Monday, January 28, 2013


It's still permissible to use the word "pissant," isn't it? Merriam-Webster defines it as someone or something without significance, or obsolete. That's the very word that came to mind while watching congressional Republicans attempt to skewer Sec. of State Hillary Clinton over the attacks in Libya last September that left four Americans dead, including the ambassador. The sharp knifes were out for last week's all-day hearings and the GOP had been salivating for weeks over an attempt to place blame for attacks on the American Embassy in Benghazi. Fox News bloviators like Charles Krauthammer accused the Secretary of developing a case of "Benghazi Flu" to avoid testifying, which turned out to be a blood clot on her brain requiring hospitalization. But there would be no apologies coming from the right, as gnat after insignificant gnat tried to make their bones trashing the former First Lady as if she had set the fire personally. Extremist Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, reacting as if he'd just smoked a bowl of bluegrass, said, "Had I been President at the time... I would have relieved you of your duties," undoubtedly drawing guffaws from White House staffers watching on television. The very thought of a Rand Paul presidency set the tone for the ridiculous spectacle to follow. Permanent grouch John McCain, still in recovery over his loss in 2008, stated that Clinton's answers, "are not satisfactory to me," as if that still mattered. McCain continued, "The American people deserve answers, and they certainly don't deserve false answers," inferring that Mrs. Clinton was lying.

Was it just me, or was there a healthy dose of chauvinistic patronization going on when the hollow men interrogated Mrs. Clinton? Wisconsin minimalist Senator Ron Johnson claimed that Clinton's emotional and tearful testimony about greeting the returning caskets of the four slain Americans was merely "theatrics" to avoid his tough questions. Johnson told CNN that Democrats were playing "election politics" with the Clinton hearings, tone-deaf to his own party's desperate political posturing. Predictably, satire turned to farce when the circus moved to the House of Representatives. Congressman Jeff Duncan of South Carolina shook his finger at Mrs. Clinton while accusing her of allowing the embassy in Benghazi to become "a death trap," and inquiring, "what does responsibility mean to you Madame Secretary?" This coming from a former auctioneer who'd never been fifty miles away from Greenville until his election to the House, attempting to scold a public servant who has logged a million miles in service to her country. The clear motive of these inquisitions was not to find facts concerning the Libya attack, but as an opportunity to attack the Secretary of State. At hearing's end, there was no resolution over what actually took place in Benghazi, and Hillary Clinton, in her final act as a member of the President's cabinet, made the political opposition look like an assortment of opportunists and fools.

This is exactly the image the Republican Party was trying to change at their post-mortem winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C. last week. Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana again rebuked the GOP for being "the stupid party," and urged future candidates to avoid saying things that were "offensive and bizarre." Jindal said, "It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults." Gov. Bobby must believe that we forgot about the time he gave his party's rebuttal to the State of the Union address by coming on television speaking to the American public like he was the newly elected mayor of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. To underscore the image of the "new" GOP, one of the invited and honored keynote speakers was Newt Gingrich. The meeting devolved into another Obama hate-fest, although they paid particular care not to call him a Marxist this time. The GOP believes their principles are solid and that it's just a matter of messaging that will return them to relevancy. They believe that by softening their rhetoric on womens' issues, they'll retain more of the female vote. Perhaps not trying to parse the definition of "rape" might be a good start. Oddly, the emerging Sunday spokesman for Republican "values" seems to be the unrepentant loser Paul Ryan, who attempted to use the term "forcible rape," in his own anti-abortion legislation. In fact, the GOP began the 2013 legislative term by introducing dual bills to defund Planned Parenthood, a "personhood" amendment that would outlaw certain forms of contraception, and harsh anti-abortion measures that mirror similar efforts in  states with Republican controlled legislatures. It's tough to do a lot of soul-searching when you have no soul.

The re-election of Reince Priebus as Chairman of the Republican National Committee does nothing to dissuade the "stupid party" label. When, as chairman, Michael Steele brought the Republicans control of the House and gains in the Senate, the party rewarded him by firing him. Now that Priebus has presided over one of the party's worst political collapses in history, he is punished by being re-elected. I'm still waiting for some pundit of renown to connect the dots between Priebus and Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Kasich of Ohio, Snyder of Michigan, and Scott of Florida in their union-busting attacks on collective bargaining and attempts to do on a state-by-state basis what they are prohibited from doing on a federal level. After Snyder's attempts to declare martial law in Michigan and Scott's voter-suppression measures that backfired in Florida, Priebus actually said, "Actually, our principles are more conducive to minorities than the Democrats'." Fellow, in-denial Republicans echoed the refrain that their problems arise from an inability to "explain their values," and the ordinary citizens' incapacity to "understand our Conservative principles." The meeting then unanimously approved a resolution to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding on a voice vote.

