Column: The wit and wisdom of Louie Gohmert

By RANDALL BALMER

For the Valley News

Published: 12-07-2021 10:00 AM

Louie Gohmert, Republican member of Congress from Texas, announced last week that he was giving up his seat to run for attorney general in Texas.

At the very least, this should be entertaining.

Gohmert is widely considered the dumbest member of Congress — GOP operative Steve Schmidt called him “America’s craziest and dumbest congressman” — and when you consider the competition for that honor, it’s no mean achievement. Iowan Steve King’s defeat in the Republican primary last year helped to clear the field, but still, let’s give Gohmert his due. And if you believe that being the dumbest member of Congress in any way disqualifies anyone from statewide office in Texas, well, you haven’t been paying attention to Texas politics.

Gohmert is challenging a fellow Republican, Ken Paxton, the incumbent, for the attorney general nomination. Paxton has been indicted for securities fraud, and former staff members in his office claim that he abused his powers to assist a wealthy donor. (Paxton has denied the allegations, but apparently engaging in potentially felonious behavior doesn’t disqualify someone from holding office in Texas.)

I first encountered Gohmert, whom Texas Monthly calls “the terror of Tyler,” at a huge Religious Right rally in Longview, Texas, back in 2005, where he shared billing with Roy Moore, the notorious “Ten Commandments judge” from Alabama. Though Gohmert had entered Congress only earlier that year, he was already making a name for himself as one of the few members of Congress to oppose John McCain’s amendment to outlaw the use of torture by the U.S. government. Gohmert called the McCain amendment “stupid.”

In preparation for his campaign, it’s probably a good time to revisit some of Gohmert’s statements, beginning with the time he upbraided Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s attorney general, for “casting aspersions on my asparagus.”

Gohmert insisted in 2010 that Muslim women were producing “terror babies,” children who are born in the United States, who leave and then come back at some future date. “And then they would return back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then one day, 20, 30 years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life.”

In 2013, he told the Longview Chamber of Commerce that “radical Islamists” were learning Spanish and then changing their names “to Hispanic-sounding last names” so they could cross the border. Why? “Because we don’t have any fear of Hispanics coming into the country, but we’ve got concerns about radical Islamists.”

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During a radio interview in 2016, Gohmert went on record in opposition to repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gay members of the military. Why? Because “if you’re sitting around getting massages all day ready to go into a big, planned battle, then you’re not going to last very long.”

LGBTQ rights have been a frequent obsession. After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, Gohmert called for the impeachment of several justices. At Liberty University in 2015, Gohmert doubled down with a proposed government-funded study. “How about if we take four heterosexual couples, and put them on an island where they have everything they need to live and exist, and we take four couples of just men and put them on an island where they have all they need to survive,” he said. “And then let’s take four couples of just women and put them on an island, and then let’s come back in 100 years and see which one nature favors.”

Gohmert frequently opines on mating habits. He worried that stopping the flow of oil through the Alaska pipeline would have a direct effect on the caribou population because when caribou “want to go on a date, they invite each other to head over to the pipeline.” He wondered if a study might be necessary “to see how adversely the caribou would be affected if that warm oil ever quit flowing.”

On the matter of climate change and attempts to address it, the Republican from Texas has not been silent. Last August, Gohmert asserted that solar panel farms had caused thousands of birds to “explode in flame.”

Gohmert has his own ideas about how to solve climate change. During a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee this past June, Gohmert asked an official from the National Forest Service whether there was anything her agency or the Bureau of Land Management could do “to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun?” That, he said, “would have profound effects on our climate.”

Speaking of “profound effects,” we could have a lively discussion about where a politician like Gohmert would do the least damage. Rolling Stone has reported that several of the domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol in January met with Gohmert and other members of Congress beforehand. Gohmert, a prominent proponent of the Big Lie, has denied the allegation, and he has also claimed, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the insurrectionists were not armed.

The editorial board of the Houston Chronicle has argued that Gohmert, who they believe is smarter than some of his buffoonery would suggest, would do less harm by remaining in the House of Representatives than as Texas attorney general. Given the ethically challenged incumbent, it’s a sobering statement.

In any event, that’s a matter for the voters of Texas to decide.

Randall Balmer teaches at Dartmouth College. His latest book is Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right.

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