By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Is it possible that ex-Rep. Eric Massa is some sort of Democratic sleeper agent? Perhaps a clever test devised by Democratic leaders to tease out the worst cases of Obama-obsessed lunacy on the right? One can almost imagine the chortling in Democratic meetings: They hate Obama so much they'll believe anything if it casts him in a bad light. I'll bet they'd even embrace a patently nutty, single-payer-healthcare-touting, ethically tainted, backbencher if he was nasty to Rahm.
Consider the evidence.
Over the course of a week, the reason for Massa's surprise retirement (and then resignation) evolved from having cancer to a couple of different flavors of acknowledging sexual harassment-related ethics complaints against him ("my fault and mine alone ... my difficulties are of my own making") to his being the victim of a grand conspiracy reaching to the very highest levels of government. The nature of this insidious plot? That he would be the "deciding vote" on the Obama healthcare plan in the House, and since he would have voted no (Massa, by the way, favors a far more liberal single-payer health plan) Democratic leaders had to get rid of him.
This final version of his reason for departing the House got traction, taking him from being merely a political sideshow/joke-butt to, as Politico's John Bresnahan reports today, conservative media hero. Rush Limbaugh wants to make Massa a "national story." Drudge gave the Massa story all-caps treatment for much of Monday. And Glenn Beck tweeted that Massa will be his guest today for "the full hour."
All of which begs the question: Have these people actually paid attention to Massa? Or did he have them at "son of the devil's spawn," his descriptive for Rahm Emanuel? Maybe they just tuned out the part where he "grabbed the staff member sitting next to me, and I said, 'What I really ought to be doing is frakking you'"? (I love, by the way, that Massa seems to be a Battlestar Galactica fan.)
And have they actually pondered the substance of his conspiracy theory? That he was forced out in order to prevent him from voting against the healthcare plan? It's on its face nonsensical: Massa quit. He wasn't forced to resign. He could have stuck it out for as long as he wanted--certainly until the health bill has been decided one way or the other. As Hot Air's Ed Morrissey--one of the conservative commentators who managed to avoid being ensorcelled by the Massa spectacle--put it, "Massa has a perfect remedy at hand: don't resign. After all, he's under no particular requirement to do so, except for his own conscience." This is precisely what Georgia GOP Rep. Nathan Deal, leaving Congress to run for governor, did. He's staying in the House until the healthcare fight is over.
So perhaps Massa's greatest utility will be as a barometer of Obama Derangement Syndrome. Limbaugh and Beck may have terminal cases. Hot Air's Morrissey, has retained his sanity. Even Michelle Malkin sees Massa with a gimlet eye, describing the former lawmaker as a "weapon of Massa destruction" with a "creep factor" of 10. Sober conservatives understand that by embracing the dilettante Democrat, the radio talk show right is neutralizing him as evidence of Democratic corruption.
Anyone want to place bets on how long before Limbaugh and/or Beck start back-pedaling away from their new hero?