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Tilting at Windmills

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February 6, 2009

POLITICS AT ITS MOST INSIPID.... Once in a while, the political process is so hopelessly insane, one wonders how the system ever functions at all.

Let's briefly recap a story we've been following. Earlier this week, the American Center for Law and Justice, a right-wing legal group formed by TV preacher Pat Robertson, said the stimulus bill includes a provision that would prohibit "religious groups and organizations from using" buildings on college campuses. Soon after, religious right groups and right-wing blogs were up in arms, demanding that lawmakers fix the "anti-Christian" language of the bill. Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network helped get the word out to the far-right base about the nefarious measure.

But there was one small problem: there was no such measure. The ACLJ doesn't know how to read legislation, and didn't realize that the standard language in the bill simply blocks spending for on-campus buildings that are used primarily for religion (like a chapel, for example). This same language has been part of education spending bills for 46 years. It's just the law, and it's never been controversial.

And if it were just some random yahoos screaming about a non-existent threat, this would merely be annoying. But right-wing whining about the imaginary attack came to the attention of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who actually tried to remove the legal language from the bill. Consider just how truly ridiculous his remarks were on the Senate floor yesterday:

This is a provision "that would make sure students could never talk openly and honestly about their faith ... what this means is that students can't meet together in their dorms if that dorm has been repaired with federal money and have a prayer group or a Bible study. They can't get together in their student centers. They can't have a commencement service where a speaker talks about their personal faith." ... Student groups would be banned and "classes on world religions and religious history, academic studies of religious texts could be banned ... Someone is so hostile to religion that they are willing to stand in the schoolhouse door, like the infamous George Wallace, to deny people of faith from entering into any campus building renovated by this bill. This cannot stand!"

Please remember, every sentence -- literally, every single sentence -- in that paragraph is wrong. Indeed, everything DeMint said was the polar opposite of reality, driven entirely by a reading-comprehension mistake made by someone at Pat Robertson's legal group.

So, after DeMint's demonstrably ridiculous speech, the Senate had to vote on whether to strip the bill of the completely innocuous provision that merely re-states current law. Believe it or not, 43 senators actually voted for this transparent nonsense. There are 43 senators who tried to change the stimulus bill because a TV preacher's lawyer got confused and lied about what's in the bill.

And just to top this off, among the 43 were four Democrats -- Evan Bayh, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan, and Ben Nelson -- plus Joe Lieberman.

It's the political process at its most insipid.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

I honestly worry that Obama, a smart, articulate, rational human being will not be able to endure the idiocracy that is our dysfunctional govt. The ignorance, rabid ideology, and idiocy may frustrate him over the bend.

Posted by: ckelly on February 6, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

It's actually "Dement," isn't it?

Posted by: i on February 6, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

I am curious, though, why, if this language is pretty much standard boiler-plate and has been in place for decades, it nonetheless still has to be added to every education spending bill.

Posted by: Bulworth on February 6, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

And, once again, how much is paid to the staffs of said Democratic Senators for, supposedly, needed research? It is one thing for the Solons to stroll around the chamber schmoozing with one another or dusting their toupes, but, their well paid teams are supposed to be fact checking during that time.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 6, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Consider just how truly ridiculous [DeMint's] remarks were on the Senate floor yesterday ... every sentence -- literally, every single sentence -- in that paragraph is wrong. Indeed, everything DeMint said was the polar opposite of reality, driven entirely by a reading-comprehension mistake made by someone at Pat Robertson's legal group."

Consider how truly ridiculous it is to call deliberate, malicious lies "ridiculous" or to attribute them to someone's "comprehension mistake".

There are no "mistakes" being made here. There is deliberate deception being perpetrated. These people "comprehend" very well what they are doing: they are conning weak-minded, ignorant, gullible dittoheads with deliberate lies. That's how they maintain the pseudo-ideological cult of hatred known as "conservatism" in America today.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 6, 2009 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

"...classes on world religions and religious history, academic studies of religious texts could be banned ..." This would be a surprise to the American Academy of Religion, one of the nation's largest groups of professional educators, which does exactly that, in large part at publicly funded universities. There's also a second group, the Society For Biblical Literature, which does the same thing from a more conservative viewpoint. Robertson and DeMint might have asked either.

