Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 17, 2010

'JACK BAUER REPUBLICANS'.... I've been fascinated lately by the kind of folks running for office this year as Republicans. I'm specifically thinking of people who've failed and/or embarrassed themselves in various areas of public life, and seek to capitalize on their ignominy, counterintuitive though this may be.

Rob Portman, for example, is running for the Senate in Ohio, despite his work as the head of the Bush/Cheney budget office. Dan Coats is running for the Senate in Indiana, despite having been a corporate bank lobbyist in D.C. for the last several years. Rick Scott is running for governor in Florida, despite his role in the Columbia/HCA scandal in the 1990s, and his loathsome work as head of the right-wing Conservatives For Patients during the health care debate.

But the list keeps growing. Benjy Sarlin wrote a fascinating item about "Jack Bauer Republicans," highlighting two U.S. veterans of the war in Iraq who "left the military after surviving charges of crimes against detainees," but who hope to parlay their scandals into electoral success.

Ilario Pantano, the Republican nominee in North Carolina's 7th, is of particular interest.

In April 2004, Pantano killed two unarmed Iraqi detainees, twice unloading his gun into their bodies and firing between 50 and 60 shots in total. Afterward, he placed a sign over the corpses featuring the Marines' slogan "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy" as a message to the local population.

Pantano said that he acted in self-defense and that the two suspects were charging at him, but the military accused him of premeditated murder. The case became an international news story and Pantano's defense a popular cause for conservatives. In 2005, military prosecutors dropped the charges, in part because a key witness's testimony could not be corroborated.

Pantano's former primary opponent, Will Breazeale, also an Army veteran of both wars in Iraq, said it would be "dangerous" to elect Pantano to Congress. "To shoot two unarmed prisoners 60 times and put a sign over their dead bodies is inexcusable," Breazeale told Sarlin.

And then there's retired Lt. Col. Allen West (R), running in Florida's 22nd.

West was forced to retire from the Army and fined $5,000 after he admitted to apprehending an Iraqi policeman he suspected of planning an ambush, watching as his troops beat him, and then firing a gunshot by the Iraqi's head in order to scare him into divulging information. West said the decision saved lives by preventing an ambush. But no plot was ever discovered and the policeman in question later told The New York Times that he had no knowledge of any attacks.

Such an incident might be a source of shame for some officers. But not for West, who has developed a superstar following among Republicans by portraying himself as a real-life Jack Bauer.

Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge and current law professor at Georgetown University, told Sarlin both of these GOP candidates have no business seeking public office given their "disgraceful" misconduct.

It's just such an odd dynamic in Republican politics right now -- the party goes out of its way to reward, encourage, and promote those who fail spectacularly. Some of these guys seem like they should be running for the hills, not running for powerful offices.

Steve Benen 2:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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No, Steve. They reward these jackasses because they demonstrate open contempt for brown people.

Posted by: bikelib on May 17, 2010 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

If the Crimes Against Humanity perpetuated by the Bush administration are not worthy of investigation and prosecution by the Obama administration, why should these war criminals not be allowed to follow afterward as politicians?

Personally, if war criminals are going to be politicians, I prefer the ones who had the in-person crimes than the ones who had the war crimes that ended in the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

Posted by: SadOldVet on May 17, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

They hate us for our freedom -- to commit war crimes with impunity.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on May 17, 2010 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe these people actually live in a different country than the rest of us think we do.

Posted by: qwerty on May 17, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Tangent: has anybody noticed that in "24" (since some folks started citing it, and complaining about it) torture is rarely used, and when it does, it doesn't work anymore?

Posted by: A DC Wonk on May 17, 2010 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

What a depressing development.

Sanctioned beating of prisoners.

Killing unarmed men.

If the republicans really support these goons, their status as a party with any kind of moral compass is gone.

Sad, sad, sad. This kind of thing doesn't make me proud to be an American.

Posted by: beyond left on May 17, 2010 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

It's just such an odd dynamic in Republican politics right now -- the party goes out of its way to reward, encourage, and promote those who fail spectacularly. Some of these guys seem like they should be running for the hills, not running for powerful offices.

It's not just right now... it's been going on for a while. Seems like GWB was just the tip of the iceberg. It looks like he is the template for all these people.

Posted by: kanopsis on May 17, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

They run because they can and there is no downside to exposure to their crimes. They have the same regard for the health and well-being of their constitutents as do the executives of BP, Halliburton and Transocean: NONE!

