It is difficult to know what to make of a recent bizarre news video published on NewsOK.com, the Web site of The Oklahoman. The video featured two right-wing Oklahoman staffers “interviewing” the rambling, sometimes incoherent U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.
Bizarre is the right word here, and it was hardly an interview. Washington-based Chris Casteel and Mark Green, who are really just quasi-GOP operatives, threw some softball questions at one of the world’s most despised politicians, and, well, the 73-year-old Inhofe rambled and digressed and showed once again he represents a shrinking, truly lunatic fringe of the Republican Party.
It is an understatement to say The Oklahoman is known for shoddy journalism, and Casteel and Green, of course, did not challenge Inhofe’s bizarre ramblings in the interview. Another take, however, might be that The Oklahoman is allowing Inhofe to self-inflict his own political ruin. That is wishful thinking, of course, and it gives the newspaper far too much credit. I think a better take is that Casteel and Green are actually fervent, religious-like believers in what Inhofe says in the interview. They may well also see their careers as biased, lazy “journalists” inextricably tied to Inhofe’s fortunes. If Inhofe remains in power, they can continue to get paid for easy-to-produce GOP propaganda.
Here are some highlights of the interview:
Inhofe says the recent losses of GOP House candidates to Democrats in Republican strongholds do not signify much, and, besides, it’s not October yet, so why worry? Oh yeah, says Inhofe, rising gasoline prices have replaced Iraq as the presidential campaign’s central issue, and everyone knows the Republicans are on the right side of this issue. Incredibly, Inhofe is arguing the same tired, GOP dogma on energy issues will actually bring victory to his party, which obviously favors policies that reward big energy companies at the expense of ordinary consumers. The GOP flacks, Casteel and Green, might have pointed out polls showing more than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction on energy and many other issues, but that would be challenging Republican authority and thus their own sustenance as propagandists.
Perhaps, the weirdest comment was Inhofe’s argument that Imperial President George Bush’s declining approval ratings are just something that normally happens in the last six months of a presidency and, for that matter, Bush’s numbers are not that bad in Oklahoma. Casteel and Green might have pointed out that Bush’s declining ratings are the worst for a president in modern history, and even in Oklahoma, the reddest of red states, the Imperial President has been below 50 percent.
McCain is drifting left, according to Inhofe, to capture independent voters, but, rest assured, Oklahoma's senior Senator is not going there. All this McCain talk about cap-and-trade on carbon emissions if it were to become a reality will essentially destroy the American economy, says Inhofe. Maybe the “correspondents” should have asked if Oklahoma Republicans, then, should just not vote in November or vote for Obama or Clinton.
Inhofe claims he is going to have a tough 2008 reelection race because of outside interests who will try to Pombo him, and he has the evidence. (Former U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, of California, was defeated in his 2006 election. Environmental groups worked to defeat him because of his dismal record on the environment.) But watch out for “illegal money” that might be used by Democratic groups, and, yeah, it is going to be tough, even though Democrats are still looking for a tier one candidate to run against him. Casteel and Green do not bring up the candidacy of state Sen. Andrew Rice, a Democrat who has raised over $1 million in campaign funds so far to challenge Inhofe.
My description here of the interview makes it seem somewhat linear. Inhofe often rambles off topic, sounds egotistical, and seems like a fool who believes in vast political conspiracies. Of course, environmental groups are going to come after Inhofe, who is the unspoken GOP leader on denying the dire effects of global warming, but is it, really, a conspiracy, whose members, as he puts it, include George Soros, Michael Moore and Barbara Streisand, or just concerned citizens exercising their rights in a democracy? McCain’s recognition of credible science and his recent proposals, of course, are just one more mark against Inhofe, who seems increasingly incoherent and pathetic.
(Here's the REAL John McCain.)
If the Republicans can lose a big election in Mississippi, then they can lose big here in Oklahoma as well.
The GOP lost a special House election in Mississippi on May 13. Democrat Travis Childers decisively thumped Republican Greg Davis in a Congressional district that was once considered a GOP stronghold. The district once voted for Imperial President George Bush by a 25 percent margin. Davis, using typical GOP/Rovian smear tactics, ran an anti-Obama campaign against his opponent. Guess what? It didn’t work. Childers won by eight percentage points.
