I don’t know why the hell I’m writing this. Probably because I’m supposed to be eating my lunch and I don’t feel like putting food in my mouth right now. Today is the unhappiest day of my short career in Washington—just passed the three year mark. I wasn’t here for 9/11; I was a very young and green department head back in Texas.
And I remember watching it all play out on television like a movie. I was touched, but not touched personally—like most Americans.
But that’s all changed, now of course, as our nation is once again under assault from extremists, this time 11 years later.
I never say much about myself in these diaries—I like to keep them vague so that I can speak frankly without backlash or invasion of privacy. I never mention where I work. And I’m not going to do that now. But I am not in a very happy place right now.
My Blackberry started blowing up yesterday with news of an attack on the U.S. post in Libya. It’s not totally unusual for that to happen. Minor and major attacks take place all the time—stray bullets, fist fights, even an occasional car bombing. Most of these posts are fortresses and these kinds of attacks are usually back page news items. It was obvious from the outset, however, that this one was different. Not all the details are out there yet, but the end result was the confirmed death of four American State Department employees, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. If memory serves, the first ambassador to die in the field in something like 40 years.
My office was quiet this morning. People were getting coffee. Mumbling. Sitting at their desks surfing the web—looking for news. No water cooler chat, other than “did you hear the news?” It’s like everyone was waiting for something. Washington wakes up before the rest of the nation so there’s never an expectation of the beginning of a news cycle until the sun rises on the West Coast.
(Continue reading below the fold.)
4:10 PM PT: Oh, my. Eight years on dKos and this is my first trip to the front page. I feel like I should apologize for this diary as I was very upset today and just wanted to vent my emotions. I appreciate everyone in this community for their kindness. If this diary has informed you, then I am very glad.
Please, friends, as we vent our anger at Mitt Romney, let us remember to keep Mr. Stevens and his fallen colleagues in our hearts.
5:02 PM PT: So I sat down after supper and read every comment on this diary. The amount of kindness is overwhelming and after calming myself down, it's made me more reflective. If Romney does win this thing I don't think I'd cash in after all. I worked for Bush and Perry. I can survive. With that kind of supprt we liberals just have to stick it out. The bastards can only win if a good man does nothing.
Some people were showing up in makeshift black armbands. Others seemed embarrassed to be in a good mood. Again, there was just this sense of—waiting, that perhaps we shouldn’t get started until there was some news. I got a second cup of coffee and went to work. The work, itself, doesn’t stop and must be gotten through.
It wasn’t long before news came down through the line that President Obama and Secretary Clinton would be making statements regarding the attacks. By this time I was starting to read the news reports on Mitt Romney’s statements regarding the Tweets that had been issued yesterday by embassy Cairo. Stupid. What a moron. All that news was flying under the radar as friends and colleagues dealt with the real business of governing. We keep the politics turned down to zero in the office. I was out exercising last night when Romney issued his statement and hit the sack without catching the evening news. I listen to the repeat of Maddow every morning on the train on my iPhone. Romney’s story didn’t make her air.
While heading to the bathroom I overheard two guys chatting: “Hey, dude, did you hear Romney’s gonna media jump the president?” WTF? I didn’t understand. Sure enough, when I sat back down reports were coming in that he planned a press conference AHEAD of the president’s to make comments on the Libya attacks. I was, frankly curious to see what he had to say.
So I tuned in and watched him. A lot of us getting ready to watch Hillary and Obama’s remarks already had our TVs and browsers ready to go.
I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have watched Mitt Romney this morning. I shouldn’t have tried to put on my political cap. I shouldn’t have tried to be objective and let him say his piece. I should have let it alone, watched the president, and caught the Romney story tonight. But I didn’t.
The emotion that followed was a curious mixture of anger, despair, and … humor. Here was Mitt Romney, multi-millionaire presidential candidate taking the sitting president of the United States to task, with a smile on his face, for a couple of Tweets issued by the press office in a foreign embassy as if they were the stated foreign policy of the United States government. To add insult to injury, those same Tweets were issued before the attacks even happened! Really, as if they were some kind of white flag of surrender issued in a war that exists only in Mitt Romney’s mind. I sat there in my office, headphones in ears, watching a man who wants to be president BLAME an embassy press office for the deaths of hardworking Americans, in the field, because they dared to suggest that it’s not always a good idea to piss people off—just because you can. He smiled. He even cut a little laugh. He answered questions from stunned reporters as if he were talking about what he’d just eaten for breakfast. I didn’t know whether I should laugh along with him, because what he was saying was clearly some kind of black joke, or to start to cry.
I started to cry.
Why? Because what was happening on television for me, today, wasn’t just television. It wasn’t the "9/11 Reality Show" most of us experienced 11 years ago. I couldn’t just callously dismiss the events of the day and go back to work in my happy office in Austin, Texas safe inside Fort America. I had wanted to come to Washington and now I’m in Washington. And somewhere nearby the secretary of state was preparing to step out in front of the American people and explain to the world why four American diplomats had just paid the ultimate price for serving their country. Those diplomats were my colleagues. They could have been my friends. They could have been me.
My reaction was not isolated. As the gist of Romney’s remarks began to settle in, other people began to share my same feelings. “What the fuck is he saying?” “I can’t believe this!” “Is he crazy?” “Mother fucking psycho!” “Does the man have no handlers?” “This has got to be Bolton’s bullshit.” Etc. Etc. Etc.
And now we’re all doubly in shock. In shock at the attacks and in shock at the craven political crassness—I like the word “treason”—of one of our leading political candidates. Even for a cynical political animal, Romney has finally gone too far. It’s too much. How can a man govern a nation if he cares so little for the people who reside in that nation and who serve its aims abroad? Our soldiers don’t deserve a mention in his speeches. Our diplomats bring about their own destruction. The only thing worth giving a damn about is how much money we can shove up our fat asses.
Corporations are people, my friend … and people are just fodder for the mint.
I called my wife and told her this: “I won’t ever serve in Mitt Romney’s government. Never. I’ll mop floors at the Obama library or teach over at GWU, but I’m not doing this crap for that man.”
And I meant it. A lot of politics is like professional wrestling—you fight in the ring and then you all drive to the bar in the same car. But not this time. Mitt Romney and his team are the weirdest political outsiders I’ve ever seen. For them, they not only don’t play by the rules—THERE ARE NO RULES. To score political points on the backs of the dead means nothing more than raiding corporations for another billion while turning off people’s pensions and healthcare in the process. That’s not “the game”—that’s real. And it’s terrifying. And I won’t allow myself to be a part of it. Period. If Mitt Romney becomes president on January 20th, January 19th will have been my last day on the job. And I am not the only one.
In a side note—President Obama paid a personal visit to the staff of the State Department to make off camera remarks and to comfort the employees. He hugged people, shook hands, and did what a good boss does.
And no one outside the Beltway will ever know, because not every speech has to be political.