Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 30, 2010

THE CRAZY CAUCUS WELCOMES A NEW MEMBER.... Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Ken Buck, Rob Johnson, and Pat Toomey help compose one of the nuttiest slate of extreme Senate candidates we've seen in a very long time, but there can be no doubt that Joe Miller's application to the Crazy Caucus has already been approved.

Miller, of course, provided one of the year's most unexpected results last week, apparently beating incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska's Republican Senate primary. (The official results aren't available just yet, but by all accounts, Miller is favored to prevail once absentee ballots are counted.) If he is the nominee, Miller's extremism pushes the ideological envelope in new directions.

It's easy to check off most of the routine garbage -- Miller has birther tendencies, demands the elimination of all abortion rights (even in cases of rape or incest), wants to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, rejects global warming science, wants to "transition out" Social Security, and is eyeing cabinet agencies for elimination, including the Department of Education.

But it's his constitutional beliefs that help set Miller apart. In July, he rejected the very idea of unemployment benefits, insisting that they're not "constitutionally authorized." This does, by the way, make him more radical than Angle and Paul, who've denounced extended aid to the jobless, but haven't rejected the policy itself as illegal.

Yesterday, on CBS's Face the Nation, Miller went even further. (TP has the video)

BOB SCHIEFFER: You have also taken some fairly controversial, some would say, very extreme positions. First, you say you want to phase out Medicare. You want to privatize Social Security. I have to say there are a lot of people in Alaska who are on Medicare and are getting Social Security. Isn't that position going to be a problem for you in the election, in this general election?

JOE MILLER: Well, yeah, and I would suggest to you that if one thing said the Constitution is extreme then you would also think that the founders are extreme. We just simply want to get back to basics, get -- restore essentially the constitutional foundation of the country, and that means the federal government becoming less onerous, less involved in every -- basically every item of our lives. And what that means is there does have to be some transition.

It's hard to interpret this as anything but Miller characterizing Social Security and Medicare as being at odds with the Constitution -- a position that positions him on the far fringes of American political thought.

I don't want to get too far ahead of the official results -- he's ahead, but there's a chance Miller may not win the primary -- but it's worth pondering whether this guy will actually become a United States senator. At this point, he's the frontrunner.

A new survey from Public Policy Polling shows the right-wing lawyer leading Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams, 47% to 39%. It's worth emphasizing, though, that this offers yet another example in which the radicalized GOP base has created a competitive race where there would otherwise not be one -- Miller's lead is in the single digits, while a Murkowski primary win would have made this race unwinnable for Democrats.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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I would hazard a guess that 90% of these folks- candidates and voters alike- have never read the Constitution.

Miller: "simply want to get back to basics, get -- restore essentially the constitutional foundation of the country"

Whatever the hell THAT means. . .

Posted by: DAY on August 30, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

"Isn't that position going to be a problem for you in the election, in this general election?"

Schieffer's question is a perfect illustration of what is wrong with the media. Rather than asking Miller to prove or offer supporting evidence of his assertions about the Constitution, Schieffer asked a "horse race" question.

Of course, actually challenging a right wing candidate will subject the questioner to attacks by Fox and the usual suspects that he/she is engaging in "gotcha" journalism.

Posted by: arkie on August 30, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

this offers yet another example in which the radicalized GOP base has created a competitive race where there would otherwise not be one -- Miller's lead is in the single digits, while a Murkowski primary win would have made this race unwinnable for Democrats.

Steve, they don't want to win by a landslide. As Rove famously said "I don't want 54 votes, I want 51". What modern Republicans want is the most extreme possible candidate that can actually still win an elected seat, and right now Crazy Joe is looking very electable.

Posted by: SWENXOF on August 30, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

The one thing that all of these loonatic rethug candidates being in positions to become senators is it shows that our country is totally fucked up!

Citizens United Not Timid vs FEC has provided a great opportunity for the wealthy to install 'The Crazies' in the senate to assure that wealthy and corporate interests will forever dominate our country!

God Bless The United Corporations of Amerika!