Until people of conscience stand up to them and to the media that gives them equal standing as people with human values and compassion, there will be no change. I still have not heard the outrage from the people of LA and MS and FL about the Gusher in the Gulf. They stand to lose everything, yet they stand silent and allow Bobbi Jindal to be their spokesperson, someone who only a few months ago wanted to deny government subsidies to his state. The outrage should be palpable, but it is not, yet. Anyone see the 60 Minutes story last night on CBS? If that does not raise the level, then we are braindead.

I am committed to Oneness through Justice and Transformation
st john

Posted by: st john on May 17, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

The Republican Party needs to update its dress code. I think the dark suits, white shirts and power ties are relics from their past.
They can keep the suits and ties because they're still corporatists, but I suggest they all switch to brown shirts.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 17, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think we are seeing what it would have been like if the German's had won. The "heros" kept in the spotlight and those who dare to illuminate the atrosities are loathed.

That is until they started to "eliminate" their own "pure" due to outrage concerning nauseating things like the Holocaust...

Posted by: stevio on May 17, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Calling these idiots "Jack Bauer Republicans" is the biggest favor the writer could have done them. I bet they co-opt it in a second. This is precisely the kind of attention these fucktards - and the fucktards who love that kind of fucktard - crave.

Posted by: Cazart on May 17, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that these murderous filth are running for office and will be embraced by the anti-American scum in the Republican Party is one more sign that the battle for this country will end in ferocious, final violence.

These zombies were happy to murder in uniform and they will be happy to murder us, using their hated government as a shield.

They'd kill US if they could.

Posted by: John Thullen on May 17, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Wait, you mean the party that idolizes Ollie North and G Gordon Liddy would dare vote for these two miscreants?

Posted by: chrenson on May 17, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Cazart is right. While calling someone a lawless Jack Bauer is a pejorative to those who have any moral bearings, it's a badge of honor to those who believe the end justifies the means no matter how many atrocities you commit along the way.

When you live with monstrous certainty you can justify anything you do in the name of that certainty, which is why much of the military and the Rethugs are to be feared.

Posted by: rrk1 on May 17, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Florida 22nd and NC 7th, PLEASE think before you vote.

When soldiers who murdered Iraqi prisoners and engaged in forced confessions of a friggin' police officer become among "America's leaders", do you not think this will be an absolute BOON to terrorist recruitment efforts?

It's only two years. Please vote Democratic just this once and vote in the GOP after this insane embrace of bloodlust for its own sake runs its course. It's 2 congressman out of 435. It's not going to make a serious difference unless the guys you send are poster children for the "ugly American".

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on May 17, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Fictional Character sums up today's republican party quite nicely. LOL!

Posted by: Silver Owl on May 17, 2010 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

As I've said before, for a lot of Republicans 24 is not a fictional TV show. It's a documentary. They actually think that's the way the world works. And the idea of the 'lone-wolf' shooting it out with the bad guys, kicking ass and taking names answerable to no one is cool.

It's just an expression of the hero-whorship, Ayn Rand superman mythos (John Galt), apocalytic world view many of them have been living on since childhood and never grown out of.

Posted by: thorin-1 on May 17, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Tangent: has anybody noticed that in "24" (since some folks started citing it, and complaining about it) torture is rarely used, and when it does, it doesn't work anymore?

It's sure been used alot in the last couple of weeks. Though, after committing one of the most brutal torture sessions ever on the show, Jack did say "This isn't working."

I'm not sure if they've been using less torture because I don't watch regularly, but it has failed in the past. I'm sure some 24 geek has a torture database with the type of torture used and the effectiveness thereof;>

Posted by: martin on May 17, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

"both of these GOP candidates have no business seeking public office given their "disgraceful" misconduct..."

I agree but for better or worse anyone can run for almost any office in America, with few exceptions.

All you have to do, usually, is get a few signatures and pay a filing fee. One alternative is to have nominating conventions, rather like that in Utah, where the precinct committee people decide who will run. Another is to have some party officials decide who will run or not -- the boss system.

I tend to support the first process, but am sympathetic to the second -- which might work in small states and counties, but in gigantic states again its the problem of finding people with the passon, time and energy to participate in this political blood-sport.

I also think it is the responsibility of the local and national parties to condemn those candidates who are unsuitable. This has its own perils -- if a candidate sans endorsement wins the local party is cut out.

My answer is, if I find an issue or a candidate I think is disgusting, I will support the opponent. Many of my votes have been against something or someone rather than for.

Are there alternatives, sure. Ranging to running for office to setting up your own PAC, to volunteering on campaigns. At an extreme, there's constitutional or state or rewriting the city charter conventions. At another way extreme there's violent revolution -- but constant revolutions are bad for the economy, so I would tend to avoid this option.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on May 17, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

"If the republicans really support these goons, their status as a party with any kind of moral compass is gone."

