The Unkindest Cuts Of All: Self-Inflicted Wounds

The evidence keeps piling up that the worst wounds in politics are self-inflicted.  The latest cases come from Washington and Jerusalem this week.  There’s the congressman who preferred cocaine over Congress, another who threatened to toss a reporter off a balcony and an Israeli cabinet minister whose mouth runs faster than his brain.

‘I’ll throw you off this f…ing balcony’ — The most spectacular was probably Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-NY), who was giving his boilerplate partisan response to the State of Union address Tuesday night when a reporter asked him about the federal investigation into his campaign finances.  The former Marine and FBI agent walked out of the interview in the U.S. Capitol but then turned around to go after the reporter while the camera was still rolling.

Grimm, a second-term Tea Party follower once thought to have a promising future, went postal.  In a low and menacing tone he spewed several expletive-laced insults at the reporter, Michel Scotto of NY1, and threatened to toss him off the balcony where they were standing. “I’ll break you in half.  Like a boy,” he snarled.

Grimm shrugged the incident off — “I doubt that I am the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won’t be the last.” – but after the video went viral he offered a weak, excuse-laden apology.

Here’s the big question: Does anyone doubt that he’d ever have admitted what he did much less apologized had it not been caught on tape and widely broadcast for all to see?  Of course not.  His response, without the hard evidence, would have been to call the reporter a liar and attack the liberal media as biased against God-fearing, true blue conservatives like him.

The Staten Island congressman has apparently blown up like this before but this is apparently the first time it was caught on tape. Now he’s facing trouble with voters who are beginning to question whether he has the temperament for the job, and he did it all by himself.

Things go bitter with coke — Florida Rep. Trey Radel, 37, resigned Monday, taking with him his nickname and reputation as “the cocaine congressman.”  Departure of the freshman lawmaker headed off a House investigation into his cocaine use, but the District of Columbia cops haven’t dropped the criminal charges.  He was arrested last October on charges of buying more than 3.5 grams of cocaine from an undercover D.C. policeman.  He had been under growing pressure from home state Republicans to get out now before becoming an issue in November’s election and risk losing a safe GOP seat to a Democrat.

Radel’s political future is now behind him, and he did it all by himself.

Bibi bites back – When Prime Minister Netanyahu said settlers who don’t want to leave their West Bank homes should be able to stay and become part of a sovereign Palestinian state he wasn’t serious.  He was just baiting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to say something stupid like no Jews would be allowed in his new country.  But Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the right wing Jewish Home party, wasn’t smart enough to figure that out.  Instead we went into attack mode, calling it a “dangerous” idea and accusing the PM of “irrational values” and risking great harm to Israel and the Jewish people.

Netanyahu’s anonymous aides immediately fired back: apologize or else. If Bennett was unhappy and didn’t trust the PM, he could give up his sinecure and leave the government, others would be happy to take over his ministry.

They said Bennett was too anxious to pander to the extremist rabbis and settlers in his party, but the PM is better able to look after the settlers’ interests than the maverick minister.  Israeli media reported that Netanyahu had Bennett’s pink slip on his desk and was ready to sign it.

Bennett got the message.  It was “not my intention” to offend Netanyahu, he said, explaining it felt it “is my duty” to “criticize him when the situation calls for it.”

Bennett wins the disloyalty award for the double sin of publicly attacking the PM and not figuring out what Netanyahu was doing.  He did it all by himself.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.