There's a word for people like Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who got caught last week cutting in line at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.
The word is buttinski.
Beltway buttinskis can't wait around like everybody else. Long lines are for little people. Beltway buttinskis are Very Important Persons with very important places to go. Such as political fund-raisers. That's where Secretary Thompson was headed last Friday when he and his security detail elbowed their way past passengers who had been waiting to board for 40 minutes. After customers complained to the airline and to the media, HHS spokesman Tony Jewell told the Associated Press that Thompson "feels terrible."
At least Thompson apologized. Kind of. And at least no one was physically hurt. Thompson acted badly. But when it comes to the Beltway sport of boorishness, Democrat buttinskis beat Republicans hands down in the medal count.
Bronze goes to Rep. Patrick Kennedy for his run-in at the Los Angeles International Airport two years ago. Rushing to catch a plane back to D.C. after attending a Hollywood fund-raiser, Kennedy attempted to ram his oversized luggage through an X-ray machine. When a female security guard tried to stop him, Kennedy flashed his congressional ID card as if it were an FBI badge. When Della Patton continued to block him from passing through the checkpoint, Rep. Kennedy shoved the 58-year-old woman backward. The entire episode was captured on videotape. Kennedy later explained that he had a Very Important speech to give the next day.
The L.A. city attorney's office declined to file charges, but ordered an informal hearing in which Kennedy "apologized" in person to Patton. He offered her $25,000 to fend off a civil assault and battery lawsuit, but the guard refused. The matter is scheduled for trial this summer. In true buttinski form, Kennedy (son of Sen. Teddy Kennedy) blames the victim. A legal brief filed in the case argues that Kennedy manhandled Patton in self-defense! Moreover, Patton "voluntarily and unreasonably proceeded to encounter a danger which was known to her," Kennedy's lawyers claim. They have a small point. Given the congressman's membership in a liberal political dynasty famously plagued by scandals with women, maybe Patton should have known that Kennedy spelled trouble.
Silver goes to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for her treatment of police officer Ernest Dymond. Last fall, Sen. Clinton and her entourage reportedly rolled through a security checkpoint at Westchester County airport -- injuring Dymond as he tried to stop them. A Secret Service agent was driving Sen. Clinton, en route to a fund-raiser, in a large black Ford van. According to Dymond, the agent was on his cell phone as he motored through the sensitive checkpoint (the airport was on high alert for terrorists). Dymond was forced to shout and bang his shoulder into the van to make it stop. He told The Washington Times that Clinton's driver was "quite agitated" when asked to show his identification. Dymond, who never received a word of apology from Sen. Clinton or anyone else on her staff, was taken to a hospital for treatment of bruises.
But not even St. Hillary can outdo Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. As chronicled by The Houston Press and The Weekly Standard, the Texas congresswoman is the gold medalist of Beltway boors. She has terrorized her office staff, airline staffs and foreign dignitaries with world-class megalomaniacal antics. When she didn't like her seating placement at a formal dinner in Africa with Prince Charles and Nelson Mandela, she parked herself in the chair of a high-ranking Nigerian official and refused to move. "Don't you know who I am?" she reportedly shrieked at flight attendants who didn't serve her the right food. "I'm Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee." And when she didn't get chauffeured to a civil rights commemoration, she yelled at an aide: "You don't understand. I am a queen, and I demand to be treated like a queen."
That's the Washington way. Rep. Lee's only mistake was saying it out loud. For the line-jumpers and elbow-jabbers in power, "public service" means never having to say you're sorry for behaving like a royal pain in the ... buttinski.