KEITH OLBERMANN: Now as promised a Special Comment on the madness of the Tea Party and the elections of next Tuesday.
It is as if a group of moderately talented performers has walked on stage at a comedy club on Improv night. Each hears a shout from the audience, consisting of a bizarre but just barely plausible fear or hatred or neurosis or prejudice.
And the entertainment of the evening is for each to take their thin, absurd premise, and build upon it a campaign for governor or congressman or senator. The problem is, of course, when it turns out there is no audience shouting out gags, just a cabal of corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and political insider bloodsuckers like Karl Rove and Dick Armey and the Chicken Little Chorus of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
And the instructions are not to improvise a comedy sketch, but to elect a group of unqualified, unstable individuals who will do what they are told, in exchange for money and power, and march this nation as far backward as they can get, backward to Jim Crow, or backward to the breadlines of the ’30s, or backward** to hanging union organizers, or backward to the Trusts and the Robber Barons.
Result: the Tea Party. Vote backward, vote Tea Party. And if you are somehow indifferent to what is planned for next Tuesday, it is nothing short of an attempt to use Democracy to end this Democracy, to buy America wholesale and pave over the freedoms and the care we take of one another, which have combined to keep us the envy of the world.
You do not think your freedom is at stake next Tuesday?
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for senator from Nevada, Sharron Angle, compared rape to, quoting, “a lemon situation in lemonade.” She would deny an abortion even to a teenaged girl who had been raped by her own father.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate to be the only Congressman in Delaware, Glen Urquhart, said “there is no problem that abortion can’t make worse. I know good friends who are the product of rape.”
Mr. Urquhart also does not believe the phrase “separation of church and state” was said by Thomas Jefferson.
He thinks it was Hitler: “The next time your liberal friends ask you about the separation of church and state, ask them why they are Nazis.”
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The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Ohio 9th, Rich Iott, not only ran around in a Nazi uniform celebrating their military tactics, but implies he is a Veteran and as late as this March listed his occupation as “soldier” even though the volunteer militia to which he belongs has never been called, will never be called, to any active service, in the 29 years in which he has belonged to it.
It’s more than just dress-up. They mean business – literally. The Tea-Party-and-Republican-candidate for New Jersey’s 3rd House seat, Jon Runyan, defended corporate tax loopholes: “Loopholes are there for a reason. They are to avoid people from really having to pay too many taxes.”
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for the Senate in West Virginia, John Raese, explained, “I made my money the old-fashioned way, I inherited it. I think that’s a great thing to do. I hope more people in this country have that opportunity as soon as we abolish inheritance tax in this country.”
The inheritance tax applies only to estates larger than $3.5 million. For the 99.8 percent of Americans not affected by the estate tax, there is the minimum wage, which Mr. Raese also wants abolished. Or there is Social Security.
The Tea-Party-and-Republican-candidate in the Indiana 9th, Todd Young, says “Social Security, as so many of you know is a Ponzi scheme.”
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Wisconsin 8th, Reid Ribble, disagrees. Social Security “is, in fact, a Ponzi scheme.”
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Arizona 8th, Jesse Kelly, wants to resurrect President Bush’s scam to transform Social Security into private investment accounts so the government can force you to spend part of your paycheck on Wall Street commissions, and so that market manipulators can wipe out your retirement money.
The Republican candidate in the Wisconsin 1st, Congressman Paul Ryan, has a more sophisticated plan: Personal investment Social Security, guaranteed dollar for dollar by the government. A fiscal fountain of youth, until you find out its cost: Ryan would pay for it by taxing the health insurance you get from your employer.
If you are not employed, Mrs. Angle of Nevada says unemployment benefits can neither be increased nor extended because that “has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job… There are jobs that do exist. That’s what we’re saying, is that there are jobs.”
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for Senator in Alaska, Joe Miller, says this is academic, because unemployment insurance is unconstitutional. His own wife received unemployment insurance after losing a temp job he got for her. Mr. Miller also called Medicaid unconstitutional. It proved his entire family had received Medicaid funds.
