by E.C. Fish on June 25, 2012

THIS WEEK IN VAGINA: Last week’s events in the Michigan House (where State Rep. Lisa Brown [D-West Bloomfield] was indefinitely banned from speaking on the House floor for using the word “vagina”) sometimes made this week’s  news feel like the distaff equivalent of the SNL Penis Sketch (video link unavailable courtesy Lorne Michaels, Broadway Video, and avarice). Vagina, it seemed, was on everyone’s lips, from TV news readers to commentators to Internet meme artists to a full-blown reading  of The Vagina Monologues (with author Eve Ensler in attendance and Representative Brown participating) on the steps of the Michigan state capitol.

While this meta-discussion of public references to private parts has continued to be titillating and often laugh-out-loud funny, we seem to be spending much more time laughing about the aftermath of Representative Brown’s statements than discussing what inspired them in the first place. Bills like the anti-abortion legislation Representative Brown was objecting to in Michigan continue to be proposed and voted on in every Republican-controlled state legislature in the country (for an excellent, comprehensive, and continuously updated overview, go here). Tee fucking hee.

CHUCKIE CORRECTION: I inadvertently misquoted Chuck Todd last week, thanks to MSNBC’s failure to post the on-air promo that I was quoting anywhere on the web. Said promo, which I had to quote from memory, features Chuckie telling us that politics is a sport — not a game, as I erroneously stated. To the same hairbreadth degree that these two words are different, I apologize. To you folks, not to Chuckie, who is every bit as wrong about this as I suggested.

Todd’s ad is part of a series of MSNBC promos entitled “Lean Forward,” despite Todd’s habit of leaning back and letting his on-air guests and their publicists do his work for him.

DOUCHEBAGGERY UPDATE: Citing America’s history of “heckling and free speech,” Mitt Romney declined to call on his supporters to stop disrupting Obama campaign events, a move he characterized as “unilateral disarmament” despite Obama campaign director David Axelrod’s call on Obama supporters to stop disrupting Romney’s.

It’s interesting that Romney would approach this as an issue of freedom rather than an issue of dignity, respect, or fairness. Like that of the insurgent far right he’s pandering to, Romney’s definition of freedom doesn’t consider such things at all, and thus, like their definition, it is disturbingly juvenile.

FAST AND SPURIOUS: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, under the direction of Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA),  voted 23–17 in a party-line split on Wednesday to hold US Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. House Republican leadership has announced that the full House will vote on the contempt citation next week.

In taking this action, Representative Issa resembles nothing so much as the car alarms he used to hawk for a living, going off loudly at the slightest jostling. His reason for the citation — Holder’s perceived lack of cooperation with the panel’s investigation of the so-called Operation Fast and Furious scandal — shows far more contempt for the truth and the intelligence of the American people than Holder could possibly hold for Congress — even this Congress. As reported on the Rachel Maddow Show (excellent throughout, with the real action occurring after the seven-minute mark), the “scandal” itself originated with Mike Vanderboegh, a conspiracy theorist, militia member, and consummate right-wing yahoo. Vanderboegh twisted the Bush-era ATF sting operation — which continued under Holder and was designed to track down Mexican drug cartel leaders by allowing monitored illegal arms shipments to them — into a program to arm the cartels in order to threaten Second Amendment rights when those guns were used to kill federal agents. While this may seem ridiculous — and it might, because it is quite thoroughly ridiculous — it is instructive to note that it seems perfectly plausible to the party of John Mitchell, Ed Meese, and Alberto Gonzales. The Obama administration has wisely claimed executive privilege rather than letting Issa and company go fishing in Justice Department records for this particular Loch Ness Monster, as well as any number of other things they could misinterpret equally grossly.

By Thursday, Democrats had come up with a conspiracy theory of their own: that Issa and the Republicans were using the investigation and contempt charge to discredit and interfere with Holder’s attempts to block Republican voter suppression efforts, which is certainly a nice side benefit for the GOP even if it’s a mere coincidence.

While there are a number of reasons (which I won’t get into here) that a Holder resignation would not break my heart, this sort of naked abuse of power– whether cynical or merely crazy — represents a grave threat to small-d democracy and representative government, and it should not be allowed to stand.

(Update: Issa admits  he has no evidence.)

THIS WEEK IN SILLY POLITICAL SPECULATION: By making his nomination less of a pander to the Latino vote, last week’s preemption of Sen. Marco Rubio’s “DREAM Act Lite” by the executive action of the Obama administration seemed to damage Rubio’s chances in the “Veepstakes,” that silly speculative endeavor so beloved by those who treat politics like a sport. This week, ABC News reported that Senator Rubio couldn’t lose what he never had and was not, in fact, under consideration for the vice presidency in the first place. This came on the heels of the announcement that Republican Indiana governor and Veepstakes sentimental favorite Mitch Daniels was to be appointed president of Purdue University and thus would not be working his supposed centrist magic on the GOP ticket this year.

By late week, this pointless game of “what if?” centered on former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, perhaps the only 2012 primary candidate who is a less exciting campaigner than Romney himself and who is certainly the party’s best hope for running the political equivalent of a Miracle-Whip-on-Wonder-bread sandwich at the top of its ticket this year.

ISSUE OF THE WEEK — IMMIGRATION: Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama addressed the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) this week in what had been expected to be a major face-off on the topic of immigration. In the wake of the administration’s hijacking of the Republicans’ “DREAM Act Lite” proposal, however, Romney found himself a bit shorter on pander fodder than he’d anticipated, and filled the resultant void with . . . something. “I will,” he said, “put in place my own long-term solution.” That is to say, he will . . . do . . . something. What this thing might look like in policy terms — and how it will differ from the hard-right rhetoric of Arizona-style immigration policy, “self-deportation,” and a DREAM Act veto he espoused during the primaries — was not addressed. Besides an acknowledgment that the current immigration system was broken and his personal promise that he would keep other as-yet-unspecified promises, little more was said on the subject.

As such, President Obama found himself with plenty of void of his own left to fill in his speech the next day, and he did so by calling out Republicans for defeating the DREAM Act in the first place and by reminding the crowd just what Romney’s Etch-A-Sketch looked like a few short months ago. While he was able to cite few long-term accomplishments — a fact he attributed to Congressional inaction and obstruction — he was able to parlay his freshly announced (and very popular) immigration policy into a telling contrast to his opponent and a convincing argument that he was and will remain on their side. Despite his overwhelming popularity with the Latino community, Obama himself has an iffy record on immigration, having squandered much of his administration on a policy that pandered to anti-immigrant interests almost as badly as the primary-era Romney indicated he’d like to — record deportation numbers are hard to live down. A plan beats a promise every time out of the gate, however, as actions do words, and Obama departed the conference with an even wider lead among Latino voters than he had when he arrived.

Immigration is a controversial issue, and will remain so as long as one side of the argument centers itself around zero tolerance and whether border fences should be electrified or not. While both candidates have mixed records on the subject, Obama had this particular face-off won at the first statement of substance. Scratch that — he had it won last Friday.

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E.C. Fish is the editor and publisher of The Spleen.

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