Sunday, May 31, 2015



1. Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler). The Texas Republican proposed an amendment so outrageous that even some of his own GOP colleagues were repulsed—and this says a lot. Schaefer’s amendment would make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks, even if a fetus “has a severe and irreversible abnormality,” effectively forcing families with wanted, but unsustainable pregnancies to carry to term at the behest of the state and against the advice of their doctors or their own wishes.

What would cause a lawmaker to want the government to inflict more emotional pain onto an already grieving family, not to mention adding a major health risk to the mother? Does he not realize a woman can easily die of sepsis by carrying a deceased or nonviable fetus?

Schaefer’s answer is that suffering is “part of the human condition, since sin entered the world.”

Good God! Where do these people come from? More importantly, how do they hide their vile and odious ignorance long enough to get elected?

2. Presidential Wannabe Jeb Bush. In a Christian Broadcasting Network interview, Bush said he believes business owners should be able to refuse to provide services for same-sex couples “if it’s based on a religious belief.”

“A big country, a tolerant country, ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs,” he said. “This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now.”

Business owners have long used the moral belief rationale as an excuse to discriminate against various groups of people, for example to refuse service to blacks at lunch counters and elsewhere. Framing discrimination as somehow righteous has a long, shameful history in America. It’s sickening that Bush and other right-wingers are determined to keep the subterfuge alive.

Let’s get one thing straight. The issue here isn’t about the government telling people how to conduct themselves in their private lives; it’s about how businesses operate. America would be a far less hospitable, not to mention just and free place, if government didn’t tell businesses they can’t discriminate against a given group of people. It isn't that complicated, no matter how much Jeb Bush and other Republicans try to confuse the issue.

NOTE: The disastrous consequences of the Bush and Obama Administrations’ foolhardy military adventures in the Middle East has inspired many people to ask whether we would have intervened initially had we known then what we know now. I expected evasive answers to this question from elected officials, especially those with presidential aspirations, but I didn’t expect the misinformed, absurd answers some have given. Below are three May examples.

3. More Jeb Bush. In a softball interview with Megyn Kelly of Fox News, Bush was asked if knowing what we know now, would he have authorized the invasion of Iraq. His response showed he is either ignorant, contemptuous of truth, suffers from amnesia, is a incorrigible apologist for his brother, is simply so entrenched in evasive political double-talk he can’t give a straight answer, or, all of the above. Take your pick. His response:

“I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got. In retrospect the intelligence that everybody saw, that the world saw, not just the United States, was faulty. And in retrospect once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn’t focus on security first.”

Bad intelligence? Given that most everyone now knows that the intelligence was politicized, not faulty, it’s hard to believe a presidential hopeful would make such a claim. Is he that stupid or just unprepared for a question he should expect to get often? When the Bush comment predictably caused a stir, he further validated his claim to stupidity by explaining he had “interpreted the question wrong,” adding:

"Yeah, I don't know what that decision would've been," Bush responded. "That's a hypothetical but the simple fact was mistakes were made, as they always are in life and foreign policy. So we need to learn from the past to make sure we're strong and secure going forward."

You’d think with all his money and connections, he could hire consultants who could craft better responses to a question he must expect to get asked a lot. Where’s Roger Ailes when you need him? It could be Bush simply doesn’t want to cast aspersions on his brother, or, worse yet, he is genuinely oblivious about the bogus rationales for going to war. God help us—what if he really is the dumber of the two brothers?

4. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Jeb Bush wasn’t the only presidential wannabe to show ignorance or contempt for truth in responding to the question of whether he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq. Governor Christie also joined the denial club, confidently asserting on CNN:

“I don’t think you can honestly say that if we knew then that there was no W.M.D. that the country should have gone to war. . . . I think President Bush made the best decision he could at the time, given that his intelligence community was telling him that there was W.M.D. and that there were other threats right there in Iraq.” He added: “Sometimes real mistakes of national consequence can be made if we don’t have correct intelligence.”

Mr. Christie is right, except it’s not what happened with Iraq. His loyal defense of President George W. Bush is based on a completely false premise at the heart of the discussion about Iraq.

It appears GOP presidential hopefuls are hatching a cover story based on the premise that Dubya was focusing on protecting the homeland when the intelligence community presented him with information about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq that compelled him to take action. What actually happened, as I’ve reiterated in previous Phronesis posts, is that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and a handful of other neo-cons in the administration decided to attack Iraq for ideological reasons. Their idea was to preempt a potential threat and in the process send the region a message that there was a new sherrif in town.  Since the American people would be unlikely to support a “preventive war,” they needed to concoct a more compelling rationale. To build public support and win congressional authorization, the Bushies cooked up a “national intelligence estimate” that offered a false picture of confidence among the intelligence agencies about dangerous WMDs and Saddam Hussein’s ambitions to destroy America.

In fact, there was serious dissent within the intelligence community about that information, which turned out to be wrong. But that dissent, and evidence that contradicted the previously made decision to go to war, was ignored, covered up, papered over — choose your verb. The Cheney team of ideologues actually established their own boutique intelligence operation within the Pentagon to massage analysts’ reports so that they would conform to what the White House wanted them so say.

5. Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert. Gohmert’s answer takes the prize for the most absurd response to the question of what President Bush would have done in Iraq had he known what we know now. He told Virginia talk radio host John Fredericks:

“If President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him that would not even be able to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Iraq and start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos, then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him,” Gohmert said. “That should be the question.”

