Sunday, April 6, 2008

Media Downplays Faleomavaega Hype

Last week Faleomavaega sent out a press release hyping the historic occasion of him presiding over a session of the Committee of the Whole on the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. It reminds me of a joke about an airline company's public relations department in the early 1960s headlining a story "XYZ Airline Becomes First U.S. Carrier with All Jet Fleet." It is only when you read deeper into the story that you learn that the historic event occurred when the airlines last two prop planes collided in mid-air, killing 134 people.

There may be hope for the local media at long last. Samoa News recognized that Faleomavaega's chairmanship of the Committee of the Whole was not the big deal he made it to be and carried a truncated version of his press release in its "Community Briefs" section of the paper.

Yes, Faleomavaega no doubt was the first Samoan to preside over the Committee of the Whole. Of course, he neglects to point out that only two Samoans ever have served in the House and his predecessor, the disgraced Fofo Sunia (D) was not given that "honor" by the Democrats in charge during his seven years in the House before being forced to resign as part of a plea bargain that included 11 months in prison for his part in a ghost payroll scheme. Rather he focuses attention on the fact that Republicans did not give the gavel to any of the delegates during their 12 years in power. Of course, he fails to mention that whichever party is in power presides over all House sessions and all the delegates were Democrats during that period.

He notes that he could have chaired the committee during the 1993-94 session but "time ran out" before he had the opportunity. More likely, his travel schedule was so heavy he wasn't in town long enough to accept an invitation. That is probably why, despite his seniority, he only now, well into this session, was able to mount the dais.

The fact is, presiding over the House is a chore that majority members mostly try to avoid. The Speaker, who is supposed to preside, rarely does so. Presiding chores usually are rotated among junior members. So, on the few occasions he was in Washington during 1993-94, Faleomavaega probably ducked for cover. Why now, this year? Probably to build his credentials back home, where he now has two announced opponents and faces yet another tough race. The dissatisfaction and restlessness of the electorate is growing.

With good reason.

A final comment. Samoa News also carried a photo on its website with a caption about Faleomavaega presiding over the House. There is no way to tell if the photo was taken the day he presided because the backdrop was the seats in the House not the dais. We hope it was a stock photo rather than one from that day because he was attired in open collar with his trademark bolo tie. While such neck wear is permitted on the Floor, it is not encouraged, especially for someone not of Native American heritage. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), who is of Native American heritage, always dresses in standard Western business attire, for example.

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