Another tea-party extremist fights the Republican establishment
Dick Polman, Inquirer National Political Columnist
Traveling this week in North Carolina, I came across the curious saga of Tim D'Annunzio. If you haven't heard about this fellow - a tea-party favorite and front-running Republican candidate for a North Carolina congressional seat - prepare to be entertained.
We're all aware by now that the tea-party folks are hell bent on thumbing their noses at the Republican establishment and electing their own kinds of candidates. They scored big a few weeks back in Kentucky, when Rand Paul won the GOP Senate nomination; it's rare to find any candidate who thinks that BP should not be held accountable for the oil spill ("accidents happen," he says), but, hey, the Republicans wanted to usher the tea-partiers into the ranks, and now they're stuck with the problem of fighting a hostile takeover.
The problem is, Tim D'Annunzio makes Rand Paul look like Cicero. This guy is so bad that the North Carolina Republican chairman is publicly assailing him as "unfit for public office at any level."
The tea party folks don't care about such assessments. They love D'Annunzio so much, they helped propel him to first place in the May 4 Republican primary. But he's not yet the GOP nominee for the autumn race in a swing district. Under state party rules, the nominee must get more than 50 percent of the vote, and D'Annunzio, while finishing first, failed to reach that threshold. So he's matched with GOP establishment favorite Harold Johnson in a runoff 19 days from now. The winner will face freshman Blue Dog Democrat Larry Kissell, and Republican leaders are now desperately trying to knock down the front-running whacko in their own party.
Here's Tom Feltzer, the state party chairman: "What (D'Annunzio) could do to the party as our nominee is secondary in my view to what he could do to the country if he got elected." And here's the spokesman for the GOP House strategy team in Washington: "The issue is, do we give the Democrats a candidate they can absolutely tear apart in the general election? I don't think most Republicans want to see that happen."
Why are Republican leaders saying such terrible things about their own front-runner? Well, he declared earlier this year that he wants to "abolish the Department of Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Energy, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Transportation, Treasury, and Homeland Security," plus, of course, the IRS - and (my favorite) "any appellate court that has shown an anti-constitutional activism."
But what makes his extreme libertarianism so special is the way he flavors it with moral certitude. He has written on his blog, "I know that I have been anointed by God to be part of His plan to save the world." He has referred to the federal government as the Antichrist and, according to court papers filed during a divorce and child-custody case, he once told his ex-wife that he had personally found the Ark of the Covenant, that he himself was the Messiah, and that God would drop a pyramid on Greenland. The judge in that case described him as "a self-described religious zealot."
And we know all about these court documents, because Republican leaders have been showing them to anyone with a pulse.
D'Annunzio thinks it's unfair that his critics are spreading "innuendo and accusations," and, for that reason, he has pulled out of a TV debate slated for next week. He says they're simply "afraid of independent rugged individualists, like me." He also thinks it's unfair that the GOP establishment is calling attention to the fact that he was previously jailed for burglary and assaulting a cop. He says his bad behavior is all in the past, and the tea partiers agree. And he assails Republican leaders thusly: "The power brokers in Raleigh and Washington are willing to go to any length and use any unscrupulous tactic to try to destroy somebody. They think that they're losing their control over the Republican party."
With respect to that last sentence, he may well be right.
The sole proprietor of this blog is on the road for the month of June. Virtually all June posts will be briefer than the norm, except on those rare occasions when posts won't show up at all. Apologies in advance for this disturbance in the force. The standard verbosity will return on Monday, June 28.