By Brad Friedman on 1/29/2014, 1:20pm PT  

It's become a bit of a cliche in the Obama era. Every year, when the President delivers his State of the Union address, someone in the Republican Congressional caucus makes an absolute jackass of him/herself. Let's call it the Rep. Joe Wilson "YOU LIE!" syndrome.

They just can't seem to help themselves in those grand moments in the bright lights during which they are finally forced to be in the same room with the actual reality of the person they've spent the bulk of the year deluding themselves --- with no small amount of help from Fox "News" and even the so-called legitimate news networks --- into believing to be an incompetent, dictatorial, fascistic, imperial-socialist evil genius. (I'll leave it to you to figure out how he can be all those things at once.)

We thought we had last night's winner of the Republican SOTU Jackass of the Year Award when Texas Rep. Randy Weber tweeted, before the speech even began...

Setting aside the impressive typos and incoherence, Rep. Weber's idiocy was clear enough. But, as it turns out, he was an amateur last night. There were at least two other elected officials in the GOP caucus vying for last night's (dis)honor, with one even willing to threaten a violent offense against a reporter on camera. But, in truth, it was the third who really represents the gravest threat to our democracy...

The story of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY)'s violent, caught-on-camera threat against NY1 reporter Michael Scotto seems to be getting plenty of play today. But, if you missed it, here's what happened in a nutshell.

After the President spoke, Scotto was interviewing Grimm on one of the Capitol's interior balcony locations about the speech, which the Congressman described (with complete detachment from reality, naturally), as "divisive".

At the end of the interview, Scotto attempted to ask a question about a campaign finance scandal in which a supporter of Grimm's was charged by the FBI earlier this month, according to NY1, "with using straw donors to exceed the maximum allowable contribution to Grimm's campaign committee."

The Congressman would have none of the inquiry, cutting off Scotto's question about it by responding: "I'm not speaking to you off-topic, this is only about the President." He then walked off camera, leaving Scotto to say: "So Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances."

After Scotto tossed back to the station, but while the camera was still rolling, Grimm came back at Scotto with a threat to toss him "off this fucking balcony" and to "break [him] in half. Like a boy." Here's NY1's description of what happened when Grimm reapproached Scotto after the interview:

"What?" Scotto responded. "I just wanted to ask you..."

Grimm: "Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I'll throw you off this f-----g balcony."

Scotto: "Why? I just wanted to ask you..."

[[cross talk]]

Grimm: "If you ever do that to me again..."

Scotto: "Why? Why? It's a valid question."

[[cross talk]]

Grimm: "No, no, you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."

Unfortunately, NY1 doesn't allow their videos to be easily embedded here, but you can watch the video confrontation, with sub-titles provided by NY1, at their site.

After the incident last night, Grimm released a statement in which he failed to apologize in the least. In fact, the Republican Congressman from Staten Island did what all good Republicans do when they get caught, he doubled-down:

"I was extremely annoyed because I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests. The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic. I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor. I doubt that I am the first Member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won’t be the last"

Today, undoubtedly facing pressure from his own House caucus, not to mention, possibly, from law enforcement, Grimm called Scotto to apologize and to say that he "overreacted". Scotto is said to have accepted the apology. Grimm then offered this written statement this morning:

"I was wrong. I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions to get the better of me and lose my cool. I have apologized to Michael Scotto, which he graciously accepted, and will be scheduling a lunch soon. In the weeks and months ahead I’ll be working hard for my constituents on issues like flood insurance that is so desperately needed in my district post Sandy."

Threatening a reporter with bodily harm is no small thing, and, in fact, arguably a crime in the District of Columbia...

D.C. Code § 22-407. Threats to do bodily harm.
Whoever is convicted in the District of threats to do bodily harm shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, in addition thereto, or in lieu thereof, may be required to give bond to keep the peace for a period not exceeding 1 year.

Nonetheless, it was, neither Weber nor Grimm, but our third candidate for GOP Jackass of the Night who, it seems to me, is really the most endemic of all that is currently wrong with our politics, our media, and, thus, our nation.

We'll let Rachel Maddow do the heavy lifting here, as her incredible confrontation with Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KA) speaks volumes all by itself. Huelskamp is a second-term Congressman, meaning he is absolutely this batshit insane and yet, he was re-elected in 2012 anyway.

Watch the video...

That video is getting a lot less attention today than the Grimm video, understandably, because it doesn't involve breaking "a boy" "in half", but still. While MSNBC describes the Congressman's interview as "giv[ing] voice to extremist right," I don't believe there's anything "extreme" about it. That is the Right these days. That's not extreme, that's the mainstream. And it's aided and abetted by media outlets (most notably Fox "News", of course, but there are many beyond them) which give members like Huelskamp a pedestal to spout that bullshit without challenge simply on the grounds that they are "elected officials" and, therefore, are owed some form of due deference.

No. No they are not. And I'm happy that Maddow did as much as she could to hold that jackasses feet to the fire.

There is much that can be fact-checked in that video to make the case against Heulskamp's deceit (Really? Someone from the administration accused his office of "politicizing the military" by inviting a veteran to the SOTU? Really? He didn't vote to defund embassy security before the Benghazi incident? Etc.) but I've got to scramble to put together my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show shortly, so don't have time to do it myself right now. I suspect Maddow will do so herself later tonight, though that's just a hunch.

But, my point in running it is just to highlight everything that is currently wrong with our political system, as Chris Hayes also alludes at the end of the clip. There are two different "realities" here. One is actually real and the other is based on the years-long fraud perpetrated by Fox "News" and tolerated, even encouraged, by the bulk of the mainstream corporate media.

In turn, that has broken our system, giving the President very little room to do anything, other than actions that he is able to do on his own, such as issuing lawful Executive Orders and other such actions which, in turn, leads to tweets like those from Weber at the beginning of this piece, and the firm belief from jackasses like Huelskamp that he is an unlawful "Imperial President".

Round and round it goes. Where it stops, right now, nobody really knows. But none of it is good for this nation.

There is, and always has been, plenty to criticize this Administration about. A case can even be made, if one is really interested, against inappropriate executive actions by the Obama administration. Unfortunately, guys like Weber and Huelskamp and even Grimm --- who wouldn't recognize real "divisiveness" if it threw him off a balcony --- are nowhere even close. They aren't interested in making the system better, they are interested only in making it worse, because that's how they think they win.

We all lose in the bargain. And that's why, as I've said many times before, no matter what you think of our elected officials, elections really do matter.