It came to light recently that a U.S. Air Force general was fired from his job after thoroughly embarrassing himself during a four-day official visit to Moscow. The cause for Maj. Gen. Michael Carey's termination, as given in an official report released three weeks ago, was boorish behavior and drunken shenanigans via vodka inebriation. My favorite description of just a few of his antics comes from Gawker:
During a lunch banquet with the Russians, where toasts were exchanged, Carey got more blotto and "gave a toast to the group which included comments regarding Syria and Mr. Eric Snowden [sic], which were not well received" by the Russian hosts. He also bragged about the "hot women" he'd met the night before and made fun of the Russian translators. Later, on a tour of a Russian monastery, Carey slurred and interrupted the tour guide, at one point trying to fist-bump her. "He was not totally coherent," one witness said.
Some other highlights of Carey's awesome bender include his trying to storm the stage at a Mexican restaurant called La Cantina while a Beatles cover band played. He "wanted to sing with the band," according to reports. He also met two British women who he was seen "cavorting with" on multiple occasions.
The rub is, Carey wasn't just a low-ranking cog in the machine. He was in Moscow to take part in a joint nuclear security training exercise. He was — until he got pissy on the Popov — the head of all land-based nuclear missiles in the United States, which apparently he boasted about to many people while he was loose on the Goose.
Upon being interviewed by investigators about his behavior, the general refused to answer most of the questions or said that he didn't recall any of the incidents in question, a tactic that may have seemed flippant and rude, but in all likelihood was true.
This is the same guy who presumably was carrying the now metaphorical nuclear football. This drunken sot had his finger on the button.
So the general got tight as a tic at a Russian state affair? So what? I'm not here to put this guy on trial. Few diplomats on a night out with Russian hosts have been able to avoid getting sloshed and then mingling with the young devotchkas.
The epic vodka-soaked Kremlin banquet is ingrained in Russian culture. Man of steel Josef Stalin would use them to pickle his guests in an attempt to embarrass and undermine them. The wily Uncle Joe himself would only sip on a light wine that was said to resemble the vodka his guests were being forced to down with every toast.
Unfortunately the art of deal brokerage in America, at least in the current climate, appears to be much more staid and formal. Less smoky Chicago back room, more stick-up-the-ass, conference-room perestroika.
Openness, while the key to a healthy democracy, tends to slow the process down. Decisions get made by everyone, sober. I don't see any fun in that.
One of my favorite drunken deal-making tales comes from 1947, when Tom Yawkey, the Boston Red Sox owner, and Lee MacPhail, the New York Yankees general manager, were tying one on and got to talking about potential trades. Late in the evening or early morning, they agreed to swap their stars Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, straight up. A blockbuster, life-altering, completely unfathomable deal that would have changed the history of baseball in America as we know it. Later, upon waking up with what I'm sure was the mother of all hangovers, Yawkey reneged on the deal.
Perhaps we need to introduce more alcohol into our own local politics and baseball deal-making?
I propose Richmond Flying Squirrels Vice President Todd "Parney" Parnell — also a man of considerable thirst — and I as dealmakers and enablers. We'll rent out a room in the back of Morton's. There, plied with numerous bottles of high-end scotch and expensive burgundies, paid for by the city's rainy-day fund, we'll help broker a deal for the new stadium between Mayor Dwight Jones and City Council.
Although I can't accurately predict the drinking temperament of our city's dealmakers, logic would tell us that half of the teetotalers on the council will be asleep in their creamed spinach before nightfall, while Jones, a man known to drink high-end cognac with no discernible effects, can then bully the remaining members to accept his downtown stadium plan.
Then of course we'd go sing karaoke at Cha Cha's, take amphetamines and flirt with young women.
And that, Mr. Parnell, is how you cut through red tape.
Connect with Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lauterback also is co-host of "Mornings with Melissa and Jack" on 103.7 Play, weekdays from 6-9. On Twitter @jackgoesforth.