The Politics of Crazy

Image of Jim Inhofe from TPM

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe cranked up the extremism last week as he pandered to narrow-minded people in his own political party on a gay-rights issue and wildly attacked President Barack Obama for causing the recent protests in the Middle East.

His bizarre actions and statements represent a stark testament as to why nothing can get accomplished in Washington these days. It's the politics of crazy, the right-wing fetish of hate, distortion and Obama-obsession.

On Tuesday, Inhofe, a Republican, began his week of the absurd by introducing a bill called the Military Religious Freedom Act, which would allow military chaplains to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. It would also ban same-sex marriage ceremonies at military facilities.

According to a news release (or, rather, a political rant), Inhofe claims the Obama administration is pressuring military chaplains to “fall in line with their liberal same-sex agenda." Inhofe said:

. . . since the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, they [the Obama administration] have begun to pressure military chaplains to fall in line with their liberal same-sex marriage agenda. This bill protects military chaplains from being forced to go against their conscience and religious beliefs in regard to this issue. This is something the chaplains that serve this country need and deserve.”

Of course, military chaplains are not actually required to perform same-sex marriages, and Inhofe doesn’t cite one case in which a military chaplain felt pressured to do so. The bill is nothing more than crass politics that apparently aims to whip up anti-gay bigots into a hate spiral, and, of course, it absolutely stands on the wrong side of history. But then Inhofe is already infamous throughout the world for calling global warming a “hoax.” He’s probably not too worried about his historical accuracy on any given issue.

Once Inhofe had introduced his anti-gay rights legislation, he turned to international affairs. When protests in Egypt and Libya broke out over an amateurish anti-Islamic film that went viral on the Internet, eventually leaving four Americans dead, Inhofe decided to blame Obama.

On Wednesday, Inhofe issued a news release that included this:

These attacks, the murder of our ambassador, and the disgraceful treatment of his body must have consequences. The timing of this on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 is more than just coincidence. Sadly, America has suffered as a result of President Obama’s failure to lead and his failed foreign policy of appeasement and apology.

Of course, Inhofe’s comments echoed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s knee-jerk reaction to the violence, and he didn’t suggest what exactly he might do differently given the circumstances. He also didn’t outline how exactly Obama’s policies are “appeasement and apology,” which is really just a fictional GOP political trope and talking point. The statement was pure political theater, exploiting American deaths to win votes for Romney. It was reprehensible.

But Inhofe wasn’t finished with Obama. On Thursday, Inhofe introduced a resolution that would suspend American aid to Egypt and Libya unless Obama could “certify” the governments of those countries were providing protection to American embassies there.

Of course, this is just another knee-jerk reaction. The Libya government, in particular, denounced the attacks and promised more security. The protests are ongoing; the situation is dynamic. Introducing a resolution that could be construed as even more anti-Islamic sentiment could fuel even more anti-American hatred among extremists. Obviously, the immediate protection and safety of Americans in those countries and others should be the main issue right at this moment. Inhofe should have made his point later. Why risk lives?

No, Inhofe wasn’t done with the president quite yet. On Friday, in response to some measured comments by Obama about Egypt, Inhofe issued a news release calling those comments a “blunder.” Inhofe said:

Here we are in the midst of an international crisis, and President blew it. Unfortunately, this lack of leadership is what we have come to expect from President Obama. Saying that Egypt is not an ally is a huge blunder, and it calls into question how engaged he really is on this crisis. I certainly hope that he isn’t too distracted by campaign events or asleep at the wheel to give the ongoing crisis the proper attention.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t Inhofe trying to cut off American aid to Egypt just the day before? Also, Inhofe simplified and distorted Obama’s comments. This is from the Associated Press:

With anti-U.S. protests spreading in the Arab world, President Barack Obama says the U.S. would not consider Egypt an ally, "but we don't consider them an enemy."

Obama said in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo that Egypt is a "new government that is trying to find its way." And he warned that if the Egyptian government takes actions showing "they're not taking responsibility," then it would "be a real big problem."

Didn’t Inhofe criticize the president earlier this week for his policies of “appeasement and apology”? Isn’t Obama actually signaling the tough attitude that Inhofe wanted him to have on Wednesday and Thursday? Then on Friday, that’s all a “blunder” and Egypt is some important ally. This all happened in the space of three days. It’s truly crazy.

(Later, the White House clarified Obama's statement.)

Inhofe gets away with his contradictions and knee-jerk political ramblings because the corporate media in Oklahoma will not hold him accountable.