At a press conference last week, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was asked, "In terms of Jade Helm, can you say clearly, is the U.S. military planning to overtake Texas, as is being asserted by a certain presidential candidate?"
After the laughter died down, the Pentagon chief replied, "No
" -- which drew even more laughs
We've reached the amusing point of the conspiracy theory at which the proponents of the nutty ideas are openly mocked, not just in media, but also by public officials who are amazed by the inanity of it all. The Dallas Morning News reported
late yesterday, for example, on Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) incredulity.
Sen. John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Chairman, today mocked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's order to have state militia monitor a federal military exercise -- adding his voice to a chorus of GOP leaders who see unfounded paranoia in concerns of impending martial law. "It's bizarre," said McCain, an Arizona Republican. "We have been having military exercises in the southwest for a couple of hundred years."
It was probably an off-hand comment, but McCain's reaction alludes to a relevant detail: as a rule, even conspiracy theorists on the right respected the U.S. military enough to trust the armed forces as an institution. Now, with "Jade Helm 15," the right-wing fringe fears that even Americans in uniform may be out to get them.
As for Gov. Abbott's moves, the Arizona senator sarcastically added yesterday, "I'm sure the people of Texas feel much more secure."
The Texas Republican, however, is eager to blame President Obama for his constituents' paranoia. TPM reported
Abbott also echoed Republican presidential candidate and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in arguing that Texans' distrust of President Barack Obama was influencing their perceptions of "Jade Helm 15." But Abbott argued that those perceptions were "misplaced" and said that he was trying to "instill a sense of calm" for Texans, according to KXAN. "I think the cause of the underlying concerns is that we see instances, like a shooting in Fort Hood by a terrorist, that the president labels workplace violence," Abbott said, as quoted by the news station. "We see the president come to the border in Texas and say it's safer than it's ever been. And so I think it was a misplaced perception by people in Texas who have problems with the Obama administration and connected that trust with the Obama administration to the military."
Got it. Right-wing media voices come up with a conspiracy theory; right-wing activists believe it; and right-wing lawmakers pander to the whole bunch. Obviously, President Obama is the real culprit in this fiasco. (And by the way, in reality, the U.S./Mexico border really is more secure than it's ever been.)
In fairness to Abbott, he's not alone among statewide GOP officials in the Lone Star State. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been stoking these fires
for reasons that probably make sense to him, and last week, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he arranged
a meeting with Pentagon officials and a three-star Air Force general last week, just to make sure they're not planning to invade Texas to impose martial law.
Whether Cornyn actually believed the nonsense or whether he arranged the meeting to placate unhinged constituents still isn't entirely clear.