I'm not sure what the highlight of Wednesday's big tea-bag-Obama-hate-fest at the Capitol was for me. Was it the high-school girl carrying a sign comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin? Or the belligerent dork talking to state Senator Thayer Verschoor about how he (the dork) wanted to "kill" an "enemy" such as Obama? Or maybe it was spotting known neo-Nazis in the crowd such as geriatric goosestepper Elton Hall and others?
Granted, not everyone present was a wacko, but there was so much Obama-hatin' going on, with people claiming Obama is a communist and a dictator and a threat to American sovereignty (hey, pick a lane, people) that it reminded me of accounts of Kennedy-hatred in Dallas just prior to JFK's visit on November 22, 1963. The hysterical nature of much of the tea-baggers' political expression also lent credence to the recent Department of Homeland Security report warning cops of the dangers posed by radical wing-nuts. Let's hope that when Obama visits ASU in May, that the Secret Service is on its game.
Take this confab I walked into as things were wrapping up Wednesday evening. I spotted Republican state Senator Thayer Verschoor conversing with a small group of people, including a tall loudmouth who was there with his teenage daughter.
"The left, liberal, they're not liberal," lectured Verschoor. "They are leftists. They're Marxists. They're socialists. They want absolute, total government control. And it is all out war for them. And right now because they believe, because they have Marxists in control of the House and the Senate, and the Executive, they're going to push through as hard as they can. That's exactly what's happening."
"I believe that," said the yahoo. "I think we ought to storm that place."
"I think we ought to storm that place when they're all in there," insisted the yahoo, as his daughter listened. "I'm serious. Replace every one of them."
"What's going on is the absolute, wholesale taking of our freedoms," Verschoor told him.
"Not on my watch," said the guy.
"We all swore an oath to defend the constitution against enemies foreign and domestic," Verschoor commented.
"And the President is an enemy," stated yahoo-man.
"Really?" I butted in. "What would you do to enemies?"
"What would you do?" Mr. Yahoo shot back.
"I'm just askin'," I wondered.
"I'd kill him," said the man.
"You'd kill him?"
"Hell, yeah, I'd kill an enemy," he replied.
"You want to kill Obama?" I asked, specifically.
"I would kill an enemy of this country, absolutely," he declared. "Would you? Or would you just say, `Turn our country into socialism.'"
"Obama's your President and you want to kill him?" I pressed.
"He's not my President," said rocks-for-brains. "My President died, Charlton Heston, maybe you know him?"
This back and forth went on for awhile. I identified myself as a reporter, and gave him my name. But the wannabe-Obama-killer would not give me his. And unfortunately, I did not get a pic of him, though I do have the tape recording of the entire conversation. The yahoo said he had served his country in the military, but that he knew I hadn't. I reminded him that Lee Harvey Oswald had served in the Marine Corps. I forgot to mention Timothy McVeigh, who served with distinction in the Army during the Gulf War.
Verschoor told me he was for "non-violent revolution." Also, the pinhead Verschoor was talking to said he didn't know Verschoor personally. Still, I think elected pols should be a little careful when they start suggesting that the President of the United States is an "enemy." Some idiot like the one Verschoor was talking to might just take them literally.
I actually felt sorry for the yahoo's daughter, because as it began to get heated, she tried to calm him down and pull him away. She seemed scared that the Secret Service might come knocking on their door. Thing is, he wasn't scared of it, and that's what troubles me.
This stuff about Obama being a commie or a socialist was practically the theme of the event. There were signs that called the president "Comrade Obama" and had Obama's image next to a hammer and sickle, as well as T-shirts that called him "Chairman MaoBama," and other placards denouncing the President as a socialist and a traitor.
Do these people even know what communism is? Or was, as it's not alive in many places other than Cuba and North Korea these days. Obama and the members of Congress were elected. The American people wouldn't get a choice in a communist system, nor would they be able to criticize the government as they did here en masse. A communist regime would have shut something like the tea party down in a New York minute, sticking the participants in the gulags.
The sort of investment in our country Obama advocates doesn't even come close to Western European socialism, much less communism, where there is total state control of the economy. These people also forget that Obama started out $1.3 trillion in the hole, with an economy already in a recession, with a financial meltdown and two wars ongoing. If you'll recall, Bush began with a budget surplus of $127 billion when he began office. I'll allow that 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan were necessary and costly, but the war in Iraq was a boondoggle. (No WMDs. Remember?) Also, Bush pushed massive new entitlements such as Medicare Part D, requiring enormous expenditures. Obama's been in office for four months. But these nudniks are already blaming him for the economy he was saddled with and is trying to fix.
There was one thing the right-wingers in the crowd and I agreed on: KFYI's sound system sucked. (Don't they have, like, engineers, or something?) All the voices of the speakers sounded muffled, unless you were standing right next to the low podium, so I had fun on the fringes of the crowd talking to folks and admiring their nutty signage.
