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September 27, 2021

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Tongue Depresser in Juneau

Republican fart jokes on the House floor? No prob. But let a Democrat show a little tongue, and the capital screeches to a halt.

A crucially important presser was held in the Capitol yesterday. Sure there are bills regarding transportation, energy, oil taxes, finance, education, uteruses… But the Interior Alaska Delegation of the House had some super serious stuff that needed to be dealt with.

In the Speaker’s Chambers, belonging at the moment to Mike Chenault, members of the press were gathered – statewide newspapers, TV stations, journals, the Associated Press – all to hear that Rep. Scott Kawasaki stuck out his tongue. Ohhhh, yes he did. And right on the House floor. This was a Tongue Presser. Or a Tongue Depresser, depending on how you look at it.

The legislature was still in session at 11:00 at night, and Rep. Kawasaki, whose seat is right in the Gavel to Gavel camera’s line of fire, decided to be playful for the masses, and stuck out his tongue while the Speaker was making a floor speech in favor of a natural gas pipeline to his home city of Nikiski.

 

Behold the awesome .gif from Matt Buxton of the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.

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Kawasaki supported and voted for this gasline bill, but he committed the cardinal sin of being a Democrat, and doing something irreverent. And yes, Speaker Chenault is the one who very professionally called the competing gasline to Valdez a “crock of shit” in an email sent to the Mayor of Valdez.

Well, the next day after Chenault’s speech, huge printouts with the tongue in the background, and Mike Chenault in the foreground were circulated to the media by Mike Chenault’s very own press secretary Will Vandergriff. Because you know, we can’t have unprofessionalism in the same visual frame as the venerated Speaker Mike “Crock of Shit” Chenault. That’s just wrong. We have certain expectations.

The press conference in the Speaker’s Chambers began with Rep. Pete Higgins (R) who said how sad he was that everyone isn’t talking about other, more important things, but sadly they’re going to have to not talk about them for the duration of this press conference that they themselves called.

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Reps Wilson, Higgins, and Isaacson

The written statement began:

“Rep. Scott Kawasaki does not speak for us.”

Kawasaki wasn’t actually “speaking,” in the technical sense, but by this Higgins meant that because Rep. Kawasaki stuck his tongue out, he and his colleagues afraid that people will take this to mean that all of the delegation from Interior Alaska were also sticking their tongues out at the Speaker, and the Speaker’s bill, and the legislature. I mean, that’s what you’d naturally think, right? It clearly needed clarification for the media.

“We work hard in the Capitol to build our relationships and to show our fellow legislators the utmost respect,” Higgins went on. “The floor of the Alaska House is sacred…”

Sacred? It would be interesting, in that case, to note how many legislators are currently destined for someplace where snowballs have no chance.

“He owes us, his constituents and speaker an apology. I’ve been in a lot of meetings. I consider myself a professional… It looks bad for everybody. So that’s where we’re coming from.”

Rich Mauer then noted that Rep. Tammie Wilson who was behind the microphone “and several other legislators goaded one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Mike Hawker (R), into making a fart joke” on the floor of the very same sacred House. “How does that relate to this?” he wanted to know.

Apparently there were also butt jokes on the floor which got giggles a-plenty, and the phrase “passing gas” was used to humorous effect. “It’s Alaska’s gas. Let’s pass it.” Ar. Ar. Ar. Get it? Passing GAS?! Pretty funny stuff…

“What he said wasn’t a joke to me…” Wilson said, appearing shocked at the question. “I didn’t see it as that way. If you took it that way then I’m sorry… to me it was not in that response.”

The press laughed derisively, as Wilson clutched her pearls.

“It seriously was not,” she insisted to the crowd, looking like she might just develop a case of the vapors.

“Then what was Rep. Saddler cracking up about that he was so red-faced?” Mauer pressed, wondering how far she was willing to take this.

“You’ll have to ask Rep. Saddler,” said the mortally offended Wilson who seemed to be scanning the room for an unoccupied fainting sofa on which to collapse.

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Why… whatevah do you mean?

Matt Buxton from the Daily News Miner asked if this was the first time anyone has been rude on the house floor.

