Forget Michele Bachmann’s demand that we investigate which Representatives and Senators are real Americans. Forget Liz Cheney’s desire to smoke out all those al Qaeda loving Department of Justice employees. What we really need to do in full-blown McCarthy style is to weed out the whack jobs!
Now of course, the aforementioned Bachmann is near the top of the list but insanity knows no political affiliation. The latest case is that of New York Representative Eric Massa. Massa announced he wouldn’t run for another term for health reasons, then said he was resigning because his fellow Democrats wanted to get rid of him. As it turns out he was facing an ethics investigation for inappropriate behavior with staffers. Glenn Beck smelled blood and booked Massa for a full hour in the hope of getting at some deep dark Democratic conspiracy to silence possible opposition to health care legislation. Then one of my favorite “Law and Order” plot devices was employed. Have you ever seen DA McCoy put a guy on the stand and then the guy does a complete 180 with his testimony, endangering McCoy’s chances at a conviction? Well that is exactly what happened to Beck. He put Massa “on the stand” and Massa did a complete 180, claiming that he had no one to blame for his resignation but himself. Later that night he went on CNN’s “Larry King Live” and announced that he wouldn’t answer whether or not he was gay. He just told Larry to ask his wife, his friends and his Navy buddies.
As if matters could not get worse, Josh Green of The Atlantic decided to take Massa up on his offer and interview a few of his old Navy cohorts. The verdict? Back in the Navy Massa made unwanted advances on fellow sailors.
On tonight’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”, guest host Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed comedian-cum-pundit Bill Maher who made a frightening observation. Essentially Maher said that to get elected to Congress all you have to do is memorize the right talking points and then charm the voters into electing you. You don’t have to be very smart and you can be flat-out crazy. This got me to thinking about the current mistrust of government. I have always interpreted it as a purely political position, one currently being exploited to the hilt by Republicans. But when you look at Bachmann, Grassley, Massa, Rangel and a list of others you see that this goes way beyond politics. We have a lot of very flawed people running our government. The easy answer is that as voters, we get what we deserve. Still one has to think, when one gets beyond Massa as a punchline, that this man had authority to vote on matters of grave interest to our country. This guy is clearly bonkers. How many of him are in Washington? Do we really have a problem here and if so, how in the world do we solve it?
An Unintended Consequence
Unfortunately, one of the aftershocks of the Massa fiasco that I have not yet seen in the main stream media but that I expect to see any day now, is the issue of his behavior in the Navy. This is just the kind of thing that advocates of “don’t ask don’t tell” cite as their worst nightmare. The folks interviewed by The Atlantic said they did not press charges against Massa because he was in a position of power on the ship and reporting his harassment would make waves, no pun intended. The important point to emphasize here is that heterosexual harassment is common in the military but the key difference that DADT advocates will cite is that Massa shared living quarters with at least one of the men he allegedly harassed, thereby facilitating the harassment. Then again, would DADT deter someone like Massa? Not likely. We will have to see how and if this plays out but it isn’t a good development for gay rights advocates.
Hypocrisy or Proper Representation?
Inasmuch as we’re discussing gay politicians, the case of Roy Ashburn, a State Senator from California, raises an interesting question. Ashburn has been in the closet his entire political career and voted against every pro-gay legislation that has come down the pike. When he was arrested for DUI on his way back from a gay bar, he decided to announce his sexual orientation. Faced with the seeming contradiction of his voting record he said, “I felt my duty – and I still feel this way – is to represent my constituents, not my own point of view, not my own internal conflict.” via Roy Ashburn, California State Senator, Says He’s Gay After DUI Arrest.
Is an elected representative sworn to reflect the wishes of his constituents or should his personal views play a dominant role? One of the constant debate points regarding health care reform is that our government is passing legislation that “the people” don’t want (a bogus claim but let’s run with it) and that the majority party is enforcing its sense of moral outrage on the rest of us, deciding what is best for us.
It will be interesting to see how Ashburn’s fellow Republicans handle this. Putting aside the DUI arrest which is unseemly, will the California GOP defend Ashburn based on his voting record and ignore his proclivities? Will they embrace him as a “log cabin Republican” in much the same way that the recent CPAC convention embraced GOPride, a conservative gay group?
Most importantly, is Ashburn a hypocrite or just a good legislator doing what his constituents sent him to the California Senate to do?