The wackiest was being carried by high-school student Cameo Wilson, who was there with her mom Julie Wilson. Cameo's sign, as you can see above, likened Obama to Lenin and Hitler. Cameo admitted she was making a direct comparison between Obama and those dictators of Communist and Nazi regimes. I asked her if that was a fair comparison, seeing that Hitler killed some six million Jews, and Russian Communism under Lenin's successor Stalin killed scores of millions of people. After all, has Obama killed anyone?
"No, but not yet," Cameo told me.
"He's killing our American spirit," a friend of hers chimed in.
"He's taking our constitutional rights away from us," said Cameo's mom, Julie, who was using two tea bags as earrings.
I asked her how Obama was doing that. Julie was short on specifics.
"It will come," she assured me. "We can see the signs."
I pressed Julie on the fact Obama hasn't killed anyone, unless you give him credit for those Somali pirates.
"Obama's turning our country into a socialist [state]"...
"You think he's gonna kill 50 million people like [Stalin]?" I asked.
"Not so many, no," she replied.
I had arrived late to the anti-socialist shindig, a little past 6 p.m., and was impressed with the turnout, which was in the thousands. As I was parking, I was listening to uber-right Huckleberry Hound (and former Congressman) J.D. Hayworth -- broadcasting live from the capitol for KFYI 550 AM -- jabbering on about how this was "a citizen-driven endeavor" powered by "John Q. Public." Puh-lease. Both Fox News nationally and KFYI 550 AM locally had been promoting this thing like gangbusters. Apparently, Hayworth doesn't know the difference between grass-roots and AstroTurf.
Crikey, they even had a sports grill sponsoring the thing, Gallagher's. The place should've offered a free cheeseburger for every customer with a sign calling Obama a red.
Of course, the Ron Paul people were present, as were Libertarians, and so forth. The neo-Nazis were represented in the presence of ancient Aryan and former George Lincoln Rockwell stormtrooper, Elton Hall, who had a little clique with him. The Valley's premier nativist hate group, United for a Sovereign America, had several members working the crowd. And the anarchists showed up, though I didn't really get a bead on what side they were on.
Mark Boita of the band Dourcynic at length was there with other members of his band, carrying a sign that blasted Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank as "The Banking Queen," a reference to Frank's homosexuality. Though I disagreed with much of what he had to say, I did like the fact that he defined himself, in part, as a "conservative who smokes pot." Hey, at least he likes ganja, right?
Additionally, there was this odd group of fellas in black T-shirts carrying signs with quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and others. Their shirts bore the old Revolutionary War emblem of the snake cut up that says, "Join or Die." Some observers said they were with something called "The Culpeper Militia," though this may have been confusion over their white rattlesnake flag, which belonged to the famous Culpeper Minutemen of revolutionary times. Their spokesman John Laurie said they were not really an organized group, just like-minded citizens, or "We the People," as he kept calling his fellow men in black.
I also ran into Congressman Trent Franks, who admitted that he voted for Medicare Part D, a massive entitlement program that the Republicans pushed for and signed into law a few years back, even though it's estimated it will cost hundreds of billions over the next 10 years. Franks said he did so "reluctantly," and only because a competing version would have cost more.
I then asked him if it was disingenuous for the GOP to "tea-bag" on Obama (now there's an image) when they saddled the new administration with $1.3 trillion deficit. He retorted that the GOP never asked for tax increases. And I pointed out that was the problem, the Republicans cut taxes while ramping up spending.
"As far as the spending, I think you've got a tremendously good point," conceded Franks. "I can tell you the time I've been in Congress, a little less than seven years, I have tried very hard to keep spending down."
Judging from the results, I'd say Franks hasn't tried hard enough. But moving on, I then asked him about his support of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and why he didn't call Arpaio as a witness to the 287(g) hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee, on which he sits. The minority does have the right to call witnesses, and they did call witnesses to represent the pro-287(g) side of things, so why not Arpaio?
"We didn't have that opportunity," stated Franks.
"But you guys did have a couple of witnesses there [for the minority]," I noted.
"The minority staff did have the ability to call certain [witnesses], which were then called by the chair," he said.
"Was there ever a formal request for Arpaio to be there?" I asked.
"I don't know if there was a formal request or not," stated Franks. "I would've liked to have seen him there. But he probably wouldn't have come, I don't know."
I asked Franks about the stats he mentioned at the hearing, that "53 percent" of violent crime is perpetrated by illegal immigrants, and that "33 percent" of those in Joe's jails are illegal. But Franks could not tell me where he got those stats, and told me to call his press secretary for a follow-up. I'll do that and report back when I can.
Such is my report from the front. Sorry for the length, but I did want to document a good deal of this stuff. You never know when the info could come in handy.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.