Mr. Miller also claims Social Security is unconstitutional, yet hypocritically he says it should still be paid out, and then the issue dumped into the laps of the states.
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The Republican-and-Tea Party candidate for Senator in Colorado, Ken Buck, would not stop at butchering just Social Security. [He said] “would a Veterans Administration hospital that is run by the private sector be better run then by the public sector? In my view, yes.”
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Pennsylvania 4th, Keith Rothfus, has promised to overturn anything the Supreme Court decides, with which he disagrees: “Congress’s ultimate weapon is funding. If the Supreme Court rules you have to do something, we’ll just take away funding for it.”
Back in Nevada Mrs. Angle decries health care – not reform, but health care itself. “Everything that they want to throw at us now is covered under ‘autism’,” she said. As to educating those children Mrs. Angle won’t pay for, Mr. Buck of Colorado, waxes nostalgic: “In the 1950’s, we had the best schools in the world, and the United States government decided to get more involved in federal education…well, since, we’ve made education worse, we’re gonna even get more involved.”
In Ken Buck’s America of 1957, fewer than one in five Black children graduated high school. Fewer than half of white children did. To the Tea-Party-and-Republican-candidate in the California 11th, David Harmer, Mr. Buck is a wild-eyed liberal. Mr. Harmer once advocated eliminating public schools altogether, and return education in this country to where it was before 1876: “People acting in a free market found a variety of ways to pay for a variety of schools serving a variety of students, all without central command or control.” And without girls, blacks, or even the slightest chance you could go to college.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Virginia 11th, Keith Fimian, is “not so sure we need a federal burocracy for education.”
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Florida 2nd, Steve Southerland, wants to “de-fund” the Department of Education because “we can’t afford it.”
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Texas 17th, Bill Flores, offers a tri-fecta plus a delusion. Get rid of “the pornographic endowment of the arts, department of energy, department of education” and with them, he says, ACORN. ACORN — which went out of business last April 1st.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Arizona 5th, David Schweikert, is “passionately” trying to eliminate the Department of Education because it’s “unconstitutional.”
And while one of the few threads uniting the ragamuffins who constitute the slate of Tea Party candidates is so-called ‘strict interpretation’ of that Constitution, Mr. Miller of Alaska wants, in fact, to change the Constitution. He wants to repeal the 17th amendment.
The TeTea Party-and-Republican candidate for senator from Utah, Mike Lee called the 17th amendment “a mistake.”
Last year, Mr. Buck of Colorado said the 17th amendment “took us down the wrong path.”
The 17th amendment, of course, permits the direct election by the voters of U.S. Senators.
Buck and Lee and Miller not only demand you elect them to the Senate; they hope to then deny you the right to elect somebody else, next time.
The ubiquitous Mrs. Angle, meanwhile, wants to repeal the 16th amendment. It provided for a federal income tax. Mrs. Angle does not explain how, without it, the federal government would pay for keeping out the Mexicans she specifically attacks in her newest commercial.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul wishes to repeal the 14th amendment because it interferes with a private business’s right to ban black people from its premises, and also because it allows anyone born here in America to be American. He is worried about anchor babies.
The Republican candidate for the 1st District of Texas, Louie Gohmert, fears not anchor babies but terror babies — unborn infants brought to this country in the womb, ready for American citizenship and pre-programmed to blow things up fifteen or twenty years from now. Curiously, he has not been asked if he is in favor of aborting them.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, sees not terror fetuses but headless bodies in endless deserts murdered by immigrants who are nearly all drug mules.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for Governor of Colorado, Dan Maes, believes a bike-sharing program is part of a plot to turn Denver into a metropolis run by the United Nations.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for Senate from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, believes she was cleared to read secret classified documents about China because she’s been working for Non-Profit Organizations for the past fifteen years. She also believes China is plotting to take over the United States and the first evidence of this is that “China is drilling (for oil) off the coast of Florida.”
