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Joni Ernst Goes all Palin, Calls Obama an Apathetic Dictator

cropped version of image by Charlie Neibergall / AP


We have repeatedly seen over the past six years how attacks on President Barack Obama, even when coming from the same organization, group, or individual, often contradict each other. As in you can’t be both a Communist and a Nazi, and you can’t be both a Muslim extremist and a gay rights advocate.

MSNBC’s Ben Terris reported yesterday that Joni Ernst’s latest foray in self-contradiction is that President Obama, whom she has previously called a dictator, is “apathetic”:

“We have an apathetic president,” she told a crowd in Newton, Iowa, as part of her 24-hour get out the vote tour around the country.

When the press got to her afterward, she tried to explain, relates Terris, without much success, what she meant:

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“He is just standing back and letting things happen, he is reactive rather than proactive,” she said. “With Ebola, he’s been very hands off.”

“What should he have done about Ebola?” Esquire blogger Charlie Pierce asked her. “One person in America has Ebola.”

“OK, you’re the press, you’re giving me your opinion,” Ernst said.

“It’s not an opinion, only one person in America has it,” he said.

“But he is the leader, he is the leader of our nation,” she said. “So what he can do is make sure that all of these agencies are coordinating together, to make sure he is sharing with the American people he cares about them, he cares about their safety.”

“You don’t think he does?” he said.

“I don’t know that he does, he hasn’t demonstrated that,” she said.

“You don’t think he’s demonstrated that he cares about the American people?” he said.

“He hasn’t,” she said. “I’m done. So anybody else?”

First of all, kudos to Charlie Pierce for being one of the very first members of the media this election cycle to ask a frikkin’ question of a Republican candidate, and then not let them skate on by with their answer.

Well done.

As can be seen, Ernst has nothing. But that’s only the beginning of her problems. This is the woman who, back in January of this year, was saying Obama should be impeached for acting without the approval of Congress.

As Yahoo News reported,

At a Montgomery County, Iowa, candidate forum in January, Ernst told a crowd that she believed Obama had “become a dictator” and that he needed to face the consequences for his executive actions, “whether that’s removal from office, whether that’s impeachment.”

Whoa there…wait a minute. He is a dictator AND he is apathetic? How can he be both? Does her description of the president’s actions sound like an apathetic man to you?

Continued Ernst: “He is running amok. He is not following our Constitution, and unfortunately we have leaders who are not serving as leaders right now, they’re not defending the Constitution and they’re not defending you and me.”

On Tuesday, Ernst spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel downplayed the significance of the video and provided Yahoo News with the following statement: “If any president oversteps their bounds, there are procedures in place for Congress and the American people to hold him or her accountable. Impeachment is a strong word and should not be thrown around lightly.”

Sounds like an energetic man to me.

MSNBC’s Steve Benen quipped, “Yes, we’ve reached the point at which Obama is a bleeding-heart liberal, who cares too much about people, and a callous brute, indifferent towards people.”

What Benen says of her outrageous back-and-forth with Charlie Pierce, ought to be said on every news outlet in the country every time a Republican opens their mouth:

If Ernst doesn’t know this, why is she commenting on a major national issue she knows so little about? And if Ernst does know this, why is she saying the opposite of what’s true?

How she could not know what the administration has done about Ebola can only be willful ignorance our outrageous dishonesty and ought to be headline news.

Obama, after all, delivered a statement on Ebola last Tuesday, and met publicly with Ebola health workers at the White House on Wednesday.

How does she miss this stuff? Surely she is as capable as me of going to whitehouse.gov and seeing for herself what the administration has done to deal with Ebola.

But as I’ve said before about the Ebola crisis, the Republican refusal to deal with reality runs deep, and that goes for the mainstream media too.

You will have an impossible task ahead of you if you try to find a single instance of Benen’s point being made. Instead, Republicans are allowed to lie with impunity, and if they contradict themselves, they get a pass. They scrupulously avoid making the point Benen does in his analysis:

Oh, I see. Joni Ernst wants Obama to lead more and lead less. She wants him to be more proactive without Congress and more reactive waiting for Congress. She’s looking for him to do exactly what he’s already done, but Ernst pretends not to notice.

Obviously, the source is problematic. Ernst, as Meredith Shiner at Yahoo News pointed out, “has reminded some of Palin’s tone on the 2008 vice presidential trail,” but it’s clearly not just in the “folksy charm” Shiner is alluding to, but in her complete disregard for our shared reality.

Benen calls Ernst “a rare example of a low-information Senate candidate” but unfortunately, there is nothing at all rare about her. In fact we have noted this tendency among Republicans many times, and surely it is well known by now that Obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

Let’s not pretend Ernst is unique. Rather, she is all too common in a media landscape where Republicans are allowed to lie with impunity, no matter how divorced from reality their comments.

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