Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 15, 2010

RON JOHNSON PLANS A 'RE-EDUCATION OF AMERICA'.... Wisconsin Senate hopeful Ron Johnson reminds me a bit of Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey -- both are very lucky they're being overshadowed by other extremist candidates.

In a typical year, Johnson's bizarre, misguided worldview would be a pretty major national story. The chattering class would marvel at questions like, "Would Wisconsin really elect a far-right radical to the U.S. Senate?" But this isn't a typical year, and unhinged candidates like Angle, Paul, O'Donnell, Miller, and Buck have garnered enough attention that Johnson can run in relative anonymity outside his home state.

This week, Politico's Jim VandeHei reported from Wisconsin on the significance of the Senate race pitting Johnson against Sen. Russ Feingold (D), and the GOP candidate reflected a bit on his future plans.

Guided by GOP insider Curt Anderson, Johnson has poured millions of dollars into what often seems like a rather cautious campaign. In the interview, it was clear the professional handlers have gotten to Johnson. He is very reluctant to engage in specifics on Social Security and Medicare, even though his admiration of and ideological connection to fellow Wisconsinite Rep. Paul Ryan make plain what direction he would head in if elected. [...]

[H]e watches his words, ignoring the fact that he's already making the trade-offs conventional politicians make to win office. It will be different once and if he wins, he promises. Then, his true feelings can take voice. [emphasis added]

Is that so. Vote for Johnson in November and then voters will get to see what he's all about. Call me old fashioned, but that sounds backwards.

Elsewhere in the Politico piece, VandeHei asked what kind of innovative ideas Johnson might pursue as a U.S. senator. Johnson skipped right past substantive issues, and committed himself to a "re-education of America."

Are you kidding me? Can you even imagine what the response would be if a liberal Democrat vowed to pursue a "re-education of America" if elected to the U.S. Senate?

Maybe Wisconsin voters just don't know what they're getting themselves into; maybe they do and they're angry enough not to care. Regardless, Johnson may not get the exposure some of his extremist allies get in Nevada, Delaware, and Kentucky, but the differences between his right-wing worldview and theirs are practically non-existent.

We are, after all, talking about the far-right candidate who rails against government intervention in private industry, but has sought and received federal aid for his business enterprises. He thinks "sunspots" cause global warming, which doesn't make any sense. He's argued that China is better for businesses than the United States. He thinks Greenland has snow because of global cooling. At the height of the BP oil spill disaster, he said he'd sell his BP stock, just as soon as it was more profitable for him.

More recently, Johnson has boasted in ads about his disdain for Social Security. Worse, he's said he hates the stimulus, then got caught seeking stimulus funds, and then said asking for stimulus money isn't proof that he wanted the money. He's had a scandalous role in trying to protect child molesters from abuse lawsuits, and his story about being a self-made success in business isn't quite what it appears to be.

And now he intends to launch a "re-education of America."

Given all of this, it's awfully difficult to take Ron Johnson seriously. At least, it would be, if he weren't leading in every poll.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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The "reeducation" concept sounds like he's been listening to Glenn Beck, who has been hitting on the idea that people just need to learn the "correct" US history and "principles."

Posted by: elisabeth on October 15, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Angry people make bad decisions. Unfortunately that applies to voters.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on October 15, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

He'll be elected, have six fun years bloviating, and be duly returned to private life. That is, if he doesn't get indicted first. He seems the type that might.

Posted by: JMG on October 15, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

The climate in Wisconsin is very toxic toward any Democrat right now. On the national side it is the economy. At the state level it was 8 years of special interest pandering by Governor Doyle combined with a state legislature which spent its time passing nanny state regulations while the budget cratered. Johnson has been very careful about what he has said and Feingold has been called out on every attempt he has made to attack Johnston. Indeed, I think Feingold has run a miserable, negative campaign and that if it were not for his unforced errors the race would be closer. The bottom line is that Johnson has come across as a fairminded individual and Feingold has come across like a Richard Nixon wanna be.

