
At which point I just couldn’t take any more, and the interview came to an end.
And it’s at this point that I should say that while this story really didn’t happen, and that this was satire, Barton’s “acceptance speech” was actually assembled from his own very real words, found here, here, and here.
I should also say that in real life Doug Feith might have actually caught a break here; but with several months left until November, and the Republicans looking more and more “self-defeatable”, if I were Joe Barton I wouldn’t be building any expensive “shrines” for his new accoutrement, as another awards transfer ceremony could be coming up sooner than anyone thinks.
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