This fear of the Chinese clearly does not extend to the Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for Senate from Illinois, Mark Kirk. One day he held a fundraiser with American businessmen in China. The next day, he voted against closing tax incentives for outsourcing American jobs to places like China.
The Tea Party-and-Republican-candidate for Senate from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson is also in favor of relocating employees. He testified against toughening laws on pedophiles and employers who shield them. He argued this could damage a business. A business like the Catholic Church.
In Utah, the anti-bailout Senate candidate Mr. Lee, insists on not raising the liability limits for the next BP from $75 million to $10 billion: “You have a set of settled expectations that you give to a business when it decides to make an investment in this. Our country benefits from this type of activity…”
Asked by the Salt Lake City Tribune if that’s a kind of bailout, if it leaves taxpayers on the hook for part of the damage, Lee admitted, “Well, yea, probably does.”
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Mr. Paul of Kentucky called the nationwide pressure on BP to increase its damage payments “un-American.” He is also opposed to Federal Mine Safety regulations: “The bottom line is: I’m not an expert, so don’t give me the power in Washington to be making rules. You are here, and you have to work in the mines. You’d try to make good rules to protect your people here. If you don’t, I’m thinking that no one will apply for those jobs.”
Mr. Paul’s admission that “I’m not an expert” does provide one of the few dovetails of the campaign. It matches nicely with Mr. Johnson of Wisconsin, who refuses to offer any specifics about his plan to deal with homeless veterans. He says, “This election is not about details.”
Details have proved devilish for the Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for the second district of Virginia, Scott Ridgell He campaigned against the stimulus bill, including the Cash-for-Clunkers program. Mr. Ridgell is an automobile dealer, and happily made hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Cash-for-Clunkers program.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate in the Missouri 4th, Vicky Hartzler, says she and her husband are just small business owners. “We just want the government to leave us alone,” she said. Hartzler and her husband have a farm. In the last fourteen years, that government they want to leave them alone, has given them subsidies totaling $774,000.
Mr. Raese of West Virginia told the Associated Press that “America is in an industrial coma” and blamed the “restrictor plate” that is “a bloated federal government.” “I can’t think,” he added, “of very many times when a government agency has helped me.”
The companies Mr. Raese owns have received $2.4 million in contracts from the federal government since 2000, and $32 million in contracts from the state government since 2000.
Back in Colorado, Mr. Buck apparently thought he was speaking to a campaign worker when he self-exposed his hypocrisy. In fact he was talking to a Democratic operative with a recorder in his pocket. Out of the blue, Tea Party nominee Buck blurted, “Will you tell those dumbasses at the Tea Party to stop asking me about birth certificates while I’m on the camera? God, what am I supposed to do?”
The contempt of Mr. Buck towards his own Tea Party, extends in many cases to reporters – and thus by proxy, to actual citizens.
For instance, the Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for Governor of Maine, Paul LePage (Luh-Page), threatened to punch a radio reporter.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for Governor of New York, Carl Paladino, threatened to “take out” a reporter from the most conservative newspaper in any major American city.
A spokesman told the reporter that he was now off the Palladino mailing list, which has, in the past, consisted of e-mails featuring racism, pornography, and bestiality. Mr. Miller’s private security guards in Alaska detained and handcuffed a reporter, and threatened to handcuff two more, without any legal right to do so, at an event at a public school.
The security company was operating with an expired license; its chief, has links to extremist organizations; and the defense was that the guards didn’t know the individual was a reporter, which implies it would be just dandy to handcuff an ordinary citizen.
Ms. O’Donnell threatened to sue a Delaware radio station if it did not destroy the videotape of her interview there.When she did not like a question, she snapped her fingers at her own press aide then shoved him. The campaign manager threatened to “crush” the station if it did not comply.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for the Senate from Florida, Marco Rubio dreams more of de-portation than de-capitation. He said, in March, “There are millions of people in America that hate our country, so why can’t we just do a trade? We’ll send you Sean Penn, Janeane Garofalo, and Keith Olbermann, and you can send us people that actually love this country.”
