Magazine article Newsweek

Obama's Invasion of Texas: When Partisanship Becomes an Extreme Sport; the Jade Helm 15 Paranoia Shows That Nut-Jobs Are Driving the Republican Party

Magazine article Newsweek

Obama's Invasion of Texas: When Partisanship Becomes an Extreme Sport; the Jade Helm 15 Paranoia Shows That Nut-Jobs Are Driving the Republican Party

Article excerpt

Byline: Kurt Eichenwald

There was a time in modern history when the GOP was a party of ideas--agree with them or not, its leaders were dominated by smart people who assembled ideologically consistent policies based on facts, statistics and history. But, as Bruce Bartlett, a former senior policy analyst for Ronald Reagan, recently said, "Now it's the party of crazy people, ignorant Tea Party people--people who know nothing and are proud of it."

Look at the lunacies from the last few years: President Barack Obama is a Muslim; Obama was taught to hate America by his Christian minister (don't try to reconcile those first two); Obama engineered Hurricane Sandy with a secret military radio-wave system; Obama ordered $1 billion worth of coffins for federal detention camps; Obama faked the assassination of Osama bin Laden; the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a "false flag" operation so Obama could take Americans' guns; Obama told Nigeria that the United States wouldn't help it fight terrorists until its government recognized gay marriage; Obama is arranging a deal with Iran and ISIS for them to launch a nuclear attack on America so he can obtain a third term... The list of the irrational and illogical just grows and grows.

But the real danger is not that swaths of Republican voters babble nonsense that would make an eighth-grader roll his eyes. Instead, it is that policy discussions frequently jump the track when GOP leaders treat the tinfoil hatters' latest obsession as worth anything other than derision. Whether these officials are demagogues seeking votes from the unhinged or--the more frightening possibility--believers of this toxic flapdoodle, the result is the same: Cradling the crazy has made many GOP politicians midwives to madness.

The latest conspiracy theory emerged in the past few weeks, and it is so bizarre that it finally forced some Republican officials to proclaim that the party's paranoia must end.

Here it is: The federal government is preparing a military takeover of Texas using secret tunnels built under closed Wal-Mart stores so troops can move silently about the state. Take a moment to digest that. The Obama administration is sending American forces into Texas to...ummm...I dunno. Take control of NASA? (Nah, feds own that.) Seize Lackland Air Force Base or Fort Hood or Naval Air Station Kingsville? (No, they run those too, along with 28 other military installations in the state.) Overthrow the Legislature and the governor? (That would require dismantling Congress and seizing the Supreme Court, since a Texas takeover would be unconstitutional.) Wait! That's it! Obama is going to seize control of Texas for some incomprehensible reason and then launch national martial law!

Like many modern conspiracy theories, this one started on the outer fringes of the Internet, where a small truth was transmogrified into a nightmare. The real part: The military is running a multistate training exercise, from July 15 through September 15, called Jade Helm 15. The training will primarily take place in Texas because the state has lots of undeveloped land as well as access to towns. The states selected were chosen because their terrain is similar to what soldiers might face overseas.

The nutso websites seized on a public document about the exercise (because, of course, all massive conspiracies are written up in public documents) and went nutso-er after seeing that the states where the military would be pretending to confront enemies were labeled as enemy territory. So, they decided, this plan was a cover for a dastardly plot to kidnap and kill Americans on the government's top-secret "red list" of conservatives targeted for assassination, impose martial law, seize Americans' guns and imprison political dissidents. And, of course, occupy Wal-Marts.

No rational person could take any of this seriously, right? So ha-ha-ha! Let's join our elected representatives in a good laugh about the loony. …

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