Ha, I thought at the time, aren't these Republican lawmakers incompetent. These guys are given enormous responsibilities to understand the challenges we face in the Middle East, and they aren't even sure about the basics, such as what faith al Qaeda is. Just wait, I thought, until Dems get in there and show them what competency looks like.
Perhaps I was a little hasty.
Stein sat down with Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), soon to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and started asking him some of the same basic questions Republicans got wrong a couple of months ago. It didn't go well.
Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?
'"Al Qaeda, they have both," Reyes said. "You're talking about predominately?"
"Sure," I said, not knowing what else to say.
"Predominantly - probably Shiite," he ventured.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they'd slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.
Asked later about Hezbollah, Reyes said, "Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah... Well, I, uh..."
Now, it's worth noting that Reyes wasn't completely lost. Stein noted that Reyes, unlike the House Republicans he talked to a couple of months ago, "knows that the 1,400-year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia." The GOP didn't even know this much, so Reyes is a little better off.
But in the end, he was still shaky on some pretty basic details. When the typical person on the street doesn't know about al Qaeda's or Hezbollah's beliefs, he or she can be forgiven. When the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee doesn't know, one has to wonder what members of Congress have been doing the last four years.
Before I got into blogging, I thought I was pretty well informed about what went on in government. I was under the impression, since most of our elected representatives had much more formal education than I did, that the people we sent to Washington were intelligent, curious people who would do research on subjects they were involved with, subjects they are expected to vote for the good of the nation on.
Shit, I was a babe in the woods.
I think many of the American people share my former misconceptions. Most of the people we put in government are clueless ignorants who couldn't find their ass with both hands tied behind their backs. Let's just hope the incoming bunch is smart enough to listen to real experts instead of ideologues.