Oklahoma’s own U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Moore), who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to get Republicans elected, had this to say about the election:
“The political environment is such that voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general. I encourage all Republican candidates, whether incumbents or challengers, to take stock of their campaigns and position themselves for challenging campaigns this fall by building the financial resources and grassroots networks that offer them the opportunity and ability to communicate, energize and turn out voters this election."
This is the third special House election in a row the GOP has lost. Locally, it brings up the question of whether Democrats can win U.S. House and Senate seats now held by Republicans, and it specifically calls immediate attention to the race between U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Andrew Rice, pictured right, who represents a district in Oklahoma City.
Here are two minor differences between the Rice/Inhofe race and the Mississippi election: (1) Childers, the winning Democrat in Mississippi, is a tad more conservative than Rice and (2) Davis, the Republican, is a mayor from a suburban area close to Memphis and thus might have lost votes because of his perceived affiliation with Tennessee.
Here are the similarities: (1) Both elections are in historically conservative regions of the country, and the Mississippi election shows people are obviously fed up with the Republican agenda, (2) Inhofe, like Davis, will probably run ineffective attack ads against Rice—perhaps linking Rice to Obama if he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee—because he cannot run on his dismal anti-environment and Bush-loyalist record, (3) and Bush/Cheney efforts to re-elect the Senator, just as they did with Davis, will probably backfire, even in Oklahoma.
There is a long time to go before the November elections, Inhofe has raised more money than Rice, and, sure, the Mississippi election may not be the bellwether event the pundits say it is. But things look promising for Rice and other Democrats in Oklahoma right now.
(What exactly are the mixed vibes in Oklahoma City these days? Read DocHoc's commentary this week in the Oklahoma Gazette to find out.)
He is known as an obstructionist, a rascally contrarian, a political stuntman, “Dr. No,” the politician adored by the local corporate media and extreme GOP ideologues, but Oklahoma U.S. Senator Tom Coburn crosses a new line in depravity in his efforts to stop world AIDS relief.
Coburn is leading a group of seven U.S. Senators, all Republicans, who have signed a letter against the reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Under the arcane rules of the Senate, the letter halts action on reauthorization unless it receives 60 “yes” votes, which might yet be accomplished since the reauthorization enjoys wide bipartisan support in Congress.
The plan is designed to treat 3 million HIV-infected people throughout the world.
Coburn and the other Senators says the program costs too much, according to Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, and, of course, they “are concerned that AIDS funds might be used for things such as abortion referrals and needle distribution, though the legislation doesn't mention these possibilities.” The senators also want 55 percent of PEPFAR money’s devoted solely to treatment
But, incredibly, the reauthorization of the program does not even actually appropriate any money to the program.
The other Senators are Jim DeMint, Jeff Sessions, Saxby Chambliss, David Vitter, Jim Bunning, and Richard Burr. They have become known as the Coburn Seven because Coburn has taken the lead role in the obstructionism.
Coburn recently led an effort to stop a bill outlawing genetic discrimination, which later passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support, and he once apparently proudly claimed to have placed 87 holds on various Senate business in 2007.
Coburn, a physician, is lauded by GOP ideologues, such as pundit George Will, and editorial writers at The Oklahoman, but some of his antics bring up moral questions. His battle against world AIDS relief and the genetic anti-discrimination legislation puts Coburn’s moral compass in the public limelight. Here are some questions: Is it right for a physician to actively work to deny dying people a chance to live? Does this stance not show Coburn has problems with basic judgment? Why did he choose these particular issues to grandstand? Does Coburn’s ego get in the way of sound decision making?
Coburn’s stunts do nothing to help those state voters who elected him. It may be great on a short-term visceral level to some voters here, for example, that George Will has become a Coburn sycophant, but for every adoring pundit like Will there is another pundit or another organization that vehemently opposes the Senator and considers him a cruel egomaniac. The bad publicity outweighs the good. Coburn’s controversial stances continue to harm the state’s image.