Tennessee’s DesJarlais sponsors an affront to human dignity
Fourth District Congressman Scott DesJarlais is co-sponsoring a bill that takes a path not traveled since World War II
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is co-sponsor of a measure that would revoke visas for persons possessing a passport from the Palestine Authority who came to the U.S. after Oct. 1, 2023.(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Several years ago, I wrote and performed a skit about Tennessee U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, the anti-abortion crusader who urged both his mistress and ex-wife to have abortions. It was for Front Page Follies, a performance of skits and satirical songs to raise money for journalism scholarships. The Middle Tennessee physician and congressman’s walk-on music was Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” I played DesJarlais as a creepy and callous Lothario. It turns out I was too easy on him.
DesJarlais recently co-sponsored a hate-filled, nasty piece of legislation with Montana U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, which would require the Department of Homeland Security to stop granting any visas, asylum, or refuge for people who have a passport from the Palestinian Authority. It even has a backtracking provision that would revoke entrance or visas for persons who came to the U.S. after October 1, requiring DHS to work with Customs Enforcement to identify and remove such individuals.
You might remember Zinke from his brief stint as Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary. That department’s Inspector General released a report declaring that Zinke had knowingly made false statements to federal investigators, the second time the department’s internal watchdog found he had lied while at Interior. He was a Montana congressman for a single term before taking the Interior job, serving largely as an advocate for developers ahead of environmental concerns. In 2020 he was elected back to Congress.
The list of bill co-sponsors is a horror show of congressional performance artists. It includes Ronny Jackson. You may remember him for his glowing and dubious medical endorsement of Donald Trump’s health, or his nomination to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs — a nomination that fell apart after hearings brought up allegations of hostile work environments, drinking on the job, and dispensing medication improperly. Marjorie Taylor Greene, conspiracy loon who has claimed that a number of mass shootings were staged and that a California wildfire was started by space lasers, also is a co-sponsor — as is Andy Biggs, a 2020 presidential election denier who has spoken at “Stop the Steal” rallies, and claimed Antifa was behind the storming of the Capitol.
The bill from Zinke, DesJarlais, and friends is an affront to common sense and human dignity. The Palestinian Authority started issuing passports in 1995. The United States has recognized these as travel documents, but technically not as a citizenship document because of thorny question of Palestinian nationhood as opposed to a territory with some self-governing established through treaties and agreements.
Being Palestinian does not necessarily equate with supporting Hamas or with being a terrorist or supporting terrorism. A doctor or engineer moving his family from Jericho or Ramallah for a better life very well could be a welcome neighbor in our nation of immigrants. The ideas of discretion and reason, however, are by design not part of the bill — and that is Scott DesJarlais’ legislative malpractice.
All persons of one nationality are automatically assumed to be a national security risk. Our country has not traveled that path since Japanese Americans were moved into World War II detention camps, and our country has since apologized for that.
We do not assume all Russians are Vladimir Putin devotees, supporters, or spies. We recognize that people may flee Belarus because it is an authoritarian state. We have made special accommodations for Cubans fleeing the Castro regime. During the “troubles” in Northern Ireland we did not assume all immigrants from that area or the Republic of Ireland were Irish Republican Army bombers.
After Zinke was confirmed as our Secretary of the Interior, he showed up for his first day on the job on the back of a horse named Tonto. One is tempted to retort to Zinke’s repugnant hate pandering with something like, “Yeah, Ryan, and the horse you rode in on,” but that would be so unfair to Tonto.
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