I've met Dick Armey before and chatted amiably enough with him in some Washington green room or on the way in or out. Then again, I'm a white male with some gray hair and I wasn't showing the Great Man the extreme discourtesy of daring to argue substantively with him.
That's what Joan Walsh did in an instantly infamous segment on Hardball with Chris Matthews earlier this week. She challenged Armey - in a crisp and controlled and on-point way - and Armey completely lost it, showing in one remarkable sequence just how accurate our worst assumptions about some of these old Republican hacks in Washington really are.
One, Dick Armey clearly has to make a sincere apology not only to Joan Walsh and Matthews, but to all women - that's how offensive his remarks to Joan were. Bob Herbert of the New York Times immediately called for an apology on the same Hardball show as Armey's offending remarks, bravely going out of his way to comment that his "sexist comments" were "out of line" - but where is the apology?
Two, Every booker for every cable talk show who is considering inviting Armey to appear should have to watch the entire Walsh-Armey segment over and over again for an hour before bringing the cynical old hack back.
Armey's comment was actually much worse than people seem to be noticing: What could he possibly mean by saying, "I am so damn glad that you could never be my wife, 'cause I surely wouldn't have to listen to that prattle from you every day.'"
Forget giving the man a break here. He veered in a very offensive direction on national TV and is enough of a veteran of the circuit to know just what he was doing - and just what he might be risking. So it's fair to ask: What did he mean by "'cause I surely wouldn't have to listen to that prattle from you ever day"?
My friend Sepp saw that and, immediately commented, "That means he wouldn't have to listen to that prattle because he'd be giving her the back of the hand."
What do you think, Huffington Post readers? What OTHER conclusion can one draw? He wouldn't have to listen to the "prattle" (ie, intelligent discussion which doesn't happen to agree with the pure B.S. Armey himself was spewing on the show) because ... why not, exactly?
Many make the same connection. One comment high up at the YouTube site for the clip of the exchange reads: "That bitch needs to get slap! GO DICK!!!"
Feel pretty proud of that, Leader? (Once powerful hangers-on like Armey like to have their titles used, forever ...)
Aren't we back to the same kind of ugly shock triggered by some of the weird comments made about Hillary Clinton during the primaries? Doesn't the reality of the undertone of sexism that came to the fore then mean that people like Dick Armey should be more careful, rather than more reckless, in letting their inner swinishness shine forth for the world?
Armey used his sexism as a weapon because he was cornered: He didn't like Joan talking about Republican "boot-licking" of Rush Limbaugh, because when you're down on your knees, gravel digging into your kneecaps as you lick every last square-inch of those boots, you kind of find it embarrassing to have people remind you that that's what you're doing.
For the whole segment, the teaser on the screen was, "Does Rush Rule the GOP?" Short answer: Obviously, at this point, he does. What great news for those of us hoping for ineffectual and self-defeating Republican opposition to Obama and Democratic efforts to move forward from the bad old days of serial gridlock and fake, cynical nonpartisanship (Joe Lieberman, with everything he does, Armey, talking about "income redistributionists" of both parties, as if he were Mr.-Chillin-Out-in-the-Middle, trying to bring everyone together.)
The Republicans are giving nobody any reason to take them seriously right now - and Armey's clip should be replayed over and over to make that point. This is who these people ARE.
To recap, here were the substantive arguments by Armey and Walsh.
Armey: "DON'T LET POLITICS DEFINE ANYTHING. POLITICS IS SILLY! IT'S INANE! And practitioners of politics are people to - take what amusements you can from them, but don't take them seriously."
So, taken at his word, if one translates those remarks, Armey was saying we shouldn't listen to a word he says because it's all just a game for him, and for the other complacent codgers in Washington who can't seem to grasp that the power equation has changed, because the people have spoken and voted for CHANGE.
Joan, sensibly, replied to Armey by making just that point:
"But this is serious business. The economy is a wreck and it's been wrecked by the Bush White House and by Republicans in Congress with a lot of Democratic help."
Armey, bizarrely, bleated, "Oh, give it a rest."
Joan: "President Obama has a mandate for change. Your people have stood in his way. They're standing in his way on Capitol Hill right now. And Rush Limbaugh is making ridiculous statements and Republicans are crawling to him and grovelling. That's the state of our economy and our world right now, Representative Armey, and it's sad."
And it was right THERE that Armey outed with his bizarre "wife" comment, after first laughing and generally carrying on as Joan was trying to speak, sounding more like a frat boy wanting to skip out of a boring poli sci lecture so he could tap the keg early.
Pressure must be brought to bear on Armey. Al Campanis was widely seen in baseball as a good man who had done much for African-Americans in the game when he had his famous Nightline meltdown, making the inexcusable remark about some players lacking the "necessities." Personally, I find Armey's remarks almost as offensive as what Campanis said - and I hope I'm speaking for many Huffington Post readers when I say: Please, spare us from having to hear this cynical old blowhard on any of these shows EVER AGAIN!