Now we know why Tom Rooney moved to the new Congressional District 17. It wasn’t merely to help Alan West but it was largely so Rooney, unhinged now from the need to please a moderate bipartisan constituency on the Treasure Coast has gone hard right.
Rooney this week brought himself into the national limelight in a way that would make his colleague Alan West proud. Rooney this week joined Michelle Bachman and three other Congressional colleagues in raising the specter of Islamaphobia towards the State Department in a McCarthy-esque attack.
The attack drew a strong rebuke from Senator John McCain and several other prominent Republicans. But for Rooney the equation is simply to play at the least common denominator to advance in party leadership, secure his new district in an area where he has never lived and fend off a surprisingly tough primary.
Okeechobee County based Joe Arnold has challenged Rooney in the GOP primary and has run a strong grassroots campaign. Rooney has chosen to best Arnold and raise his national profile by becoming Florida’s latest ode to Joe McCarthy.
Rooney’s older brother Pat faces a potentially tough race for re-election to the State House in an area which the younger Rooney abandoned. Pat Rooney’s redrawn district (HD-85) supported both Alex Sink and Barack Obama and is unlikely to take well to the type of extremism both Rooney brothers have promoted. Pat Rooney’s voting record is almost 100% in lockstep with Rick Scott.
Similarly, Tom Rooney has compiled a right wing record in Congress. He received a perfect 100 rating from the American Conservative Union in 2010, and now his demagogic attacks on the State Department, military and Intelligence communities.
“The Muslim Brotherhood openly calls for violence against the United States, but we’re learning that this organization may be infiltrating our ranks, even within our military,” said Rooney in a press release. “We need our top security agencies to investigate thoroughly the degree to which members of this organization are active in our defense and intelligence communities, and what impact that has on our national security.”
Florida has produced some embarrassing characters in recent years but Rooney seems poised to become a full fledged demagogue who could give Rep. Steve King or Michelle Bachmann a run for their money. Perhaps this is now the way to advance in the reactionary culture around the national GOP, but chances are Rooney will either margarine himself or be pushed to the background by more image conscious national Republicans.