After years of refining her craft, U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite has finally done it:
Judging from the letter she sent to President Barack Obama this week, she's become a true master of the politics of meanness.
Of course, she always showed promise.
In her very first campaign, the 1990 primary race for County Commission, she called Republican incumbent Richard Killingsworth "incompetent, rude … mindless.''
Not bad. But in her early days, blasting away at the dimness of her fellow commissioners and the crookedness of Brooksville's good old boys, she was a comparative kindergartner — the smartest kid in class blurting out the obvious. It was too honest, too easy.
Same with her career in the Florida Senate.
When then-Rep. Jeff Stabins was charged — but not convicted — with driving under the influence of alcohol in 1996, she called him a "party groupie.'' Considering that Stabins, now a county commissioner, couldn't recite the alphabet to the arresting officer, she probably had a point.
The real advance came after her election to the U.S. House of Representatives, in 2002.
Jumping into the competition among House Republicans to see who could be the most bloodthirsty backer of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, she introduced a bill that would have allowed families of U.S. servicemen buried in France to bring them home to U.S. soil after France refused to support the invasion.
It didn't matter that the cemetery in Normandy pretty much is U.S. soil — granted to our country in perpetuity by France and managed by our government. Nor that this burial ground may be the world's most stirring monument to our military and that ripping out graves would be like chipping away names from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Nor that France's leaders, in opposing the war, were exercising the freedom of speech Americans are supposed to cherish.
Nope. She was able to ignore all of that and build an attention-grabbing argument on a slab of pure ignorance. It was creative. Artistic even.
Still, you could tell she had a ways to go by the way she lashed out in 2006, saying that while not all Muslims are terrorists, just about all "terrorists are Muslims'' — or her remark, in 2008, that Puerto Ricans are "foreign citizens.''
Maybe it was Obama who forced her to raise her game. Though intellectually dishonest, these attacks still had a straight-from-the gut feel, a rabid emotional sincerity, which, as we saw with Rep. Joe "You Lie'' Wilson, only highlights the president's restraint.
Contrast that with the letter sent to Obama by Brown-Waite and two other members of Congress — including Rep. Ron Paul, which tells you how far she's drifted from the mainstream.
It starts with a phony, hardy "congratulations on your receipt of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize,'' calling it "a great honor.''
Then comes the bogus tone of legal authority, when she brings up — almost as though it pains her — the constitutional clause that requires congressional approval for the acceptance of any "present, emolument, office or title'' from a "foreign state.''
There's historic sleight of hand in her example of another sitting president who was named Peace Prize winner, Theodore Roosevelt. Though it is true he didn't pick up the award until after he left the White House, there is no evidence he relied on the clause Brown-Waite cited. And she doesn't even try to prove that he asked congressional approval to accept the award; the letter says only that he asked for the help of Congress in distributing the Nobel prize money, which Obama has already said he plans to give away.
The letter also claims — dubiously, according to every legal scholar interviewed by the Times — that the private Nobel Peace Prize qualifies as an agent of a foreign government because the committee that picks its recipients is chosen by Norwegian lawmakers.
"It's like: Was (Obama) born in the United States?'' said Fletcher Baldwin, a professor emeritus of constitutional law at the University of Florida. "It's insane to bring it up and it's mean-spirited to bring it up.''
Yes, but it was gracious-sounding meanness and educated-sounding insanity.
It managed to draw disapproving editorials and columns from the kind of sources — including us suckers at the St. Petersburg Times — that bring her credit in the eyes of Obama-bashers. And because receiving the world's most prestigious award has somehow become an embarrassment to the president, just bringing it up scores points for her side.
Rush Limbaugh only wishes he was that good.