John Avlon, a senior political correspondent at The Daily Beast and author of the book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America, has posted his list of “Ten Congressmen Who Should Be Fired.” Though Avlon’s definition of “wingnut” is too often “conservative,” and picking the ten most embarrassing members of Congress is like choosing the ten most offensive reality TV stars, it’s a reasonably good list, if far too short and only the beginning. The members on it seem to split into four main categories: outrageously uncivil, clearly incompetent, corrupt, and too outspokenly conservative for Avlon, who regards all Tea Party sympathizers, for example, as dangerous “wingnuts.”
Here’s the list, with highlights of Avlon’s reasons:
1) Michele Bachmann (R-MN)—“The grand prize-winning Wingnut of the 111th Congress by a wide margin, Bachmann’s statements range from the intentionally inflammatory to the idiotic.”
2) Steve King (R-IA)—“He raised eyebrows as the only member of Congress not to vote for a resolution acknowledging the use of slave labor in the construction of the U.S. Capitol building.”
3) Alan Grayson (D-FL)—“In a speech on the House floor, he said, ‘The Republican health-care plan is this: ‘Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly’ …He rounded out the diatribes by calling an aide to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke a ‘K Street whore’ on Hatriot idol Alex Jones’ radio show.”
4) Louie Gohmert (R-TX)—“He is a co-sponsor of the Birther Bill and an early adopter of the “kill Granny” arguments against health-care reform…[proclaiming] that ‘this socialist health care… is going to absolutely kill senior citizens. They’ll put them on lists and force them to die early.'”
5) Charles Rangel (D-NY)—Never mind; you know why he’s here….
6) Joe Wilson (R-SC)— Of “You lie!” infamy: Avlon’s right; that’s enough for me, too.
7) Trent Franks (R-AZ)—‘”An enemy of humanity” who has “no place in any station of government’ is how Franks described President Obama at the Wingnut How to Take Back America conference last year.”
8) Laura Richardson (D-CA)—“Defenders could argue that defaulting on house payments six times in eight years makes her a relatable figure during the great recession, but hopscotching among homes in Long Beach, Sacramento, and San Pedro to qualify for different offices isn’t exactly a working-class concern.”
9) Don Young (R-AK)— “He is the man who gave America the infamous ‘Bridge to Nowhere.'”
10) Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)—“During a July 15 speech on the House floor, she reached for a poor historical metaphor for Afghanistan and somehow made it worse: ‘Today we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working,” she said. “We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace. I would look for a better human-rights record for North Vietnam, but they are living side by side.’ Well, no, Vietnam has been unified since after the war, and it’s worth expecting that a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee would know better.”
All of these are embarrassments. Still, Avlon’s biases are showing by his including the likes of King and Franks rather than the incompetent, uncivil and corrupt Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cal.), the infamously slimy Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA.), and especially Rep Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.), who manhandled a citizen on the D.C. streets for daring to ask him a question (Yes, Avlon believes insulting Barack Obama is a greater offense than engaging in criminal assault). Then there is Rep. Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.) who has repeatedly misrepresented his credentials, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA.), who suggested that Guam might capsize, and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who not only has cornered the market on using relatives as donor-paid campaign staff, but who also ridiculed the idea that Congressmen should have an obligation to read bills before they vote for them.
Why does Avlon think any of these ten, with the exception of Rangel, are more deserving of being “fired” than Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) and the rest of the earmark-selling members unconscionably cleared by the Ethics Committee in the PMA scandal?
As deserving of list membership as any by Avlon’s criteria is the Speaker of the House herself, Nancy Pelosi, who has made numerous statements as offensive, uncivil and mind-blowingly dumb as those by the Representatives Avlon targets, and whose status and prominence make these far more significant, damaging, and inexcusable. Remember how we needed to pass the health care bill “to see what’s in it”? Or Pelosi’s breathless announcement that she had “seen” evidence of global warming”?
I take it all back: it’s not a good list; Avlon’s selections are misleading and wrong. If we don’t put at least fifty House members on it, we give too many Representatives a pass, and leave the false impression that Congress isn’t the cesspool of ineptitude and corruption that it really is.