|Grassley reportedly played with his phone instead of listening to testimony from shooting survivors [GALLO/GETTY]|
“I’m not a part of a redneck agenda. Now everybody do the propaganda. And sing along to the age of paranoia.”
These are some of the lyrics for Green Day’s hit song “American Idiot”. But it might as well be a description of the current state of affairs in the US Senate, embodied perfectly by Senator Chuck Grassley.
Grassley, the bespectacled, temperamental, ignoramus who doubles as the Republican senator from Iowa, was actually once considered to be among the more “reasonable” members of his party. So much so that he was put on the Gang of Six to negotiate a healthcare bill in 2009, sometime just before he started repeating Palinesque babble about “death panels” and “unconstitutional” healthcare mandates. You know, after co-sponsoring a healthcare bill in 1993 that, wait for it, wait for it … contained a healthcare mandate!
Holy Mitt Romney, Batman!
Sadly, this should come as no surprise, as the right-wing, talk-show atmosphere of the US Senate – characterised by loud prevarication and demagoguery, social-issues extremism and the overarching crust of corporatism – has been on display at least since the GOP took Congress in 1994.
But in Grassley we get the perfect bird’s-eye view of what happens to careerist politicians who, at least at one time, had somewhat of a positive influence on the institution of the Senate, but have chosen to join the carnival barkers for fear of having to find a job outside of Washington. They have put their creeping old age, fear of … Fear Of A Black Planet, years of privilege, temperamental inconsistency and political self-preservation ahead of what they know to be right.
Looking at the sad-sack senator, in fact, it becomes simple to understand the primordial forces that have turned the GOP presidential debates into a Star Wars bars of gropers, dopers and professional lopers.
On Wednesday, survivors from the massacre in Tuscon earlier this year, which saw 19 innocent people sprayed with lead for no particular reason, including a murdered federal judge and Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, were in Washington. They had come to attend a Senate hearing being held on an obviously crazy bill that would do the monstrous deed of mandating background checks on all who purchase firearms, to prevent criminals, terrorists and the mentally ill from snapping their fingers just before bringing us the next Columbine or Virginia Tech.
Grassley behaved so boorishly to survivors of a genuine tragedy that these men and women, who had lost loved ones and been indiscriminately shot, sent him a letter demanding an apology. Yes, Grassley’s “obvious disregard for the gun violence survivors in the room” and “apparent ignorance of the deadly serious issue we came to discuss with you” was that obviously on display for all to see, as he repeatedly ignored testimony to read his Blackberry, and used the hearing to push forward the propaganda of the National Rifle Association at the expense of survivors of a horrific attack.
Classy, that Grassley.
The good senator also has been on the warpath to ensure the United States ranks just behind Tikrit when it comes to broadband access, taking the money of the Big Telecoms and GPS players and magically choosing to defend their monopolistic practices (they control 80 per cent of their respective markets). This, of course, leads directly to the stifling of innovation, ensuring a lack of quality for consumers and spiking prices so that entrepreneurs become hostages to the campaign accounts of the Grassleys in our capital.
Surely, Grassley’s political proclivities have nothing to do with the fact that the big GPS guys, John Deere and Trimble, have larded up Grassley’s campaign account like a Mississippi barbecue, with just enough piles of cash to ensure that small businesses will be priced out of this market and need to lay people off in a terrible economy?
Ah, crony capitalism, the love that dare not speak thy name.
What does this all mean for us? To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you legislate with the senate you have, not the senate you wish you had. So expect things to continue this way, at least as long as We The People allow a dysfunctional and corrupted senate culture to thrive, and the nasty Chuck Grassleys continue to reign supreme in turning what was once called “the world’s most deliberative body” into the world’s most deliberately stupid one.
Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.
You can follow him on Twitter: @cliffschecter
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.