Just as the final News Night we will see this season began, so shall I, with Dorothy Cooper. Dorothy Cooper is a real person who resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And, that was her real picture, and she was written about in the Chattanooga Times Free Press (note the date of the article, October 5th, the timing is explained away by the nurse being the source) when she was unable to obtain the free voter I.D. that Tennessee provides. Yes, I said free. She tried to get the free I.D. in early October of last year, but because of having a different last name than what is on her birth certificate she initially ran into a bit of a glitch. She still could have voted absentee with no issues. However, after returning with her marriage certificate later that month, she received her voter I.D., well in advance of Tennessee's March 6th, 2012 primary, and was able to vote without issue. I'm pretty sure they picked the wrong example. Plus, in my research, I didn't find a single state whose voter I.D. law did not allow for either a free voter I.D., the ability to simply sign an affidavit to attest to your identity, or to have access to an absentee ballot.
The rest of the information thrown at us, and there is a ton of it this time, is quick hitting and meant to smash the Tea Party, and possibly Republicans as a whole, hard. The show used some quotes that were apparently meant to show that Tea Partiers hated Americans. Most of this is rhetoric that is meant to excite the Republican base against our current president or the Democrats as a whole. It's normal for both sides to do this with regards to the opposing party. It's fine to point it out, but as proof that the Tea Party hates Americans it is weak. Grover Norquist's quote is about shrinking our government, which is an ideological tenet of the right, not about hating Americans or the American government. Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky gets a good amount of face time in this show. His statement that the Republican goal should be to ensure that President Obama is a single term president is fairly par for the course for the party who doesn't have a sitting president. He also says a little more in a slightly longer cut of the video. It's all good drama, and they are real quotes that are kept in context.
When we get to the concept of the Tea Party constantly claiming that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, the quotes they choose are a little more suspect. First, I would like to address the use of the quotes of our Founding Fathers. The quote attributed to John Adams from the Treaty of Tripoli is used out of context and somewhat misattributed. The original treaty was written in Arabic and translated by Joel Barlow, the U.S. emissary to the Barbary States. John Adams signed it when it was brought back to the United States, but they were not his words (although the words of the document signed are legally attributed to those who sign). The whole of Article XI of the treaty is as follows:
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen[Muslim],-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
You can also read the whole text of the treaty here.
Second, and even more interesting in its ability to work against their point under scrutiny, is the use of the Thomas Jefferson quote. The quote they use is from the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom that Jefferson wrote in 1777. The statute is one of the three accomplishments, alongside writing the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia, that Jefferson wanted in his epitaph. The whole line reads as follows, "That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry," and is a part of a document that actually finds a very Christian defense for the separation of church and state. Don't believe me? Just read the first three words (but preferably the whole) of the statute here.
The comment by John McCain is also taken out of context. In the clip they show, he is answering the question, "Most Americans believe the Constitution established a Christian nation. Do you agree?" His answer is initially, "I would probably have to say, yes, that the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation." But, he goes on, "But I say that, again, in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, 'I only welcome Christians,' okay. We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know they are in a country founded on Christian principles." The rest of this part of the interview, done for a Christian website, can be found here.
Finally, I feel I must address a truly egregious error on the part of this show. Name-calling is one thing. Calling the Tea Party members Republicans In Name Only is fair and has a basis in reality. When you call any group not involved in genocide, terrorism, and human trafficking the "American Taliban" you have crossed the line. The list he showed before he made the statement does not support this assertion nearly well enough once you really get into what the Taliban is and does throughout the Middle East. I couldn't care less about what the Tea Party movement really stands for, but this is not an acceptable thing to call any group that I know of with any real following in this country today.
With all the quotes in the episode, I feel I should leave you with one final quote that I feel was the best of the season: