All the fuss and fury over Congressman Steve King’s provocative comments on race is based on a very mistaken perception - that King is tripping up, somehow, letting an unfiltered thought accidentally slip through on Facebook or Twitter or in the closing moments of some interview.
The opposition, the media, even the more moderate segment of his own Republican party that leaps so predictable to crucify King after every extreme comment - “Didja see what he said NOW?” - is playing into his hands, yet never realizes it.
Don’t kid yourself. There’s method behind the madness here.
King has not survived for eight terms by accident. He knows what he’s doing, actions are keenly calculated.
Every time the furor over some Steve King comment or another dies down, a new one will materialize, keeping his name in the headlines and keeping those national TV appearances booked. Appearances that King promotes unabashedly via social media even as he posts messages blaming media for his backlash.
He has used the issues of ethnicities masterfully, dating back to his boisterous push for English-Only law back as a member of the Iowa legislature. With the same tactics, he has vaulted himself into the national spotlight on immigration fears. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives - but how many rural district congressmen do you see on Fox or MSNBC as often as our Rep. King? He’s the go-to because TV producers know there’s a good chance that somewhere in an interview, he will drop a pipe bomb of an opinion. It’s a symbiotic relationship that few politicians understand as well as King does.
How many rural congressman do you find commonly making the big headlines in New York Times or Wall Street Journal? There’s no such thing as bad publicity, as they say.
On the “Late Night” comedy show the other night, host Seth Meyers called out this western Iowa congressman over his “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” tweet:
“You know you’ve really accomplished something when the guy who wrote ‘Cujo’ is no longer the scariest Stephen King,” Meyers quips.
But King had already moved on, to a Monday radio interview in which he responded to predictions that whites will become the minority in America by suggesting that Hispanics and blacks “will be fighting each other before that happens,” making the cover story of CNN Politics web page in the process.
If it’s strategy, it works. King is the talk of the nation.
A person can’t, just can’t, believe statements like these are accidents or unguarded stumbles.
Remember this one from 2013? “For every [young undocumented immigrant] who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
If you don’t believe a campaign is being deftly orchestrated, take a look at the King for Congress Facebook page, where the congressman tends to be a bit more free-wheeling than his member-of-Congress page. There, the latest flap is playing out predictably as they all tend to.
Initially, King’s “babies” comments resulted in a storm of outraged criticism, which within a couple of days had turned into supporters rushing to his aid with comments like, “your constitutional wisdom and love of this country is phenomenal,” and “Steve King is an American patriot.” Anyone who disagrees with the Congressman’s assessment is labeled as “leftists” and “contaminated with Cultural Marxism.”
And within hours of his comment making all the national news, King was in the process of deflecting criticism to his own gain:
“Stand With Steve King, Send An Urgent Donation Right Away!”
“You may have seen in the news recently that the media is attacking me (yet again) for simply telling the truth,” King posted. “On Sunday, I tweeted about the need to protect our culture and western civilization, and the media decided to completely twist my words in a ridiculous attempt to smear my character. But no matter how much they try to push me around, I refuse to stand down. Democrats are sure to exploit this opportunity to attack me in 2018 when I am up for re-election. Would you please consider sending an urgent donation $25, $50, or even $100?”
Indeed, he has turned a catastrophic wave of outrage against him into a fundraising opportunity. From being entangled with an enthusiastic endorsement from the former grand wizard of the KKK Sunday to being lauded and funding as a hero Wednesday. Amazing.
A few hours later, King was posting a slickly-prepared red and blue “Stand With Steve King Against the Media” logo. And suddenly, the media is responsible for the whole mess, not King’s own tweet. By the way, if you click the post, you’ll be asked to sign your support in this war on media, which, when you click to “submit,” takes you automatically to, you guessed it, the Steve King campaign donation page.
It’s rather brilliant. You’d almost think this was all planned to play out just this way, huh?
You can call it what you will. King likes “American exceptionalism,” critics cry “white supremacist,” many just wonder where it will all go next.
I suppose that is the beauty. In a free country, someone like Steve King has the right to stir the pot. And the people and the press have the right to react as they will. Where the line is, only voters can decide.