Higgins said it wasn’t, and that’s why he was so deeply shocked. He’d been told that such things happen, and said it shouldn’t be tolerated. “I would never do something like that,” he said.

Wilson piped up again to explain why Kawasaki was being singled out. “This isn’t just any bill.” She went on to explain that the bill was a significan investment in capital projects crucial to the Interior. “That had as much to do with it as anything else,” she explained.

KTUU asked if there was some sort of set process as to how someone is to be rebuked or dealt with.

“From my understanding, we’d have to get the Rules Chairman in here to answer that question,” Higgins said. “You know… But, I was told that there’s some conduct rules that we have to follow. So…”

How do you draw the line about when to make something an issue, and have a press conference about behavior, Alexandra Guttierez of Alaska public radio wanted to know.

“Well, this is the Speaker of the House,” Wilson began, and then backpedaled, stating it shouldn’t happen to anybody. “I feel on this piece of legislation that is so important to our community, this made a huge impact in what goes on here every day.”

Bob Tcazs asked about this “huge impact” Wilson claimed had happened. “What damage was done? The bill passed.”

“Well, I got the pictures…” she explained. “I don’t know where they came from. I’m assuming if someone printed off the pictures, and were disturbed by it, that there were things being said.”

The pictures were printed off by Mike Chenault’s press secretary. Go figure.

How Vandergriff came to distribute the copies, including to the Fairbanks News-Miner, Kawasaki’s hometown paper, was not clear.

“Nobody told me” to pass them out, Vandergriff said, adding that it was not a “unilateral” decision on his part, either.

After the press conference, Chenault dodged the question of his involvement, but pulled from his pocket a different image of Kawasaki, saying he had better quality ones than did Vandergriff.

Is that the same pocket where you carry the Constitution, Mike Chenault?

“I’ve had people come to my office and ask about it,” she went on.  “In this world, we’re not going to wait to see what the damage is. We’re going to make sure people realize that this is not a statement from the Interior Delegation. There were talks… I’m not going to give you names of people,” concluded Wilson.

That explains it. And so by “this had a huge impact” she means, “it had no impact at all.”

Steve Thompson said that they use Mason’s Manual to determine behavior and any time something isn’t proper, it should be dealt with.

Higgins again expressed his dismay and confusion. “There should never be bad on the House floor. Ever. Granted, this is my first time here. And I’ve been told ‘Jees Representative Higgins, this has happened before’. But it shouldn’t happen on the floor. Ever.”

Despite his lack of experience, he went on to explain, “How you get things done in this building is by creating relationships. And when we have a member who’s doing things like that, it just breaks those walls down. We can’t have that. We’re all here to work together. We’re not here to belittle anybody. We’re here to work… We’re here to build infrastructure projects, and not let anything or anyone deter from that. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Isaacson piped up that “In the last couple weeks of the session, we can’t affort to possibly detract, when the votes might be close on some of these issues… When people come to us and ask us what’s going on, it’s no longer in our control.” Yup, the press conference just called itself.

“It’s not at the very beginning when we can be lighthearted and jovial.” He stressed that they “all needed to be working together.” We must have “gravity,” he said.

Speaking of “gravity,” Rich Mauer noted that the Speaker’s email that he lists on his personal financial disclosure is nikiskiredneck@gmail.com. Gravitas out the ass.

Isaacson tried to address the ridiculous amount of inconsistency by explaining that the House Speaker is not in the Interior, and the Interior has “heavy lifts” this session, like energy, and production through the pipeline is a big thing, and so is our ability to refine products… Then he petered off, with a half finished hand gesture.

Asked where he had first heard of the Tongue, he continued, “I heard about it first from some folks on the Kenai, and the Interior… well, the Southcentral area.”

(Folks on the Kenai = Speaker’s press secretary?)

“From legislators or people in the building?” pressed Gutierrez from APRN.

“We need to wrap it up…” came the answer.

But before heading off to do the business of the state, Craig Johnson (R) just had to have a word.

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“This is not about a particular piece of legislation. This is not about what the Interior delegation feels may or may not happen in the future. This is about a hundred year history of decorum in the state legislature. This is about maintaining respect on the floor.

