Andrew Sullivan points us to this rather extraordinary interview Anderson Cooper did with Renee Ellmers, the Republican nominee for United States Congress in North Carolina's 2nd District. Elmers got some national attention by running an ad about the Islamic center near Ground Zero, which conflates "Muslims" and "terrorists," and asserts that the Islamic center is a "victory mosque" meant to cheer the tragedy of September 11. The interview has lots of alarming stuff, including when she implies that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf might be a terrorist ("We don't know). But the most interesting part comes around 3:50, when Cooper talks to her about this "victory mosque" idea, which currently is running around the far right. Cooper points out that pretty much every religious group that ever took over any area built houses of worship, a list that would have to include the Vatican:
COOPER: But don't all -- don't all religions do that? I mean, you're Catholic. Rome was conquered from the pagans and their altars destroyed so the Vatican could be built. Christian conquistadors and pilgrims to America all destroyed local religions and built their own houses of worship. Is the Vatican a victory church?
ELLMERS: No, that is the --
COOPER: It's not?
ELLMERS: You are -- you are incorrect in your statement, sir. That is not what has happened.
COOPER: Wait. Wait. So, wait. Just about every religion -- when a religion in the past used to conquer in a war, they wouldn't build a house of worship; the Catholic Church didn't build houses of worship on -- on the sites of other religions?
ELLMERS: Now, we all know about religion. I'm a Christian.
COOPER: Well, yes or no. I know you're a -- right.
ELLMERS: I am Catholic. Yes, I am. No, you -- you are wrong in your assumptions.
COOPER: Wait. Wait. Wait. I'm wrong --
ELLMERS: And, you know, I guess -- I guess what I could ask you is, are you anti-religion? Are you anti-Christian in your thinking?
COOPER: That is -- that is like -- that's like the lowest response I have ever heard from a candidate, I have got to tell you.
What's interesting here is that she can't even seem to wrap her mind around the idea of comparing things Christians do to things Muslims do. Because obviously, when Christians build a church it's good, but when Muslims build a mosque it's bad. How could anyone think otherwise? Ellmers goes on to say, "I am running for the people of District 2 in North Carolina, who are good, hardworking, Christian people who just want to turn this country around."
One might say, well, this one person seems to be a bigot and an ignoramus, but so what? She's just one person. That's true, but if things work out for the GOP, she could be one of the people making our laws. Whether the Democrats hold on to their majority in the House, one thing we can be almost certain of is that the number of members who combine breathtaking ignorance with shockingly radical views will increase significantly. How much damage this army of Gohmerts and Bachmanns can really do, we don't know. But there will be a lot more of them.
-- Paul Waldman