With the continuing misadventures of the Tea Party candidates, Election Season 2010 has, despite the efforts of Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, entered the realm of Beyond Satire.
Radical policy positions that would have seemed extreme in any other election year – such as abolishing the Department of Education, ending Social Security, and requiring victims of rape and incest to give birth to their attackers’ progeny – are no longer confined to the far right wing of GOP politics. Given the Tea Party’s success in GOP primaries, it appears that anti-government dogma, anti-immigrant hysteria and Taliban-like anti-female and anti-gay social conservatism may become central planks in the mainstream Republican Party platform in 2012.
Of course, there’s also an undercurrent of creeping fascism — which is really creepy — but let’s stick with the outright crazy stuff for the moment. After all, even the more sane, sophisticated and relatively humorless right wing ideologues and corporate robber barons have to be stunned by the pageant of unskilled, unfettered, uneducated and unhinged campaigning on display in the run up to November 2, 2010.
In many states across the country, political aspirants with scant experience in public service who would have been considered fringe candidates in the past (if not the lunatic fringe) are now making national headlines on the campaign trail, in debates, and on the Sunday talk shows.
You’ve got to laugh to keep from crying.
Here, then, are some of the biggest jokes of the 2010 election. There have been so many wacky (actually quite scary) moments involving today’s kooky crop of candidates that it’s time to round up Mid-Term Madness: The Top Ten.
1. Aqua Buddha
Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul, a Republican darling of the Tea Party movement, had already raised eyebrows with many of his extreme anti-government positions, borne of his passion for novelist Ayn Rand’s everybody-for-themselves Objectivist philosophy. But if wanting to do away with public schools and Social Security didn’t brand Rand Paul a fringe candidate, what would Kentuckians make of accusations that, when he was in college, Rand Paul tied a woman up and forced her to bow down before the “Aqua Buddha”? (Which sounds, to me, a lot like some sort of exotic bong.)
The candidate’s still-anonymous accuser said he “took me out to this creek and made me worship Aqua Buddha.”
She added that the whole thing was so “weird” that she ended relations with Paul and his friends. But will Kentucky voters end their weird relationship with Rand Paul? In 2010, who can say?
2. “I’m Not A Witch”
Christine O’Donnell, Delaware’s Republican nominee and Sarah Palin’s endorsed Tea Party candidate for Joe Biden’s Senate seat, spent a lot of the 1990’s as a chirpy, sexy, conservative talking head on TV shows like Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect. As a result, Mr. Maher had a lot of video clips with which to torture O’Donnell’s candidacy, including her prudish crusade against masturbation and her startling admission that she “dabbled in witchcraft” while in high school.
The facts that O’Donnell has no real qualifications for high office, has lied about her education bona fides (no, she didn’t attend Cambridge) and can’t recall a single Supreme Court decision haven’t dampened her Tea Party support – but the witchcraft thing pricked the deaf ears of even the lowest-information Delaware voters.
As a result, O’Donnell had to spend good money on a statewide television ad to declare, “I’m not a witch.” (President Nixon must have been chuckling in his grave.) But the craziest part of the ad is when O’Donnell says, “I am you.” Oh really, Christine? I don’t think so.
3. The SS Candidate
How to win friends and influence people?
Well, for one thing, don’t go around proudly dressed as in a Nazi uniform.
That’s what Republican Congressional nominee Rich Iott, whose district lies in my home state of Ohio, should have known. But, then again, parading around as a Nazi is such a good time, right?
Mr. Iott is a military history and reenactment buff who likes to parade around in a German Waffen SS uniform. (That’s Rich Iott dressed in Nazi drag in the picture at left. He’s the guy second from right. Far right, that is.) Candidate Iott also likes to participate in Nazi re-enactments. So, what’s wrong with that?
After all, Iott says his interest in Nazi Germany is historical and he doesn’t subscribe to Nazism – and some on the right wing have defended him, arguing that Iott also attends Civil War re-enactments in a Union army uniform.
The problem is that the Waffen SS were a particularly evil bunch of murderous rat bastards.
Unlike the conscripted citizen soldiers of the regular German Army (or Wehrmacht), the Waffen SS were a volunteer arm of the Nazi Party that enthusiastically committed countless war crimes and atrocities, including their prominent role in the slaughter of Jews and other “undesirables.” That should make Rich Iott undesirable as a Congressman from my home state. But will it?
Above is a photo of Rich in his jaunty Nazi cap, third from the right (wing).
4. Mr. Green (Does Not) Go To Washington
No state can outdo South Carolina for crazy. But what happened in the 2010 Democratic primary was absolutely nuts. Somehow, an unemployed 32-year-old Army veteran named Alvin Greene with no campaign funds, no posters and no website defeated a well-funded former judge and state legislator, Vic Rawl, for the right to oppose the incumbent GOP Senator Jim DeMint, another Tea Party darling. The mainstream media ignored the possibility of electronic vote tampering and dirty tricks leading to Greene’s election – but they couldn’t ignore how spectacularly unsuited and unprepared Greene was to campaign for, much less hold, a high office.
And if it wasn’t strange enough that a guy with no political experience, unemployed for nine months, somehow paid a $10,400 filing fee and all his other campaign expenses from his own personal funds – the sad, self-defeating saga of Alvin Greene got more bizarre when a Richland County grand jury indicted him for disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity (a felony) as well as a misdemeanor charge of communicating obscene materials to a person without consent.
According to prosecutors, Greene approached a female student in a University of South Carolina computer lab, showed her some obscene photos online, then talked about going to her dorm room. When a reporter from a local TV station pressed Greene to elaborate on the indictment, the accidental candidate told the reporter to “leave [his] property” and “go away.” Unlike Jim DeMint, I wish this whole sorry example of political dysfunction (and dog whistle race baiting) would go away.
5. Headless Bodies in the Arizona Desert
Batty, blustering Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s erratic reelection campaign has earned her two spots on this list. Brewer’s relentless demagoguery on the immigration issue and her support for Arizona Senate Bill 1070 (the “show me your papers” law) have made her a darling of the right in that troubled border state, despite the fact that she’s several bricks shy of a load. In fact, in her zeal to portray the threat from illegal immigration in as dire a light as possible, Brewer finally lost her head.
As Dana Milbank wrote in the July 11th edition of The Washington Post, “The Arizona governor, seemingly determined to repel every last tourist dollar from her pariah state, has sounded a new alarm about border violence. ‘Our law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded.’” She also mentioned “beheadings” on Fox News. (One can only imagine the cutting, incisive follow up questions from her Fox interlocutor.) Two months later, with no evidence of any headless bodies littering the Arizona desert, and no law enforcement officials willing to back her claims, Governor Brewer conceded she “misspoke” when she claimed that headless bodies were found in her state’s desert. But her half-hearted semi-apologia came only after her Democratic opponent decapitated Brewer over her headless nonsense in their gubernatorial debate. And how did she handle the issue with the press immediately after the debate? You gotta see it to believe it.
6. Jan Brewer’s (Very) Long Pause
Jan Brewers absolutely stunning (actually, stunned) opening statement in the Arizona Gubernatorial Debate on September 1st must also be seen to be believed.
Only in wacky, way-out Elections Season 2010 could a politician possibly survive turning in a performance like this on a televised debate.
7. Carl Paladino
The New York Republican Party had planned to run former U.S. Representative Rick Lazio to become the Republican candidate for New York governor in the race against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the son of the revered former Governor Mario Cuomo. Instead, thanks to the Tea Party’s clout in the NY primary, they got little-known businessman Carl Paladino. According to Dick Brennan in The Queens Courier, “Paladino has been dubbed by some as ‘Crazy Carl,’ but the reality is that Paladino is crazy like a fox. Nobody can figure out his strategy, so why not just call him a nut? In fact, the multimillionaire from Buffalo is following a plan, and sticking to it with great discipline.It’s easy to see the first part of his program: hit and run politics, guerilla war, throw your bombs and run for cover. By bombs we mean politically incorrect statements, the more outrageous the better.”
Among the rhetorical bombs tossed by Paladino are his claims that students are being “brainwashed” into believing that the gay lifestyle is a valid option. (This from a guy whose son is the landlord for two gay bars.) Out of the blue, Paladino criticized the media for not asking completely unfounded questions about Cuomo’s marital fidelity. (Crazy Carl claimed to have evidence, but revealed none.) And then there’s Paladino’s penchant for off-color e-mails, like the video he sent to friends of Africans dancing in traditional dress that was titled “Obama Inauguration Rehearsal” – and the video he forwarded of a woman having sex with a horse. The Tea Party doesn’t seem to have the most vigorous vetting process, does it?
