It used to be that we called the weeks and months running up to Election Day — any election day — the silly season. Now we just call all of our days the silly political season.
One hundred days into President Joe Biden being president and having a 51% to 61% approval rating (even a Fox News poll put him at 54%), Republican politicians and pundits are falling all over themselves to wound the guy most of us are liking better than any other new president (except Barack Obama) in decades.
"Fox News's latest straw man is made of red meat," read the headline Monday in The Washington Post. It was an article about the GOP and conservative media taking aim at Biden, Democrats and anything related to them — especially anything having to do with climate change.
"President Biden has been boasting about his plan to save the planet and cut carbon emissions by 50 percent. That sounds great, but what would Americans have to give up to make that happen?" said Fox host Jesse Watters. "Americans would have to cut red meat consumption by a whopping 90 percent. That means only one burger a month."
Forget that this whopper is made of baloney. Truth doesn't matter to Fox. (Besides, do we expect them to keep jumping on Biden's "too expensive" infrastructure plan or his proposal to spend more on American health and well-being? That's a harder climb than hamburgers, since three-in five-Americans favor Biden's economic plans and his intention to fund them by upping taxes on the super rich and mega corporations.)
"This is the Fox News pattern. Identify a culturally potent issue — reducing meat consumption, 'canceling' Dr. Seuss — and hammer on it over and over regardless of the accuracy of the report," wrote The Post's Philip Bump. "And just like the repeated claims that it was somehow liberals or Biden that were cracking down on a handful of Seuss's books (and not, as was actually the case, the author's estate), the claims about hamburger consumption bear no connection to reality."
It's also a GOP pattern. And why not? In the shadow of Donald Trump's four years of 30,573 false or misleading claims, too many Republican politicians have picked up the same psychology of lies to demonize a political rival and perpetuate a damaging narrative.
The Fox rant began with a Daily Mail story that muses about how Biden can achieve his climate goals. The Daily Mail cited a speculative study from the University of Michigan — a study that, in fact, was published before Biden was inaugurated and does not mention Biden at all.
That didn't stop Larry Kudlow, a former top economic adviser to Trump and now a Fox Business show host, from asserting that if Biden gets his way, American's would have to forgo meat on the Fourth of July.
"You got that? No burgers on July Fourth. No steaks on the barbie. I'm sure middle America is just going to love that. Can you grill those Brussels sprouts?" Kudlow spewed.
(Note: Yes, you can grill those Brussels sprouts. But they'll go better with the pork chops or filets you grill the next day.)
The meatless GOP jibes ran their course throughout the weekend. By Monday, Republican politicians found new outrage to chew on. This time over Nancy Pelosi limiting attendance to Biden's first joint address to Congress this evening in the House of Representatives chamber. Pelosi has two good reasons for this: COVID-19 and lasting safety concerns following the Jan. 6 insurrection. She has limited attendance to about 200 (down from the usual 1,000 or so) and made the occasion a "by-invitation-only" event.
Some Republican lawmakers have said they won't attend anyway. Sen. John Cornyn whined that he might watch the speech on TV because "it sounds like Speaker Pelosi doesn't want us to attend." Tennessee's Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Sen. Bill Hagerty are expected to attend. Other Tennessee politicians say they do wish to attend and have concerns.
Tennessee's Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Republican from South Pittsburg, said in a statement "members were told that there would be 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the House that would be invited to attend President Biden's address — I have not been invited. This is yet another calculated attempt to protect the Biden administration's carefully scripted narrative." DesJarlais referred to that narrative as a "socialistic driven agenda."
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican from Chattanooga representing the 3rd Congressional District, said in a statement: "I will not be attending President Biden's address to a joint session of Congress due to COVID-19 restrictions. I hope the president will use this opportunity to present a path forward for solving the crisis at our southern border."
Rep. Fleischmann: How about the crisis of Fox host Tucker Carlson urging Americans to call authorities and report child abuse on parents who continue to have their kids wear COVID masks? After all, Tennessee has now edged up to No. 4 in the country for new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people. Never mind that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee just ended authorization for local mask mandates in 89 counties, even while the Volunteer State still has a 12.6% positivity rate (safe is 5% or less) at a time when less than 1% of our population is even taking virus tests.
That, folks, is some real red meat.