Byrd: Clooney awesome, but wrong


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I must admit that I am a fan of George Clooney. He was hilarious as the fast-talking con man in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Up in the Air is a criminally underrated classic. Also, he’s Batman, for Christ’s sake.

However, the same mythical powers that bestowed upon Mr. Clooney his phenomenal talent and enviable physical prowess, have not blessed him with an intricate understanding of the current U.S. government shutdown. At the New York première of his most recent film, Gravity, Clooney praised Republican New York Rep. Peter King saying, “… there are a lot of guys on the right, Peter King, for instance, and some people like that, who are also doing the best they can to stop this from happening or to put an end to it.”

Clooney is not the only individual struck by this bizarre notion; King has stepped forward as the leader of a mythical “Moderate Republican” opposition to the tea party hard-liners who are the impetus behind this shutdown.

First of all, the view that King is some king of moderate is laughable. He has long fed into the Islamaphobic currents of the Republican base with his McCarthyite hearings on the “Radicalization of American Muslims,” fanning the flames of anti-Muslim “terrorist” stereotypes. There is also his vitriolic war on the transparency of American intelligence services as he called for American journalist Glenn Greenwald to be arrested for publishing documents relating to the NSA’s domestic-surveillance efforts.

King has also been vocal in his advocacy for state-sanctioned torture and his opposition to the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, immigration reform, gender pay equity, and government stimulus spending. In short, King is no moderate, but rather a card-carrying member of the right wing movement.

While King has been very outspoken in his opposition to this shutdown, the argument that King, as Clooney puts it, is “doing the best [he] can” to end this crisis is baseless. As the National Review’s Robert Costa, perhaps the best reporter covering the House GOP, notes, there are 100-plus House Republicans who don’t want this shutdown and would be willing to vote on a “clean CR” (basically a bill to fund the government without all the “defund Obamacare” madness).

Despite their numerical superiority, this anti-shutdown caucus has been totally ineffectual in its non-attempts to end this catastrophe. This King-led caucus simply refuses to put any pressure on Boehner, whether it is through a mass condemnation of the tea party or alliance building with Democrats, so he continues to follow the lead of the 30-40 shutdown-cheerleaders in the party.

King is more than happy to go on cable news and bash the crazies in his party, but when it comes to crafting substantive attempts to beat them, King has been deadly silent. This may be because King doesn’t actually care about ending the shutdown. King has been very vocal about his presidential ambitions in 2016, positioning himself as the anti-tea party candidate. Being (vocally) opposed to this shutdown is all King needs to continue to fuel his presidential run.

Sorry, Mr. Clooney, I love your work, but your characterization of Peter King as a “guy trying to end this thing” is just flat-out wrong. What you have here is a political opportunist “leading” a caucus of cowards who refuse to use any sort of potential political capital to end this shutdown nightmare.

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