Posted by: ericfree on February 6, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Idiocracy indeed. This country appears to be too stupid to embrace the concept of democracy. They prefer to have thier opinions given to them by TEE VEE. If it can't be boiled down to a talking point or a 30 second clip most people have no interest.

Posted by: John R on February 6, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

And just to top this off, among the 43 were four Democrats -- Evan Bayh, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan, and Ben Nelson -- plus Joe Lieberman."

Conrad and Dorgan should know better. Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the other three.

Posted by: CJ on February 6, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Per MSNBC after Michigan, South Carolina had just about the highest unemployment rate of any state as of December 2008. Presumably the number of unemployed in South Carolina has not gone down in the past 6 weeks. Why aren't these people calling DeMint's office?

Posted by: terry on February 6, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

This is the part that kills me. Say that DeMint had prevailed, the bill ended up passing and for some reason this issue ended up being litigated and loswt in Court because a judge was actually familiar with what is and isn't allowed under the law. And you'd end up having the same flat-earthers and religious right wing know-nothings go all on the warpath because of "unelected activist" judges - because everyone knows that the legislators are always the ones with the perfect knowledge and only pass laws that are completely constitutional. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of ignorance.

Posted by: Andy on February 6, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

The Constitution prohibits a religious test for public office, but maybe there should be a basic intelligence test.

Posted by: qwerty on February 6, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Idiocracy indeed.

As soon as we heard that Michael Steele would head up the GOP, his name changed to Beef Supreme in our household.

Posted by: Blue Girl on February 6, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

"Why aren't these people calling his office?"

Perhaps, because, they are performing domestic chores around his homestead. Probably too much time spent in dickering over who works inside or in the fields to have time to phone.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 6, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

The ACLJ doesn't know how to read legislation,

Oh, yes it does. Like him or not, Sekulow is a good lawyer. Alas, he's also a shrewd propagandist. The ACLJ knew what it was doing, which was using any opportunity to push forward their goal to christianize everything. They may have failed here, but they got a platform and it will be used in the future.

Remember, these religious legal groups are the same ones who, almost 50 years after the fact, still publicly claim the Supreme Court "kicked God out of schools" knowing full well it is false (but brings in the bucks from the rubes). Never underestimate them.

Posted by: martin on February 6, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist's remarks are certainly plausible. Goal posts are barely anchored in a gooey sediment of rotted critical thinking skills, maudlin sentimentiality, barely suppressed Puritan baggage. Meanwhile, industrial-grade preachers are well aware of the power of increments; after all, we're now discussing once more the appropriateness of birth control. Here in this case they've buffaloed nearly half the Senate into joining a new "debate" about religion in public life, thus lifting the goal posts and making an opportunity to move 'em.

An accident? Maybe, but with so many accidents happening one wonders.

Posted by: Doug Bostrom on February 6, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Is it too late for Steve to start a list of lies about the stimulus bill, like he did for McCain?

These guys are good at pushing nonsense until someone asks a reasonable question which proves the nonsense...then they smoothly move to the next outrageous lie.

Something else needs covering: the replacement amendments by several Republicans yesterday. One by McCain and several by Colburn and I think one other.

Of these, McCains was the closest to some sanity, there was a little bit of spending. The others were pure tax cut replacements or tax swaps, where dollars ended up going to the better off, sucked from those who pay no taxes.

Republicans really hate people who pay no tax because they are poor, why is nobody pointing this out every time they mention it?

Posted by: tomj on February 6, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is a fake Christian. And an asshole liar.

No true Christian could or would openly lie as he does. It's one of the top ten rules.

Posted by: jharp on February 6, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

I can't imagine Lieberman voted this way as a matter of sensitivity to people from Connecticutt or to Jewish people? Does he have another constituency?

Posted by: Danp on February 6, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

We are doomed, you know.

Posted by: just sayin', dude on February 6, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

@ CJ --
Conrad and Dorgan do know better, I'm sure. They just don't trust that their voters do.

Posted by: scarpy on February 6, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Which ever way the wind blows" or "the path of least resistance" is the motto of Evan Bayh.