Posted by: Terry on October 15, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Aren't you afraid for your country? I mean really afraid!

Posted by: john R on October 15, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Re-education of America?
We've already got FOX News, The Washington Times, and the Op-eds at the WaPo and WSJ.
What's next, taking MSNBC and CNN off the air and forcing the NY Times to stop publishing?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on October 15, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Let me be the first to say it , Ron Johnson is not any less qualified than the horse he rode in on . Furthermore it strikes me that he is no murderer . Let me suggest though that he , Ron Johnson , has been let off the hook on promoting policies that are intended to deliberately kill American's who are unlikely to vote for him . Now that is obviously not murder , even if it is his relentless pursuit of misinforming the public as to the consequences of his intentions which directly , deliberately , ends the lives of people disinclined to vote for him .
I support Ron Johnson's freedom of speech to include that he is no first degree , ambush , murderer . This not only because the defenseless Tea Baggeurs will be the first to expire with his protean positioning technique . These notable hard heads are expected to be the frequent , celebrated casualties of two faced ambitious republican consolidation . So that is certainly not murder , suicide yes , murder no . It has been shown that they , Tea Baggeurs , can take the losses and are well practiced in pain . When they appear at events where they number in the tens , hundreds , and even thousands , they miraculously multiply into hundreds of thousands and even millions or gahjillions . Pain when they arrive in their customised English , pretzel logic , and confusing outdoor volume at the least provocation . For general purpose sulking without context the acknowledged supreme talent of the world is recognised to be the untamed Tea Baggeur . There of course is no question that these stalwarts would place very well historically with any number of now extinct peoples and Utopian movements .
Ron Johnson is not known to be a murderer .

Posted by: FRP on October 15, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK
He'll be elected, have six fun years bloviating, and be duly returned to private life. That is, if he doesn't get indicted first.
I'm guessing an indictment is his best shot at a second term... persecution narratives sell. Posted by: Davis X. Machina on October 15, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

on the plus side, if we are going to re-educate America, we already have the camps that Obama built. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 15, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps we can conduct the 'reeducation' in special camps. First, we can gather public employees into the camps and have them release their onerous pensions back to the state as a condition of release. Then we can invite brown-skinned people into the 'reeducation camps' and release them when they burn their voter registration cards. Environmental activists can appreciate fossil fuels as they are rounded up and kept in the camps without any electricity or heat (except solar, of course). The possibilities are endless! We could create a conservative utopia within a decade!

Posted by: danimal on October 15, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Some responders here seem amused. Don't be. People were laughing at those folks in silly uniforms in Germany in the 20s and early 30s too. Then the laughter stopped.

Posted by: SusanP on October 15, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

I sure hope someone is prepping ads to scare WI voters about Johnson "re-education" ideas. Maybe his words overlaid with a prison camp photo. You know some wingnut 501c3 would do that.

Posted by: philonius on October 15, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Would Wisconsin really elect a far-right radical to the U.S. Senate?" Sadly, they could. Can you say "Joe McCarthy"?

Posted by: bob on October 15, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

What I'm afraid of is that once these people get into power, they'll do whatever it takes to fix the system so that they'll always be in power.

These people have no regard for democracy. Here in my hometown, for example, we elected a Democratic mayor, and the very night he was declared the winner (and well before he took office) wingnuts were already plotting to recall him because his election was "unacceptable." They may actually succeed. And just the other day, Pat Sajak (?!) suggested that certain classes of citizens shouln't be allowed to vote. How long until we hear "serious" people telling us that democracy and "one man, one vote" are anachronisms that have no place in today's world? Sooner than you think.

Posted by: Doctor Whom on October 15, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

The next 6 years is going to feel like an eternity if these lunatics get into office. Think about that any and all of you who are voting for the Green party, choosing "none of the above", or sitting out this election.

