What we missed this week (McKinney, mostly)

Congress didn't get anything done, and everyone was focused on the scuffle kerfuffle involving the Georgia congresswoman.

Farhad Manjoo
April 8, 2006 3:26AM (UTC)

With the hubbub over Tom DeLay's resignation announcement and Lewis Libby's leak disclosures, War Room inevitably overlooked some things this week. In Congress, there was the immigration bill and the budget negotiations. In a cloud of nearly impenetrable parliamentary maneuvers today, the Senate failed to come to an agreement on a compromise bipartisan deal on immigration. Meanwhile in the House, leaders more or less gave up on trying to design the national budget. After all that hard work, lawmakers now head home for a recess.

I also failed to mention a couple of delicious, ridiculous-but-true items. One was a story in the Hill about Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's efforts to "rehabilitate his image among opinion makers to ensure that members of D.C.'s 'chattering class' who mold the national conventional wisdom do not dismiss his presidential prospects." Doesn't he understand that trying too hard to get in with the popular kids never works?


And then there was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's suggestion that the United States hasn't really made any mistakes in Iraq. Responding to Condoleezza Rice's off-the-cuff remark that the U.S. had made thousands of "tactical errors" in the war, Rumsfeld told a radio interviewer, "I don't know what she was talking about, to be perfectly honest." We can't really make mistakes in Iraq because, Rumsfeld said, we face an "enemy that thinks, [that] uses their brain." I wonder if the other side says the same thing about the SecDef.

Despite all this news, there's been only one thing on my mind these last few days, and on yours as well, I'd imagine. Yes, it's Cynthia McKinney, the African-American Georgia congresswoman who ruthlessly murdered a white Capitol Hill Police officer on March 29 after he failed to recognize her as she tried to enter the Longworth House Office Building.

Oh, I'm sorry ... Did I say murdered? That's what I get for reading the right-wing blogosphere, where McKinney's actions and her subsequent, admittedly infuriating failure to quickly apologize for them have been scrutinized with the sort of exhaustive attention one would normally reserve for a murder investigation. Actually, it turns out that McKinney only hit the officer -- it's not clear how hard; some reports said it was with a cellphone, others with her bare hands. I don't mean to excuse her, but ... is this really that big a deal?


Well, for Democrats it became one. Strange as it sounds -- and it does sound strange -- some in Congress were genuinely worried this week that the national focus on McKinney had become a distraction, especially as it came during the DeLay news and at the same time that Democrats had been planning to present themselves as a homeland-security-savvy party. Indeed, many of her colleagues, we learned, don't even like McKinney; she and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, "no longer speak, not even to exchange greetings when encountering each other in the Capitol hallways," the Hill reported.

There's nothing very compelling to be said about the McKinney affair, I think; she hit an officer, stupidly played the race card and that's that. It was sometimes ugly -- as Jon Stewart said, she is "batshit insane" -- but, you know, it's not like she launched an unnecessary war or began spying on Americans illegally or something. And it's nice that on Thursday, after some members of the Congressional Black Caucus confronted her and a grand jury moved ahead with an investigation, she finally said she's sorry.

Finally, for the best bit of writing on the whole matter, do read the Washington Post's incomparable Robin Givhan's essay on McKinney's hair.


And, oh -- the president's poll numbers fell again this week. But that's not news.

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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