In politics, it’s not uncommon to see reports that refer to some members as “bomb throwers.” The phrase is generally used to describe rabid ideologues who are more interested in waging partisan attacks than legislating.
A couple of weeks ago, however, the phrase took on new significance when freshman Rep. Cory Mills passed out grenades to his colleagues. “I am honored to be a part of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees,” the Florida Republican and defense contractor wrote in a letter accompanying the gift. “In that spirit, it is my pleasure to give you a 40mm grenade, made for a MK19 grenade launcher. These are manufactured in the Sunshine State and first developed in the Vietnam War.”
The letter concluded with an assurance that the grenades the GOP congressman was handing out were inert.
By any fair measure, it was an odd way for the new congressman to begin his career on Capitol Hill, but it wasn’t the only unfortunate gift making the rounds in the Republican-led House. The Washington Post reported:
By his own acknowledgment, Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) has been handing out lapel pins shaped like assault rifles to fellow GOP lawmakers — an exercise that comes in the wake of a spate of mass shootings and during a week intended to honor survivors of gun violence. Late Thursday, Clyde, who owns a gun store, tweeted a video about his efforts.
“I hear that this little pin that I’ve been giving out on the House floor has been triggering some of my Democratic colleagues,” the Georgia Republican said in the video. “Well, I give it out to remind people of the Second Amendment of the Constitution and how important it is in preserving our liberties.”
If Clyde’s name sounds at all familiar, it’s probably because he’s managed to generate quite a few headlines despite having only been in office for two years. Just four months after arriving on the Hill, for example, the far-right congressman said the Jan. 6 rioters behaved “in an orderly fashion” during the attack on the Capitol. Clyde went on to say, “[I]f you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
It was around this time when The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote that Clyde was a leading contender in the “race to determine who will be the looniest House Republican of 2021.”
The Georgian’s reputation did not improve in the months that followed. Despite emphasizing his support for “our brave men and women in blue,” Clyde was one of a small number of GOP members who voted against honoring police officers who protected the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack.
Around the same time, the House passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, 422 to 3. Clyde was one of the trio of Republicans who voted against it.
Now, evidently, Clyde is adding to his greatest hits list. The Post’s report added:
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) pointed out that GOP lawmakers were wearing the lapel pins during National Gun Violence Survivors Week. Dozens of mass shootings have already taken place across the country in 2023, outpacing previous years, according to data tracked by the Gun Violence Archive. “Weapons of war have no place on our streets, much less on our lapels,” Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) declared.
In case this isn’t obvious, Clyde is very likely delighted to cause offense. There is every reason to believe he handed out symbols of assault rifles, to be worn on lapels during National Gun Violence Survivors Week and in the aftermath of deadly mass shootings, for the express purpose of bothering people.
Some members want to be legislators. Others want to be trolls.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch noted in his latest column, “The lapel pins — like those Christmas cards of their adorable blond kids armed to the teeth with high-powered weaponry or the right’s new love affair with the toxic fumes of gas stoves — are meant to ‘trigger the libs’ and sustain a career arc that generates prime-time hits on Fox News and fund-raising emails without ever having to get anything done.”
That doesn’t make Clyde’s antics any less ridiculous, but it does explain why we’re likely to see more stunts from him along these same lines.
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