We're not talking about 2 years and we can kick them out before they do too much damage. This is for six _long_ years.

Posted by: CDW on October 15, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Johnson has been very careful about what he has said and Feingold has been called out on every attempt he has made to attack Johnston. Indeed, I think Feingold has run a miserable, negative campaign and that if it were not for his unforced errors the race would be closer. The bottom line is that Johnson has come across as a fairminded individual and Feingold has come across like a Richard Nixon wanna be." - Terry

What if what Feingold says about Johnson is true? Is that an attack, or just a negative statement of fact? What do you propose, that Feingold run on a campaign of Goodness and Light? Sounds like you believe Johnson's bullshit.

Anyone who's paying attention knows that Johnson holds some seriously toxic political views, and someone has to bring it out into the light if he's trying to bullshit his way into office.

The people of Wisconsin are making a terrible mistake if they elect Ron Johnson. Given that they've had Feingold for so long, I thought they were reasonable, but it's looking like they're just a bunch of rubes.

Posted by: bdop4 on October 15, 2010 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like part of a communist 5-year plan to me. If you recall, Chinese chairman Mao had re-education camps and so did the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. So Democrats aren't "pinko", Ron Johnson is.

Posted by: PJ on October 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

bdop4: Feingold has run ads saying he was more pro guns then Johnson based on a slip of the tongue by Johnson--the NRA has now endorsed Johnson. Feingold ran ads that Johnson wanted to drill for oil in Lake Michigan based on some comments that Johnson had made and seeking to tie Johnson to BP's spill in the Gulf--it went nowhere and as I pointed out at the time a lot of unemployed people in Wisconsin would relish the opportunity to work for oil companies. I did not watch their debate, but read the accounts where Feingold tried to paint Johnson as a Rand acolyte which is a fair comment that perhaps 2% of the electorate in Wisconsin would understand and probably 60% of those 2% would be more inclined to vote for Johnson as a result. The fact is that Feingold has done little that is visible to aid the state of Wisconsin in 18 years--Herb Kohl has done less, but he did not sell the Bucks--and he does not have much of a record to run on when the state's economy is reeling and everybody is fed up with the Democrats at the state level. Finally, Feingold is not really a very personable guy and has an outsized ego. I still remeber Bill Proxmire running for re-election by greeting fans at sporting events and workers at factory shift changes. His only expenses were mailing back donations. Feingold has never connected with Wisconsin voters in that fashion and he got caught lying about being outspent in every election too.

Posted by: Terry on October 15, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

The question is: why aren't each of your examples of his craziness campaign commercials?

Posted by: The Guilty Carnivore on October 15, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Terry, thanks for your depressing eyes on the ground comments. One question:were Feingold's votes against financial reg seen as positive, negative or just idiosyncratic?

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on October 15, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

He has a head start...all he has to do is use the Texas school books. Bada bing bada boom. Propaganda at all age levels.

This really is starting to look like Wiemer Germany.

Posted by: MsJoanne on October 15, 2010 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I am a Wisconsinite, long time lurker on this site, and have to disagree with Terry on some statements. Feingold has regular town hall meetings throughout the state, he has been at Packer games, he is very approachable.
I am very scared for what is coming in Wisconsin should Johnson win. Feingold has been a bold leader that I have been proud to claim. Johnson seems like a total nutbag, yet I see tons of his signs all over the place - and I live in the Madison area. I made my first campaign donation this year, it was to Feingold.

Posted by: kateeka on October 15, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Johnny Cannuck, I have seen no evidence that anyone in the state apart from the small percentage which actually follows politics even knows about it. Certainly, it did not endear him to the pragmatice progressives--his opposition lead to further watering down to get GOP votes, those who just hate banks and TARP and Wall Street give him no credit for principles and the business community which actually benefitted from his position is not supporting him either although there may be some who have contributed to his campaign

Posted by: Terry on October 15, 2010 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Someone should ask him, "If we're going to be re-educated, will we have to go to camps, or can we do it at home, like after work?"


