A big show is going on in the Michigan Legislature – with all the pomp and circumstance of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show — our elected leaders are being trotted about on the leash in a celebration of their utter stupidity. (Too strong a word? Stupid defined: deficient or dull of understanding; showing lack of reason or judgement; foolish.)
Mind you, just like their canine counterparts, there are various breeds of stupid politicians, each with unique characteristics and levels of incompetence. We recognize them all, but in the Michigan House only one of them can be “Best in Show”.
Here are the judging categories:
Purebred Stupid: A nationally recognized breed of politicians popularized in recent presidential races by the likes of the not yet paper-trained Sarah Palin, and of course, Herman Cain, with his distinctive bark: Uz-Beki-Beki-Beki-Beki-Stan-Stan! This special group, being somewhat self-aware of their intellectual deficits, actually flaunts the lack of useful knowledge as an asset.
As simple-minded purists, it is not surprising to find a few of them in the Michigan House. The breed is difficult to identify just by sight — it is only when they open their mouths that their political pedrigree becomes evident. Take Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R). He looks just like any other guy in a nice suit until asked a simple question like this one, when he first ran back in 2008: Is Michigan’s water a product? Clearly puzzled, with his head turned slightly to the side like a clueless yet adorable Cocker Spaniel, Schmidt replied that he needed time to “review” the issue. Four years later, he’s probably still chewing on that bone. Every subsequent interview has shown him incapable of coherent, independent thought. There are others like him, but few would argue that Schmidt has consistently been the perennial favorite to take Best of Breed in this category.
Hybrid Stupid: The Labradoodles among our lawmakers. There are two classes of this hybrid. To the untrained-eye they are not easily distinguished from one another.
First, we have the Willfully Ignorant — not the brightest among those dogpaddling about in the legislative gene pool, having inherited more Lab and less Poodle. They are prepared to lap-up just about anything they’re told to believe. Their owners will chuckle affectionately as they keep pretending to throw that stick, and watch them chase after it every time. House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) earns Best of Breed among this group. Bolger, along with many of his fellow Michigan conservatives, including Dave Camp, Bill Schuette, and Steven Markman, is a proud graduate of a special obedience school called the Student Statemanship Institute (SST). The school was founded by Betsy DeVos and it is funded by the DeVos and Prince families. Their curriculum is limited to one easy to learn topic: the belief that our founding fathers intended for ours to be a strictly Christian nation. They claim that this message has somehow been mysteriously lost from our history books (just like that stick…where did it go?). SST’s mission is to “educate citizens about their God-given liberties by informing them of the true historical role these values played in the founding of America”. With his completion certificate in hand, we congratulate Jase — he deserves a treat…such a good boy!
The other sub-class of hybrids is the Pretending to be Ignorant group. (More Poodle, less Lab — a tiny bit smarter, but still operating in the fog of the canine brain.) This fancy breed was featured in Newsweek last November in an article titled The Stupid Party written by Democratic strategist and possible dog-fancier Paul Begala. The author describes this breed’s amazing ability to “play dumb” on command. We all remember the “raise your hands if you don’t believe in evolution” debate. And how about global warming, anyone? This is that group in action. They are skilled liars of convenience.
Here in the Michigan House we have many that have mastered this particular trick — they tend to operate in unison, like a spirited dog team, pulling any load of crap they’re hitched- to by their handlers. Lawmakers recently demonstrated the highest level of plausible deniability by playing dumb in a 97 to 12 vote passing a law to relieve dead-beat commercial developers of their debt obligations. These obedient representatives did this for no other reason than their being told to do so. The bill was a blatant political favor intended to protect the brother of Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak from paying a 2.4 million dollar circuit court judgement against him for debt he owed on a commercial venture gone awry. The Court of Appeals subsequently upheld the ruling, even after Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an amicus brief on Schostak’s behalf. That’s when Schostak’s personal attorney was invited to sit down with lawmakers to draft a law that would excuse his client from his obligations.
The passing of this bill took the concept of “immediate effect” to a whole new level — by making the law retroactive for the sole and specific purpose of relieving the brother Schostak of the burden of paying what he legally owed. Circuit Court Judge Philip Rogers, who’s ruling against Schostak inspired this legislation, was quoted in the Traverse City Record-Eagle saying “This looks to me like a piece of personal legislation that is benefiting a specific individual.” To not see this, a lawmaker must have been temporarily preoccupied with something, perhaps taking a break to lick themselves or maybe busy sniffing eachother’s butts, so as not draw the obviously straight line from Schostak’s debt to this crooked law.
New Breeds: This group debuts every two years in Lansing. Due to Michigan’s term-limits, at any given time approximately one third of the House is comprised of freshmen, and the other two thirds have precious little experience themselves. Barely weaned and still wet behind the ears, they’re groomed and pampered by their party like young champion pups, ready to please their masters. Easily recognizable by their shiny new brief cases, waggy-tails and their willingness to vote for anything they haven’t yet read.
Former Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R), who termed-out in 2008, remains a strong proponent of the term-limit revolving door of ignorance found in Michigan and wants it to go national. Jack wants the old dogs out. He’s now running against U.S. Rep Fred Upton (for the second time), after having failed in his bid to unseat Sen. Carl Levin in 2008. Hoogendyk was recently quoted at a quasi-Tea Party rally in his support saying ” We don’t need committee chairs — for the most part we don’t need committees. ” He’s not alone in questionaing why we need all that tiresome wisdom found in the institutional memory that can only be gained through real experience. To Hoogendyk’s thinking, there simply couldn’t be any other valid reason to unseat Upton other than his tenure. That’s his campaign platform — get rid of Upton ‘cuz he’s been there too long. Gee, wonder why Hoogendyk keeps losing….
These young pups are especially numerous in the Michigan House. Some of their most recent shenanigans include ignoring House rules on roll call votes, possibly because most of them didn’t even know the rules existed in the first place. Again, who needs all those experienced old dogs around to show them the ropes? It was doggie daycare playtime on the floor of the House, as Republicans gaveled-through into “immediate effect” one law after another. Democrats watched with barely a yelp as the Republicans stole all their toys. It took them only a full year to figure out they could and should do something about the problem. No worries, right? What harm could have possibly been done in the meantime?
So who among these pups will take home the big trophy?
The winner is…..
Best in Show: The highest honor goes to underdog Rep. John Walsh (R), House Speaker Pro Tem, for smartly denying a roll call vote and gaveling-through a law with “immediate effect” as seen ’round the world in a viral video (or at least on The Maddow Show). Walsh demonstrated savant-like counting skills — the Rain Man of the House. His prowess is compounded by his stealth. Maddow inadvertently led viewers to believe it was the Speaker himself, Jase Bolger, at the podium. Excellent work Walsh –subtle, yet classy –impressive the way you nosed-out your boss for the big one, enjoy your trophy.
Honorable Senate Mentions: We mustn’t ignore those smarty-pants Senators — they too desreve our praise. Just because they are generally not as stupid as their counterparts in the House doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be duly recognized for their work. Therefore, (hold on to your hats dear Dems, it’s your turn) we honor Senate Minority Leader, Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Sen. Tupac Hunter (D) for blindly sponsoring the Schostak bill, and then, after realizing their mistake, quietly having their names removed as sponsors, but still voting “yes” because they had already brokered…er, agreed to do so. It is important to (kinda) honor those who (kinda) learn from their mistakes.
But truly, all are award winners –from those that doggedly follow the party line, by occassionally eating their own barf or thinking they smell just great after rolling in a dead fish, to those that genuinely haven’t a clue, but merely wanted to run with the big dogs.
Blue Ribbons all around.
Amy Kerr Hardin, (with sincere apologies to dogs)