He is an asshat & will always be an asshat - a corporately owned clown. Without daddy's name & fund raising connections, he would never have been elected dogcatcher - let alone governor and then senator of the miserable state of Indiana.

Q: What is the purpose of state government?

A: To prove to the corporate world that politicians will stay bought before they get promoted to national level offices.

Posted by: SadOldVet on February 6, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is being attacked from every angle. And why does he have so much on his agenda? It's way, way too much, and gives the Republicans a chance to collectively harness all the ill-feelings and uncertainty that is floating around--and aim it Obama.

Today he's due to meet with families of 9/11, who largely oppose the closing of Gitmo. As such, T.V. is doing it's grand thing once again: indulging conservative idiot talking heads who concur that Obama is engaging "a pre-9/11" mentality for a "post-9/11" world. More fodder to use against
Obama.

No kidding. Someone on CNN or MSNBC (who knows anymore--the day-time 'news' shows are all so horrible) actually just said that. We're back to that simplistic erroneous belief that we need to somehow be afraid, and shape our policies around that fear in order to prevent another attack...

AS IF!

As if we could control such a thing (this is what underlies Cheney's thought)...As if we could predict fully and as if fear (and keeping our distance from all that 'evil') is our greatest ally, our greatest weapon --for it's this fear that will allow us to remain in control. (Never mind that the opposite happens when we all fear to
dominate our policy and our brains--all you have to do is look at effective parenting versus bad parenting--the latter is laden with fear and punitive measures which invariably create angry,
fearful children and adults).

Ah, but I do digress...Anyway, what I want to know is WHY is Obama meeting with these 9/11 families today?

Does he have too little on his plate?
Is he trying to be Superman?

It seems to me he needs to slow down--way down--and re-group with a strategy that will put him back on the offensive. And Gibbs and others need to be on board with their talking points.

And we all need to get out there and support the president, boycott cable T.V. (except for Olbermann and Maddow, of course). Protest Now!

Posted by: Obama is taking on far too much on February 6, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

that's supposed to read "when we allow fear to dominate.."

Posted by: Obama is taking on far too much on February 6, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Must respectfully disagree. These are not "misreadings" of the text of the bill. This is deliberate propaganda by christianist elements in the country trying always and anything to undermine the separation of church and state. You will never get them to admit that they made a mistake because their goal is to change that prohibition against government support for religion (as long it's their perverted religion).

Posted by: digitusmedius on February 6, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

...every sentence -- literally, every single sentence -- in that paragraph is wrong. Indeed, everything DeMint said was the polar opposite of reality...

Isn't that pretty much "in character" for everything DeMint says?

DeMint is proof of what ten generations of Southern incest will create.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 6, 2009 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Now, to be fair to Jim DeMint, he *is* a self-parodying moron.

Posted by: Rabi on February 6, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Proof positive that too much Creme de Mint(he) can addle your brains as badly as an overdose of Absinthe.

Posted by: exlibra on February 6, 2009 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

As has been commented by others, there's nothing insipid and erroneous in the chain of actions initiated by ACLJ. This was another conscious skirmish in the incessant battle of the Christianists to first undermine and then dissolve the separation of church and state.

The fact that 42 senators felt compelled to join DeMint shows just how far this strategy has already progressed. The political calculation for the affirmative votes were that there was nothing to be feared from the media or the public, as both are apathetic on this issue, but there were plenty of Brownie points to be earned from the fundamentalist base.

Posted by: SRW1 on February 6, 2009 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

For all the "c"hristians who believe that they are suffering or being tortured for their faith and beliefs...I'd like to see them really suffer what they are fearful of.
My minister and I (also a minister/Chaplain) did a random poll among 100 of our clergy friends and 250 of their and our church members, asking, "Do you yourself suffer as a Christian or have you ever suffered in the last 15 years as a Christian? Results: Ministers, 100% No; Church members: 98.9% No.
So, I think I'd like to take my cloak of Christianity off for about 30 days and give these self-proclaimed christians some REAL suffering to complain about...if they lived through it, of course.
Simper, simper, simper...these pooooooor chris-tion sufferers. Puuullllllllllllease!!!
Time to take up your styrofoam crosses and ski-daddle!
(Now I'll put my Cloak of Christianity back on again).
Dakotahgeo (aka the non-suffering Servant of Christ!)

