Everything you hate about the culture of Washington is symbolized in two recent altercations involving two obnoxious Beltway buttinskis, one Democrat and one Republican.
"Buttinskis," you say? I've written about them before. They're the bipartisan pushers and shovers, the VIP line-cutters who invoke the "Don't you know who I am?" card to elbow past the little people, circumvent security lines and exempt themselves from the rules the rest of us have to follow.
Democrat Rep. Bob Filner made headlines this week for pulling a buttinski act at Dulles Airport in Washington. According to press accounts, the liberal congressman was angered that his baggage hadn't arrived. He reportedly pushed aside an airline employee's arm and refused to leave a restricted area. The employee has pressed misdemeanor charges of assault and battery against the lawmaker, who scoffed that the allegations were "ridiculous" and "factually incorrect."
Ridiculous that he would lose his temper? This is the same congressman who shouted and cursed out two Veterans' Affairs officials last summer after a news conference -- lobbing foul obscenities at the officials in front of reporters.
If he were any ordinary Bob, the congressman would be sitting behind bars for his latest bad behavior. But Filner is free until a court date on Oct. 2. He's too busy to explain his actions to constituents, his office says, because he is "on his way to Iraq, visiting our troops." What will he do if his bags get lost in Baghdad? Should that happen, I'd love to see Filner try to pull on the troops what he allegedly pulled on the civilian airline employee.
Beltway-itis infects both parties. For every f-bomb-dropping Bob Filner and slap-happy Cynthia McKinney and boorish Patrick Kennedy (who was caught on tape shoving a female security guard at a Los Angeles airport while flashing his congressional ID badge), there's a Christopher Shays. The GOP congressman last month went ape when challenged by a Capitol Police officer, displaying classic buttinski symptoms of arrogance, elitism, lack of basic decency and contempt for the common man.
Politico.com reported that Shays got into a loud, angry dispute with a U.S. Capitol Police officer at a security checkpoint. He reportedly reached for the officer's identification during the dispute over whether the officer should allow a group of tourists to enter the building. Tourists are barred from an entrance Shays was trying to barge through with the group. The Republican lawmaker "yelled and screamed" at the officer. Congressional Quarterly characterized Shays' hissy fit as a "profanity-laced tirade" in which the lawmaker grabbed the officer's nametag.
Shays issued an apology ("The Congressman stated his full support and admiration for the officers of the U.S. Capitol Police and offered his apologies"), but not before embarrassing himself as a Capitol diva. A legislative Lindsay Lohan in a suit and tie. Reps. Shays and Filner are just the latest in a long line of Beltway Brat Packers, and they won't be the last. For the line-jumpers and elbow-jabbers in power, as I've said before, "public service" means never having to say you're sorry for behaving like a royal pain in the . . . buttinski.