Earlier today, House Republicans lambasted the OAS at a hearing held by the Foreign Affairs Committee, voting to block U.S. payments to the multilateral body. U.S. support for the OAS is "hurting the people of Latin America," Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) said, according to excerpts posted by the Center for International Policy. "There is a better way to support Latin America, and that is..." -- come on, you know it -- "to pass free trade agreements."
"Let's not continue to fund an organization that's bent on destroying democracy in Latin America," Mack added, noting the case of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown in a military coup. "[I]t was the OAS who was helping Zelaya, who by the way was instigating the real coup in Honduras by trying to take over that country and trying to take away the right of its citizens to elect a president."
"Let's not continue to fund an organization that's bent on destroying democracy in Latin America," Mack added.
Mack could of course be dismissed as a raving idiot -- and he of course is. But he is, unfortunately, a raving idiot who chairs the House subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. Let's go over that again: he's a chairman. Someone trusts this man with a gavel. And, even more unfortunately, don't kid yourself -- this is the best the U.S. political system can do.
Here's the thing about Honduras, though: while I don't much care about Manuel Zelaya, or any politician for that matter, I do care -- and please don't groan -- about blatant bullshit being passed off as the truth. And the truth is that Zelaya, far from "trying to take away the right of [Honduras'] citizens to elect a president," was seeking to hold a non-binding referendum on whether his country should have a constitutional convention to revise a document crafted by its previous military dictatorship. If the referendum had been approved, Honduras could have, but would not have been legally bound to, hold said convention, where delegates could have -- potentially -- voted to remove the provision that forbids presidents from serving two consecutive terms.
It's all a bit confusing, yes, but a lot more fact-y.
Zelaya, meanwhile, was not running for reelection, as he was legally barred from doing so. Had the referendum gone forward and been passed, and assuming a convention was held that removed the presidential term limits, Zelaya could run again if he wanted at some point in the future. This would not, however, be akin to taking away Hondurans' right to vote, but could in fact be see as expanding their right to vote by allowing them to reelect a former president if they should so choose.
But Mack didn't even utter the stupidest thing that was said at the hearing. That honor was left to fellow Florida Republican David Rivera (it's not secession, I know that, but what do you call it when you forcibly require a state to leave the union?). Courtesy the Center for International Policy are these two nuggets of congressional wisdom:
- “It kind of reminds me of that scene in Animal House where the college pledges, pledging the fraternity, as part of the ceremony to become a member of the fraternity you have to get paddled, and every time he gets paddled he says, ‘Please, sir, may I have another.’"
- “How much longer are we going to say to the OAS, ‘Please, sir, may I have another?’ I understand a little bit about Stockholm Syndrome, where the hostage becomes enamored with their persecutor. And I don’t know if that’s going on with this administration or some who support involvement in the OAS, but maybe it is.”
As Jonathan Schwarz often notes, the hardest part about analyzing members of the political class is figuring out whether they're wicked, evil liars are just really that stupid. Having spent my fair share of time interviewing members of Congress, I wouldn't dismiss out of hand that they are just stupid. But then stupid and evil go together like cookies and milk.