Um, what's with the conditional there -- or, for that matter, the verb tense?
Their status as a "party with any kind of moral compass" was long gone, at least as far back as Reagan (who clearly traded arms for hostages, and is reputed to have cut a deal with the hostage-takers not to release their hostages til after the election -- meaning, they materially harmed American citizens (not to mention public servants) in furtherance of their taking power), and arguably further back (Nixon also was reputed to have had back-channel communications with the North VietNamese urging them to put off any settlement with the South VietNamese and Americans until after Nixon's election). And, of course, there's that whole Southern Strategy thing...
For that matter, wasn't most of the Party supportive of Joe McCarthy til the very end, or beyond?

Posted by: smartalek on May 17, 2010 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Or was that sarcasm?
G-d knows I can be pretty dense...

Posted by: smartalek on May 17, 2010 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Any Chardonnay-swilling, Brie-chomping Volvo drivers out there want to continue to cite "Godwin's Law" when it comes to describing the modern Republican Party? The fact is, these people are Fascist scum, and should be seen as the Enemies of the American Republic they are, from Cheney on down to Joe the Plumber and everything in between, like these two Disgraces-to-the-Uniform.

Posted by: TCinLA on May 17, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

This is not a new phenomenon. Oliver North became the biggest of GOP heroes after selling weapons to Iran. Somehow I doubt a liberal could have gotten away with that.

Posted by: Hyde on May 17, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

If they change it to "Jack Bauer with a brain injury" republicans, it might stick.

Posted by: DelCapslock on May 17, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

This NY Mag article on Pantano is fascinating. He attended a fancy NYC prep school on scholarship. Served in the Gulf War, came back worked on Wall Street. Reenlisted after 9/11. He would be very familiar with Chardonnay, Brie and Volvo folks.


Now he's friends with the Michael Savages and World Net Daily's of the world.

Posted by: KevinNYC on May 17, 2010 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

The Iraqi policeman West kidnapped, tortured, threatened to kill, and fired a gun by his head was never connected to any plot and was released 40 days later. Treatment of Civilians like this is a serious war crime and many soldiers and CIA officials have since been punished for far lesser crimes. I have been hounding the West campaign so much they are filing police reports against me trying to shut me up. Guess freedom is only for those on the battlefield. If you would like to learn more about this Freedom Clown go to http://NoWestFL22.blogspot.com

Posted by: NOWEST on May 17, 2010 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Woodrow Wilson (WWI), FDR (WWII), Truman (WWII, dropping 2 bombs, Korean War), Kennedy (Vietnam, Bay of Pigs), Johnson (Vietnam), Clinton (Kosovo) all liberal progressives who loved war but in your world view, you see only conservatives as the ones going to war.

You also seem to forget that Mr. Obama is the one who has had control of this countrys Congress for the past 1.5 years, and could have gotten us out of the Iraq and Afghanistan anytime he wants with a stroke of the pen. Is he conservative? Are his drones only killing the bad guys? No civilian has ever died under Mr. Obamas watch for the past 18 months?

Or, how about the liberals of the SDS, Weather Underground, and Baader Meinhof? Really peaceful bunch, there, right, Matthew?

Why dont you tell me again how only conservatives believe in violence and brutality.

You seem to get your life view and political information from Jon Stewart who, strangely enough, had Mr. Pantano on his show and treated him with respect,[http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-july-10-2006/ilario-pantano] and Fox TV shows, hence the oh-so-lame analogy to Jack Bauer.

Go rent The Hurt Locker, since you get all your info from popular culture, and see what it might be like to be in Iraq.

Better still. Enlist and go to Iraq or Afghanistan. Stand behind your Lt. and pray he protects you in a split second, not knowing whether the two men approaching and refusing to stop approaching when asked in both English and Arabic are going to detonate a suicide bomb on you all. When your Lt. makes that decision to pull the trigger once on an automatic weapon that shoots in 50-60 round bursts in a second to save your ass, then you can comment.

Or, if he takes a chance and doesnt fire to stop them, and the two men do pull the detonator, then your Mother can comment on your behalf, because youll be dead.

Posted by: Pamela Sussman on May 17, 2010 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, I see the same nitwit has infected this thread too...with the exact same moronic diatribe.

Pamela Sussman

Posted by: Not as Stupid as Will Allen on May 18, 2010 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

These credit cards are extremely dangerous to teenagers who have no experience in the real world. They think they can charge now and pay later, but when the time comes, they either have no money, or don't want to throw away their money on bills but on normal things like going out and having fun. Then when they realize they need, they're in denial making it even worse and destroying their credit scores completely.

Posted by: Credit Card Debt on November 1, 2010 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK



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