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Bush-league politics

For her candid opinions, District 70 Rep. Carol Bush blames the media

Representative Carol Bush

Last month, we published a story by Barry Friedman entitled “One of the good ones,” (TTV Dec. 7-20) in which Friedman had a wide-ranging discussion with newly elected District 70 Representative Carol Bush, a Republican. 

Friedman and Bush are old friends going back decades, which is perhaps why Bush felt so comfortable speaking candidly and on the record about her differences with the Oklahoma GOP. In the conversation, Bush criticized Donald Trump (“I don’t like the way he represents; I wish he would shut up”) and offered a handful of opinions that deviate from the state legislature’s particularly kooky brand of conservative orthodoxy: 

  • Bush supports the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the state capitol because “separation of church and state.”
  • She believes abortion should be legal in cases of rape and incest, and when the life of the mother is in danger. 
  • She supports birth control and believes Oklahoma’s abstinence-only sex education policy is why the state is fourth in the nation for teen pregnancies. 
  • She’s against school vouchers, because “public funds should not be spent on private schools.” 
  • She supports gay rights, because “you can’t legislate morality.” 
  • She’s a proponent of certain tax hikes, even though “that’s not a popular answer within my party—I’ll get beat up for that—but that’s what we should be doing.”
  • She agrees with Friedman that “privatization has largely been a failure.” 
  • She takes a sympathetic position on assisted suicide.

These are all policy positions destined to draw the ire of conservative ideologues, but she really shit the bed when she started talking about her colleague John Bennett, the blustery District 2 State Rep. most famous for his bigoted rants against Islam and his suggestion that Hillary Clinton should be executed by firing squad.

Bush said she was offended by the religious nature of Bennett’s remarks at a recent meeting of the Republican caucus at the capitol, describing the remarks as “a prayer revival, Bible thumping.” She said she would pick a fight with him on national television if given the opportunity, and that “we need to muffle his megaphone.” She capped the criticism of Bennett with, “how the hell does he keep getting re-elected?”

At one point in the story, Friedman joked that Bush’s unorthodox positions would get her “recalled by April,” which isn’t that far off the mark. On social media, Oklahoma conservatives quickly pounced on the story and awarded Bush the dreaded label of “RINO” (Republican In Name Only). 

Teddy King, an obscure political blogger whose interests include quoting himself, donning Confederate flag baseball caps, ridiculing male cyclists for not looking more “manly,” and smoking cigarettes next to Breathe Easy signs (‘cause he’s a rebel), claimed credit for first sounding the RINO alarm after picking up “the dreadful Voice publication” and reading Friedman’s piece. Jamison Faught, a Tea Partier who runs MuskogeePolitico.com, then posted a blog entry, titled “RINO ALERT: HD70 Rep. Carol Bush shows true colors,” that outlined her various sins. 

Soon, Bush issued an apology to the Republican caucus and threw her old friend Friedman (and of course the media in general) under the bus in the process:

Dear Members of the Caucus,

I want to apologize for an article that was recently published in the Tulsa area. I was not only misquoted, many of the comments were taken out of context. I have apologized to Representative Bennett and I ask for your forgiveness as well. I am always available if any member would like to meet with me and further discuss.

Please know I have learned my lesson with the media and rest assured it will not happen again.
I appreciate your consideration and look forward to working with each of you to further our agenda for this coming legislative session.


Representative Carol Bush 

Obviously, Bush’s claims are nonsense. There’s no credible way for her to backpedal on this; she said too much too emphatically.

Rather, what we’ve witnessed in real time is a moderate, common-sense Republican getting publicly flogged into falling in lockstep with the other idiots, extremists and panderers dominating the legislature. It’s Oklahoma politics summed up in a single depressing anecdote.

Bottom Line: Near the end of Friedman’s story, he speculates: “Her party will pull her to the right; her conscience will remind her of the experiential, the connections between her daughters, her party, her state.” It remains to be seen if the party has successfully pulled her to the right, but it’s certainly muzzled her.

For more from Joshua, read his interview with Dennis Miller.