Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who uses Twitter far more than most elected politicians, published a curious message over the weekend.
To translate the abbreviations, the Iowa Republican said that his constituents asked why he's not outraged at President Obama's attack on the Supreme Court's independence. Grassley responded to these questions by telling constituents that the American people are "not as stupid as this ex-professor of constitutional law."
Grassley's Senate office later confirmed that the tweet came from the senator himself -- his account was not hacked by someone trying to make Grassley look foolish -- and a spokesperson said the senator believes the president doesn't "understand Marbury v Madison."
The general response to this over the weekend was to use Grassley's comments as another example of the toxicity that permeates the political discourse. There's certainly some truth to this -- 30-year veterans of the U.S. Senate traditionally conduct themselves with more dignity and stature than Grassley chooses to show, and his tweet calling the president "stupid" is a reminder about the overall demise of "statesmanship" in the Republican Party.
But there's more to this. Intemperate rhetoric from a classless senator matters, but what matters more is the substance behind his rhetoric. Grassley is a crude politician, but the larger significance of this is that he has no idea what he's talking about.
First, as a factual matter, Obama didn't attack the Supreme Court's independence, and he never failed to understand judicial review. This is simply ridiculous, as Grassley and his press office likely realize -- all one has to do is read what the president actually said.
But the larger point to this is that Grassley has a lot of nerve questioning the intellect of others as part of the debate over health care.
Grassley, for those who may have forgotten his role in the health care debate, insisted there was "a bipartisan consensus" for an individual mandate, only to turn around soon after and condemn the mandate that he'd already endorsed. He also talked up death panel garbage; he routinely contradicted himself; and he vowed to vote against his own compromise plan during bipartisan negotiations.
Best of all, after Grassley failed to kill health care reform, the senator took credit for the ways in which the Affordable Care Act helped Iowans.
Someone has demonstrated "stupidity" here, but I don't think it's the president.