Posted by: AngryOldVet on August 30, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

I think a big problem with these self-taught constitutional "scholars" is that they somehow imagine the Constitution to be an exact rulebook which describes only the powers the federal government has. And so, if something isn't directly written into the Constitution it can't be a power the government has.

And so things like the Commerce Clause and other such provisions that authorize such things don't count, because they don't say specific words about regulations, Social Security, and other such things.

But of course, even that's a sham, as they don't approve of many of the things written directly into the Constitution, like the Census, Income Tax, and the 14th Amendment. For them, the Constitution says what they want it to say and they refuse to see how it could say anything different. Similarly, a lot of Christian beliefs aren't actually in the Bible, but they believe that they're obeying it religiously all the same.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on August 30, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

"...wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross..."

Posted by: chrenson on August 30, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Ever notice that these armchair supreme court justices are always very vague when they declare something "unconstitutional"? It's a word they throw around with impunity because nobody every asks a follow-up. It's akin to the teenager's use of the word "like" to fill every pause. This clown could be sitting in the Senate next January. If he thinks something doesn't pass constitutional muster, shouldn't someone try to find out why before November?

Posted by: PhilTBastid on August 30, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Miller certainly has extreme positions, but in interview you sight certainly managed to make them appear less loopy than other TP/GOP Senate hopefuls. He is more sound bite articulate and media savvy than Angle or Paul. Didn't have a deer in the headlights look, unlike Angle, and knew when to stop talking, unlike Paul. I also hope his likely victory gives McAdams a better chance at longshot win, but also would not discount Miller's potential to be more of a force in the Senate than his TP comrades.

Posted by: Bill on August 30, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

I still think these nutjobs nominated by GOP voters are a golden opportunity.

If the MSM won't challenge their views, hopefully the Dem candidates will, aggressively, in debates, speeches and ads.

There gotta be enough Dems, Independents and sane Repubs to beat these psychopaths.

Posted by: bdop4 on August 30, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

where in the constitution is federal aid to deadbeat welfare states like alaska authorized?

Posted by: mellowjohn on August 30, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

I thought that the US Constitution was just a god-damned piece of paper!

If god-damns it, then why should I really bother to learn just what the Constitution is?

We are a Christo-fastic nation.

Give me my guns, and my bitter religious beliefs.

If you are not a born again christian wing-nut, go home.

Are federal highways Un-Constitutional? Do we just
let them rot?

The folks like Miller, want mayhem, they want our society to teeter on the verge of theocratic lunacy.

That's what the founding fathers wanted. Isn't it?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on August 30, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Seems like there are some interesting dynamics here. If you are within single digits by labor day, the dems have to figure some of these might actually be opportunities that they didn't have before; so do they move resources to KY, Ak, etc? And, this requires the REps. to defend states they were not planning on. And it also puts the Repubs. as squarely supporting the batshit crazy caucus.

On the other hand, if 2-4 of these people actually get elected, what then? Do you think McConnell will really be able to corral them? Seems like the tbaggers won't go for that - and imaging the holds, the cloture votes, etc... - you'd have a senate composed of Independant Joe L; the batshit crazies [include Mike Lee of Utah, who sounds nice, but is a wack job]: the southern reactionaries; the western reactionaries; and the party of Maine. Add Ben Nelson [R-D, NB; Mary L. of LA, etc, and various flavors of dems., and it seems like a quasi coalition form of insanity begins to take root.

Posted by: bigutah on August 30, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Hello Beltway from the Heartland:
What MSM/DC/NY is missing is that this "far right extremists" are leading in the polls for the general election in their respective states. There is an emerging agenda based on "getting back to the Constitution. The agenda includes: getting rid of Social Security/Medicare/ Department of Education/Entitlements/abortion rights. The agenda also includes reducing or eliminating federal regulation of interstate commerce. These leading republican candidates are also "birthers" and "climate change deniers." This agenda is finding support in the states, that is why these candidates are leading in the general election polls.

Ridiculing them or dismissing them is precisely what the republicans are counting on. I refuse to be part of their playbook.