A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico just introduced a new bill that would require the victim of a rape who was impregnated from her ordeal to carry the child to term in order to preserve the fetus as potential evidence at a criminal trial. The legislation reads: "Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion...of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime." This begs the question, who benefits from such a "trial," the victim or the rapist? At the same time, House Speaker John Boehner made a speech to the conservative Ripon Society and said, "We're expecting to be the focus of this administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party." Austerity's champion Paul Ryan further opined, "If we had a (Hillary) Clinton presidency, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now." Democrats need do no more than stand back and watch in awe, since, unlike Boehner's predictions, the current Tea Party-enthralled Republican Party will most likely collapse of its own accord. With enemies like this, who needs friends?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Of Cockroaches and Congress

A revealing survey was released last week by the Public Policy Polling group comparing the popularity of Congress to various noxious irritants that clutter our world. Among other things, respondents preferred used-car salesmen and the NFL replacement refs to the 112th Congress. The Congress has been polling at a history-making nine percent approval rating by the American people; the lowest number since polling was invented. I can only imagine those nine people out of a hundred that think the legislative branch is doing a good job are either congressional spouses and dependants, or the brain-dead remnants of Glen Beck's following. I can't think of a Congress that has accomplished less and is more deserving of public scorn than this one, unless you include the Congress of 1856, when Charles Sumner was brutally caned on the Senate floor, which- on second thought- would probably garner more public approval than anything this batch has done. In fact, I'm certain there are many who feel a little caning might have helped during the previous cantankerous session. Instead, the current crop of Congressional Republicans have been administering a metaphorical caning to the American people since 2008, and there are neon, blinking signs of public revulsion- not the least of which was the total rejection of the GOP platform in the November election. Just when  voters were hoping for a return to a semblance of sanity, the dictatorial, ideological, Republican jihadists didn't seem to get the message and continue their crusade against the will of the people. No wonder people hate Congress.

Of the twenty-six different categories the PPP used in polling, Congress was found to be less preferable than head-lice, cockroaches, and Nickelback,  but to their eternal credit, they scored higher  than gonorrhea, John Edwards, or the Kardashians. I sense a prejudice against the Kardashians, however, for over-exposure. At least they get things done, even if it's elective surgeries or the bunny-like multiplication of their TV franchises. Just look how fast it took Kim to get pregnant by Kanye West and spin it into a new reality show on Bravo. Elvis might have called that "takin' care of business." The Kardashians do more in a day than the legislative branch does in a month. What I found interesting, as a patient of intrusive gastric probery, was that Congress was deemed even less popular than a colonoscopy. I was puzzled by the comparison for a minute, and then it made perfect sense. When you have a colonoscopy, at least they knock you out before shoving something up your ass. An earlier poll revealed the Republicans weren't accepting the election results easily; forty-nine percent of GOP voters agreed with the statement that Acorn stole the election for Obama.

In a move to counter the criticism that they are incapable of accomplishing anything, the House of Representative passed a bill last week that bans the word "lunatic" in all federal legislation. Michele Bachmann had the honor of introducing the first bill of the 113th Congress: to "repeal Obamacare in its entirety," the thirty-fourth such attempt. John Boehner rewarded the zany representative by reassigning her to the Intelligence Committee. Now, Bachmann will be privy to the nation's most sensitive and classified military information. Feel better? Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn followed Bachmann the next day with a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, calling the organization, "Big abortion." Not to be outdone, the very next day, another self-loathing female Tennessee Congressperson, Diane Black of Gallatin, introduced the exact same bill with the same sponsors. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said, "they apparently learned nothing from the results of the last election, when Americans said overwhelmingly that they do not want politicians dictating women's access to health care. In an interesting aside, before running for office, Diane Black was a nurse.

In a contemporaneous account, a former acquaintance claimed Blackburn showed up in Nashville in the early eighties, newly graduated from Mississippi State, claiming to be an "image consultant." She and her husband started a business with Marsha leading seminars for teaching aspiring corporate women how to dress for success. Political observers have called Blackburn a "rising star" in the Republican Party, while a local political action committee has been formed with the goal of bouncing the representative from Brentwood out of Congress. In addition to her opposition to Planned Parenthood, Blackburn recently claimed on CNN that gun control is not the answer to mass shootings because, "hammers, hatchets, cars, and video games" also contribute to the murder rate in the United States. Rep. Blackburn may dress smartly, but she votes like an idiot. And my confidential source also said that she lies about her age.

Former GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough has said that he is tired of the Republicans being the "Stupid Party." Morning Joe claims that the Tea Party wing is destroying the party's chances of competing in national elections because of their extremists views. But as the Tea Party declines in public favor, its voices only grow louder. Latest to join the fray is Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey. Just when you thought comments about "legitimate rape" were gone from the national discussion, here comes Gingrey claiming the statements were "partially true." Discussing the subject of rape with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Gingrey stated that "a scared-to-death 15 year old who gets impregnated by her boyfriend," might tell her parents she's been raped, as opposed to a "legitimate rape," which increases a womans' adrenaline and may cause an interference in ovulation. However, if a woman has already had her period, Gingrey explained, "then the horse is out of the barn, so to speak." Can you guess what Gingrey did before becoming a congressman? He's an OB-GYN. His Georgia colleague in the House, Rep. Paul Broun, recently stated that "evolution, embryology, the Big Bang Theory, are all lies straight from the pit of hell." Like Gingrey, Congressman Broun is also a physician. I didn't know Vatterott College had a Med School. I just feel so sorry for their next appointments.