Taking the Right-Wing Echo Chamber to the Halls of Congress

So Tea Party damsel and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann wants to hold weekly classes for the incoming batch of Republican congressional freshmen to get them acquainted with the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence before, as she says, they are “co-opted into the Washington system.”

So, who are the constitutional experts she would like to see educate these fresh eager blank-slate minds? According to AOL News:

“Scholars such as David Barton, members of the media who cherish [the founding] principles such as Sean Hannity, honorable commentators such as Judge Napolitano, honorable judges and justices, and leading legal minds will and have been invited to speak,” Brooke Bialke, Bachmann’s deputy chief of staff, said in an e-mail. “Topics ranging from the commerce clause to the intersection of constitutional principles with daily concerns such as Medicare will be covered.”

Of course, these men aren’t as much constitutional scholars (only Judge Napolitano has a law degree) as they are ideologues. I love Ed Brayton’s summation of the picks at Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

You knew Barton was going to be on the list, didn’t you? If you’re going to present amateur pseudo-history as constitutional propaganda, you go right to the source of much of that nonsense. And Sean Hannity? You don’t even need to respond to that ludicrous notion. Hannity is nothing but a partisan blowhard who knows as little about constitutional law as Bachmann.

Napolitano is a more interesting choice. He’s one of those guys who can be absolutely right or batshit crazy depending on the issue being discussed. When it comes to civil liberties, he’s actually pretty strong. He’s an outspoken critic of asset forfeiture laws, prosecutorial immunity, abuse of eminent domain and is in the right on many other issues. But he’s also one of those folks who rants about the evils of the 17th amendment, which is definitely crank territory. But at least as a former judge, he’s actually qualified to teach the course, as opposed to the other two people on the list.

I’ve got a deal for Bachmann. I’ll take her seriously on this if she takes the final exam in AP history and gets at least a C on the test. I’d be willing to bet a sizable amount of money she can’t.

Actually, I’m just amazed Christine O’Donnell wasn’t on her list. Bachmann’s suggestions shows just how tightly sealed the right-wing echo chamber has become. While the new conservative freshman don’t appear to be the kind of politicians who would need schooled on the proper Republican talking points, Bachmann’s taking no chances, as she makes clear in her remark about them being co-opted. Anyone who might provide an alternative to Barton’s interpretation, or even someone who might just give a straight generally accepted interpretation of legal history, would only interfere with the reality that she and other right-wing Christians have been trying to create.

What reality is that? One only has to look to Texas. Barton was an advisor to the Texas Board of Education and is one of the individuals most responsible for rewriting the state’s social studies curriculum to fit a myopic narrative of American history, one built on the dubious notions that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation and that the concept of church and state separation is a “myth.”