Bye Bye, Birther
You may remember Bob Wagner, the Montana state legislator, for his appearance on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 in which he defended his special birther bill which would have forbidden President Obama from appearing on the Montana ballot in 2012.
Wagner was indeed riding high two years ago, swept into office on the 2010 Tea Party wave and happily making an ass of himself in the Montana legilsature, going on national talk shows with his nutty ideas, speaking at Tea Part rallies, sponsoring crazy bills (in addition to his birther bill, he tried to reintroduce the Gold Standard), and generally being an ass. But Wagner did not know that he would walk into a trap, in which he would be ensared and hoisted and which would end his political career. He would be unable to chew his leg off to free himself.
Like a good Tea Partier, Wagner voted against every single appropriation of money put forward by the legislature, including a bill that arrived on Governor Brian Schweitzer’s desk last April which contained grant money for local communities (including Wagner’s district), for things like sewer upgrades, fire department repairs, and the like.
Schweitzer–who is known to enjoy mixing it up with right-wingers–saw an angle. He noticed that Wagner had voted against the bill. So, Schweitzer used his “line item veto” power and selectively crossed out the funds that would have gone to Wagner’s district. Schweitzer did this to several legislators who voted against the grant bill, stating as he deleted the items that if Wagner and others voted against the bill, then their constituents must not have expressed much interest in getting the money.
But as you might expect, community leaders in Wagner’s district hadn’t even been aware that Wagner had voted against it. For when he voted against the bill, Wagner had been on a frolic of his own, and not representing the interests of his district. Wagner figured that the bill would pass anyway, and so he could flex his Tea Party biceps while knowing that Democrats and moderate Republicans would turn in sufficient votes so that the grant bill would survive.
But he hadn’t counted on Schweitzer calling out his bullshit.
When the folks in Wagner’s district learned of Wagner’s vote and of the consequent loss of funds, they were outraged. Wagner then tried to save face by suing Schweitzer, claiming that the item veto had been illegal. Well, that didn’t go over very well with the Tea Partiers who reside in Wagner’s district, because they don’t think Government should ever spend money at all.
So Wagner ended up in the headlines, first proudly decrying government spending, then being revealed as having denied his district important funds, and finally suing the Governor to try to get more government spending for his district.
Alas, caught in these crosscurrents, the flimsy hypocrite Wagner was beaten last week in his GOP primary, by a Republican moderate (or at least what passes for a moderate in Madison County, Montana) who used all of these points against him very skillfully and vocally.
Goodbye, Birther Bob.