Character assassins and corruption

Lansing's McCarthy-style follies, from calling Obama Muslim to playing at election fraud

Last week, the worst member of the state Legislature — and that's saying something — dived deeper than ever into the toilet.

David Agema, a washed-up airline pilot from Grandville, proclaimed that the president of the United States is a Muslim.

"That explains it all. He is a Muslim," Agema proclaimed on Facebook. What's more, he posted what passes for proof in his pinched, narrow, little, Republican forebrain.

Agema, who normally reserves his slurs for gay people and immigrants, linked his comments to a series of patched-together, clumsily edited videos that appear to show Barack Obama saying nice things about Islam. Never mind that George W. Bush repeatedly did the same thing, while emphasizing that the war on terror was by no means a war against Muslims.

One wonders if Agema thinks Bush is a Muslim too, though it is hard to couple the word "think" with anything having to do with the state representative from Intolerance.

Actually, Agema did achieve something important: He proved, for the first time as far as I know, that the Fox News channel has standards. He admitted to the Gongwer News Service that he posted the video after Fox refused to air it.

What made Agema angriest, apparently, was that the video showed President Obama saying that Islam is a religion of peace. "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but just about every terrorist is a Muslim," flyboy Dave said, brilliantly exhibiting the depths of both his philosophical and religious expertise.

My guess is that the Irish Republican Army and the Oklahoma City bombers never knew how Muslim they were.

We've known about Agema for years, however. He's been voted the Legislature's least effective member. He introduced anti-immigrant bills worse than Arizona's, tried to make schools teach "creation science" and has never missed the opportunity to try to deny gay people their rights.

He has, however, missed many votes on bills. In his first year, he missed more votes than anyone else in Lansing, but continued to draw his full salary. That fall, when the state faced the real possibility of a prolonged government shutdown if a budget wasn't passed, Agema should have been close to the action; he had a seat on the Appropriations Committee.

Should have been, but wasn't. He was off in Siberia on a hunting trip, shooting at wild sheep. He collected his pay, however, just the same. 

From time to time, both parties have had some totally contemptible elected officials. Take Sen. Joe McCarthy, back in the 1950s.  He destroyed lives and careers by recklessly accusing people of being Communists without the slightest bit of evidence.

Eventually, he was stripped of his powers and soon drank himself to death. After that, there was sort of mutual agreement that in politics, there was such a thing as going too far.

For a long time, reckless, vicious and false character assassination was seen as unacceptable. But not any more.

Not, anyway, among Republicans. Even as Agema was trying to spread his moronic dirt, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann accused a greatly respected State Department official, Huma Abedin, of "trying to destroy Western civilization from within," apparently through her ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Abedin, who was actually born in Detroit, is of Pakistani descent, though her husband is Jewish.

Sounding like Joe McCarthy on steroids, Bachman called on the administration to identify and expel "Muslim extremists," who she believes have infiltrated our government.

Unfortunately for Minnesota's bargain-basement demagogue, she picked the wrong target. Not only has Abedin been thoroughly vetted by the U.S. intelligence services, even most Republicans respect her; she is a close adviser and confidante to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ed Rollins, who once worked as a campaign manager for Bachmann, said her "vicious" smears "reach the late Sen. Joe McCarthy level." Sen. John McCain denounced Bachmann. Speaker of the House John Boehner joined in.

The nasty little woman from Minnesota scuttled back to her lair. But back in Michigan, it was a different story.

Decent people from both parties should be calling for Agema to slither out of the Legislature. But not only did that not happen, Republicans a few weeks ago elected him the state's Republican National Committeeman.

Every state has a male and female representative on the GOP's national committee, and this creature is ours.

Nobody's moving to replace him for lying about the president, and the state party apparently doesn't have any problem with that. They did have bigger problems last week:

In one of the most astounding examples of political corruption Michigan has seen, the Kent County Prosecutor's office revealed that GOP Speaker of the House Jase Bolger secretly conspired with Roy Schmidt, a representative from Grand Rapids, to deceive the people by trying to rig an election.

Election fraud, in other words. The two of them conspired to have Schmidt switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party, and to do so at the last minute so Democrats couldn't find a legitimate replacement candidate. It gets worse:

They agreed to find a phony Democrat to put his name on the ballot. Bolger conspired on all that, but from then on it gets hazy about exactly what he knew. Schmidt had his son offer $450 to a young guy who didn't even live in the district to improperly file for the seat, but not to really campaign.

The patsy, a guy named Matt Mojak, agreed, then got cold feet. They then offered him $1,000, but the patsy decided he didn't want to be their patsy and bowed out.

Incredibly, none of this seems to be illegal, though the prosecutor urged the Legislature to change the laws.

There were calls for both men to step down, but neither has shown the slightest intention of doing so. That would take integrity, after all, and they are Republicans.

There was a time when there were plenty of decent women and men in both parties. Republican senators were the main driving force in getting Richard Nixon to quit.

But integrity is a rare commodity, especially perhaps in Lansing, and you won't find it in the moon face of the speaker, or in a man like Schmidt, who openly lied to his constituents, conspired to commit fraud and betrayed his duty to the voters.

They think we are only their pawns. They see nothing wrong with lying, cheating and character assassination as long as they don't get caught, and count on you to put up with it.

So — can they count you in?


Tragedy in Aurora:  Was anyone in the nation surprised that another loser took enough firepower for a small nation to a theater, and killed and injured dozens during the premiere for the latest Batman movie last week? This will happen again, you know.

And we evidently want it to happen, because we put no pressure on our politicians to stand up to the insanely paranoid lobbyists of the National Rifle Association, and reinstate the ban on assault weapons.

President Obama promised to reinstate the ban when he was running for office, but didn't utter a peep about it after the latest killing spree. He should have had the guts to do so.

And somebody, somewhere, should start a movement devoted to amending the U.S. Constitution to strictly limit what kind of murder weapons people can have. Yes, I know we think we can somehow protect ourselves against all forms of tyranny with a Glock shoved down our pants, but that is sheer bullshit.

If we ever decide playing cowboy isn't worth a few thousand dead every year, civilization would be immeasurably better off.


Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Write to [email protected].

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