Tea Bag truth

Late last week, hundreds of ignorant Tea Party morons were as ecstatic as pigs in a Dumpster full of stale doughnuts. Bart Stupak, the Michigan congressman who cast a difficult vote to make health care reform reality, was stepping down!

"That'll show 'em!" the know-nothings cried. How dare Stupak vote to provide all Americans a chance to have health care insurance! Fanatic anti-abortion protesters were happy too.

Never mind that Stupak may be the most anti-abortion Democrat in Congress. Never mind that he only voted for health care after President Obama signed an executive order declaring it illegal to use any federal funds for abortion.

No, the Christian nutball universe saw this principled man as having sold out to baby-killers. His courageous act was denounced by people calling themselves good Roman Catholics — who remained silent about revelations that their pope, the onetime "unenthusiastic" Hitler Youth member Joey Ratzinger, helped cover up and protect child molesters before he became CEO of the church of the pederasts.

The wacky Catholics are in a class by themselves. The Tea Partiers, some of whom packed three buses that careened state to state, seemed less interested in abortion. They were fixated on the crackpot idea that Stupak had expanded big government by voting to require people buy health care from private insurers, thus giving capitalism many new customers.

Ever since the vote, they had been attacking Stupak, a Democrat from Menominee who has been elected — easily — nine times in a district that usually has elected Republicans.

Ironically, he got it from both sides. When he first said he couldn't support the health care bill without changes, liberals savaged him. Maureen Dowd wrote in The New York Times that "we might have to bang Bart's head into a blackboard a few times." Michael Moore said Stupak had "neither a uterus nor a brain."

None of that swayed Bart Stupak a bit.

Indeed, he still seems to be far more authentic than most congressmen. Now 58, he was a cop and a state trooper who put himself through law school. He served a term in the state House, and then got elected to Congress, beating a much-better known and better-funded opponent. He's won easily since.

His people know him. And those who've gotten closer to his district than a TV studio knew there was little reason to think he was in serious trouble, despite his health care vote.

Nor is there any indication that his voters were upset by an ethics complaint brought against him by a government watchdog group that's alleging he received discount housing in a Washington, D.C. boarding house connected to a secretive Christian group known as "The Family."

Most of his constituents know that Stupak won't even accept the cushy health plan congressmen can get. Instead, he pays for his own, through a plan offered to former state employees. He needs it too; an injury chasing a crook in his police days has meant he's suffered through many knee operations.

Indeed, my guess is that the bused-in blowhards of the Tea Party Express would actually have helped him at home. Yoopers don't much like strangers telling them what to do. In fact, they might have asked embarrassing questions of the Tea Partiers, questions the national media might have asked if they had been doing their jobs. Such as, "Who paid for these folks to go tell people in other states how to vote?"

"Do any of them have jobs?" Reportedly, the organizer of the tour offered Stupak $700,000 to quit his job, before the congressman decided not to run for re-election. Was that a serious offer?

Does that constitute a thinly veiled offer to bribe a federal official? And in any event, who is putting up that kind of money?

There have been lots of reports that the Tea Party protesters are a sad collection of angry and undereducated people who are actually being manipulated and used by various big-money right-wing interest groups. There are also signs they aren't really typical independent voters, as their self-appointed spokesmen tend to claim.

A Quinnipiac University poll found that 77 percent of them had voted for John McCain. Nearly all were white; 74 percent identified themselves as Republican or GOP-leaning. Meanwhile, the admittedly liberal Talking Points Memo has shown that the Political Action Committee (PAC) behind the Tea Party Express, directed almost two thirds of its funding to the Republican-affiliated political consulting firm that created the committee in the first place!

The sign-waving screamers are, then, at best only a pawn in somebody else's game. Yet aren't they a potent political force? Didn't they, after all, knock off Stupak? Their so-called leaders clearly think so. According to The New York Times, one yelled out in Escanaba, "Let that be a warning to the rest of the rats on the U.S.S. Marx!"

The facts are much different. Actually, they may not have had anything to do with Stupak's decision not to run for re-election.

While he seemed burned-out after the nasty health care battle, there were lots of earlier indications that he was thinking about stepping down. He hadn't been raising money, for one thing. He had been telling friends he was tired. Besides going back and forth to Washington, Stupak's district is one of the geographically largest east of the Mississippi — bigger than West Virginia. (All districts must have the same number of people, and northern Michigan is sparsely populated.)

Unfortunately, he made his announcement just when the crazies were careening though his district. Ten years from now, Stupak will still be the man who cast a difficult and honest vote that helped millions of Americans get health care for the first time.

The Tea Party Movement will be lucky to be in Trivial Pursuit. 

Reflections on a lost war: Thirty-five years ago this spring, North Vietnam launched its final assault against a nation that had been our client state for years. But with the U.S. Army gone, South Vietnam folded like a pup tent in weeks.

Older Americans (me) still recall the appalling TV images of helicopters on the roof of the U.S. embassy, as hundreds of diplomats and their panicked Vietnamese allies fought to get aboard.

For the first time in history, we had lost a war. For years, most of the nation wanted to forget — but hundreds of thousands of Michigan veterans of that conflict don't deserve to be forgotten.

Last year I wrote about how the Vietnam Veterans of America, Detroit Chapter 9, were fighting to make a memorial park next to their building on Woodward north of Temple.

On Saturday, May 1, they and the Vietnamese American Association of Michigan are holding a ceremony to honor the people of both nations, and to mark the end of this nation's longest war.

Things get under way a little before noon at the park, and, if you ever wanted to learn more about Vietnam, or want to honor someone who served, you ought to go. The war was a mistake, but it wasn't the fault of the 2,654 Michigan soldiers who followed orders and who as a result died there. Nor can we blame their comrades, thousands of whom who were physically and psychologically scarred for life.

They deserve to be remembered, and this day.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]
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