There is no limit to the propensity of Republicans to blame Obama for, well, everything bad thing that happens at home and abroad, regardless of actual causes. Maybe a more appropriate question should be: had Obama realized the full extent of the disaster GW was handing off to him, would he still have run for president in the first place?

6. Marco Rubio (R-Fl). Rubio is well on his way to winning Phronesis’ first annual presidential candidate Mitt Romney Two-Face Award. He’s already switched position on immigration reform, abortion and gay rights, and Obamacare.

Rubio somehow lost his voice when a Senate-passed an immigration reform bill, the essence of which he had previously supported, reached the House. In July, he sponsored legislation to outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy; a few weeks later, he withdrew support for a gay judge whom he had previously supported. Recently he likened the Affordable Care Act to New Coke-- a product that Coca-Cola was forced to recall in 1985 after only a few short months on the shelves—saying:

“It was a disaster. Everybody hated it. What did Coca-Cola do when New Coke began to flounder? They did not say, ‘Well, we are just going to continue to make more of it.’ They backed away from it.”

Although he is expected to have two-face competition from Jeb Bush, and surely from Chris Christie if he enters the race, Rubio appears the clear front-runner for the Romney award. The idea of this guy becoming the GOP nominee is scary.

7. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Not wanting to be upstaged by the hawkish rhetoric of GOP presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio (”We should attack Iran”), Scott Walker (we need “a leader that is willing to take the fight to them before they take the fight to us”), Rand Paul (“we need to boost defense spending”), Ted “kick-ass” Cruz, and neocon favorite Jeb Bush, Graham apparently believes expressing more extreme hawkish positions than his fellow hawks will separate himself from the field. Graham revealed his contempt for the First Amendment’s right to due process, when he told a gathering of GOP faithful at the Iowa Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner:

“If I’m President of the United States and you’re thinkin’ about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL—anybody thinkin’ about that?—I’m not going to call a judge, I’m going to call a drone, and we will kill you.”

Graham can’t seem to shake his fallacious belief that the use of force can solve most problems. He pushed aggressively for the invasion of Iraq, for putting boots on the ground in Libya, and for military intervention in Syria. Graham isn’t unique for trying to peddle violence—it’s the fear he uses to market military action that makes him stand out. From his claims that Saddam Hussein was “flat-out lying” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that “chemical weapons in Syria today means nuclear weapons in the US tomorrow,” to his assertion that ISIS “will open the gates of hell to spill out on the world,” Graham’s track record is a long, terrifying trail of hyperbole. Can he be that ignorant of history?

8. Democrat Chicago Mayor Rahm Emaneul. Fearing growing grassroots support for his populist opponent for mayor, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Rahm resorted to warning local voters that electing Garcia would upset Wall Street bond dealers. In this “smear” campaign he was joined by Illinois Senator Mark Kirk who said:

“The people who are running against Rahm don’t have the gravitas with the bond market.”

Such gravitas has certainly worked out well. In winning the respect of the Wall Street clique of crooks, Emanuel, (along with Kirk and other Demos who grovel at the feet of the corporate establishment) has presided over the wrecking of Chicago’s budget with corporate giveaways, resulting in cuts in social spending and job losses. I’m sure workaday Chicagoans are jumping for joy.

9. Representative Ed Orcutt (R-Wash.). Because motorists pay for the roads they travel on, through registration fees, gas and other taxes, Orcutt believes bicyclists should also pay for the roads they use. He is thus submitting legislation to tax bike riders. To justify his proposed tax, he directed the following absurdity to bicyclists:

“ . . also, you claim that it is environmentally friendly to ride bikes, but if I’m not mistaken a cyclist has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when the ride.”

Someone needs to tell Rep. Orcutt that the roads people drive and bike on are paid for by counties and municipalities based on taxes and fees drawn from sources everyone pays, including non-car owners (the gas tax provides only a small percentage). Regarding his ridiculous claim that motorists expel less carbon emissions than cyclists with all that heavy breathing, all I can say is WOW. Is this the stupidest politician in America?

10. Fox News’ Dr. David Samadi. Throughout the Obamacare debate, watchers of Fox “News” have had to endure a steady stream of falsehoods and absurdities. Fox lies about the program are to be expected. What’s even more absurd, however, is the sick logic frequently spewed forth to criticize gender equality for health insurance rates. Fox News blowhard Steve Doocy, for example, opined that women should be charged more because they live longer. On the other side, Gretchen Carlson observed that women should get a discount because men tend to wait longer to see the doctor and end up having more expensive problems. But the topper was Fox News Medical A-Team contributor Dr. Samadi’s claim that women should be charged more because they have more body parts. On Fox and Friends, he provided his reasoning:

Men “only have the prostate. Women have breasts, they have ovaries, they have the uterus. They get checked in every part.”

This absurdity doesn’t even merit a response.

And the winner is:

Since I’m spending more time searching for bonehead absurdities, the list grows each month and selecting a winner is increasingly difficult. I encourage Phronesis readers to disagree with my selection and explain why. This said, though I thought long and hard about Rubio’s and Gohmert's absurdiies, I’ve decided to select Ed Orcutt as this month’s winner. It’s mind-boggling that this idiot could get elected. His idiocy is certified, but what about those who voted for him?


  1. Ron,
    You're right on the money with Orcutt, bonehead indeed. Just silly. Most of the others take absurd positions, but they appear at least to be calculated ones. Shaeffer's crazy position on abortion is just...well, crazy. In any case, as we say here in New York, nobody ever took an IQ test to get elected.

  2. This is a close competition between Orcutt and Shaeffer. I have to pick Shaeffer because of the incredible cruelty someone affected by his proposed law would suffer.


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