Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Is A GOP House Meltdown Coming? Anger Over Caucus 'Leak' Grows With Gerhart Threats

Al Gerhart
Six Republican House members have been singled out for threats by the Sooner Tea Party's Al Gerhart for remarks made in the privacy of their Caucus, leading some to conclude that the collegiality of the Caucus is being violated.

The realization that Gerhart has "inside" information from the Caucus has some members looking over their shoulders and others ready to quit going to Caucus meetings, it appears.

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The growing conflict between conservative and moderate members and the "arch" conservative Republican members has turned into open warfare, warfare that threatens Speaker Kris Steele's leadership.

Reprimands Spurred Battle
The battle erupted anew this week with House votes to reprimand Reps. Randy Terrill and Mike Reynolds. Terrill was reprimanded for allegedly threatening Steele and using profanity in a House office. Reynolds was reprimanded for interrupting a pastor's pre-prayer remarks.

The turmoil is of growing concern to some GOP House members.

"If you can't trust your colleague next to you..." one member said as he discussed his frustration with the lack of confidentiality and the in-fighting that has developed among Republican House members.

Speaker Kris Steele
The issue is the leadership of Speaker Steele; animosity towards Steele by dissidents, personified by Terrill, appears to be growing. Evidence of that is a broadside against Steele issued by Rep. Mike Christian on Tuesday (see story below), and the remarks of Terrill and Reynolds to Reid Mullins of KTOK during Mullins' Tuesday morning show.

The public exchanges don't appear to trouble some House Republicans as much as the realization that anything said within their Caucus is being passed on, apparently in "real time," to outspoken Steele critic and provocateur Gerhart.

Gerhart Targets Six Legislators
That became evident on Tuesday, when Gerhart sent an email to House members Lisa Billy, Guy Liebman, Todd Russ, Charles Ortega, Dan Kirby and Pat Ownbey, threatening them with political retaliation for private comments made inside the Caucus in defense of Steele and critical of his opponents.

Wrote Gerhart: "Quite a show you guys put on today. Congratulations on self-selecting yourselves for additional attention from the Tea Party in a couple of days. I am sure you had a stragetic reason for your antics, although any upside of your actions isn't apparent. Then again, perhaps the six of you have formed a new caucus at the capitol, the 'Short Bus' caucus, and this is your opening project.

"I would like to ask just why the six of you are so willing to take the heat for Speaker Steele? You do realize that your position is ultimately untenable? Just how many of your constituents are going to agree that your abdicating your responsibility to represent local interests is not for the common good? Perhaps your constituents would prefer you pay Speaker Steele a visit, ask him to open his purse, and retrieve your testicles.

"Or perhaps your boisterous talk was merely fear expressed in an acceptable manner. You do understand that anger and fear are synonymous in the political realm?

"When you tire of waiting for Speaker Steele to do the right thing by the GOP legislators, give me a call. I can assure you that our people don't have anything personal against you (well, if you leave Guy Liebman out of the discussion) and there is nothing they would like more than to switch their time and effort onto someone else.

"A final thought for you to consider. As any farm boy could tell you, sick cows almost always are found far from the herd. It isn't that they want to be far away, it is that the others (sic) cattle will drive them away. Why? Because sick animals attract predators. Consider just how long the Tea Party has to educate your voters before 2012. Then ask yourself just how many of your previous donors are going to want to invest in your future?"

Gerhart's acerbic manner and comments resulted in a split in the Tea Party movement last year and his antics have been disavowed by some who agree with Tea Party sentiments but disagree with Gerhart's tactics.

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