Crazy rant on House floor hardly unique

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In the closing minutes of the House vote that would reopen the government and raise the debt limit, Dianne Foster Reidy, the House stenographer, was prompted by God to ascend the dais of the House chamber -- or so she later told Fox News.

For years, Ms. Reidy, 48, had toiled in obscurity, dutifully recording the words spoken both in haste and after much deliberation in the House of Representatives. If ever there was a civil servant who had seen and heard it all, it was Ms. Reidy.

On Wednesday evening as the overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House voted against raising the debt ceiling and a minority of their party voted with all of the Democrats to raise it, Ms. Reidy made her move.

"[God] will not be mocked, He will not be mocked," Ms. Reidy shouted from the podium as startled House members and journalists began tuning in to the disruption that had suddenly eclipsed the anticlimactic vote count.

"Don't touch me," she told the security guards and the bipartisan gaggle of politicians who attempted to restrain her. Then she launched into an abbreviated history lesson.

"The greatest deception here is -- this is not one nation under God. It never was," Ms. Reidy shouted into the microphone. "The Constitution would not have been written by the Freemasons. They go against God."

Staffers from the House Sergeant at Arms surrounded her. "You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ," she said one last time as she was carried away to a hospital by Capitol Police for a psychiatric evaluation.

In a statement to Fox News Thursday morning, she offered this explanation: "For the past two and a half weeks, the Holy Spirit has been waking me up in the middle of the night and preparing me [through my reluctance and doubt] to deliver a message in the House Chamber. That is what I did last night."

One can appreciate Ms. Reidy's sincerity, but as a so-called revelation from God, her message was kind of a bust. Anyone who has spent any time looking at the weird symbols on the back of the American dollar already knows that many of the Founding Fathers -- including A-listers George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere and Thomas Paine -- were Freemasons and deists, to boot.

But why did Ms. Reidy believe that information was suddenly relevant Wednesday night? After two centuries of scholarship, no one will seriously argue that Thomas Jefferson claimed to be a Christian or that he was interested in co-founding the kind of Christian nation the modern GOP imagines in its revisionist mythology.

As the Tea Party faction of the GOP amply demonstrated with its nihilistic political tactics and indifference to the poor during the two-week shutdown, it's more about giving lip service to Jesus than actually following his example. Was Ms. Reidy's rant a rebuke of the Tea Party's delusions of godliness or an affirmation of it? On its face, her statement is too incoherent to shed any meaningful light.

On Thursday morning's "Fox & Friends," co-host Steve Doocy read an email from a minister declaring Ms. Reidy perfectly sane for disrupting the historic count to restore funding to the government: "What she was doing was known as an exercise of the gifts of the spirit where she was, she had brought a warning and a message from God regarding the activity ... there in the House."

Another viewer wrote: "Amazingly, this religious and obviously a sweet lady, gets fed up and speaks her mind, something we all have tried to do. She brings up our dear Lord and she gets a mental evaluation? I think it should be the other way around."

Given the notoriety of her outburst, it is safe to say that Ms. Reidy, a married mother of two, probably won't be returning to her $126,050 a year job any time soon. There is a certain unfairness in that, though. Many of the Tea Party's dimmest bulbs have uttered equally crazy and incoherent things from the House floor over the years, yet were never hustled from the podium and spirited away for psychiatric evaluation.

When a House member shouted "You lie" at President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address several years ago, no one slapped a straitjacket on him. What that angry congressman did was considered more an act of colossal disrespect than a sign of mental instability. He even used the incident to fund raise for reelection.

Expecting consistency in these ideologically polarized times is probably too much to ask.

tonynorman

Tony Norman: tnorman@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1631 or on Twitter @TonyNormanPG. First Published October 17, 2013 8:00 PM


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