Thursday, April 26, 2007

Conservative civility

-- by Dave

David Sirota asks a simple question: "Has the GOP officially gone insane?"

In the spirit of Atrios, there is a simple answer:

Simple answers to simple questions. But in this case, it's worth gawking at, just for the awful car-wreck quality of it all. The full video footage of the Montana House Speaker, Mike Lange, trying to rouse the Republican caucus troops by erupting in an obscene rant against Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, can be seen here.

Here's a transcript of some of the rant:
Today's the day I'm pissed off, at that SOB on the second floor who thinks he’s gonna run this state like a dictator. So I want each and every one of you to get pissed off today, because your way of lifestyle is under threat.

... So my message to the governor is, 'Stick it up your ass.' That’s my message to him: 'Stick it up your ass!'

[Loud applause]

... He can veto every bill I have, I don't give a shit. Every bill.

What inspired this rant? Well, as Matt Singer explains, Schweitzer had simply engaged in some standard tit-for-tat horse trading in the hopes of breaking a budget standoff, and Lange had gone off on him afterwards, accusing him of attempting to "bribe" him:
I mean, let's be clear here -- the Governor asked if Lange would give the all-clear for a Dem bill in exchange for the all-clear on a GOP bill. That's horse-trading, negotiations, compromise. Call it whatever the Hell you want. It's not bribery. Bribery would be the Governor saying, "Hey, Mikey, we'll give you $10 and some gummy bears if you just go back and pass our agenda."

It's really not shocking to find out that this guy doesn't grasp the English language or ethics. That's been damn clear from early on. What's startling is that his team is rallying behind him.

Yes, that loud round of applause was not exactly evidence of conservatives' vaunted civility. Cursing bloggers scandalize them, but hey, nothing like a rousing pep talk from the coach, I guess.

What's well worth noting is that the key figure in all this, Lange (who, it should be noted, offered an apology the next day), represents an ugly hard-right turn for Republicans in Montana that has in fact led to their increasing disempowerment in the state. Lange was also, before this, considered the leading candidate to take on longtime incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Baucus.

Lange's hard-right, Limbaughesque approach to politics has led him to form some interesting alliances. Longtime readers here will recall the case of Rick Jore, the Flathead-area conservative legislator who left the GOP in 2000 and ran on the Constitution Party ticket. The Constitution Party, you'll also recall, is the ultraright home to many of Montana's militia faction, and the party most associated with the "Patriot" movement.

Well, last year Lange installed Jore, who is not even a Republican still, as chairman of the House Education Committee:
Republican leaders are giving the House Education Committee chairmanship to the Legislature's only third-party member, a Constitution Party lawmaker who opposes more money for public schools.

The rare appointment of a third-party member to chair a committee - especially in his first session after a six-year hiatus from politics - comes as the GOP courts Rick Jore and his swing vote. Republicans control the chamber by a slim 50-49 margin.

Jore said he never specifically asked for the chairmanship.

"Quite frankly, I was surprised," said Jore, a Ronan resident who served as a Republican legislator in the 1990s before switching parties.

Jore, who wants to abolish compulsory school attendance, promised to be "respectful of every viewpoint and all witnesses that come before" his committee.

... Republican leaders dismissed the criticism, saying the education community opposed Sales and other Republicans in elections.

"I don't recall the education community supporting the speaker, or myself either," said House Republican leader Mike Lange of Billings. "They didn't win. That's the bottom line. If they want to control the committee, my recommendation to them is to be better at campaigning than they were.

"We owe them no explanation whatsoever."

The Constitution Party platform seeks to abolish the federal Department of Education, and Jore is critical of education standards being set at the state level.

And as Singer previously noted, Lange evevn went so far to maintain his alliance with Jore as to proposed turning down $2 billion in federal money in order to gain his support for passing of the state's budget bills.

Lange also has an inimitable -- cough eliminationism cough -- debating style, as 4&20 blackbirds noted:
Furious after the Senate panel tabled his bill Wednesday, Lange stormed into Democratic leadership offices in both houses and threatened retaliatory action against Democratic bills in the House unless his bill is resurrected.

Senate President Pro Tempore Dan Harrington, D-Butte, said Lange came into his office Wednesday and said, "It's war. The bloodletting has started." Witnesses said he formed each hand into a pistol and pretended as if he were firing shots.

It would be comforting to say this could only happen in Montana. But it would not be true.

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