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Anatomy of a Right-Wing Conspiracy | Opinion

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In a career devoted to little more than climbing the political ladder, Idaho Senator James E. Risch was defined by a handful of times his outrageous behavior made the news.

Risch’s biggest hits include the time he sprinted around the Idaho State Senate Gallery, ordering Idaho State Police officers to arrest protesters who took the audacity to oppose something in which the then legislative leader was involved.

Risch interrupted the US Senate late at night in 2018 when he opposed a provision in a spending bill to name a central Idaho wilderness in honor of a rival politician, former Governor Cecil D. Andrus. Risch launched a “tantrum” in which the Idaho Statesman editorial board called “a mean and embarrassing episode.” Andrus, who didn’t like few people, made an exception for Risch, and the former governor had been dead for months when Risch showed his annoyance.

This newspaper published a classic headline on the scene: “Risch chooses to fight with dead man, loses. “

When the Senate debated whether to impeach Donald Trump for his implication of the Ukrainian president, Risch fell asleep. A designer captured the ultra-conservative nap with his head in his hands. Spokesman Review columnist Shawn Vestal noted, rightly, “Nothing so clearly represents unimportant nature, say anything of the GOP response to impeachment, the collective shrug and cynical face. to a slam-dunk affair, like Sleeping Beauty Risch. “

Contrary to his embarrassments, Risch’s accomplishments rarely make the news for the simple reason that he doesn’t do politics that way. He is a partisan fighter, always hitting the right Tory talking points, always on the attack, but never doing the hard work of addressing an issue that could be important to his constituents. But this MO is good enough to get an elected and re-elected Republican replacement in Idaho. And Risch has been elected time and time again – with one notable exception – since the 1970s.

Search the dictionary for “career politician” and you’ll find a photo of Jim Risch.

Risch has clearly reached the zenith of his political career. After a short term as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Risch is now the leading Republican in what was once considered the Senate’s most prestigious committee. This week, the junior senator from Idaho used that position to advance a right-wing conspiracy theory that is growing faster than Pinocchio’s nose.

For weeks, there has been a constant conspiracy that President Joe Biden is a staggering idiot, who does not command the government, let alone himself. You can see this lie promoted daily on Fox, OANN, Breitbart and the New York Post owned by Rupert Murdoch. Trump himself suggested this week that former President Barack Obama “is probably running the government now anyway, according to many.”

A lot of people say it’s crazy town nonsense, but Risch stoked that nonsense during a Senate hearing this week, repeatedly asking Secretary of State Antony Blinken about a ‘mute’ button that an anonymous White House official allegedly used. cut Biden, presumably to keep him from blurting out, like Risch, something stupid. Blinken has said, on several occasions, that this is nonsense.

As reporter Amber Phillips noted: “The senator’s line of questioning seemed to come from the conservative media. Fox News commentators were questioning the same thing that very morning, Daily Best media report Justin Baragona noted. “

Evaluating Risch’s descent into the rabbit hole of conspiracy theory, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote: and defend the lie, even if it is proven to be false. This is how lies are born.

Short Story: When Biden was in Boise earlier this week, he met with the Governor of Idaho and wildfire officials at the National Interagency Fire Center. As is typical with the White House – any White House – a press “pool” is allowed to “pulverize” the rally, and then is inaugurated. This is what happened in Boise. Biden’s microphone was not cut. Pool coverage for the event has ended. It’s routine. It is not a conspiracy.

(Some Idaho journalists have been annoyed that they have limited access to Biden, as I understand it, but that’s a separate issue. The White House – any White House – usually tightly controls this type of thing. access. Maybe they shouldn’t, but they do.)

Risch took this little non-issue, subsequently amplified by a social media post from the Republican National Committee and a New York Post article, and made it a federal case. More importantly, Risch used almost half of his time in a hearing where Blinken was in the hot seat about the obviously mismanaged US withdrawal from Afghanistan talking about a semblance of a “mute” House button. White. None of his questions were designed to illicit real information. It was a performance for the cameras.

If there is a better example of how American politics on the political right has become unserious, I don’t want to see it. But Risch’s motivation was as clear as his questions were crazy. He was looking to land on Fox News, and of course, he made the obligatory “hit” with Bret Baier.

Risch is 78 years old, the same age as the president he attacks because he is too old for the job.

But it is suspected that there is still more to Risch’s motivation to raise his bogus issue with the Secretary of State, and to the process of channeling a Trumpish conspiracy. There are no coincidences in politics and often cause and effect.

Less than a month ago, Idaho Conservative Bryan Smith slammed Risch in an op-ed for his vote for a $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Smith, a leading figure in the ongoing effort to push the Idaho GOP to the right edge of the Earth, said Risch’s vote – and that of Sen. Mike Crapo – was proof that Republican senators had been in office for too long.

“The point is, the longer Risch and Crapo stay in Washington, the more they become like the liberal swamp they claim to be fighting against,” Smith wrote, attempting to argue that Idaho senators are closet liberals.

Risch has always been a purely transactional politician, so what better way to end attacks from the Flat Earth Right than by adopting a favorite conspiracy theory from the Flat Earth Right. You cannot reason with them, you might as well join them fully.

It would be tempting to treat Risch’s latest embarrassment as just another example in the long history of his blatantly evil partisanship, part of his lifelong effort to protect his tough right wing. But unfortunately it is more than that. Risch’s performance is now the Republican hallmark: conspiracy, vanity and contempt for the truth. Voters in Idaho should have muted it a long, long time ago.

Johnson served as press secretary and chief of staff to the late former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus. He lives in Manzanita, Ore.


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