Monday, November 3, 2014

When Joni Met Chachi Charlie

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)    
     Or Sleepless 700 Miles From Dallas.
     To quote my fellow Bay State scribe Charlie Pierce, "Well, this didn't end well."
     Specifically, this is what happens when the proverbial Irresistible Force of facts meets the Immovable Object of paranoid teabagger Ignorance and Stupidity.
     In Ankeny, a little burg in the middle of Iowa, Joni Ernst decided to diversify her appeal to 30-something Klan members still holding out hope the Black Guy Who Shall Not Be Named will make one move toward their guns by trying to appeal to old, white people at a bagel shop. She made the mistake of trying to convince the old folks nodding off in their cream cheese and prune juice that Obama wasn't doing enough about Ebola. As if, you know, he's the one holding up the naming of a Surgeon General over the last 13 months.
     What she didn't realize was that Esquire's Charlie Pierce was in attendance. In fact, she never even recognized him, for which Ernst von Bloviate can't be blamed since she's been acting as if anyone with a press pass has, I don't know, Ebola or something.
     So Mr. Pierce, contrary to the hagiographers and stenographers that make up the bulk of today's mainstream media 24/7 Infotainment Extravaganza of Aphoristic Soundbites and Cialis/Viagra/Levitra Commercials, decided to present Ms. Ernst with a fact.
     He confronted her with the painfully inescapable, incontrovertible, ineluctable, unassailable fact that only one person in the United States has a confirmed case of Ebola.
     Now, let's backtrack for a minute to clarify that. That is an ascertained, easily verifiable fact, especially for a Senate candidate who currently employs people whose job it is to vet media stories so their candidate is well-informed on the issues. Oh, wait, silly me. That's who Democrats hire. Teabagger rodeo clown fear mongers like Joni Ernst hire partisan stooges who are less like media professionals and more like James O'Keefe knockoffs minus the Superfly Halloween costume.
     At any rate, this was an easily verifiable fact: There's only one person in our great, urine-soaked nation who has Ebola. So what was Ms. Ernst's response?
     "Well, you're the press. That's your opinion."
     Squealing tires. Scratched record. Woman screaming.
     "But that's not an opinion," Mr. Pierce intrepidly ventured. "That's a fact. Only one person in America has Ebola."
     "But he's not a leeeaaader," she retorted, referring to Obama.
     Now, there are several things about this exchange we must take away, even though it's like, I dunno, about as appealing as a fresh pile of Ebola-infected vomit.
     First, John Adams and his "stubborn facts" be damned, to Teabagger fear meisters and peddlars such as Joni Ernst, if you're a member of the media, you're automatically a liar, that anyone who pushes facts instead of the GOP agenda unspooled from the fax machine of Karl Rove or the NRA, then you're merely an opinion journalist, someone to be avoided at all costs.
     At which Joni Ernst has proven, Lo, these past several weeks, to be very adroit.  And the Iowa press has responded to this snubbing with as much dedication and zeal as they would the weekly crop dusting schedule.
     So, if there was a God of Politics governing democratic elections in our red, white and blue (and yellow. We cannot forget the piss yellow running down our Levis that Ernst and Fox News ensures runs down our legs) nation, Joni Ernst's candidacy would've imploded faster and neater than three World Center Towers, in its footprint and at freefall speed. And Chuckie Pierce would be given the credit for the downfall of another delusional sociopath. Ernst's iron-coiffed head would be mounted on his den wall.
     But there is no such God. Because for decades now, it seems any psychopath with a passable wardrobe and who is remotely telegenic in a red state or district actually stands a good chance of getting elected to one of the most powerful offices in the land.
     And her campaign hardly felt a shudder as she quickly turned from my colleague to peddle more lies to someone whose Medicare and Social Security she could endanger while making them feel they really matter.
     Facts don't matter anymore, especially if you're running under a Republican Party banner. And whether you're cynically trying to get others to pile on the Ebola bandwagon or are a true believer with the yellow stripe down your pants leg to prove it, facts don't matter to you, the press or the voters any more than global warming and climate change means a shit to oil cartel meat puppets like James Inhofe.
     Yes, this exchange should've been the end of Joni Ernst's campaign just as George Allen's last Senate campaign imploded about four and a half nanoseconds after his infamous "Macaca" comment.
     But it didn't. And outgoing Senator Tom Harkin's recent comments comparing Ernst to Taylor Swift (which is like comparing Ann Coulter to Jennifer Lopez or anyone else who actually has a pair of functional X chromosomes) didn't help the cause because Ernst is just smart enough politically to seize on gender bias even if it doesn't exist.
     Because in politics especially, perception is reality. Who cares if this especially applies to a nation of people who still think the world began 6000 years ago when it was created  by a Sky Wizard who said, "Thou Shalt Not Kill!" then made human survival dependent on just that? This is America, Land of the Sorta Free Within Limits and With Prior Police Approval and Home of the Blustering Through Yellow-Tinged Sears Sans-a-Belt Slacks.
     This one exchange that took but seconds to transpire should've been the end of what should've been the most laughable and possibly hostile campaign in the entire 2014 midterm election cycle.
     Just by coincidence, two years ago almost to the day, when she was in the final days of her 2012 bid for the US Senate, Elizabeth Warren appeared in a local bagel shop in Hudson, Massachusetts. I got to speak with her after her (one must admit, boilerplate speech that must've been delivered a dozen times that day) and got the sense that she was a warm, genuine human being. Charlie Pierce walked away from the other bagel shop in Ankeny feeling much the same way, marveling at the woman's ability to work a room.
     But Charlie Pierce missed the big picture and his trademark snark was even considerably dimmed in that article. The Big Picture is that it's one thing to work a room. It's another thing entirely to work up a room with palpable lies about Ebola and to cynically run on such a platform and telling old, white Republican voters the black guy's no good for you and his apathy is going to kill you because that's not what reeeeaaaalll leeeaaadeeeerssss do.
     Joni Ernst, I've met a real-life Senator in my life, at a bagel shop not unlike the one in which you tried to stoke fear where there shouldn't be any. I met Elizabeth Warren. I spoke with Elizabeth Warren. I listened to Elizabeth Warren. And you, Ms. Ernst, are no Elizabeth Warren.


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