It stands to reason that Republican politicians are going to celebrate Charles and David Koch. After all, the billionaires' generosity is critically important in conservative politics right now and may ultimately be the deciding factor in which party has power in Congress.
But Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is willing to take his appreciation for the Koch brothers to a pretty extraordinary level, as evidenced by a town-hall event in Shreveport this week. American Bridge posted the above video, and for those who can't watch clips online, the conservative senator told constituents:
"I think the Koch brothers are two of the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth. [...] "God bless the Koch brothers. They're fighting for our freedoms."
Sure, Republicans are bound to be grateful to the billionaires for saturating the airwaves with anti-Democratic attack ads, but Vitter's effusive praise seemed a little over the top.
Burgess Everett saw an even longer version of the clip and reported
that Vitter, as part of the same discussion, said he's "not defending big money in politics."
No, of course not. He's just grateful that the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth are fighting for our freedoms.
It's worth noting that Louisiana will host two major elections in the next two years: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is running for re-election this year, and she's already facing attack ads
from the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity, and Vitter is running for governor next year, and likely hopes the Kochs' operation will support his candidacy.
But there's an even larger context to this: what is it, exactly, the most patriotic Americans in the history of the Earth hope to receive in exchange for their political investments?
As [Americans for Prosperity] emerges as a dominant force in the 2014 midterm elections, spending up to 10 times as much as any major outside Democratic group so far, officials of the organization say their effort is not confined to hammering away at President Obama's Affordable Care Act. They are also trying to present the law as a case study in government ineptitude to change the way voters think about the role of government for years to come. "We have a broader cautionary tale," said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity. "The president's out there touting billions of dollars on climate change. We want Americans to think about what they promised with the last social welfare boondoggle and look at what the actual result is." Leaders of the effort say it has great appeal to the businessmen and businesswomen who finance the operation and who believe that excess regulation and taxation are harming their enterprises and threatening the future of the country. The Kochs, with billions in holdings in energy, transportation and manufacturing, have a significant interest in seeing that future government regulation is limited.
Indeed, Wonkblog reported
just yesterday that a Koch Industries subsidiary is the biggest lease owner in Canada's tar sands, covering an area of 1.1 million acres. The piece added, "Separately, industry sources familiar with oil sands leases said Koch's lease holdings could be closer to 2 million acres."
This helps bring into sharper focus why the Democratic fight with the Koch brothers has become so important. The dispute isn't about some misleading AFP attack ads about health care reform; this is about a broader agenda.
As Greg Sargent explained
this morning, "The real purpose of the Dem strategy is to create a framework for a broader argument about the true goals and priorities of the actual GOP policy agenda. It's about tapping into a sense that the economy is rigged against ordinary Americans, and in favor of the one percent, and dramatizing that the GOP's economic agenda would preserve that status quo, blocking any government policies designed to address stagnant mobility and soaring inequality. Or that, as Jonathan Chait puts it, the GOP has 'built a policy agenda around plutocracy,' and its primary 'organizing purpose is to safeguard the economic interests of the very rich.'"
And it's against this backdrop that David Vitter proclaims, "God bless the Koch brothers. They're fighting for our freedoms."