Posted by: Dakotahgeo on February 6, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

I also know Dorgan and Conrad...and I was amazed also. But then, who the devil knows which way the winds blow any more in North Dakota?! Not even the state's residents know, obviously.
Dakotahgeo.

Posted by: Dakotahgeo on February 6, 2009 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

"TV preacher's lawyer got confused and lied about what's in the bill."

Do you really think they're 'confused'? I think it's deliberate.

Posted by: James G on February 6, 2009 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that every news show, EVERY News Program wants the most ABSURD, most Outrageous, and the biggest LIE a person can get their head around. The problem as I see it, and it has been this way for at least the last 15 to 20 years, is the news people have become completely unprofessional. They can repeat the lies, they can let the liar on TV to tell his Lies, but after that the news people need to inform the public what the real TRUTH is. These days they just let LIES STAND.

They work it like this. A republican, or "REPUKE" as I call them now days, comes out and says, "the sky is falling, the sky is falling!" Then they have a Democrat come out and say, �No the sky is still up there, and will not fall". Then that is it! The news should then say who is correct, is the sky falling, or is it NOT falling. The news media stopped being the FACT finder a long time ago. That use to be there Jobs. But now days they want ALL controversy. They want more entertainment and less FACT finding. It is easier that way for them. They do not have to be professional anymore. They leave the FACTS up to whom ever is listening, no matter how wrong one side may be. That is one reason I miss Tim Russart so much. He would at least confront the person with the known FACTS. But now that he is gone, NO ONE is doing any confronting anymore. Democrats have their news show, and repukes have theirs, and both get to hear what they want to hear regardless of the FACTS!!!

Posted by: Darroll W McKinney on February 7, 2009 at 5:09 AM | PERMALINK


The problem is that every news show, EVERY News Program wants the most ABSURD, most Outrageous, and the biggest LIE a person can get their head around. The problem as I see it, and it has been this way for at least the last 15 to 20 years, is the news people have become completely unprofessional. They can repeat the lies, they can let the liar on TV to tell his Lies, but after that the news people need to inform the public what the real TRUTH is. These days they just let LIES STAND.

They work it like this. A republican, or "REPUKE" as I call them now days, comes out and says, "the sky is falling, the sky is falling!" Then they have a Democrat come out and say, “No the sky is still up there, and will not fall". Then that is it! The news should then say who is correct, is the sky falling, or is it NOT falling. The news media stopped being the FACT finder a long time ago. That use to be there Jobs. But now days they want ALL controversy. They want more entertainment and less FACT finding. It is easier that way for them. They do not have to be professional anymore. They leave the FACTS up to whom ever is listening, no matter how wrong one side may be. That is one reason I miss Tim Russart so much. He would at least confront the person with the known FACTS. But now that he is gone, NO ONE is doing any confronting anymore. Democrats have their news show, and repukes have theirs, and both get to hear what they want to hear regardless of the FACTS!!!

The FACT is the news shows LET senator repuke, jimmy deLIAR comments to go unchecked. He never bothered to find out the FACTS before he opened his big FAT mouth! And the truth about it now days is the repuke party does most of it's dirty work by telling ALL LIES! They got use to it when bush and cheney were in charge of their party. It is so common, so easy, so Natural to them now they just can not seem to stop LYING! The big Problem with that is, the STUPID Democrats do not come out and call them LIARS to their face as they should do. You can see it in their last leader, mcbomb-bomb-iran. He would rather lose the election than lose a war. He would also rather lose his soul than tell the TRUTH!!! Since bush did it, since cheney did it, since mcbush did it, they would ALL rather lose their immortal soul than tell the Truth!!! However, they are ALL so self-righteous, they do not believe they could or would LOSE their SOUL to the dark one who is the Father, and Inventor of ALL LIES.....

Posted by: Darroll W McKinney on February 7, 2009 at 5:26 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone mentioning Evan Bayh is context of a presidential campaign in the future needs to be reminded of this pandering idiocy.

Tool.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 7, 2009 at 5:54 AM | PERMALINK

"in context" not "is context"

How do I make typos 5 whole keys apart?
*sigh*

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on February 7, 2009 at 5:56 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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