- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 18, 2010

TWO VIETNAMS?

Houston, you have a problem.

Your gaffe-prone congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee, is at it again.

The Texas Democrat - who has complained that no hurricanes are named after black people, that Neil Armstrong planted an American flag on Mars instead of the moon, that the “tea party” movement is full of former members of the Ku Klux Klan - has added her peculiar insight to the realm of diplomacy.

“Today we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working,” she said in a speech last week on the House floor.

“We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace. I would look for a better human rights record for North Vietnam, but they are living side by side.”

(You can view the video of Mrs. Lee’s floor speech at this site: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK3rTUgoQD4.)

Mrs. Lee, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Middle East and South Asian subcommittee, was not confusing Vietnam with North and South Korea because she referred repeatedly to the Vietnam War and the 58,000 Americans killed during the conflict.

There has been only one Vietnam at least since the spring of 1975, when North Vietnam violated the peace treaty that was supposed to have ended the Vietnam War and overthrew the government of South Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Embassy’s Web site adds that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed on April 25, 1976.

President Clinton recognized Vietnam and sent Douglas “Pete” Peterson, a former North Vietnamese prisoner of war, to serve as the first U.S. ambassador to a united Vietnam in 1997.

It is sometimes said in Washington that a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. For Mrs. Lee, all too often, a gaffe is just a gaffe.

In 2005, Mrs. Lee - who represents part of Houston, the home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center - visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where she asked whether the Mars Pathfinder had taken an image of the flag planted by Mr. Armstrong.

In 2003, she complained that the National Hurricane Center should use names of blacks for some of the tropical storms.

Last week, she demonized members of the tea party movement in remarks at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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