Before Mali's latest convulsions into anarchy, I visited Mopti, a seedy Niger River port which was able to boast that it had the most beautiful hotel in the country, La Maison Rouge, built and run by French architect Amédé Mulin. The hotel is gone but what isn't are the small river fishing villages nearby that drew us to Mopti in the first place. These are the homes of the Bozos, a small tribe (around 130,000 people) in the region. We hired a canoe and went up the Niger-- where hippos are known to turn over boats and chomp the passengers-- and visited a Bozo village.
This morning Ben Mathis-Lilley's piece about Washington DC's bozos made me think about the Malian tribe, who are nothing like the freshman members of Congress Mathis-Lilley was writing about. It's hard to pick which would be the biggest disgrace to the Bozo name-- drug-addict and sex fiend Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-Georgia), North Carolina Nazi Mad Cawthorn, Lauren Boebert (Q-Colorado), whose restaurant is famous for guns and food poisoning. They all have several things in common, but nothing more glaring than their obsessive lying. In fact Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler honed in on one of Boebert's biggies today, for which he awarded her 3 Pinocchios. Cawthorn's origin story is certainly more detached from reality but Kessler concluded that "We often find that politicians’ origin stories get untethered from reality the more they are repeated. Boebert tells the story of a man who was beaten to death outside her restaurant. Police considered it a possible homicide but quickly concluded that the man died of a drug overdose. There was a fight, but it took place blocks away from her restaurant; the man merely ran past the back of her business before collapsing... Over and over, Boebert says she started allowing her staff to carry guns after a man was killed outside her restaurant. But we’ve obtained police and coroner reports that show her story is mainly fiction."
Matthis-Lilley compares 6 freshman members of Congress-- Boebert, Cawthorn, Greene, Ronny Jackson (TX), Beth Van Duyne (TX) and Mary Miller (IL) to "America’s local ding-dongs and loose cannons" and wrote that this is the first time in history that "our nation’s area weirdos dominated one party’s media presence and priorities as they do now. With much of politics, and political fundraising, carried out through social media performance, the ability to get attention has become functionally identical to the ability to command influence, and a new herd of public figures has stampeded through the gap where the fence dividing fame from infamy used to stand. Many of them were personally inspired by Donald Trump, who got his own start as the notorious protagonist of bankruptcies and divorces in the New York City area. Area creeps are having their moment, and the Republican freshman congressional class is where they are having it."
By all means, read all of Matthis-Lilley's colorful descriptions of the GOP Bozos at the link above but I want to re-publish just one, for a congresswoman who has mostly been floating under the radar, though she's every bit as insane as Boebert, Greene and Cawthorn: Mary Miller.
Grim/colorful backstory: Miller has previously been overshadowed as a public figure by her husband, Chris, with whom she runs a farm and participates in a home-schooling organization in southern Illinois. (The organization describes its philosophy as a rejection of “so-called science” and cautions that “even positive peer relationships and teacher-child relationships” should be avoided whenever possible because they constitute time that children are not spending with their parents.)
In an unusual reversal of the state’s typical migration pattern, Mary Miller moved to the region after being raised in the well-to-do Chicago suburb of Naperville; Chris Miller himself serves the area in the Illinois legislature, where he has made news for calling on the Congress to remove Chicago from the state and for claiming that a critical Facebook message about a GOP leader was posted on his account by a hacker. (“I was dubious of the explanation,” wrote the columnist he made the claim to.) He also made the news this year for parking his truck in a restricted area near the (U.S.) Capitol on Jan. 6 with a “Three Percenter” sticker visible in its window (the Three Percenters are a militia-style far-right group whose members include several individuals arrested for participating in that day’s violence) before recording a Facebook Live video in which he described himself as a participant in a “great cultural war” against “communism” and “Democrat terrorists.” (He later said he believed the Three Percenter image represented nothing more other than “patriotism and love of country.”) You’d think that would have made Chris Miller the most newsworthy member of his household that day, but you’d be wrong: Mary Miller began part of a speech outside the Capitol with the phrase, “Hitler was right on one thing,” which is not an auspicious thing to have said on the morning of a white nationalist riot. (What she claimed Hitler was right about is the phrase “Whoever has the youth has the future.”) She later apologized-- sort of, accusing critics of trying to “twist” her words and asserting that she does not regret trying to “illustrate the dangers that outside influences can have on our youth.” Outside influences … hmm.
Biggest current legislative priority: Miller introduced a bill that would prohibit the Biden administration from intervening against schools that prohibit trans girls from using girls’ bathrooms and playing on girls’ sports teams.
Indicative quote: “Chris and Mary Miller are sinners saved by grace. They grew up in the 60s and 70s, believing every lie the enemy offered.” —the Millers’ biography on the Illinois Christian Home Educators website.
Miller hasn't been named-- yet-- in the investigation of the members of Congress who aided and abetted the violent right-wing terrorists who sacked the Capitol of 1/6, but Boebert has been. That investigation, predictably, is worsening an already poisonous work environment. Kyle Cheney, reporting for Politico yesterday, wrote that Thursday's "two-hour meeting of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties-- billed as an academic review of lawmakers’ ability to punish or expel one another under House rules-- quickly devolved into a tidal wave of outrage, a snapshot of the increasingly toxic environment that has enveloped Capitol Hill since a mob of pro-Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and sent them fleeing for their lives. Democrats continue to seethe over their GOP colleagues who countenanced Trump’s efforts to discredit the election, and blame them for contributing to the atmosphere that inspired the mob. Republicans have largely sidestepped that debate, but as Democrats have begun ramping up tactics to marginalize the 138 House Republicans who voted to reject some of the 2020 results, some are beginning to bristle more vocally. And at Thursday’s hearing, the dam broke." Members include Jamie Raskin, Steve Cohen, Hank Johnson and Cori Bush, who are determined to get to the bottom of the question about member encouragement of the insurrection and failed coup.
The ranking member, crackpot Mike Johnson of Louisiana "accused Democrats of an 'outrageous abuse of power,' of 'sparking a political war' and attempting to 'criminalize' GOP dissent. He compared relationships between the parties in the House to a 'Cold War' that would lead to 'mutually assured destruction.' When it was his turn, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD.) scoffed at the 'waterfall of counterfeit outrage and indignation,' underscoring that no lawmakers had actually been punished for their words or their votes, but that surely inciting a violent insurrection was different than making objectionable comments. Raskin went on to characterize the modern Republican Party as a 'religious cult' warped in service of Trump, whom he called a 'snowflake' for trying to 'cancel' the 2020 election, all while his GOP allies screamed about 'cancel culture. You invented cancel culture,' he said. 'This right-wing cancel culture has run amok.'"
Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), a progressive freshman lawmaker who has drawn some of the sharpest attacks from Republicans, accused some of her colleagues of fomenting death threats against her.
“It dawned on me very early on that not all members are united in doing the people’s work within the people’s house,” she said. “Many are here to distract, detract and disrupt.”
As the hearing neared its end, Cohen returned to Mike Johnson’s complaint that Raskin had violated the rules by attacking Trump. He noted that while Trump was president, that rule might have applied.
“When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way,” he said, citing the West Side Story parlance. But now that he’s left office, Cohen added, Trump is fair game for Raskin’s harshest commentary.
That theatrical aside, ironically, drew one of the hearing’s only glimmers of cross-party good humor.
“I don’t want to mess up the hearing,” said Rep. Michelle Fischbach, a freshman Republican from Minnesota, “but I just want to say how much I appreciated your West Side Story reference.”
The comment drew a hearty laugh from Cohen, who then ended the hearing using a mini Louisville Slugger baseball bat as a gavel.