From prison realignment to Benghazi, fringe conspiracy theories and fearmongering remain the tools of choice in California Republicans’ quest to regain power.
By Andy Cohen
Please indulge my liberal fantasy for a moment, but sometimes fiction strikes awfully close to reality.
“We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them,” said the fictional President Shepherd of his would be Republican opponent Bob Rumson. “And whatever your particular problem is I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: Making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.”
It was true back then in 1995 when Aaron Sorkin brought “The American President” to the screen, and God bless them, the GOP is still playing to type today. And we’re not just talking about national Republicans like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and the NRA who are petrified that at any moment Nancy Pelosi is going to come charging through their doors and confiscate their Buck knives.
Rather, we’re talking about California Republicans, who ordinarily would be considered somewhat less Fringy McFringersons than the typical national variety. The GOP in California has been effectively sent to the corner with the pointed hat until they decide to join the rest of us in Reasonableville. Even here in San Diego where Republicans (until recently) tended to be more moderate and at least somewhat fair to deal with. There are, of course, lamentable exceptions.
But sadly, the faces of the California GOP are becoming more and more fringy by the day, and still the only thing they have to peddle is fear.
Take Abel Maldonado for example: Last week Mr. Maldonado, the former Lt. Governor, failed Congressional candidate, and surefire 2014 gubernatorial opponent to Jerry Brown, held a press conference on top of a parking structure in Sacramento to excoriate Governor Brown’s plan to reduce prison crowding, lamenting the fact that it would surely lead to a mass early exodus of the most violent criminals to ever serve time in our prisons onto California streets.
Maldonado, according to the LA Times story, blamed Brown and the Democrats for a rise in violent crime in the state, offering no actual evidence to back his claim. (Statistics from the Attorney General’s office note only an ever-so-slight uptick in crime between 2010 and 2011, the most recent years available for study.)
“The biggest issue—it threatens the lives of Californians,” said Maldonado according to the Times. “This notion of families being afraid to go out on the street, being afraid of parking garages, families who are just afraid.” (emphasis added)
“The governor uses a fancy word called realignment,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s early release…….A shell game is what it is.”
Never mind that this “fancy realignment” was mandated by the United States Supreme Court. Unless Mr. Maldonado thinks nullification is a serious option (it isn’t).
Maldonado, for his part, doesn’t offer any solutions to the overcrowding problem that got the Supreme Court involved in the first place, other than opaque suggestions that the state should spend billions of dollars to build more prisons. But that can’t be right, because Republicans are entirely against guvmint spending……
“…make you afraid of it, and tell you whose to blame for it…”
Also in the news this week is everybody’s favorite conspiracy hound, North San Diego County’s own Congressman Darrell Issa. Be afraid of that Muslim Socialist Barack Obama, Issa tells us! Be very afraid!
Mr. Issa is convinced that the Obama administration was actively trafficking weapons to the Mexican drug cartels. Despite Mr. Issa’s fantasies of a massive executive branch conspiracy designed to stoke violence and frighten the American people into supporting stricter gun laws, the investigation found Issa’s charges to be just that: Fantasy.
The Inspector General’s investigation into “Fast and Furious” found no culpability by Attorney General Eric Holder (another Issa Bogeyman) and President Obama, but rather faulted the ATF and Department of Justice for the complete screw up by local ATF agents in Arizona, and a lack of proper oversight possibly due to the fact that the agency in question hasn’t had a permanent director for over six years, and never mind that the program actually began under the Bush administration.
Most recently comes the supposed massive White House cover-up of the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is determined to get to the bottom of why “urgent requests for more security, repeatedly before the attacks, were denied,” implying willful negligence on the part of the State Department and the administration, subsequently putting diplomatic personnel in even greater danger. A look in the mirror might be a good place to start, though. Congress denied State Department requests to fund more diplomatic security positions even after warnings by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself to Congress that the Republicans’ cuts to the department’s budget would be “detrimental to America’s national security,” which was scoffed at by Issa and his Republican colleagues.
“People are asking for more security and got less” Issa told NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet The Press” this past Sunday.
Issa goes on to insist that the fact that talking points were changed 12 times between the CIA and the State Department before handing them over to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is clear evidence of some treacherous conspiracy to mislead the public. Why were they changed so many times, Issa wants to know? What was the White House hiding?
Nothing, it turns out. The changes were made between the CIA and State Department, with the CIA essentially blaming the State Department for lax security on the compound, and the State Department pushing back because, after all, the compound was primarily a CIA operation under the guise of a diplomatic post. Pretty common practice, actually. Most countries place spies under the umbrella of diplomatic postings. In fact, according to a Wall Street Journal report, of the 30 Americans working at the Benghazi mission, 23 of them were CIA, and only seven were employees of State. Of course the State Department couldn’t actually come out and say that at the risk of revealing classified CIA operations.
That and the fact that nobody really knew what had taken place at that point. The CIA issued the original set of talking points, but most of them, it turned out, were just plain wrong, which the White House admitted a few days later when more information had become available.
Issa later goes on to accuse former CIA Director Mike Mullen and Ambassador Thomas Pickering—who jointly conducted the Accountability Review Board investigation into the attack—of being overtly political in their findings in order to give cover to the White House, thus participating in the conspiracy because their findings didn’t match Issa’s predetermined outcome.
In that same MTP interview Issa insisted that Pickering refused to testify to his committee. Pickering, sitting next to Issa, denied the charge. He volunteered to testify, but the committee, it turns out, refused to invite him. “He could have been a Democratic witness,” Issa retorted, revealing the true nature of his “investigation.”
Issa’s blatantly partisan political witch hunts have served exactly no purpose other than to repeatedly attempt to smear Obama with the intent to find an impeachable offense, and now to preemptively denigrate possible 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
I’m sure that next Mr. Issa will demand an investigation into the Obama administration’s involvement in the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.
But it’s not as if there is actual work for Issa and his Oversight Committee to do.
Fear. That’s all they’ve got. But apparently, as the fictional Shepherd notes, “that’s how you win elections.” Fear, conspiracy theories, and witch hunts. That’s what the GOP in this deep blue state has been reduced to. It’s like they’re not even trying. Then again, why should California Republicans be immune to the Tea Party fever that has infected the rest of the country?
Here’s a thought: They might want to give actually governing a shot.