From the WaPo:
Maybe Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and his staff are just in denial. Or maybe they don’t read the papers, thus missing the sad news that Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) died Monday, seven months after he was diagnosed with leukemia.
Whatever the case, Leavitt’s office called Thomas’s office late Thursday afternoon to request a meeting with the late senator.
Needless to say, grief-stricken Thomas staffers were stunned. One aide to Thomas sent the following e-mail to a friend (both names have been redacted):
From: (Thomas staffer) <@thomas.senate.gov>
To: (Staffer’s friend)
Sent: Thu Jun 07 16:49:36 2007
Oh yeah, note to Secretary Levitt’s [sic] office: Senator Thomas passed on Monday, 4 June. You may want to pass that along to his staff especially after they called today to get a meeting with the late Senator.
Call me if you’d like, really unbelievable!
These guys are so deep in the bubble, so insensitive to anything going on outside it, that they didn’t even know Thomas – a Republican, one of their own – was sick, let alone that he had died. An HHS flack tried to put the best spin possible on it, of course.
HHS spokeswoman Christina Pearson says she does not know who from the agency called Thomas’s office to set up a meeting but she acknowledged “obviously it’s a mistake.” She added, “Senator Thomas is held in the highest regard by the secteray [sic] and this office.”
Such high regard that they couldn’t be bothered to find out that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer 7 months ago, let alone that he had died. Somebody was ordered to arrange a meeting because they needed him for something. Until the moment they wanted use him, they couldn’t care less.
The only people who might be surprised at such callous indifference – well, actually I don’t know who would be surprised by this after the past 6 years of selfish indifference and deliberate isolation by everyone in Bush’s White House. Cheney hides in bunkers and holds secret meetings with other corporate honchos to make public policy without the annoyance of public knowledge or input. Rice won’t talk to anybody unless they already agree with her. Rove only comes out of his hole at election time and rarely talks to anyone then. And, of course, Bush only talks to his fans (who are getting so thin on the ground in the US that he had to go to Albania to find some).
In a classic example of gentle schadenfreude, one of Thomas’ people tried to take the sting out of the incident.
A weary-sounding spokesman for Thomas, who has been busy all week fielding calls from reporters about the senator’s death and helping plan arrangements for Friday’s memorial service in Wyoming, said in his best joking voice, “Well, in a meeting today with the Employee Assistance Program Counselors, they said denial is part of the grieving process.”
These guys have been in denial since the Fall of Saigon.
So. Was this incompetence? callous disregard? the cluelessness of one of those Goodling-style Pub acolytes, too young and stupid to know better?
Does it matter?