Editor’s note: Kyle Whitmire is a longtime columnist for AL.com. He has just been awarded the MOLLY award presented annually by The Texas Observer. It is named in honor of the legendary Molly Ivins, a Texas journalist of many years who was known for her willingness to expose politicians.
She was once described by National Public Radio for her unflinching coverage of Texas’ “good-old boy politics,” which she covered “like a flamethrower through a cactus patch.”
Whitmire’s award was given for Excellence in Political Commentary,. He was judged on four columns, one of which was about Mo Brooks, the Huntsville Congressman now running for the U.S. Senate. Here is the column. I added the boldface.
“Rep. Mo Brooks thinks he knows better than you.
And if you have a background in a particular field of study or credentials such as a Ph.D., none of that will deter him one bit. Far from it, if you have any sort of training or expertise.
Take for example the time when, in a congressional hearing, Alabama’s most embarrassing congressman argued that rising sea levels were due to rocks falling in the ocean.
“And every time you have that soil or rock whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise,” Brooks said. “Because now you’ve got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up.”
Brooks, like the Greek philosopher Archimedes, must have taken a bath and had his displacement epiphany — it was rocks tumbling from the white cliffs of Dover (something he actually argued in the hearing) and not our icecaps melting that was pushing the water higher.
It would be one thing if Brooks were blathering on talk radio or talking to himself in an empty chamber, as those congressmen you see on CSPAN often are, but not this time. No, Brooks was having a debate with a man named Philip Duffy, who holds a Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University and who has dedicated his life to studying climate change. Duffy told Brooks that sediment has a negligible effect on sea levels and the cause was melting ice caps, but Brooks would have none of it.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but the data I have seen suggests — ” Brooks said.
Duffy, under the impression Brooks cared where his information came from — or for that matter that he cared about information at all — interrupted him.
“The National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” Duffy said.
Brooks replied that he has NASA people in his district and they told him something different.
This sort of thing might be amusing if it didn’t affect people’s lives. Earlier this year, Brooks attacked Gov. Kay Ivey for issuing a statewide mask order and he promoted the drug hydroxychloroquine, which by that point had been discredited as an effective treatment for the disease.
“We must fight ‘Flat Earthers’ who suppress scientific debate,” he said on Twitter.
But what Brooks wants is not debate. Rather, he wants to believe whatever the heck he might imagine — in spite of experts, research, facts or historical photographs of glaciers that once existed but now don’t.
But this merely isn’t a matter of alternative facts, anti-intellectualism or science-denial. Brooks’ broken reasoning has escalated into full-blown tautological narcissism. He believes the things he believes are true because he believes them. Anything that contradicts his beliefs must be fake.
Which now includes the votes of more than 81 million people.
On Tuesday, Brooks told Politico that he intends to challenge the results of the Electoral College, no matter that both the electoral and popular votes in the presidential election are, to most Americans, a settled matter. Brooks says the election was stolen by his favorite scapegoats — socialists and undocumented immigrants.
“In my judgment, if only lawful votes by eligible American citizens were cast, Donald Trump won the Electoral College by a significant margin, and Congress’s certification should reflect that,” Brooks said. “This election was stolen by the socialists engaging in extraordinary voter fraud and election theft measures.”
Brooks claims, without a shred of evidence, that undocumented immigrants registered to vote and participated in the presidential election — which if true would really be something since president-elect Joe Biden now has 7 million more votes than Brooks’s favored Donald Trump. Benjamin Franklin said three people could keep a secret only if two of them were dead, but we are to believe millions of foreigners voted illegally and have escaped the notice of the United States Justice Department.
Earlier this week, Attorney Gen. William Barr said there is no evidence of any election fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election, but Brooks has an explanation for that, too. He says the courts and the Justice Department are not equipped to uncover fraud or determine whether any fraud exists.
“A lot of time is being wasted in court … the Supreme Court does not have the lawful authority to determine whether to accept or reject a state’s Electoral College submissions,” Brooks told Politico. “Under the United States Constitution and U.S. law, that is the job and duty of elected officials … And so it’s the United States Congress that is the final judge and jury of whether to accept or reject Electoral College submissions by states and to elect who the president and vice president of the United States might be.”
Or in fewer words, Brooks is perfectly willing to subordinate the will of millions of Americans to his own — democracy be damned — because he thinks he knows better.
Better than you.
Better than everyone.
There’s a clinical term for that, I’m sure, but unlike Brooks, I’ll defer to the experts.
Brook’s antipathy toward evidence and expertise is nothing new in America and especially in Alabama. He’s channeling a populist resentment of professionals and hostility toward facts and established knowledge that has become the fashion of his tribe.
But his actions leave just one question: Is he doing this deliberately, understanding full well that he’s exploiting a hazardous current coursing through American politics?
Or does he just not know any better?
Editor’s note II: And Mo Brooks wants to represent Alabama in the Senate?.