The Idaho Republican gubernatorial debate Wednesday night will go down in U.S. political history as one of the most hilarious exercises in democracy in action. Incumbent Gov. Butch Otter shared the stage with state Sen. Russ Fulcher and two other challengers right out of backcountry central casting.
With his bushy white beard and khaki shirt, Walt Bayes looked like a slender Santa Claus on spring break as he thundered Bible verses from the podium. And then there was Harley Brown. Clad in a black leather vest, hat and gloves, the engineer biker with a more manicured white beard and missing teeth looked like a bad Santa. And he sounded like one, too. “I’ve got a master’s degree in raising hell” was one of the many gasp-worthy things uttered during the hour-long debate.
But there were two moments that were simply priceless. In one, Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey asks Brown about offensive jokes on his Web site. The other is Brown’s closing statement, in which he says a “bishop from Africa” verified that “God told me he was going to make me president.”
“Can I say this? It sucks!”
Popkey: Mr. Brown, you’ve posted bigoted jokes on your website skewering women and gays and Jews and Asians and Polish people like me.
Brown: And bikers and Irishmen, too. I left myself in there.
Popkey: Yeah, and Irishmen, too. How is that sort of disrespect for people going to allow you to govern?
Brown: A substantial portion of my political campaign is campaigning against political correctness. It’s a bunch of, a lot of the working class, oh, by the way, when you did your introduction, I wanted the fact that I was the president of Bombers Motorcycle Club and that I was a long-haul truck driver, okay. I wanted to get the low-range stuff, not just the high stuff, engineer and all that.
But like a Fuller nine-speed transmission to get the [unintelligible] low and go all the way up to overdrive. And I have experience with the entire spectrum of our society and I like blue-collar values. And those Harley-isms, as I call that, a lot of warning on there. ‘You might find this offensive.’ But I hit every, I hit everybody. Jews, uh, Polish people, uh, Irish, uh, Italians, uh, religious jokes and black jokes. And, by the way, my wife’s screened that and we took the real hard-core zingers out so in case I catch any flack from people like you, not that, you’re mild, I can fire that back and attack my attackers.
I don’t like political correctness. Can I say this? It sucks! It’s bondage. And I’m not, I’m about as politically correct as your proverbial turd in a punch bowl. And I’m proud of it and I’m going for it and I’m going for the vote of the real people out there not these bondage-type uh people who don’t have a clue about picking up strangers at night and hauling them God knows where. Try that for a while.
“Get this lunatic out of my cellar!”
Brown: Well, this has been a great honor, League of Women Voters, and thank you, public TV. And thank you, folks, for tuning in to see us in action. Let me finish that story, okay. After God told me he was going to make me president, I went out and got the presidential seal tattooed right here on my [pats right] shoulder. My morale went from negative 500 off the scale and I started a presidential campaign right there. I’m a Type AA+ guy. And I was living in Fat Jack’s cellar because my wife, ex-wife had given me trumped up, some restraining orders. I couldn’t see my kids. It was a mess. And Fat Jack’s old lady, Fat Jack’s wife said, “Get this lunatic out of my cellar! He’s starting a presidential campaign! I’m getting calls from the media and all this.” For three years I had the credibility of Chicken Little. You know, the sky is falling? And, finally, one time, one day this bishop from Africa comes over and he says, “I am a prophet of the most high God and in that office I here authenticate that God told you that.” And I says, “Yeah? You mind putting that in writing?” He said, “Sure.” And he put it in writing and I got the original at home and I was able to go up to all my detractors and say, “Na-na-na-na-nah-nah!”
Okay. Now. I need practice. Practice. I don’t want to say stuff like “Sorry if our bombing caused you any inconvenience.” I gotta work in the Little League as a governor. And you have your choice, folks. A cowboy, a curmudgeon, a biker or a normal guy. Take your pick. Thank you very much. We’re leaving it up to you.
Moderator Melissa Davlin showed great skill at not only keeping the debate moving, but also at knowing when to jump in to stop the crazy. You don’t get that from the transcripts above. But, trust me. Davlin deserves a medal.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj