Friday, August 13, 2010

House rules, House fools

Free speech notwithstanding, two members of the U.S. House of Representatives have me wishing (again) that the Founders had expanded the First Amendment to include a sanity clause.

Rep. Charles Rangel, who's served New York's 15th for 40 years, is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for violating a truckload of rules. Even as a formal hearing looms, Rangel is also running for a 21st term representing his Harlem district.

You'd think that with reelection on the line he'd be trying to downplay the charges against him. Nope -- not Charlie.

Nearly every day now, he steps in front of the cameras to thump his octogenarian chest. Presumably he means to strengthen the case for his innocence -- instead, his narcissistic rants make the strongest possible argument for term limits.

Surely he knows that the last thing that besieged Democrats need, really, is an ethics scandal -- or rather another ethics scandal, since Rep. Maxine Waters (California's 35th, 20 years) likewise is in hot water with the House Ethics Committee -- but Rangel can't resist an opportunity to prance. Embarrassing as it is to the Dems, I shed no tears when either dominant political party takes it in the shorts.

That's entertainment.

Rangel proclaims, "I am not going away," demonstrating more than just personal corruption. He appoints himself the poster boy for the institutional corruption afflicting our politics, regardless of party or ideology.

Charlie Rangel must indeed go away, and he can take the rest of his power-drunk incumbent "colleagues" with him. And that, of course, will be up to The People.

I'm not holding my breath.

Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert of Tyler, Texas is a looney with a different tune. This is the former judge who took to the House floor to praise columnist Thomas Sowell as "a brilliant man" for equating the policies of Pres. Barack Obama with those of Adolf Hitler.

Well, you'll have that sort of nonsense, especially from a card-carrying wingnut like Louie. What really got my attention is something else that Gohmert said on the House floor, apparently in support of changing the Fourteenth Amendment's provision for "birthright citizenship":

"I talked to a retired FBI agent who said that one of the things they were looking at were terrorist cells overseas who had figured out how to game our system. And it appeared they would have young women, who became pregnant, would get them into the United States to have a baby. They wouldn't even have to pay anything for the baby. And then they would turn back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then one day, twenty, thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life. 'Cause they figured out how stupid we are being in this country to allow our enemies to game our system, hurt our economy, get set up in a position to destroy our way of life."
That's right -- according to Gohmert, an unnamed former FBI agent says that unnamed terrorists are executing an evil 30-year plot to raise as-yet-unnamed "terror babies" with U.S. citizenship.

Naturally, Gohmert refuses to identify the mystery G-man or otherwise substantiate what he's presented as fact. Another Texas Republican, Rep. Debbie Riddle, also has adopted Gohmert's message, saying only that "former FBI folk" passed the warning to her congressional office.

The Bureau, for its part, has categorically debunked Gohmert's claims -- publicly and on background, officially and unofficially. Former Assistant Director Tom Fuentes, who oversaw the FBI's overseas operations, has said that "the idea that they would somehow grow terrorist babies from the ground up is ludicrous."

Yes, so-called "birth tourism" is real and growing. There's no disputing that illegal immigration is out of control. Our porous borders are, in truth, a pressing matter of national security. Still, none of that justifies making shit up as if the facts aren't scary enough.

Like the corrupt Rangel, the intellectually bankrupt Gohmert doesn't have the good sense to fall down once he's dead. That's the only possible explanation for his agreeing to be interviewed live on
CNN last night. Let's go straight to the video.

Clearly, Gohmert had been coached to start a-hollerin' whenever Anderson Cooper posed a question. The host by no means engaged in a game of journalistic gotcha -- he simply (and repeatedly) asked his guest to provide evidence. Cooper didn't have to undress the congressman as a fool -- Gohmert willfully stripped off every stitch of credibility early in the interview.

If you don't find his performance shameful, you're not using the brains you were born with -- but don't worry, you're far from alone. The American electorate is dominated by mindless citizens who prefer fear to facts and favor ideology over intellect.

And that's why we'll keep re-electing the likes of Louie and Charlie -- it's the government we deserve.