Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) may be the only Republican with the announced intention of running for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), but he's already working hard to establish his bona fides with the right-wing base in the Peach State. In a new fundraising letter to constituents, he touts his friendship with the recently deposed Florida Rep. Allen West, his "virtually identical" voting record with former Texas Rep. Ron Paul ("except for foreign policy," he assures), and his alliances with new Heritage Foundation head Jim DeMint, the former senator from South Carolina.
But the biggest, proudest accomplishment of Broun's career is probably the fact that he was waaaaay ahead of the curve on calling President Barack Obama a "socialist." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jim Galloway has the letter, which reads:
I was the first Member of Congress to call him a socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies like government control of health care and redistribution of wealth.
It's worth noting that as far as that claim goes, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may have the right to demand an apology from Broun.
Galloway notes that in an official response to last night's State Of The Union address, Broun expressed his disagreements "politely and respectfully," as a part of an ongoing effort to maintain "a calm, cool and constructive demeanor" as he ventures into this Senate race. But the fact of the matter is, calling Obama a Communist/socialist/Nazi/fascist is basically Broun's one good trick, and he's been returning to it over and over again (in spite of some of the seemingly obvious contradictions).
Broun got the ball rolling way back in November 2008, when he greeted Obama's call for a rather anodyne civilian corps dedicated to national service with the warning that this was tantamount to the rise of the Third Reich and/or Marxist regime:
"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force," Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. "I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may _ may not, I hope not _ but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."
"That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did," Broun said. "When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."
Yeah, you know that may sound crazy or off-base, but Broun found that working within this fringey milieu really suited him, and so he's returned to it time and again. During Obama's 2011 State Of The Union address, Broun took to Twitter to inform the president thusly: "Mr. President, you don't believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism." And more recently, Broun told Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Daniel Malloy: "I think the only Constitution that Barack Obama upholds is the Soviet constitution, not this one. He has no concept of this one, though he claimed to be a constitutional lawyer."
As Jonathan Chait pointed out, however, it's Broun who doesn't understand the vagaries of the "Soviet Constitution":
It actually depends on which Soviet Constitution you mean. The most commonly cited one is a 1936 Constitution crafted under Stalin, primarily for propaganda purposes. The main problem with this constitution is not its provisions but the fact that the Soviets flagrantly violated it. Most of that document is given over to liberal rights like freedom of speech, freedom of privacy, and the basic rights enjoyed by democracies. It was so unobjectionable that it earned the praise of none other than Ronald Reagan:
"I had a copy of the Soviet Constitution and I read it with great interest. And I saw all kinds of terms in there that sound just exactly like our own: 'Freedom of assembly' and 'freedom of speech' and so forth. Of course, they don't allow them to have those things, but they're in there in the constitution."
So upholding that Constitution, per Reagan himself, would be a good thing, though we don’t want to make Broun’s head explode. There are crucial differences. The 1936 document prominently guaranteed all citizens “the right to employment” — a provision Obama has obviously failed to uphold. (Granted, all presidents have likewise failed, but one might argue that Obama, who has overseen a record decrease in government employment, has violated it more flagrantly than previous presidents.)
As Chait points out, the really gnarly "Soviet Constitution" was the original, high-test Bolshevik joint penned back in 1918, which among other things sought to "abolish private property." Obama really needs to get on the stick about that if he wants to live up to Broun's depiction.
This is an interesting test case for Karl Rove's new Conservative Victory Fund, which is dedicated to quashing the gaffe talk and promoting presentable candidates to the electorate. Sure, there's relatively little worry that the GOP is going to lose the Georgia Senate seat (Democratic voters still favor "undecided" over named candidates in early polls), and Broun might not even draw the sort of equivalent challenger that Republican Rep. Tom Latham provides Rove's group in Iowa against its bête noire, fellow Republican Steve King. Nevertheless, you have to wonder if Broun's talk of the Soviet constitution and Obama's supposed Marxist-Leninist bent is the sort of thing that they'd want to put the kibosh on, if only for the sake of the rest of the races they're running, or if it's acceptable and logical rhetoric to be spitting at voters post-2012.
Of course, I mean "acceptable and logical" from the perspective of the paranoiac right-wing fringes. For actual logic-driven people, the charge does not wash in hilarious fashion. Corporate profits have been regularly rising and recently hit a record high. In terms of redistribution, meanwhile, money is flowing in Broun's preferred direction: "The top 1 percent of income earners have taken in fully 93 percent of economic gains since the Great Recession, the numbers show. That share outpaces Bush-era figures by a mile; as the economy emerged from the 2001-2 recession, the top 1 percent claimed a lousy 65 percent of the gains that followed."
That is, collectively (har-dee-har), an awfully strange portfolio for a dedicated "Marxist-Leninist." Not for the first time I'll point out that if Obama is, indeed, a wannabe socialist mastermind, he is almost perfectly bad at it.
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