Here we go again: First U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, then state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, hinting ominously that the president may have committed impeachable offenses.
They offer not one shred of evidence, of course -- not a Watergate-style break-in, arms-for-hostages deal, or bald-faced lies about WMD.
Nothing but pure demagoguery that would have thrilled the old Demagogue-in-Chief Joe McCarthy to the recesses of his ingrown toenails.
Leadership? Honor? Integrity?
Woe to us, if this is the best we can do.
Let's begin first with Coburn, who remains as enigmatic a political figure as the state has ever seen. Just when you think he is our reasonably sensible U.S. senator, he opens his mouth and shatters the illusion.
His straight-faced assertion at a recent Muskogee Town Hall that President Obama is "perilously close" to impeachment isn't simple ignorance of history or law -- he's lost touch with r-e-a-l-i-t-y.
"We're in a serious time," the obstetrician/gynecologist-turned-legal scholar warned gravely.
"I don't have the legal background to know if that rises to high crimes and misdemeanors, but I think they're getting perilously close."
We've come to expect such inane commentary from senior Sen. Jim Inhofe, who's piloted his aircraft way too many times without oxygen. But with Coburn, we clearly failed to heed the old fool-me-once maxim.
After all, this is the same Coburn who once asserted lesbianism was so rampant in southeastern Oklahoma that Coalgate school girls were only allowed to go to the bathroom one at a time.
The same Coburn who claims to be Obama's friend, yet engaged in the crudest racial stereotyping when asserting the Harvard Law School-trained, African-American president wanted to "create dependency" on government programs "because it worked so well for him."
The same Coburn who describes himself as a "man of science," yet dismisses climate science as "crap."
That someone suffering such delusions could be elected twice to represent our state in the World's Most Exclusive Club is more than disheartening.
It's a frightening reminder that many of our neighbors live in Coburn's alternate universe -- and they breed.
Then along comes Shannon to compound Oklahoma's shame -- and on national television, no less.
The Republican Party is in such bad shape with African-American voters that it is evidently willing to thrust Shannon into prime time before he's ready for the spotlight.
In Washington for a GOP luncheon marking the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, Shannon -- the state's first African-American House speaker -- was booked onto Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room on CNN.
After parroting Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's call for a post-hyphenated era of Kumbaya-style American unity, and touting such GOP African-American luminaries as Clarence Thomas and Alan Keyes, Shannon was asked about Coburn's impeachment musing.
"There are very few things I disagree with Dr. Coburn -- I think he's a great leader ..." Shannon began, hinting he would have the integrity and moral compass not to play the demagogue card.
But Blitzer interrupted, and Shannon launched into tried-and-true Republican talking points about Washington being broken.
Blitzer persisted with the impeachment line of inquiry, and Shannon fell for the trap: "I think if the President has committed a crime, certainly there should be an investigation."
(Hmmm, Mr. President, when exactly did you stop beating your wife?)
Blitzer: "Do you think he has?"
Shannon: "I think that argument certainly could be made. I'm not there on the front lines dealing with it every day, but I certainly trust Dr. Coburn's judgment, and he said maybe perhaps it's time we explore the possibility."
Then, for good, demagogic measure, he added: "No president is above the law, and I don't know if this president has committed a crime or not, but certainly if he has, I think he should be held accountable like every other American."
Well, if you ever wondered why the lamestream media and our elected leaders are -- for the most part -- vying with televangelists for the title of Least Respected Members of Society, you now know why.
What the hell was Blitzer thinking? He might as well have plucked a five-year-old off the street and asked him if Obama was a crook.
The kid would have had no more insight than Shannon, but probably would have remembered that if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.
Shannon ended up blathering on with nonsense that may have pleased the Tin Foil Hat crowd, but did nothing to indicate he is a serious political player.
It's not fatal, of course. At 35, Shannon may end up with a long and distinguished political career. Some people, even politicians, grow into their stations.
But my guess is -- at least in the short-term -- Shannon's hinting at a sinister Obama secret did little more than thrill the wingnuts who already support him. It's doubtful it encouraged African-Americans or other minorities to give Republicans another look.
Which is really the GOP's long-term problem, isn't it? How can a party expect to seriously compete in national elections when it turns off huge voting blocs?
Facts are facts: Last year, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won support of about six percent of the nation's black voters. Six freakin' percent.
Throw in the GOP's paltry showing among Hispanic voters -- only 27 percent voted for Romney -- and the party is in denial if it thinks it simply needs to re-package its message.
Republicans are in the driver's seat in Oklahoma, but remember, we are a fly-over state -- only 3.75 million residents, fewer than in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Shannon and Co. may be able to keep winning elections here in the short-term by playing to anti-Obama fervor, but eventually, Obama will leave office. And voters will demand more than a Fox News-created boogeyman.
Coburn's political career is over -- he says he's not running again. Shannon would be well advised not to put himself in position where he has to answer for Coburn's rantings.
That is one sure-fire way that once-promising political careers can come crashing down.
Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer; www.okobserver.net
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