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The Top 10 Conservative Idiots
(No. 181)

January 10, 2005
Armstrong Tactics Edition

This week's Top Ten Conservative Idiots is dedicated to the memory of DUer Scott Lowery, better known as Khephra, who passed away unexpectedly on Saturday evening. Khephra was a DU institution, a kind and gentle soul who racked up more than 50,000 posts on our message board and almost single-handedly built the DU Latest Breaking News forum. So long, Kef. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

Welcome to the the first Top 10 of 2005. We've got a bumper crop of New Year Idiots lined up this week. Armstrong Williams (1) and the Bush administration got caught up in a payola scandal, Alberto Gonzalez (2) went before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and John Cosgrove (3) has been getting some inspiration from The Handmaid's Tale. Elsewhere, Kenneth Blackwell (5) has been getting up to partisan (and illegal) mischief, George W. Bush (7) is fiddling while Rome burns, and has Bill O'Reilly (10) finally lost the plot?

1Armstrong Williams
It was revealed last week that the Bush administration paid commentator Armstrong Williams almost a quarter of a million dollars to plug No Child Left Behind on his nationally syndicated TV show. According to USA Today, Armstrong had to "regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts" - and in return, he received $240,000 of your money. Sweet deal! When Armstrong got caught out last week, he made a statement saying that, despite knowing the arrangement was highly unethical, "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in." Clearly he didn't believe in it enough to do it for free. "It's a fine line," he said last week. "Even though I'm not a journalist - I'm a commentator - I feel I should be held to the media ethics standard. My judgment was not the best. I wouldn't do it again, and I learned from it." Despite the fact that Williams "wouldn't do it again," he has announced that he's keeping the money. So, how long before conservatives start spinning the idea that it's fine for huge chunks of taxpayer money to go to broadcasters who help the Bush administration spread propaganda, and that Williams is in fact a victim of the liberal media elite? Don't hold your breath - Newsmax is already on the case! According to them, Williams was targeted because - wait for it - he's a black conservative. Wow, talk about taking personal responsibility. So in light of Newsmax's defense of this despicable misuse of media power, feel free to mark this date down on your calendars as the day "ethics" and "morals" finally became words which no longer have any meaning to conservatives.

2Alberto Gonzalez
Alberto Gonzalez is widely regarded as a modest, good-natured fellow. He struggled up from a childhood in poverty to become White House counsel under George W. Bush. And as attorney general he would probably be a step up from John Ashcroft... if it weren't for one small problem. The problem? An incurable torture fetish. At the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his nomination last week, Gonzalez for some reason refused to reject the legal advice he gave Our Great Leader in 2002: that it's just fine and dandy to order torture, and that torturers should be protected from punishment. According to the Washington Post, the "2002 ruling made under his direction [said] that the infliction of pain short of serious physical injury, organ failure or death did not constitute torture." So as long as you don't cripple them or kill them, you're good to go. Naked pyramid anyone? Instead of repudiating his former advice as disgusting and un-American - which it is - Gonzalez said, "I don't have a disagreement with the conclusions then reached." Okay... well, what else? Bush's AG-to-be also repeated his criticisms of the Geneva Conventions, saying they "limit our ability to solicit information from detainees," which is, according to the Post, "an interpretation at odds with that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military's legal corps, the Red Cross, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and decades of U.S. experience in war." So nothing to worry about there then. In fact, even the current attorney general John "Yes, I Can See Into Your Bedroom Window From Here" Ashcroft has said that he doesn't believe in torture because it produces nothing of value. Let me spell this out for those of you having a hard time following this: The Bush administration wants our next attorney general to be a guy who spent several hours last week sitting in front of Senators doing his very, very best to defend the practice of torturing prisoners. Any alarm bells going off yet?

3John Cosgrove
If Virginia Delegate John Cosgrove has his way, failing to report a miscarriage to the police within 12 hours could land you a fine of $2,500 or up to twelve months in jail. Don't believe me? Think it couldn't happen here? Think again. Cosgrove's bill says, "When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor." That's right, folks - after four years of George W. Bush, it's okay for the US attorney general to approve of torture, the government can secretly pay journalists to spread propaganda with your tax dollars, and it's a crime to not report a miscarriage to the local police department. But, uh, at least we're safe from terrorists or something.

4Congressional Republicans
Many of our elected Democrats did last week what they should have done four years ago - stood up and challenged the results of the presidential election. Thanks to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Sen. Barbara Boxer, House and Senate Democrats got a chance to shed public light on the multitude of voting irregularities which occurred during the 2004 election. Let it be noted that the purpose of last week's exercise was not to overturn the results of the election, which would have been impossible, but to highlight the Democratic party's commitment to fair and accurate elections - something the Republican party couldn't care less about. And while the Democrats talked about voting problems, the Republicans spewed partisan rancor, tried to score political points, and ended up looking like a bunch of lunatics who were operating in an alternate reality. "This objection does not have at its root the hope or even the hint of overturning or challenging the victory of the president," said Stephanie Tubbs Jones, "But it is a necessary, timely and appropriate opportunity to review and remedy the most precious process in our democracy." House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's response? "Rather than substantive debate, Democrat leaders are still adhering to a failed strategy of spite, obstruction, and conspiracy theories. They accuse the President, who we are told is apparently a closet computer nerd, of personally overseeing the development of vote-stealing software." Uh, what? When the hell did anybody say that? Oh well - sorry America, no fair and accurate elections for you any time soon. Want to make sure everyone's vote are counted? You spiteful obstructive bastards!

