And Trent Franks flinched. Not much, not for long. The guy's been in public office somewhere or another since, you guessed it, 1984. He's dealt with dissidents before. Before his adoring rightwing audience, he sliced me and diced me, duly thrashing me for my serial transgressing on the right wing's recent record while his fans cheered on.
Just as my braying had spooked the herd of elephants in the room, Franks soothing voice reassured the converted that the heretic was of no consequence. It was like a scene from the WWF-- Silly little audience heckler gets trounced by the circus strongman, the crowd goes wild! In fact, it worked so well for Franks; I could have been a plant, a straw man for the hero to pillory so the audience can glory in their righteous indignation.
But, there was a difference between the scene we played out in public and what he told me in private afterwards. Trent Franks' official response to me as duly reported by Suzanne Adams of the Kingman Daily Miner was,
"Bush 'would be pretty surprised to hear that I was supporting his administration,' Franks said. He had supported an alternative to Bush during the election. And the people that made fun of Bush and his focus on nuclear weapons may one day wish he was back, Franks said. 'There was a lot that I didn't agree with him about, but he did keep us safe. As far as the status quo, I think we should be moving toward a more freedom-oriented system and I think that's what our healthcare bill will do.'"
Like various remarks Franks made throughout the course of his two and a half hour speaking engagement, Franks' reply to me, while pristine on the surface, was full of inaccuracies and intentional distortions, contradictions so blatant that they showed themselves within the context of that single afternoon's talk. For the two simplest examples: Franks attempted to distance himself from Bush in that opening line of the quote, but elsewhere in the course of the afternoon, he spoke long and waxed eloquent about his "good friend George Bush," and "flying on Air Force One with George Bush," etc. with each variation on the truth gauged towards maximum audience effect, not absolute veracity.
A scan of Franks' complete voting record, again courtesy of Vote Smart.org, shows Franks' allegiance to the party line, which by definition was explicitly the Bush agenda for the last 8 years. So whatever "distance" Franks wants to feign, it wasn't significantly shown in his actions as a legislator either.
As for "keeping us safe," Bush and his policies have probably done more to enflame Moslem extremist ire than any one else since Popes stopped holding crusades and presidents took over the funding. The fact that the whole world knows the Iraq War was based on a lie and that America still refuses to do little more than grudgingly ignore its responsibility for this heinous crime is the kind of genuine reason people in one country come to hate the people of another country. Creating millions of new enemies for us is not my preferred method for promoting the American public's safety.
It was through Bush and the Republicans' efforts that de-regulations of the housing markets coincided with the sub-prime lending that set up the housing bubble. Then, a change in policy led to the stampede that brought the market contraction to a crisis. Then while millions of Americans roiled in the foreclosure waves and job losses Bush offices again with Repub support organized the trillion dollar bailouts which give public money to the rich and debt to the poor in addition to their foreclosed homes. You remember the bailout? The one we now condemn Obama for?
And don't forget Bush once proudly laughed as he called himself "the world's biggest polluter" at an international conference. His multitudinous efforts on repealing the environment progress of previous presidents through the potentially impeachable practice of signing statements was monumental enough by itself but that amounts to only a fraction of the decimations promoted by the Bush administration with Franks adamant approval. The changes in policy direction were widespread and have already caused irreparable harm. And not just some namby-pamby environmental impact like the extinction of some silly little spotted wombat living on some tiny river valley nobody cares about.
Based on policies his office pushed, engineers stalled and underfunded levy maintenance in New Orleans, then stalled and underfunded the initial rescue effort. And in the aftermath, Bushco quietly sanctioned the widespread land grab of poor people's property in the name of business investments, leading to widespread homelessness and misery.
All of which reads like the exact opposite of keeping America out of harm's way.
But these were not the facts Franks' audience wanted to be confronted with. The message they were wanting to have reinforced was god, country, guns and tax cuts and that was the raw meat Trent Franks was serving up. And Kingman ate it up.
While Dem congressmen around the country were hashing their way through hostile town hall moshpits, Franks was preaching to the choir, greeted like the feature speaker at a church revival, which in fact is what he was.
The minister who introduced Franks keenly, perhaps intentionally explained that when he recounted their numerous experiences together, both social and religious. Folks dressed up in their Sunday best with lots of red, white and blue. The stage craft of the event made it clear: Franks was one of the brethren, a returning hero for the church of the Republican Religious Right.
What Franks said to me in public at that moment were the lines people needed to hear to be reaffirmed in their belief system. Franks' speeches about the glories of the Republican positions on healthcare, immigration, the war on terror and the economy, didn't have to be based on reality. They just had to satisfy the moment till the talk could get back to what the audience wanted to hear about: god, country, guns and tax cuts and oh yes, how we're number one and all that stuff.
Even if it's not true, it's the only message some conservatives want said. And it is not that they just don't want to hear it, they don't even want it said. As if to really love a country, one must deny its flaws at all costs. Germany had had a lot of deniers at one point and look how far a government can stray if people are expected to ignore and deny misdeeds. It's certainly not an attitude I would take with my children, to deny their misbehavior, they'd never correct it. It's been proven again and again it is not a safe one to take with our leaders either.