“Irregardless about what has been said previously, to me this is about protecting the institution of the legislature.” Clearly, Mr. “Irregardless” has no concern about protecting the institution of the English language, but I digress…

“Has it happened before? Not to my knowledge. This is 100 years of the legislature. It took 100 years to come to this? We need to look at ourselves.”

Before we hear from Rep. Kawasaki, who was not even informed of the press conference, but heard about it and decided to show up, let’s review what we’ve got so far:

Isaacson believes that it’s all about working relationships and working hard to show fellow legislators respect, but Kawasaki was not approached by any of the delegation before the press conference was called, and wasn’t even notified about it.

Tammie Wilson has no idea that “passing gas” is a fart joke, and is therefore not at all a total hypocrite.

Higgins said that inappropriate behavior happens all the time on the House floor and he’s appalled by it. But, Craig Johnson said that there has never been anything like this in one hundred years of legislative history and that this disrespect thing is a FIRST.

And “irregardless” of what any of his colleagues just said at the press conference they called, they are all wrong. Carl Johnson torpedoed everyone who spoke by saying that unlike what they say, it’s actually not about the fact it’s the Speaker, or that it’s an important bill, or that people might get the wrong idea, or that it’s the last two weeks of the session, or that it’s a Fairbanks issue, or that we need to get along with our fellow legislators. It is about the very institution of the legislature, which has a century-long clean and unblemished record of purity.

Just don’t tell the Corrupt Bastards. And did I mention that Mike Chenault is the one who came up with the name “Corrupt Bastards Club,” and the embroidered hats? Just saying.

Rep. Kawasaki, a Democrat (which totally really has nothing to do with this) spoke to reporters after the others left. He was sincere, and humble.

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“I regret not being able to say this while the other members and the Rules Chair were here. I want to say that my actions on the house floor were inappropriate. This morning I apologized to the Speaker and the Rules Chair. I owe an apology to the rest of the Interior Delegation and my constituents as well,” he said. “Late on the floor at 11:00 at night, it gets rather humorous. It wasn’t about the Speaker, or his bill which I did vote for.”

“I stuck my tongue out at the camera,” he explained, and had not done it at the Speaker, or the bill.  “I have not heard any complaint from outside of the building. I’m quite surprised that this has taken so much valuable time. If members have complaints with me or my decorum specifically, I’d like them to address them with me. When I have a problem with a member’s actions, I try to talk my way through them directly.”

Mudflatters may remember that former Rep. Alan Dick (the “women should get signed permission slips from their impregnators before seeking an abortion” guy) was also a member of the suddenly easily upset, and delicate Interior Delegation. And he spoke on the House floor making references to “the Japs.” And he did so while Rep. Kawasaki was present. Dick eventually apologized. That’s just how they talked back then, you know.  No disrespect to Japanese Americans. Did the delegation ever condemn those comments? No they did not. Was Rep. Kawasaki gracious and forgiving? Yes, he was.

“The way it works for many is to talk personally. I talked to [Rep. Dick], and he talked to me. That’s how we solve problems.”

The impromptu follow-up press conference ended with comments from Minority Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau). She was asked if this whole thing was “playing politics because it’s a member of the minority.”

“What’s bothering me is that I’ve seen many displays of humor, and things that would seem inappropriate on the floor. Every single one of us has made a mistake. Why such an overblown thing? Yes, it was wrong. Yes, it shouldn’t have happened, but we have got to work together as humans. That’s what we are. So to have the Interior Delegation brought together and bottled up in this office, with no one-on-one conversation with the person they were speaking about. That’s troublesome. We’ve got to keep a sense of humor or we’re never going to get through this.”

Here’s the full video of both pressers if you’re in the mood for some faux outrage, and “can’t get our stories straight” amusement from the Republicans of Interior Alaska. Here’s your lesson in how to take someone else’s legitimate screw up, and make yourself look like giant idiots.

Comments

comments

Comments
14 Responses to “Tongue Depresser in Juneau”
  1. DanInAnc says:

    Wow.. that presser could be a classic work of satire. Most amusing to me is that it’s pretty clear that they are trying to play hardball, but anybody paying attention will mostly walk away thinking that Kawasaki (and maybe Isaacson) are the only adults in the room.

