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All the "dumb" GOP governors

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"If you legalize marijuana, you're gonna kill your kids. That's what the data shows from around the country." With that absurd, ungrammatical and easily refuted statement to the press, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts last week boldly entered the competition for "dumbest" Republican governor in America.

It's turning into quite a contest in a steadily growing field. And, while I may be mocking this collection of nitwits, let me be clear in stating that this is no laughing matter.

Let's start with Ricketts. He is vigorously fighting an effort to legalize medical marijuana in his state. That's right, they're not even talking about recreational marijuana in Nebraska, just catching up with the 39 states and the District of Columbia, which have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes.

But killing kids? The Drug Enforcement Agency says "no deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported." Ever. As for its classification as a Schedule 1 Drug by the DEA meaning it supposedly has no medicinal value that was a product of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, passed by Congress as part of Richard Nixon's racist campaign to demonize and nullify black voters. Fifty years later, and in the face of all scientific evidence to the contrary, Republicans are still trying.

There's no real race issue in white-bread Nebraska, so this is likely just one more Republican politician playing to the lowest common denominator the proudly uninformed who make up much of the party's base. The Trump voters. The governor also threw in the false claim that marijuana serves as a gateway drug for teenagers to other drugs. The Centers for Disease Control says there is no evidence of this. In truth, alcohol has long been the gateway drug for young people. Yes, there are risks, especially for young people, in using marijuana, but Ricketts could have stressed commonsense approaches to its use rather than making up scare stories. Unfortunately, Nebraskans suffering pain from a variety of illnesses would be deprived of the relief medical cannabis can provide if he has his way.

At least Nebraskans still have a chance to escape the consequences of having a "dumb" governor. Others, Texans, for example, have already paid a steep price. On March 2, with most of the nation, including Texas, in the early stage of receiving Covid-19 vaccinations, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order lifting the mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent. When the mayor of Austin, the state capital, said the masks would stay on in his city, Abbott went to court to challenge this affront to his authority to put Texans at risk.

This mandate came on the heels of the deadly deep freeze in the Lone Star State. When the state's independent power grid failed during a winter storm in February, with Texans literally freezing to death, Abbott went on Fox News to say, "This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for America." Abbott said solar and wind power got "shut down," while noting that those sources account for only 10 percent of the state's energy.

The truth: natural gas lines, which provide the largest percent of Texas's power, froze up as well because anti-regulation Texas didn't require companies to winterize. So, yes, almost all power sources froze up. A few windmills did keep producing. Also the truth: Texas refuses to join national power grids for protection against blackouts because Republican officials don't want federal oversight. Neither do power companies who support them financially.

Of course "dumb" governors are not new in Texas. In the midst of the blackout, with Texans looking for food and shelter and just trying to stay alive, former governor Rick Perry said Texans would rather deal with blackouts than have the federal government regulate their power grid. Perry, of course, was Energy Secretary in the Trump administration.

To top it all off, when the Texas lieutenant governor tried to roll back $16 billion in exorbitant power bills sent to residents, Abbott disagreed. Said he didn't have the authority. But he can order people not to wear masks. As of March 17, Texas was still averaging 173 Covid deaths a day.

Abbott has had serious competition on ignoring health experts in responding to the virus from other Republican governors, including Florida's Ron DeSantis, who answered the question of whether anyone could be more obnoxious than Rick Perry with a resounding yes. In fact, anti-mask, open-up DeSantis, with an eye on the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has made his anti-science, anti-press approach the hallmark of his public utterances, again echoing the success of Trump with a core group of Republican voters.

The same can be said of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who likes to come across as a wise-cracking cowgirl (where are you, Sarah Palin?) and has said from the beginning that South Dakotans don't need any masks or social distancing and was disappointed when she couldn't have a big fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. All this as Europe is seeing a resurgence of the virus.

There are more candidates, but you get the idea. The real question, of course, is whether these politicians are truly dumb, or just playing a cynical role that makes them sound dumb to a majority of Americans, but enhances their reputation with the core group of Republicans who vote for them, often against their own self-interest. The willfully dumb.

Given the prevalence of this in-your-face obnoxious ignorance, real or feigned, among Republican members of Congress (too many to name here), I have to think this is just further evidence of the disintegration of the Republican Party as a serious, principled participant in the governing of this nation. And that is a serious loss.

Today, for GOP governors and other elected Republican officials, no platform is necessary. Attack science. Deny history. Ridicule education. Blame "others." Demonize the press. If people suffer, if they die, well those are the breaks. Make it all up as you go along. It will get you elected. Hey, it worked for Trump, didn't it?

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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