As political villains go, there are few more prominent, more outrageous, or more complete for progressives than Senator James Mountain "Jim" Inhofe.
Inhofe is rather the perfect manifestation of the scourge the post-Gingrich Republican Party has inflicted on common sense in America. His staunch opposition to even the slightest acknowledgment of climate change is legendary, and probably the feather in the cap of Inhofe's lunacy.
It's worth noting that Inhofe has been the beneficiary of over one million dollars in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry.
Frankly, though, I don't think that's the source of Inhofe's rabid anti-environmentalism: I think he truly believes all of it.
A few choice quotes:
On global warming:
"The greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people".
"It kind of reminds... I could use the Third Reich, the Big Lie... You say something over and over and over and over again, and people will believe it, and that's their [the environmentalists'] strategy... A hot summer has nothing to do with global warming. Let's keep in mind it was just three weeks ago that people were saying, 'Wait a minute; it is unusually cool...Everything on which they [the environmentalists] based their story, in terms of the facts, has been refuted scientifically."
The Oklahoma Republican compares "An Inconvenient Truth," which he doesn't plan to see, to Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf."
"If you say the same lie over and over again, and particularly if you have the media's support, people will believe it," Inhofe said.
I picked out three quotes. I could have picked three hundred. Head-in-the-sand science expressed with the bitterest of personal venom has long been Inhofe's cause celebre. Inhofe is, of course, a reliable right-wing stooge on other issues as well. He gave his name to the Inhofe Amendment to the 2006 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, an amendment which then-Minority Leader Harry Reid famously called "racist". He is pro-torture. He is a staunch opponent of abortion rights and gay rights, and even of Jim Webb's 21st Century GI Bill, a bill Inhofe once supported. Even in today's Republican Party, it is difficult to find a more radical (or cartoonishly unpleasant) right-winger elected to statewide office than James Inhofe.
But as loathsome as Inhofe is, what of the man who would replace him?
Andrew Rice is a 34-year old father of two, public policy advocate, and Oklahoma State Senator. He is the brother of David Rice, a former Fulbright Scholar and New Yorker who was killed in the 9/11 tragedy. Following the death of his brother, Rice devoted his life to influencing public policy.
From his website, here is a bit of Rice's history prior to his entry into politics:
Andrew graduated from Colby College in Maine with a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies and went to work in Sri Lanka and Thailand on rural development projects in impoverished villages.
He returned to the U.S. a year later to attend Harvard Divinity School, where he graduated in 1999 with a Masters in Theological Studies.
In graduate school, he collaborated with his sister, Amy Rice, to produce the documentary, "From Ashes," about an ex-convict who runs a hospice for rejected HIV-positive patients in Bangalore, India. At the time of his brother’s death, Rice was working in New York as a documentary film producer.
Shortly after 9/11, Rice worked at the Texas Faith Network (TFN) in Austin, Texas, where he organized Texas religious leaders to advocate for moderate and progressive public policy ideas. He also organized education programs at places of worship all across Texas about the dangers of religious intolerance.
Since entering politics, Rice has proven to be a progressive voice in one of the most conservative states in the country. Upon entering the State Senate, Rice devoted his time to healthcare reform, culminating in his introducing Steffanie's Law in 2008 and passing it through the State Senate with broad support. His progressive stances on health care reform, telecom immunity, international affairs and the Iraq War, and environmental affairs are quite impressive. Considering he comes from such a conservative state, his progressive credentials are truly remarkable.
Considered a rising star in Oklahoma Democratic politics since his 2005 election to the State Senate, Rice has now decided to take on a race few thought he could win, against a man who has held federal office since 1986. He is running in a state where Bush defeated Kerry 66% to 34% in 2004, where the only Democrat in the federal delegation is the conservative Rep. Daniel Boren, where no Democrat has won election to the Senate since Boren's father David in 1990.
Yet Rice had the bravery to take on this race, for the simple reason that Oklahomans deserve better than James Inhofe. Make no mistake, Rice is no sacrificial lamb. His fundraising has been impressive, his campaign is gaining genuine traction with voters, and his organization is sufficiently strong to have drawn support already from the DSCC. Although Inhofe has long held federal office, he has never managed more than 57% of the vote in any of those elections, and I seriously doubt he will exceed that total this fall.
Rice seeks to expand the Democratic map into the reddest of territory, while remaining unashamed of progressive ideas. He has stood up to oppose a truly horrendous Senator who has no business spending another day in Washington. He is the future of the Democratic party in his state, and we're proud to add Andrew Rice to Orange to Blue.
Remember, Oklahoma is a relatively cheap state in which to advertise, meaning that just a little bit of money goes a long way towards helping Rice get his message out. So show some love to the newest Orange to Blue candidate, State Senator Andrew Rice.
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