I want to know where the money is coming from. I also want to know the extent of foreign money.

Posted by: JoanneinDenver on August 30, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

What's important to remember about the right wing is that as a movement dedicated to society organized according to hierarchy and conformance to some religious/ideological blueprint, it is fundamentally anti-politics.

That is why you heard so much from Glenn Beck that his rally this weekend was "non-political" even though it was nothing of the sort, because something that is non-political is also non-debatable -- accepted common wisdom -- but accepted wisdom by whom?

The same goes for the right wing's incessent reference to the Constitution. By labelling some dispute or some program as unconstitutional you take it off the table and outside politics.

This assault on politics, by the way, is also why the Glenn Beck, the Tea party and the right wing generally do not hesitate (from time to time) to attack the Republican Party with equal vehemance as the Democratic Party, because both political parties are charter members in our system of "politics as usual," which to committed right wing ideologues is by nature impure and corrupt.

At some level the Tea Party does not really see itself as being a political movement at all, as Beck's shapeless celebration of abstract unifying themes on Saturday was meant to prove. Instead, the Tea party sees itself as the embodiement of America itself.

But what's also important to remember is that democracy is inconceivable without politics, which is defined as the working out of differences between different factions by way of compromise. But compromise is a dirty word to the right wing, as we know from Tom Delay.

Posted by: Ted Frier on August 30, 2010 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Miller also has a deleted tweet out there calling Lisa Murkowski a whore, so add really poor PR judgment to the list. Gawker had it.

Posted by: Rathskeller on August 30, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

I can't remember where I saw it, but someone was gobsmacked that he said something along the lines of "were the founding fathers extreme?"

The response to that was along the lines of "Dude...They were revolutionaries. It just doesn't get much more extreme than that."

Posted by: Rocket J. Squirrel on August 30, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

As an Alaskan, I've worried about what Joe Miller's nomination as the GOP candidate to the Senate might mean. Teh crazy plays pretty well up here and I've worried that he might actually get elected.

Then I read this morning's headline on the Anchorage Daily News, "Miller: Alaska should forgo federal help." Now, I hope that he holds his lead over Murkowski so that I can get used to saying, "Senator McAdams."

Posted by: AK Liberal on August 30, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

It's kind of ironic that we have all these candidates running around telling us what the Constitution says or doesn't say, when we actually have a Constitutional Law professor in the White House.

I wish some interviewer like Schieffer would raise that sometime - it would be interesting to see the response of a Miller or an Angle to a question like "Barack Obama used to make a living teaching about the Constitution at one of our nation's finest universities. Are you really saying you know more about what it means than he does?"

I'd also like to hear them talk about where the Constitution justifies a standing army, or federal support payments to states like Alaska and Nevada.

But mostly I'd just like them to go home and leave us alone.

Posted by: biggerbox on August 30, 2010 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

"But mostly I'd just like them to go home and leave us alone"

They will be elected. dismiss them at your own peril. I think its time for people to wake up and realize these crazies are the direction the country has headed.

Posted by: SaintZak on August 30, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, as another poster pointed out above, you need to include Mike Lee in your list. If Utah had anything approaching a statewide two-party system, some of Lee's greatest hits would make as much news as Paul's or Angle's -- not for their sheer stupidity (Mike Lee is not at all a stupid person, which perhaps makes him more dangerous)-- but for their absolute extremism.

And, of all the above candidates, he's the only who is, at this point, guaranteed to be sworn in to the US Senate next January.

Posted by: Mitch on August 30, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

I'm actually expecting Toomey to win Pennsylvania. Sestak is showing no campaign that's visible here in Pittsburgh, and Toomey's ads are running 24/7.

It's hard to win if you don't campaign, and Sestak is running out of time.

I'm wondering what the problem is. If Joe can't bring himself to disagree with the Republicans he should have stayed out of the race.

Posted by: zak822 on August 30, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Somebody trot out that great comment again about what America was actually like, in terms of industry and global influence, when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution.

Posted by: Mark on August 30, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK
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