How does a reptile like Richard Shelby (R-AL) keep getting elected? This seems to be the key: He has the audacity to talk to his constituents like they are imbeciles--and a solid majority of them, at election time, prove that he is right.
Want the latest example of Richard Shelby playing Alabamians for fools? It comes from his stunning explanation of the national debt, plus his two-faced take on the current air strikes against the Gaddafi regime in Libya.
At a town-hall meeting in Fairhope, Alabama, Shelby used a large chart to show--hold onto your hats--that the national debt started exploding in 1980. Shelby went on to question whether President Barack Obama has determined an "end game" in Libya.
Did it occur to anyone in the audience that Shelby's explanation regarding the national debt coincided with the rise to power of Republican icon Ronald Reagan? Did anyone notice that it coincided with the rise of Shelby himself, who has become a notorious pork-barrel spender since being elected to Congress in 1978? Apparently not.
Richard Shelby is concerned, all of a sudden, about the national debt? That's like David Berkowitz speaking out for gun control.
Consider the following paragraphs, which Mobile Press-Register reporter Russ Henderson apparently wrote with a straight face:
Shelby talked principally about the national debt. A large chart showing bar graphs, held up by one of Shelby’s staff members, illustrated the rapid expansion of the federal government’s debt from 1980 to the present.
"It took us 200 years to get to here," Shelby said, pointing to the shortest bar on the left end of the graphic — signifying the nation’s $909 billion debt in 1980.
"It’s taken us just a few decades to get here," Shelby said, pointing to the huge bar on the far right side of the graphic, signifying the nation’s $13.5 trillion debt today.
So, the national debt has grown by roughly 14 fold on Richard Shelby's watch, but we are supposed to look to him for answers? Do Alabamians detect any irony in that?
Shelby also has a furrowed brow when he talks about Libya:
Some audience members asked how the United States will extract itself from Libya after air strikes began Saturday against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in support of a popular uprising there.
Shelby said it was unclear whether President Barack Obama has any "end game" in mind at all. "If we get rid of Gadhafi, what will it be? I think they are just hoping things will turn out for the good," Shelby said. He acknowledged that he voted in favor of the Iraq war in 2003, but didn’t elaborate further.
"These are tribal countries. If you need to go to one, don’t stay long," Shelby said. "When the shah was overthrown in Iran, we said ‘Great, now they can have a democracy.’ We all know how that turned out."
As the article points out, this is the same Shelby who supported George W. Bush's clueless and reckless intervention in Iraq. Gee, we all "know how that turned out." Isn't it interesting that Shelby did not want to go into details about his support for the Iraq war?
I must confess that Richard Shelby once had me snookered, too. Here's what I wrote last spring in a post titled "Richard Shelby is a Reptile!"
Before I became a somewhat enlightened progressive, I was what you might call a "clueless moderate." I bounced back and forth between the parties, voting for who I perceived to be the "best candidate." That brilliant strategy caused me to cast votes for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, essentially endorsing their efforts to ruin our nation's finances for generations to come.
During this time--what I call my "wilderness period"--I was having lunch one day with a liberal coworker when Richard Shelby's name came up. I opined that our U.S. senator, then a Democrat, seemed like an OK guy. My lunch companion reacted as if he had been struck with a red-hot poker.
"Oh God," he said. "Richard Shelby is a reptile!"
Looking back, I'm not sure I've ever personally witnessed truer words being spoken.
I'm thankful the scales finally fell from my eyes. Let's hope other Alabamians eventually will have a similar experience.