The day after the November 2008 election I had a major Édouard Daladier moment.
On that horrid Wednesday, I sat in my cluttered office at Main State in Washington, DC, in a deep, deep funk. Blinds drawn; lights out; a small TV on the far side of the office ran images of Obama’s victory celebration in Chicago the night before.
Two colleagues, one male and one female, both white, and both career State officers, walked into the office and started bubbling, “Isn’t this great!” Startled out of my near coma, I glumly asked “What’s great?” The woman looked at me as though I were from outer space, “The election! Obama’s victory.” I stammered, “Wha-what’s so great about it? He’s going to be an awful president.”
They looked at each other, and then the male officer said, “When you drove in today, didn’t you see the joy and pride in the black parking attendants in the basement? They have a real spring in their step this morning.” For one of the few times in my career, I was speechless. No withering reply. No cutting remark. No Churchillian riposte. No well-aimed stream of verbal acid shot from between my lips. Known while I was at the UN as the "Master of the Reply," I stared at him, as a fish pulled out of the depths might. Uncomprehending. Mouth moving without a sound. My pea-sized brain had failed me, yet again. I clearly had not understood that the 2008 national elections in the world’s most important country were about the happiness of parking attendants, about ensuring they had a "spring in their step."
These two cheerful condescending colleagues bounced out of my dreary office; I could hear them celebrating with others outside the door. A couple of minutes later, in walked another friend, a Republican political appointee, who shook his head and sorrowfully asked,”What do you think?” I fidgeted with my pen, undid my tie, and said, in my best Liev Schreiber growl, “We just did a Hemingway. Muzzle of a loaded shotgun in the mouth; about to pull the trigger. Or, as Édouard Daladier would have said, 'The fools! Why are they cheering?'”
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