Tuesday, December 18, 2018

#2120: Ted Poe

Lloyd Theodore Poe represented Texas’s 2nd congressional district in the US House of Representatives since the redistricting efforts in 2005 –though he did not seek reelection in 2018 – representing a number of eastern and northern Houston suburbs. Poe is famous for sponsoring – with genuinely stupid representative Steve King – one of “the stupidest bills” ever introduced to US legislation.

Poe is also well-known for his support for birther causes, and he was co-sponsor of the H.R. 1503, a bill introduced to appease the birther movement. In 2009, Poe also tried to argue that Obama’s birth certificate was of questionable provenance, given that Certifications of Live Birth issued by Hawaii State Department of Health cannot be used to obtain a U.S. passport, which is false and apparently a claim pulled out of thin air in a desperate attempt to defend his idiotic flirtings with birtherism. It is not the only time Poe has used ridiculous conspiracy theories to justify political action; far from it.

Poe is probably best known, however, for (well, apart from being dangerously clueless) his attempts to impose his religious views on those who might disagree under the deceptive (and delusional) cover of “persecution”. In 2011, for instance, he was part of an attempt (with John Culberson – an ally also in Poe’s birther theory promotion – and Michael McCaul) to remove the right of deceased soldiers’ families to choose which prayers, if any, were to be read at a soldier’s funeral, in favor of prayers chosen according to Poe’s religious convictions. Poe et al. claimed that their demands were a response to Veterans Affairs (VA) banning Christian prayers at military funerals, an allegation that was as blatantly false as allegations come. At the same time, Poe accused President Obama and his administration of promoting policies that are “anti-religious,” referring in particular to a manufactroversy over a Texas veteran’s cemetery that prohibits a volunteer group from holding religious services at a funeral unless the family requests it, a policy created by the Bush administration in 2007. To Poe, however, it is all part of the Obama administrations effort to persecute Christians by restricting their powers to force others to bend to their religious decrees and wishes. Indeed, Poe has actively tried to subvert the courts’ abilities to use the Constitution to defend religious freedom, and was for instance a cosponsor of the We the People Act.

During the 2016 election, Poe criticized Clinton for attempting to get African Americans on “government dependence” in order to control them and, not the least, to “get their vote.” The claim is admittedly so common in rightwing circles that it has become easy to forget that it is a delusional conspiracy theory. Similarly, accepting Syrian refuges into the US was apparently part of the same strategy. Poe is also on record denying that far-right extremism is a threat to the US, because Muslims. (The Obama administration taking extremist threats seriously, as they should, just shows that they hate conservatives and Christians, which at the very least tells you a bit about what Poe thinks defines “conservative” and “Christian”).

More recently, Poe has opposed Facebook and YouTube’s policy of using third-party entities to combat misinformation because “what one person may think is fake news, somebody else believes is the gospel truth,” displaying a remarkable but telling inability to distinguish fact from opinion.

Diagnosis: A rather typical specimen, we admit. Religious extremist, dumb, paranoid and prone to accept whatever conspiracy theory fits with what he has already decided to believe. That it’s pretty typical doesn’t make it less idiotic, and certainly not less frightening.


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