Posted by: ed drone on October 15, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

I also made my very first campaign contribution this year to Russ Feingold. I fear Ron Johnson & the damage he will do if he gets elected.

Posted by: Bree on October 15, 2010 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Kateeka, I can not say anything about Packer games because it has been about 40 years since I had a ticket to a game, but your reference to Madison is part of Feingold's problem as I see it. Madison is both very liberal and very well educated. People there "get it" and I am sure some of Feingold's adds play well to Madison. Where I live now--Milwaukee--not so much and I think even less in the Fox Valley where I grew up. Not sure about the Mississippi corridor. While a Democrat has to carry Madison with huge margins, he or she also has to do well in the City of Milwaukee and the Mississippi corridor and not get killed in the Fox Valley. Given the general lack of enthusiasm for Democrats, if Feingold comes out of Milwaukee with any kind of lead, it will be more due to Barrett than his own campaign. I agree that Johnson will be a disaster, but we have had them before and just as Johnson has been careful to hide his true views, once they get into office these guys always start worrying about re-election and Wisconsin is not Utah or Oklahoma

Posted by: Terry on October 15, 2010 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

If people like Ron Johnson get in, forget about America. It will be gone and we will have 2 horrible dates in American Modern History-9/11/01 and 11/2/10. Expect a time of mourning followed by a term of fearmongering, paranoia and bigotry by those newly in power.

Posted by: Joanaroo on October 15, 2010 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

A big question I have is why some Americans are so short on memory? We still haven't recovered from the Bush admin debacle- why would any rational, logical person want to revisit those type of politics? No thanks. It takes time to change government & I'd hate to see Feingold pay the price for the backlash against Democrats. Wisconsin is a better place for having Feingold as their Senator & I hope we don't lose him in Nov.

Posted by: Bree on October 15, 2010 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Is this the same Feingold that worked with McCaine and the Bush administration? Time to throw these irrational democrats out of office who refused to heed the warnings of the Bush Administration about the coming mortgage crisis. The Clinton democrats & Congressional Republicans who deregulated the Banking Industry in 1999 by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act. Clinton forcing banks to make sub-prime loans to minorities in a failed effort to level the playing field for the poor. Allowing Hud to make those home loans of which Obama was their lawyer at the time.

If reeducation means our children actually have to learn in school instead of the constant dumbing down of education by liberals over the decades, I welcome it.

If reeducation means stopping liberal efforts to end free speech through the Disclosure Act and shutting down of Internet/news sites that have a different perspective than the liberal view, I welcome it.

If reeducation means more fiscal government spending and not the 4 billion deficit Wisconsin got under Doyle, I welcome it.

If reeducation means I can freely express my views in Madison without fear of my property/person being vandalized by 'rational' liberals & atheists, I welcome it.

If reeducation means a Property Tax freeze is a 'real' freeze and not one in name only as Wisconsin got under Doyle, I welcome it.

If by reeducation means I decide if I am For or Against a War and not by a worthless state referendum that states 'This is against the War', I welcome it.

Posted by: steve on October 16, 2010 at 7:34 AM | PERMALINK

If it means ending the murder of millions of babies in the US by Democrats, I welcome it.

Posted by: steve on October 16, 2010 at 7:38 AM | PERMALINK

Johnson's concern for the "chilling effect(s)" of prosecution of an organization's child molesters leaves me cold. I'm more interested in the chilling effects of prosecution on the child molesters themselves. It's fine to be pro-business, but he goes too far.

Posted by: Dorothy on October 16, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

Honestly, if these people succeed in rolling back America to the 1800's it will just mean a revolution will happen.

They will create a massive party of poor, and historically that creates tension with the ruling class and the end of their rule.

Can't wait

Posted by: Chris on October 16, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK



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