This, incidentally, carries with it a tinge of irony. I don’t know that any of his opponents has ever accused Mr. Rubio of not loving this country. He just doesn’t love a lot of its people. The person they all love the least is of course the President.
The Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for Congress from the Florida 22nd, Allen West, had to leave our military after threatening to kill an Iraqi he was interrogating. Now he claims to have a higher security clearance than does the President. Mr. West also told his supporters that they could defeat his Democratic opponent by making the man afraid to leave his own home.
And Tea Party-and-Republican candidate for the House from the Michigan 7th, the ex-Congressman Tim Walberg, wants to blackmail the President into showing his birth certificate… to Rush Limbaugh. He figures he can extort this from President Obama by threatening to impeach him.
You are willing to let these people run this country? This is the America you want? This is the America you are willing to permit? These are the kinds of cranks, menaces, mercenaries and authoritarians you will turn this country over to?
If you sit there next Tuesday and let this happen, whose fault will that be? Not really theirs. They are taught that freedom is to be seized and rationed. They can sleep at night having advanced themselves and their puppeteers and to hell with everybody else.
They see the greatness of America not in its people but in its corporations. They see the success of America not in hard work but in business swindles. They see the worthiness of America not in its quality of life but in its quality of investing. They see the future of America not in progress, but in revolution to establish a theocracy for white males, with dissent caged and individuality suppressed.
They see America not for what is, nor what it can be. They see delusions, specters, fantasies; they see communists under every bed and a gun in every hand. They see tax breaks for the rich and delayed retirement for everyone else. They fight the redistribution of wealth not because they oppose redistribution, but because their sole purpose is to protect wealth and keep it where they think it belongs – in the bank accounts of the wealthy.
They want to make the world safe for Bernie Madoff. But you know better. If you sit there next Tuesday – if you sit there tomorrow, and the rest of this week – and you let this cataclysm unfold, you have enabled this.
It is one thing to be attacked by those who would destroy America from without. It is a worse thing to be attacked by those who would destroy America from within.
But it is the worst thing to sit back and let it happen, to not find the time and the means to convince just one other sane voter to put aside the disappointment of the last two years and look to the future and vote. Because the disappointment of the last two years will be the “good old days” in a Tea Party America.
This is the week in which the Three Card Monte dealers hope to take over the government —the candidates who want their own way, who will say anything to make palatable their real identities as agents of regression, repression, and corporate sovereignty. They are here, they have energized the self-serving and the greedy and the proudly ill-informed.
And if no other fact convinces you of your obligation to vote and canvass and phone and drag even to the polls the most disheartened moderate or Democrat or Liberal or abandoned Republican or political neutral, to vote for the most tepid of the non-Insane candidates, if no other detail hands you that spark of argument with which to invigorate the apathetic, you need only commit to memory the words of Steffan Broden and Sharron Angle.
She can run from reporters but she cannot run from this quote from January, and all the horror and insurrection it implies: “Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going. But, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those second amendment remedies.”
Sharron Angle — too subtle for you? “Second amendment” remedies — guns instead of elections – too implicit? Fortunately, to our rescue, to the speeding of the falling of the scales from our eyes, comes the Tea Party and Republican nominee for the 30th Congressional District of Texas, “Pastor” Steffan Broden. “Our nation was founded on violence,” he said, on tape.
Was armed insurrection, revolution, an option in 2010? “The option is on the table. I don’t think that we should ever remove anything from the table… However, it is not the first option.”
Thank you! The attempt to overthrow the Government of the United States by violence is not The Tea Party’s first option. Next Tuesday is the first option!
The words are those of Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith from the screenplay for the movie “Inherit The Wind.” As the attorney for the man on trial for teaching evolution, Spencer Tracy gets to the gist: “Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we’ll be marching backward, backward through the glorious ages of that 16th century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!”
The angered judge replies, “I hope counsel does not mean to imply that this court is bigoted.” The attorney mutters, “Well, your honor has the right to hope.” The Judge warns, “I have the right to do more than that.” The attorney explodes: “You have the power to do more than that.”
And you have the power to do more than that.