8. Sharron Angle
Did I mention that The Tea Party doesn’t seem to have the most vigorous vetting process?
Of all the Senate Democrats in trouble this election season, Harry Reid of Nevada looked like a soft target for the GOP this fall. Nevada’s economy has been devastated by the housing crisis and Harry Reid is, well, Harry Reid. A decent, stalwart, western Democrat – but not the most charismatic or inspirational politician one could hope for. (As a Californian, I see Harry as the Gray Davis of Nevada.) But, once again, The Tea Party insurgents blew up the GOP’s hope for an easy victory by nominating the most spectacularly unqualified, un-muzzled, and unbelievably obtuse candidate to contend against Reid: Sharron Angle, an ultra-right former member of the Nevada state legislature.
Daniel Kurtzman has listed “The 10 Most Ridiculous Sharron Angle Quotes (So Far)” at About.com (and you should check them all out.) They don’t even include her recent suggestion that many of the Hispanic high school kids she was speaking to looked Asian to her. But here’s just a few…
“People ask me, ‘What are you going to do to develop jobs in your state?’ Well, that’s not my job as a U.S. senator.”
“The Federal Department of Education should be eliminated. The Department of Education is unconstitutional and should not be involved in education, at any level.”
And she said this to explain why she opposes abortion — even in cases of rape or incest. “I think that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade.” Only amid the madness of Mid-Terms 2010 could such a fringe nutcase become Nevada’s junior Senator.
9. Joe Miller or Joe Stalin?
Ah, Alaska! The state the just keeps giving to satirists, cynics and those awaiting signs that the end of the world is upon us. Now the Tea Party voters of Alaska, with the endorsement of no less an authority on wacko, vacuous, right wing politics than Sarah Palin, have given us Joe Miller: he of the permanent five o’clock shadow – and shadowy ideas about how to govern our country. But you’d think that a candidate representing the party of St. Ronald Reagan, who famously stood before the Berlin Wall and uttered the words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” would be loathe to show admiration for Joe Stalin’s infamous Cold War barrier to freedom. Alas, in 2010, any strange thing is possible.
In fact, at a town hall meeting, GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller praised East Germany as a model for how the U.S. might defend its borders. According to Joe (that’s Miller, not Stalin, though I can understand the confusion), “East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow,” of cross-border traffic. “Now, obviously, other things there were involved,” Miller conceded, but… “We have the capacity, as a great nation, obviously, to secure our border. If East Germany could, we could.”
Of course, awful visions of barbed wire, machine guns and Checkpoint Charlie aside, Joe Miller fails to understand that the Berlin Wall was built to keep East Germans in – not to keep illegal immigrants out.
Can being such a wacko keep Joe Miller out of the Senate?
Let’s hope so.
A guy like Miller almost makes me want to write in M..u..r..k..o..w..s..k..i. Then again, now that this is a three-way race, the Democrat, former Sitka mayor Scott McAdams, just might sneak in. Provided Joe doesn’t build that wall to keep him out.
10. Sarah Palin as Tea Party Kingmaker
That’s all you need to know about the lunacy of Election 2010. A know-nothing former pageant princess, ex-mayor of a tiny town, failed Governor, failed Vice Presidential candidate and a woman who quit her job working for the people of Alaska to line her pockets at Fox News, TLC and anywhere they’ll pay her big bucks to speak – is somehow a Tea Party kingmaker, capable up upsetting the mainstream GOP applecart. It’s actually fun to watch. Just imagine how the relationship between Mitch McConnell and John McCain is going lately.
Thanks, Senator McCain. If you hadn’t chosen Sarah Palin as your running mate, the GOP might have had a good chance of taking the Senate in 2010. So you could say all this mid-term madness started with McCain.
No nutty deed goes unpunished. Especially in this election season.
And now, the dream GOP/Teas Party ticket for 2012…
Now, that would be truly beyond satire. (Oh, but we’d have to try, wouldn’t we?)