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Hullabaloo


Friday, October 23, 2015

 

The Benghazi snake eats its tail

by Tom Sullivan

What used to be called movement conservatism took off Ronald Reagan's presidency. "Real Americans" decided that any Democrat in the White House is illegitimate – and any law, and any court ruling with which they disagree. Members insist on calling the Democratic Party the Democrat Party – emphasis on RAT. Looking to take down Bill Clinton, they paid investigators in Arkansas to dig dirt on him soon after he took office. They ginned up a score of faux scandals, allegations, and internet rumors, culminating with Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. Clinton presided over an economy about which Republicans should have crowed, but because it wasn't one of their own in the White House, that too was illegitimate.

Top Republican leaders held a private dinner at the Caucus Room in Georgetown to discuss how to destroy Barack Obama’s presidency on the night of his inauguration in 2009. Next came Birtherism, racist images, slurs, the Tea Party, and new voting restrictions in nearly two dozen states. A half dozen GOP lawmakers and Sarah Palin suggested impeachment for Obama.

A year before the 2016 election, a Texas Republican congressman suggested that Hillary Clinton is “subject to impeachment” the day she takes office. This movement has no use for democracy if it cannot control the outcome.

Plenty of pixels and print this morning cover the outcome of "Tea Party Trey" Gowdy's eleven-hour interrogation yesterday of Hillary Clinton before the House Benghazi Committee. Simon Maloy at Salon writes:

All in all it was a bust for Gowdy and the Benghazi committee, to the point that conservative pundits were griping about how poorly the Republicans fared against Clinton. Anyone who doubted that the committee was a partisan exercise in Clinton-bashing came away free of doubts.

Perhaps Gowdy's committee itself should be investigated for spending public funds on what is either an illegal Republican campaign expenditure against Clinton or an illegitimate "in-kind donation to her presidential campaign."

Paul Rosenberg's post deriding "constitutional conservatism" (a code word for T-party) before the hearing even ended nailed the inherent fraud in the conservatives' posturing:

Take, for example, Michael Peroutka, a GOP county commissioner in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, a past leader of the League of the South, and the 2004 presidential candidate of the aforementioned Constitution Party. I wrote about Peroutka in 2014, before he was elected. Among other things, Peroutka believes that government bodies who don’t act as he’d like can simply be deemed illegitimate, and be ignored. I quoted from a story by Frederick Clarkson:

The day after the primary, Peroutka issued a pronouncement that is likely to make his fellow Republicans, to say the very least, uneasy. In his regular broadcast of “The American View,” he suggested that all of the laws of the state of Maryland may be invalid, because the state legislature is an invalid body of government for having considered initiatives that, in his view, “violate God’s Law.”

“For the past few years,” Peroutka declared, “the behavior of the legislature in my home state of Maryland raises the question whether the people of Maryland may be justified in reaching the conclusion that what we call our ‘General Assembly’ is no longer a valid legislative body.

And if the case can be made that the legislature of Maryland or of your state is not a valid body, then, it follows that no validity should be given to any of its enactments.”

That’s some constitutional principle! But that’s only part of an intricate alternative reality version of American constitutional law. And it’s only an example of a much broader tendency among those who like calling themselves “constitutional conservatives.”

Maybe Real Americans are "Unicornstitutional conservatives," as Josh Marshall brilliantly suggests:

Related but by no means synonymous with the US constitution, the Unicornstitution exists as a sort of ersatz Platonic ideal form of the Constitution which exists in the ether and is ready at hand to give a big thumbs up and attaboy and 'you go girl' to whatever crazy bullshit thing you already decided to do, especially if you're really angry and stupid and fundamentally see life in America as as matter of other undeserving people taking away your stuff and your not being able to do anything about it.

This is related to a point I made earlier this year ("No. Sorry. You're not a constitutional conservative.") But it goes a bit beyond that - the desire to wrap every completely nutball idea you have onto the Constitution. Because generally because ...

As Rosenberg notes, they must repeatedly reinvent themselves each time one of their cockeyed theories goes publicly haywire and Americans are "painful reminded what conservative governance looks and feels like." The hearings yesterday are the latest reminder, and a cue to a movement in shambles that it is time for yet another reinvention. Maybe next time instead of a coiled snake, a snake eating its own tail.