Opinion: How not to start your congressional career

House Speaker John Boehner, left, greets Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) in June after Clawson won a special election to replace Rep. Trey Radel.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Note to the rookie (and, naturally, tea party) member of Congress: The name does not define the person, let alone the nationality.

Foreign Policy reports that U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.), who recently joined Congress after a special election, mistook two senior U.S. government officials testifying before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday to be doing so on behalf of India.

The officials were Nisha Biswal, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, and Arun Kumar, assistant secretary of commerce for global markets. Both were introduced by the chair of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee as U.S. officials, but Clawson apparently didn’t hear. And he apparently didn’t read the list of witnesses for the day’s hearing either.

“I’m familiar with your country; I love your country,” Clawson told Biswal and Kumar. "... Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I’m willing and enthusiastic about doing so.”


Unfortunately, he kept talking.

“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,” Clawson said. "... I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”

Biswal handled it well, suggesting the comments were better directed to the Indian government. Clawson still didn’t seem to pick up on his faux pas.

“Of course,” he said, “OK, let’s see some progress.”


The video is cringe-worthy.

Clawson won a special election to replace fellow Republican Trey Radel, who quit after getting caught buying cocaine. Clawson ran as “the outsider for Congress.” Voters should have asked him, “outside of what?”

Follow Scott Martelle on Twitter @smartelle.