I don't know if it's the warm feeling I get seeing Obama sworn in for another term, or the glee at watching the teeth-grinding fury and hysterical wailing of the right as they face the notion of having to call the Kenyan Socialist Marxist Anti-Christ "Mr. President" for another four years, but I've decided to go ahead on a little project I've been thinking of doing for a couple months here. Simply put, I'd like to do some diaries that highlight some of the raving lunatics that comprise the GOP House caucus in the 113th Congress, specifically the ones that are not so well know (yet). Sure, we all know the Three Stooges of the Teabaggapocalypse that are Michelle Bachmann, Steve King and Louis "Gomer" Gohmert, but there are literally dozens, scores just like them lurking in the shadows of Capitol Hill, just waiting for the right television camera to come along and confirm their lunacy. And with the exit of such notorious nutjobs as Allen West and Joe Walsh from the body, there's plenty of open spots available for the right crazies to make their names in wingnuttery.
Know thine opponent, as they say. And who better to start this off than the very Representative who inspired me to do this in the first place. I'm talking, of course, about the blast from the Texas past that is Rep. Steve Stockman.
90s nostalgia seems to be all the rage these days as we who came of age during that decade (like yours truly) grow older and start looking back wistfully on our childhood. Sometimes, this is can be a good thing (like rediscovering 90s pop culture you loved). But like all nostalgia, there can be unfortunate side-effects. And one 90s nostalgia no one really was looking forward to was the sight of former members of the Newt Gingrich/Republican Revolution crowd of 1994 finding their way back to office. But that's what happened with Steve Stockman, one of the most ridiculous and short-lived of that infamous House class.
It's really amazing that Stockman even got to the House in the first place. As this piece from 1995 points out, the former Michigan native once was one of Mitt Romney's 47% moocher crowd.
Fourteen years ago, Stockman was homeless, eating from garbage cans and sleeping rough in a downtown park in Fort Worth.Dana Milbank, in a recent piece on Stockman, had more to say about Steve's vagrant days.
By his own account, Stockman spent time homeless as a young man, sleeping in a Forth Worth park, looking for food in trash cans and going by hte street name "Max." He has been jailed more than once, he has said in interviews, and was charged with a felony after one such incident when authorities found Valium in his pants; h said a girlfriend put the pills there, and the charge was later reduced.So how did this homeless bum wind up defeating the likes of Rep. Jack Brooks, House Judiciary Committee Chairman, co-writer of LBJ's civil right's legislation of the 60s, drafter of the impeachment articles against Richard Nixon and numerous other notable achievements (like riding in the motorcade when JFK was shot and being present at LBJ's swearing in - he's in the iconic photo behind Jackie)? Another thing you can blame the NRA for, as this 1996 profile points out.
If Democrat Jack Brooks hadn't run afould of the NRA, Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) might have languished in obscurity forever. Brooks, a 42-year veteran of Congress, was a longtime friend of the NRA until he voted for the 1994 crime bill with its assault weapons ban. The NRA abandoned Brooks and threw its support to the man Brooks had defeated in 1992: Steve Stockman.That's putting it mildly. Back to Milbank, who admits that Stockman was one of his favorite characters to cover during his first brief tenure in the House, due to antics like this.
Unemployed, homeless, and once jailed on a drug charge, Stockman had drifted to east Texas from his native Michigan. There, he was "born again," went back to school to earn an accounting degree, and eventually entered politics. Victorious over Brooks in 1994, Stockman quickly showed himself to be a loose cannon.
Soon after his out-of-nowhere victory in '94, and a few weeks before the Oklahoma City bombing, he wrote to Attorney General Janet Reno about a fanciful raid on a militia group he thought the feds were planning - saying that "reliable sources" had informed him "a paramilitary-style attack against Americans" would occur at 4 a.m. on either March 25 or 26. The paranoia continued when he wrote in Guns & Ammo that the federal government "executed" the Branch Davidians because "they owned guns that the government did not wish them to have" and so the Clinto administration could "prove the need for a ban on so-called 'assault weapons.'"So essentially he spent his term indulging in millitia conspiracy theories and Red Dawn fantasies, coddling religious bigots and pursuing modern-day Puritanism. It's no wonder, then that after just one term Stockman was shown the door, losing to Nick Lampson.
In his brief but glorious term, Stockman established daily prayer meetings in his office and tangled with the Anti-Defamation League for speaking on a radio program of a group that the ADL called anti-Semitic. Midway through his term, he launched an effort to investigate the first Kinsey Report and to cut off federal funding for sex-education programs that might be based on the landmark study.
But like a canker sore, he wouldn't go away. Indeed, Stockman continued to make attempts to regain political office, including a fail run for Texas railroad commissioner in 1998 and an independent bid for Tom DeLay's seat in 2006 (he failed to get on the ballot for the regular election [ironically won by Lampson], but did qualify for the special election, ending up with 10% of the vote). And lo and behold, redistricting gave him the chance to return, as he won the newly created and heavily Republican 36th District to return to D.C. after a sixteen year absence.
And as you may well know, he's wasted no time regaining his old form. He hasn't even been back in the House three weeks yet and already he's:
- Refused to vote for John Boehner for Speaker, voting "present." Although that wasn't his first plan.
Even before he took the oath of office and cast his first vote for speaker of the House, Stockman freely volunteered to colleagues and well-wishers that under no circumstances would he vote to re-elect John Boehner as speaker of the House. Even as 12 Republicans refused to vote for him, Boehner retained his gavel: Stockman later told Human Events he planned to vote for conservative radio personality Mark Levin but after it became clear Boehner would be re-elected on one ballot, the Texan decided to vote "present."Mark Levin? Words fail me.
- Threatened to impeach Obama over his executive orders over gun control. Perhaps he's miffed he was voted out of the House before Clinton was impeached and wants his chance to have the fun he missed out on.
- Compared Obama to Saddam Huessein on Fox News for having children at his gun control presentation, which caused Greta Van Susteran to cut him dead and end the interview fast. Yep, too extreme for Fox News.
- Back to Milbank again for this one.
Now back in office, Stockman has hit the ground running. Again working with the Gun Owners of America, a group that makes the National Rifle Association seem moderate by comparison, he introduced the "Safe School Act" that would repeal federal laws banning guns from school zones. "The time has come to end the deadly experiment of disarming peaceable, law-abiding citizens near schools," he said in a letter to colleagues."Because it's much better to have teachers come to class with guns strapped to their hips like Clint Eastwood, right, Steve?
And this is just in three weeks. Imagine what he might accomplish by summer, let alone the end of his term. Indeed, Stockman's lunacy only seems to have multiplied tenfold since his last go-round in Congress. But as Milbank puts it, that's not the scary thing:
Yes, that's the same Stockman I found so entertaining back in the 90s. What's frightening is he no longer sounds like an outlier.Nope, Steve's no longer the lone nut/outcast. Now he's just one of the crowd. And there are so many more to chose from...Stay tuned...