5Kenneth Blackwell
During the special two-hour election debate, Sen. George Voinovich (R) said, "at the end on Election Day, and at the end of the recount, Ohio's Secretary of State's Kenneth Blackwell and the bipartisan election boards across the state did a tremendous job to insure that the election was fair, and the results were without question and I want to publicly applaud the good work of those dedicated public officials." Surely this couldn't be the same Kenneth Blackwell who sent a fundraising letter to supporters over the holidays which read, "As the Co-Chairman of Bush/Cheney '04 in Ohio, I want to say thank you for helping to deliver the great Buckeye State for George W. Bush. Without your enthusiasm, generous support, and vote, I'm afraid the president would have lost... and an unapologetic liberal Democrat named John Kerry would have won. Thankfully, you and I stopped that disaster from happening!" The letter isn't just offensive - it's illegal. It contains a plea for "corporate & personal checks," when, unfortunately, corporate donations are illegal in Ohio. You'd think being secretary of state, Blackwell ought to know that. And for those of you who weren't aware, Kenneth Blackwell is the same guy who, among other things, tried to throw out voter registrations because they were printed on the wrong kind of paper. Don't you just feel like publicly applauding the good work of this dedicated public official?

6The White House
While we're on the subject, here's one more incident to chew on. The Arizona Republic reported at the start of last month that "Several of Arizona's leading GOP muckety-mucks secured treasured invitations to Bush's swanky Christmas party Thursday." They name a few names, and then mention that "Also spotted, petition gatherer to the stars Nathan Sproul." Who is Nathan Sproul? He's the head of Sproul & Associates, a company which registered voters during the run-up to Election 2004, but misrepresented themselves as non-partisan while refusing to register Democrats. (See Idiots 177.) In separate incidents, Sproul & Associates employees allegedly tore up Democratic registration forms and threw them in the trash. Yup, that's the same Nathan Sproul who was spotted hanging out at the exclusive White House Christmas party. But don't worry, there's absolutely nothing wrong with America's electoral system.

7George W. Bush
George W. Bush isn't just wasting taxpayer money on propaganda tactics - let's spare a thought for his upcoming $40 million inauguration shindig. This will be Bush's second $40 million inauguration, apparently intended to "celebrate the troops," although perhaps since almost 1400 of our soldiers have been killed since Bush's first inauguration, some of that $40 million should go to buying armor for their humvees. Alternatively, some of the money could be used to top up our commitment to disaster relief in southeast Asia, where 150,000 people are dead and millions more are at risk. Although, to be fair, I hear there are going to be some wonderful fireworks down on the National Mall. To put this in perspective, Bill Clinton's first inauguration party cost $33 million and his second cost $23.7 million - and that, as Bernard Ries put it in the Washington Post, was when "the economy sparkled, Clinton had won a rousing election victory, we weren't at war - and a sizable portion of the world had not just fallen apart." I guess when Our Great Leader asks America to make sacrifices during this time of war, he's not talking about himself or his fatcat buddies.

8The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property
Attention! Attention! The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property would like your attention! Soon, across the nation's campuses, a travesty will take place. Something so disgusting that it should be banned without comment. An event so awful that its name should not even be spelled out in full, even though it is the medical term for a human body part. Attention America! The V***** Monologues are here! Now, for those of you who are desperately wondering what those asterisks are hiding, the word in question is "vagina" and the play in question is "The Vagina Monologues." And the TFP have already started a campaign to protest it. "The lewd V***** Monologues play [is] a piece replete with sexual encounters, lust, graphic descriptions of masturbation and lesbian behavior," they write on their website. Phew! If I hadn't already seen it, I'd certainly want to after reading that! But I have a question: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? I mean, censoring vaginas? I thought that was the job of people like the Taliban. And you have to admit, it's an especially preposterous idea for an organization which considers itself a "defender of the family." Last time I checked it wasn't easy to start a family without involving a vagina somewhere along the line.

9 Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush's Secretary of Elder Affairs Terry White was recently accused of sexual harassment, and last week Jeb gave him the boot. According to Editor & Publisher, Spokesman Jacob DiPietre announced that "the governor's firing of [White] on Wednesday showed Bush would not tolerate sexual harassment." Odd then that just days later, Bush's office confirmed that it had hired Lloyd Brown, former editorial-page editor of the Florida Times-Union, as a staff writer. Why odd? Because Brown resigned from the Times-Union in November, "following public allegations of sexual harassment and plagiarism." So, um, let it be made very clear that Jeb Bush does not tolerate sexual harassment. Or something.

10Bill O'Reilly
And finally: I think Bill O'Reilly is finally starting to crack up. Not only is he now dedicating entire sections of his show to attacking his critics, he's invoking the Lord in his defense. For several weeks before Christmas Bill went on a wild-eyed mission to protect the holiday from satanic liberals. (I guess now the Republicans have got the House, Senate, White House and Supreme Court, they're starting to run out of things to whine about.) Unsurprisingly, Bill's crusade garnered a little attention from some members of the media, who, frankly, thought he was being a bit of a twit. Clearly this was all the proof Bill needed. "Tonight, the media forces of darkness counterattack and go after the defenders of Christmas," began one of his recent "Talking Points Memo" sections. "Where am I going wrong here?" he asked a guest. "All these people hate me ... And all I'm doing is sticking up for is the baby Jesus." (Remember, this is Bill "Spectacular Boobs" O'Reilly we're talking about here.) O'Reilly also claimed that "Somewhere Jesus is weeping" over the critics' attacks on him, and that the "FOX News Channel and its commentators stand in the way of the secular agenda." Oh really? As it turns out, Media Matters for America recently revealed that "despite weeks of coverage of 'Christmas Under Siege,' O'Reilly never mentioned that News Corporation, which owns FOX News Channel, held an inclusively titled 'Caribbean Holiday Celebration.' The word 'Christmas' is conspicuously absent from the invitation." Whoops. See you next week!

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