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What’s more eyebrow-raising than quoting one of the original grand wizards of the Ku Klux Klan on the House floor? Misquoting him.
On Monday, Rep. Ted Poe took to the House floor to discuss foreign policy matters. To make a point, the Texas Republican invoked the words of Civil War Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest: “Git thar fustest with the mostest.”
The quotation got some floor watchers’ attention pretty quickly. Forrest is a controversial figure who was one of the Klan’s first grand wizards. Although the Civil War hero (if you were a Confederate, that is) ultimately abandoned the Klan for its violent tactics, he continues to kick up dust, with a row still going on about whether to keep a public park and school named after him.
And, according to historians, Forrest didn’t really say the line that’s so often attributed to him. “Do not, under any circumstances whatever, quote Forrest as saying ‘fustest’ and ‘mostest’,” Civil War scholar Bruce Catton wrote in his 1971 book, “The Civil War.” Catton wrote that Forrest actually believed the essence of strategy — and the proper quote — was “to git thar fust with the most men.”
A spokeswoman for Poe said it’s the thought that counts.
“The reference to Forrest was used in an historical context comparing the request to Congress for support of the Confederate troops to the request that is being made today by our Generals in Iraq,” DeeAnn Dunaway Thigpen wrote in an e-mail.
Poe’s Forrest tribute, though it caused a stir, wasn’t his only recent oratorical flourish. He has lately been a font of sheer Poe-try. Last week, Poe complained that the House had approved funding for the study of “Phayre’s Leaf monkeys” but had yet to approve military spending. “Mr. Speaker, we need to work as late tonight to provide money for our U.S. warriors as we did last night to send money to the monkeys,” he said, calling it “monkey business” to delay further on military funding. “And that’s just the way it is,” he concluded.
Marijuana Money. The Marijuana Policy Project is doling out some goodies to House freshmen — in the form of campaign cash (what else?). The group, which promotes the use of medical marijuana, gave $1,000 each to Democratic Reps. Tim Walz (Minn.) and Dave Loebsack (Iowa), and $2,000 to Rep. Joe Courtney (Conn.) during the previous campaign cycle.
Aaron Houston, the group’s director of government relations, says its legislative priorities include staving off federal raids of patients who use medical marijuana in the 12 states where it’s legal and that the donations went to Members who are sympathetic. “We like to support those who have a compassionate approach to medical marijuana,” he says.
And a Courtney spokesman says his boss is sensitive to patients who use medical marijuana. “Congressman Courtney believes that if a medicinal benefit of marijuana exists it should be researched in an effort to give comfort to those suffering from terminal or debilitating illnesses,” said spokesman Brian Farber.
Another freshman Democrat, Rep. Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), got a $1,000 check but returned it, a spokeswoman says. Ellsworth, a former sheriff and narcotics officer, isn’t supportive of smoking, even for its not-so-wacky medicinal purpose.
Republicans sought to turn the donations to the Democrats into a smoking gun of sorts. “To borrow a line from [Rep.] David Obey [D-Wis.], they must be ‘smoking something’ to accept money from such a questionable source,” one GOP aide smirked. Still, although they’re blowing smoke over the pot money, Republicans have taken bucks from the same “questionable source,” too.
Houston notes that previous GOP beneficiaries of the group’s largess include Reps. Dan Burton (Ind.) and Brian Bilbray (Calif.).
I’ll Get That. Don’t you love going out to fancy dinners with rich friends? When the check arrives, the moneyed folk swoop it up — and out of the paws of the poor — like it was kryptonite to the superpower of your relative poverty.
Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) is sponsoring a bill to make tax policy a little more like that dinner scenario. Under his bill, cleverly titled the Tax Me More Act of 2007, well-off people could voluntarily kick in more tax dollars than they technically owe.
The letter Campbell sent to GOP colleagues last week seeking original co-sponsors features photos of two of everyone’s favorite moneybag Democrats, Barbra Streisand and former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.). But a Campbell spokesman said though the two are just the poster boy (and girl) for the legislation, anyone “goofy enough” to want to pay Uncle Sam more could do so under the bill.
“When they talk about their favorite government program, people always say, ‘Oh, people would be willing to pay more in taxes for this’,” the spokesman said. “Here’s a chance to put their money where their mouth is.”
So far, the bill has attracted eight additional co-sponsors, and Campbell is hoping for a few more before he formally introduces the measure this week.
But what, HOH wants to know, will become of all those tax attorneys whose very lifeblood has been figuring out how their clients can pay the very least amount in taxes possible? Stay tuned for the follow-up bill, the Tax Lawyers Livelihood Protection Act of 2008.
White Tie and Tails. A few Members of Congress are among the folks who, in the immortal words of Fred Astaire, are steppin’ out “to breathe an atmosphere that simply reeks with class.”
On the guest list for the white-tie Monday night state dinner at the White House to honor Queen Elizabeth II were Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her husband, Paul; House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his wife, Debbie; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and wife, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao; and Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and wife Tricia.
Though they might rub elbows at the state dinner, McConnell and HRH are old pals. McConnell met the Queen when she attended Saturday’s Kentucky Derby in the Minority Leader’s home state. They talked horses, a McConnell spokeswoman told HOH.
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