The voters of Florida’s 19th congressional district have been in a rough patch lately, and it appears they are not home free yet. Back in October of 2013, freshman Republican Rep. Trey Radel, perhaps because he was new to Washington, chose to score cocaine from a law enforcement officer in a DuPont Circle restaurant favored by the powerful.
Busted, he did not inform the Republican leadership of the incident, which became public the next month, when he appeared in court on November 20 to plead guilty to possession of cocaine in return for a $250 fine and a probated sentence. The same offense would have been a felony in Florida.
With that unpleasantness behind him, Rep. Radel went off to rehab, where he stayed until Congress returned from winter recess. At that time, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation. Radel resigned on January 27, depriving the Ethics Committee of jurisdiction and the people of the 19th District of representation.
In his brief legislative career, Rep. Radel voted in favor of requiring food stamp recipients to take a drug test. However, there was little chance that the voters would hold the hypocrisy against his party, since the Florida 19th voted 61 percent for Mitt Romney.
Last month, Radel was replaced by Tea Party candidate Curt Clawson, who put forward his lack of political experience as a qualification for Congress. Newly minted Rep. Clawson got his first public notice in a July 24 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. Two senior government officials represented the Obama administration, Nisha Biswal of the State Department and Arun Kumar of the Commerce Department.
The freshman from the Florida 19th, the second in as many years, proceeded to cross-examine Biswal and Kumar as if they worked for the Indian government rather than the U.S. government. He also, according to Foreign Policy, “repeatedly touted his deep knowledge of the Indian subcontinent and his favorite Bollywood movies,” leaving the hearing room in a state of embarrassed silence and the witnesses bemused and bewildered.
To make this error, Rep. Clawson had to have not read the witness list, not attended to what was said, and been ignorant of the fact that foreign dignitaries do not normally take an oath when they testify before Congress. In a later statement to USA Today, Clawson admitted that in his first committee meeting as a U.S. congressman, he had “shot an airball.”
Indeed. So, it would appear, have the long-suffering voters of the 19th congressional district in Florida.