Friday, February 04, 2005

Column 20 - Jim Gibbons

Last week Representative Jim Gibbons, who would like to be Nevada’s next governor, in an interview on NBC’s “Nightly News,” said that anyone who opposed the lavish corporate funding of the Bush Inauguration parties is a Communist. Maybe it was Inauguration euphoria, or maybe Mr. Gibbons slipped into a time warp and was actually in 1955 when he said it, but this strikes me as a very odd remark.

Let’s see: some 100 corporations and 40 individual donors gave about $40 million dollars to fund partying in Washington. One of these donors was the National Energy Institute, which is a leading advocate for the plan to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain (you remember - Yucca Mountain was where, in his first campaign, President Bush promised not to put nuclear waste, a promise he then reneged on during his first term) a plan Gibbons says he opposes.

This is 40 million dollars while our troops in Iraq are underequipped, and the death toll is climbing, and while a significant portion of the world is digging out from the Tsunami and desperate for aid. And what do you know, some Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, have the temerity to question the wisdom and appropriateness of spending this kind of money on champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Shocking.

At least it seems to be shocking to governor wannabe Gibbons, who reached back 50 years for an epithet strong enough to denounce these dissenters – he called them Communists, and when there was negative reaction to his comment, his spokeswoman Amy Spandauer said the remark was “badly taken out of context.” The context to which she was referring was Gibbons’ explanation that he “firmly believes that everyone in the United States, including corporate executives, have the freedom…to spend their money for political events and to lobby lawmakers.”

Okay, I won’t argue that point, but how does that so-called context change or mitigate the Congressman’s characterization of those who disagree with this particular donation? Actually, I’m hard put to think of a context that would mitigate it, except that it is so out of date as to be almost laughable. It does give us some insight into the real Jim Gibbons behind the affable façade, the Jim Gibbons who is one of the farthest right members of Congress, and who has a reputation for arrogance, imperiousness, and a very nasty temper. Calling those with whom you disagree Communists is called, for those of you too young to remember, red-baiting, and it has a very disreputable history in this country. A lot of lives were ruined by this tactic in the 1950’s, almost all of them undeservedly so. You see, Congressman, that Constitution that you took an oath before God to serve, actually guarantees the right of every American to believe what they wish, including to be Communists if they so choose. More importantly, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but outside of Cuba and North Korea, there aren’t a lot of Communists left – we won that one.

What the Congressman’s remark does, I believe, is allow him to mask his and his party’s loyalty and fealty to big money corporate interests behind a bit of outdated flag-waving and red-baiting. To quote an earlier response to another red-baiting Congressman, have you no shame, sir?

No comments: