OpinionPolitics

Law and disorder, Schmitt style

Now that everyone knows that the English translation of “ISIS” is “MAGA,” and that the GOP has successfully transformed itself into the American Fascist Party, it’s easier to see why Missouri has had two attorneys general in a row who are both seditious and totalitarian-adjacent.

Sen. Josh Hawley, of course, has gained international fame for encouraging the bloody Jan. 6 coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol. But before he became the poster boy for the reincarnation  of 20th-century fascism as 21st-century Trumpism, Hawley spent (barely) two years as Missouri Attorney General.

Hawley hadn’t lived in Missouri for decades until he moved back to his home state in 2015, just under the residency cut-off for filing for office in 2016. He assured people he had “no ambition beyond being Missouri’s Attorney General,” won office in the election that swept in both disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens and soon-to-be-felon Donald Trump, and proceeded to pack the AG’s office with political operatives helping him plan his career in D.C.

Despite his elite pedigree (Stanford, Yale Law, clerking for Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts), Hawley became an avatar for crackpot fundamentalist “Christian” theology: Birth control is the same as abortion (he argued the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court that allowed employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception); the sexual revolution of the ’60s was responsible for child trafficking; and the role of government is “to assure Christ’s kingdom on earth.”

Hawley also filed a lawsuit to overturn Obamacare and remove insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, right before he decided to run for senator. Since then, of course, he’s cemented his place in far-right history by challenging Joe Biden’s election based on QAnon conspiracy theories, and then cheerleading for the assault on the Capitol that killed five people.

Eric Schmitt was appointed, and then elected, to replace Hawley. Schmitt was fresh off a white-bread career as state treasurer and, before that, as a “moderate” GOP state senator representing the Kirkwood area. But Schmitt, like Hawley, was smart enough to know that the Missouri GOP base had pledged allegiance to Trump’s Fourth Reich, and eagerly jumped aboard the crazy train.

Schmitt renewed Hawley’s lawsuit to kill Obamacare. And, in a political stunt with no legal standing but plenty of kindling for the blazing anger of Missouri Trumpistas, filed a lawsuit against China over COVID-19. 

But Schmitt surpassed himself when he, along with other state Republican attorneys general, filed a lawsuit trying to overturn Biden’s election by claiming – based on nothing but internet rumors, doctored Rudy Giuliani videos and QAnon conspiracies – that the votes in the battleground states Biden won were invalid because of non-existent “voter fraud.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, called the Schmitt lawsuit “seditious,” charging that Missouri’s top prosecutor was, in essence, attempting a legal coup, trying to overturn a legitimate election and disenfranchise voters in Pennsylvania and other states based on fringe conspiracy theories being circulated by right-wing extremists.

The Supreme Court tossed out the dog-ate-my-ballots lawsuit with one contemptuous sentence, ruling that Schmitt and his fellow GOP attorneys general had “… not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections.”

But there was more.  The Republican Attorneys General Association, of which Schmitt is vice-chair, send out thousands of robo-calls before the bloody Jan. 6 coup attempt, telling protesters to march to the U.S. Capitol. The call said: “At 1 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal. We’re hoping patriots like you will join us.”

Those “patriots” invaded the Capitol, ignited an insurrection that killed five people, beat Capitol Police officers and killed one of them, spread feces on the walls, and rampaged through the Capitol with plastic handcuffs, searching for officials who opposed Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. They waved Confederate flags inside the building, stole computer drives, erected a gallows outside, smashed down doors and raided Congressional offices.

Schmitt, even though he’s the No. 2 man in the GOP AGs group, denied any knowledge of the robo-call inciting Vanilla ISIS to commit acts of domestic terrorism. 

Schmitt’s turn from dog whistle to tornado siren fascist didn’t really shock St. Louisans. After all, Schmitt’s entire election strategy was a variation of “Eek! Negroes!” His TV ads as the “law-and-order Attorney General” were peppered with video of Black Lives Matter protests. 

He took over murder prosecutions from St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, claiming that she was letting “criminals and thugs” run amok in St. Louis. He stepped in to try to dismiss local gun charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the Central West End lawyers who used a pistol and assault rifle to threaten protesters marching by their mansion. 

Referring directly to Schmitt following the failed Supreme Court lawsuit, The New York Times wrote about his “… calculations of ambition and political survival.”  All of Schmitt’s actions as attorney general, from racist to seditious, are based on a simple calculation: What’s in it for Eric Schmitt?

Schmitt doesn’t mask that cynical ambition. There’s no need for a mask anyway, since Schmitt always keeps more than six feet away from his conscience.

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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