King George III was "a Tyrant ... unfit to be the ruler of a free people," Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence exactly 238 years ago this week.
Jefferson had it right.
Ever since then, Americans have been calling out their leaders. "Tyrant" was just the start. We've moved on to crook (Nixon), liar (Clinton) and moron (Dubya).
Whether or not you agree with the peanut gallery, there's no denying that such written assaults on public honchos are as American as baseball, apple pie and the iPhone.
So on this Independence Day, those closest to American politics — 50 writers and editors of the alternative press from across the land — have combined their collective genius. They've named 53 of the nation's worst elected leaders from 23 of the largest states and the District of Columbia, then separated them into five categories: hatemongers, sleazeballs, blowhards, users and boozers, and horn dogs. (The full version is available here.)
And there's more than just the usual stodgy Washington losers. Try Colorado sheriff Terry Maketa, who allegedly had sex with not one, not two, but three underlings and then lied about it. Or check out Idaho Senate GOP leader John McGee, who stole and crashed an SUV, admitted to drinking too much, and went to jail. Upon returning to the statehouse, he was accused of groping a female staffer.
Want a little old-school corruption? Florida's governor, Rick Scott, who will be up for re-election soon, founded a health care empire that was whacked with the largest Medicare fraud fine in U.S. history: $1.7 billion for stealing from the feds. There's also Washington, D.C., council member Michael Brown, who once accepted $200,000 to stay out of an election and was later indicted after grabbing at a cash-stuffed duffel bag offered by an undercover FBI agent.
Of course, there are big names here, too. South Carolina's "Luv Guv" Mark Sanford made the list. So did Texas' Green Eggs and Ham filibusterer Ted Cruz and Minnesota loon Michele Bachmann. Even pol wannabe Donald Trump snuck in a side door.
So before you head out for the fireworks or swig some American brew, consider this hall of shame. — Chuck Strouse
Florida Gov. Rick Scott
He looks like Voldemort, speaks in the high-pitched timbre of a Wes Anderson movie villain, and wants to drug-test as many human beings as possible. More disastrous for Florida residents, he's recklessly rejected federal stimulus packages and dismantled regulatory agencies. He's Rick Scott, and he's America's least popular governor for damn good reason.
Backed by a wave of Tea Party support — and bankrolled by $70 million of his own cash — he won a shocking gubernatorial victory in 2010. The win was all the more remarkable considering Scott's background. His fortune came from founding a health care empire, later called Columbia/HCA, which paid the single largest Medicare fraud fine in U.S. history: $1.7 billion for stealing from the feds.
Scott showed that his wanton disregard for regulation didn't end with his golden parachute from his felonious firm. In the governor's office, he quickly stripped millions of dollars from the state health care agency and laid off environmental regulators. He also signed new laws requiring all welfare recipients and every state employee to undergo random drug testing. How did he get around the slightly sticky wicket that a firm he owned makes millions by administering such tests? He signed the company over to his wife. (The courts have since thrown out the drug-testing laws for violating the Fourth Amendment.)
He's made other shady moves. Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal aid to build a high-speed train in Central Florida and lied about the state having to eat cost overruns for the project. During the 2012 presidential election, he tried to suppress black votes with blatantly race-based bans on Sunday early voting (which black congregations dominate). He also tried to kill a prescription-drug database that has decimated oxycodone abuse, while his underfunded health care agency has allowed steroid clinics — like the Biogenesis clinic at the heart of last year's Major League Baseball scandal — to proliferate.
And through it all, Scott has largely flouted Florida's "Sunshine laws" by hiding his correspondence from the public and has resisted reporters' attempts to hold him accountable — all while grinning like a demented right-wing Skeletor for TV cameras at scripted events. Is it any wonder his opinion polls have struggled to top 30 percent since he was elected? — Tim Elfrink, Miami New Times
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, Tennessee
No one should be robbed of the joy of discovering an artist's early, lesser-known work. So if you don't know the pre-2012 past of Republican Scott DesJarlais — whom Esquire's indubitable political blogger Charles P. Pierce dubbed a "baldheaded bag of douche from Tennessee" — allow us to loop you in.
In 2010, when the then-unknown Dr. DesJarlais was challenging incumbent Democratic Congressman Lincoln Davis in Tennessee's Fourth District, things got ugly. That was because some papers from DesJarlais' divorce nearly 10 years earlier made their way into the public eye. The good doctor's ex-wife claimed his behavior had become "violent and threatening." She accused him of dry-firing a gun outside her bedroom and putting a gun in his mouth for three hours. DesJarlais cast the revelations as the desperate "gutter campaign" of a losing candidate.
But that gutter proved to be a veritable Mariana Trench. Two years later, DesJarlais, who by then had become an incumbent, found himself in trouble again when more information surfaced from the same bitter divorce. This time it was revealed that the "pro-life, pro-family values" Republican had pressured a mistress — who was also a patient of his — to get an abortion. He would later explain that, actually, he had pushed for her to get an abortion as part of a ruse to expose the fact that her pregnancy was a lie.
Brilliant! There was more: dalliances with six women — two patients, three co-workers, and a drug rep — and a confession that he had supported his ex-wife's decision to get two abortions before they were married. By the grace of Tennessee voters, he was re-elected. By the grace of God, that will be corrected this fall. — Steven Hale, Nashville Scene
Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert
Jason Rapert is the Elmer Gantry of the Arkansas Legislature — a Brush Arbor Baptist preacher, bluegrass fiddler and proprietor of a putative African missionary effort that specializes in countries where homosexuality is a crime.
The Republican from Bigelow's outrage at the "radical homosexual lobby" and "elitist judges" over the march of marriage equality knows no bounds. On his passion meter, that subject is up there with his views on President Obama (he wants him impeached), fracking (it's seriously good) and abortion (uh-uh). On that last issue, Rapert tried to pass a six-week abortion limit but settled for 12; it was immediately invalidated by a Republican federal judge who, unlike Rapert, still believes Roe v. Wade guides federal law.
The judge did keep in place a mandatory ultrasound for women, which will mean an invasive vaginal probe in some cases. Rapert believes the United States, its laws and its people should be governed by God's commandments. And it's Rapert's interpretation of the commandments, not those of different religious persuasions, that count. — Max Brantley, Arkansas Times
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