    I’m not sure that Scott is a great politician, but the man has integrity, and that’s something rare in Juneau, and I’d gladly trade a little bit of decorum for integrity in those halls. I’ve ran in parallel circles to Scott’s ever since college in the mid to late ’90s, and it’s hard to find anybody who has anything bad to say about him.

  2. Bigtoe says:

    Oh, good grief.

  3. tigerwine says:

    Remember that old ad on TV? “Kawasaki lets the good times roll?”

  4. mike from iowa says:

    Sounds like rethuglicans debated bad manners longer than they did giving away billions of dollars to “Big Awl”. Also appears that the way that body works is character assassination and bribes to other party members to gain a majority so they can ignore Dems. Unlike the reptilian rethugs, Kawasaki proved beyond a shadow of doubt he does not have a forked tongue.

  5. beth. says:

    I think the BEST part of the .gif (aside from showing Rep, Kawasaki patiently waiting for the Speaker to get out of the frame so The Disrespectful Tongue could be stuck out at the Cameraman), is the guy sitting directly behind “Mr.Throw-the-Speaker’s-Office-into-a-Right-Royal-Tizzy-with-all-the-Disrespect-…-Oh!,-the-Disrespect!”. Go back and check the .gif — Dude Clearly falls asleep!

    Head nodding, eyes shutting, head to the chesting, head thrown back in a rebound from the chest falling, asleep. Zonked out asleep. Snoozeville. (To his credit, Dude seems to be mightily fighting it because falling asleep when the Speaker was expounding might be seen by some tightly-wound idiots as Highly offensive and a Most disrespectful gaffe on his part, but…)

    Alaska, my dear, dear Alaska; you certainly keep me interested in what goes on in the state of my birth — your politics always simultaneously scare the bejeezers out of me and amuse the Hellout of me. beth.

  6. AKblue says:

    Much Ado About Nothing.
    Tempest in a teapot
    Ship of Fools
    All of the above.

  7. AKMagpie says:

    Oh my stars, the horreur! To think the Corrupt Bastards Club Auxilliary has the vapors over an instance of reflexive tongue protrusion. It was probably just protruding in an effort to contain projectile vomiting over the legislative effluence spewing.

  8. GoI3ig says:

    If they are so worried about decorum, why does the republican from Homer get to wear his hat indoors? Is it part of his “Popeye” theme or what?

    • GoI3ig says:

      I noticed that Rep Seton is even wearing that stupid looking hat in his official legislative portrait.

      • beth. says:

        I’ve a friend who is never, Ever!, seen –anywhere at any time– without some sort of hat or cap on his head…even wears his ‘cover’ when in military uniform. Indoors, even! Turns out this former US Army Ranger, this 4-time Purple Heart recipient, this multiple national and international military and civilian award recipient, this all-around great guy, had the back, top part of his skull shattered years and years ago (resulting in one of the reasons for one of the Purple Hearts). He keeps the area ‘under wraps’, so to speak, so the bare skin with its horribly ugly scars and the ever-working-their-way-out (still!) bits and pieces of bone shard don’t spook folks the freak out with their overall sheer Yuckyness Factor. Nope; it is .Not. a pretty sight. At All. Don’t know what Rep. Seton’s reason for constant hat-wearing might be. I doubt it could be as ‘necessary’ and as thoughtful a reason as Art’s is, though. beth.

        • tigerwine says:

          Thanks, Beth, for reminding us that sometimes there is a reason for things. I remember moving into a new neighborhood, and later finding out that our next door neighbor thought my husband was weird for wering sunglasses all the time, even when the sun wsn’t shining. Well, he had just undergone eye surgery, and was very sensitive to any sort of light. If anyone is bothered by the hat-wearing guy, I suggest they ask him directly. Then, if his answer doesn’t satisfy, then they can contact him again and address the reason they are offended by his behaviior. Perhaps the man doesn’t evenknow he is upsetting folks, and would be appreciative
          This is all supposing that the dialogus are handled in a polite, professional and adult manner!

  9. Alaska Pi says:

    Oh, for crap’s sake Chenault and the majority gang-
    Get over your your lil selves.
    What a bunch of foolish gobbeldygook.
    At this point, Mr Kawasaki appears to be the only adult in this flap and you all look like hypocrites, naive doofs, or worse.

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