Watching a political suicide is always a really uncomfortable moment, especially when it is a prominent politician who is making a fool of himself in the most shameful way.
Lamentably, this is what happened with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who basically put his foot on his own mouth during a Thursday hearing in front of the House Committee on Natural Resources by trying to make an ill-advised joke about the Japanese heritage of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Naturally, we’re talking about the stupidest move a politician could take in an era in which these kinds of comments are not only going to be brutally criticized by a significant part of the public but also exploited by the political counterpart. In this case, the democratic party.
The Zinke horror show began when the Hawaii representative asked him about decisions to cut funding for a memorial to Japanese-Americans interned during the World War II. During that moment, Hanabusa brought up her heritage as a political strategy to pressure Zinke.
Hanabusa stated, “I sit before you the granddaughter of two internees.” In addition, she said she didn’t even know her grandfather was interned in Oahu for a lot of the wartime because he was 80 years old in that period.
Furthermore, Hanabusa asked Zinke if he was committed to continuing the grant programs that are identified as the Japanese American Confinement Sites Program, even with President Donald Trump “zeroing out.”
It was at that moment when the Secretary of the Interior decided to make a fool of himself in front of everybody by providing an unfortunate answer.
Believe it or not, instead of immediately answering Hanabusa’s question, he simply responded by saying, “oh, Konnichiwa.”
Despite the delicate subject matter, Hanabusa’s obvious ability to speak English and her personal family history, Zinke thought it was intelligent to address her in Japanese.
Basically, he made a move that even when it wasn’t exactly the most offensive thing in the world, it definitely has the elements to become a controversy that no politician nor his party would like to experience.
After a brief silence, Hanabusa calmly corrected the Secretary of Interior, by saying that while she thought he meant “ohayo gozaimasu,” it was ok. This phrase represents the Japanese greeting for “good morning.”
After the brief exchange at the hearing, Zinke pointed out that funding for the grants “probably caught up” by larger 2018 budgetary items. In addition, the Secretary of Interior vowed to work with Hanabusa on the matter.
He told Hanabusa that he would look at it and work with her because he thought it was quite important for everyone’s interests
Hanabusa, who told the Secretary of Interior that her two grandparents were subjected to internment, framed the program as a significant necessity during the hearing.
As you can imagine, Zinke’s remark eventually drew scrutiny from the Hawaii senator on social media. On Twitter Hirono wrote that what Zinke thought was a clever response to Hanabusa was actually flippant and “juvenile.”
In addition to Hirono, Rep. Judy Chu (D-California) also criticized the Secretary of Interior’s comments. She tweeted that what he did represents the greatest example of why continued support for historical sites where the rights of Japanese Americans were violated “b/c of race” is needed.
Also, she wrote that Zinke’s comments betrayed a prejudice that being Asian makes you some kind of “perpetual foreigner.” Finally, she pointed out that this was offensive, and that he should apologize.
Of course, while his comments weren’t outrageously racist and didn’t represent some kind of unforgivable tragedy, it is a fact that these were a huge mistake.
After all, in addition to being disrespectful, it provided the political rival a powerful weapon to attack every time they want.
According to different reports, President Trump could use this error to get rid of Zinke and put another person in his place.
A couple of days ago, the president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with former CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Gina Haspel was the chosen one to replace Pompeo, becoming the first woman in the history to achieve this prominent position.
While these were surprising moves, several media outlets including CNN and The New York Times reported that President Trump would make some other major shakeups in the White House.
In addition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, many believe that the next person to fall will be Zinke.