Commentary: Little clarity from Obama administration

Vice President Joe Biden in Miami.
Vice President Joe Biden in Miami. Marsha Halper/Miami Herald/MCT

You know what they say about monkeys, typewriters and Shakespeare. My question is, if you sat an infinite number of Joe Bidens at an infinite number of microphones, would any of them ever say anything that wasn't infinitely stupid?

From his reminiscences about Franklin Roosevelt's famous White House television address on the day of the 1929 stock market crash (that is, three years before Roosevelt was president and 20 years before Americans bought TVs) to his campaign-rally exhortation to Missouri state Sen. Chuck Graham to "Stand up, Chuck, let 'em see ya!" (Graham's in a wheelchair), Biden's serial stupidities have become a national mortification.

Listening to Biden's gaffeprompter running full speed ahead on the subject of swine flu last week – he warned Americans that airplanes, subways and classrooms are microbiologic deathtraps, then promptly took a train to Delaware – my first thought was, who in the world made this guy vice president? My second was, oh, right. And my third was, no wonder people are always calling Barack Obama the smartest guy in the room. At most White House meetings, it's probably literally – if dishearteningly – true.

Consider Lisa Jackson, Obama's EPA boss, explaining market economics during an NPR interview. "The president has said, and I couldn't agree more, that what this country needs is one single national roadmap that tells automakers, who are trying to become solvent again, what kind of car it is that they need to be designing and building for the American people."

"Is that the role of the government?" asked the reporter. "That doesn't sound like free enterprise."

"Well, it is free enterprise, in a way," declared Jackson. Yes, in the same way that Madonna is a chastity goddess. I'm sure my surprise at Jackson's remarks was tiny compared to that of Fidel Castro and Kim Jong Il, who must have been horrified to learn they're actually capitalist plutocrats instead of model socialists.

Then there's Rosa Brooks, The Los Angeles Times columnist just appointed undersecretary of defense. She believes the real power behind al Qaeda is not Osama bin Laden, but George W. Bush, whose policies turned a few cranky eccentrics into "a vast global threat."

Before Bush butted in, Brooks wrote in 2007, al Qaeda was merely "an obscure group of extremist thugs, well financed and intermittently lethal but relatively limited in their global and regional political pull. On 9/11, they got lucky – but despite the unexpected success of their attack on the U.S., they did not pose an imminent mortal threat to the nation." Brooks' first Pentagon briefing with mentions of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, or the USS Cole, should be pretty interesting.

And, really, it's possible Brooks will learn a thing or two on the job. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has. Last September, when he was just a harmless physicist playing laser tag with atoms, Chu told The Wall Street Journal that Americans were a pack of hairless wussies for complaining about $4-a-gallon gas.

"Somehow," he proclaimed, "we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," which at the time hovered around $8 a gallon.

Now, faced with selling those numbers to voters, Chu says he was just goofin'. Asked last month during a congressional hearing if the idea of charging more for a gallon of gas than for a share of TiVo stock wasn't "a little bit silly," Chu sighed, "Yes."

Let's hope that Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano will do some similar rethinking. First she pooh-poohed a federal crackdown on illegal immigration – not on grounds of economics or humanitarianism but because it isn't, ummm, illegal. "Crossing the border [without a visa] is not a crime per se," Napolitano, evidently working from a Reader's Digest version of the U.S. Code that doesn't include 8 U.S.C. 1325, assured a surprised CNN reporter.

Then Napolitano warned that all that tasteless talk about kidnappings and murders on the Mexican border was distracting Americans from the real threat: those snow monkeys up north. "To the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it's been across the Canadian border," she sternly informed Canadian Broadcasting Corp. last month.

The Montreal Gazette, noting that not a single one of the 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers entered the United States through Canada, reported her interview under the headline U.S. security boss is guilty of borderline stupidity. Maybe so, fellows, but Napolitano's now being mentioned as a potential Supreme Court justice. If I were you, I'd shut up and crawl back inside my igloo.

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