I am 95% sure that Rep. Tim Griffin is not an idiot.
After all, while there have certainly been idiots in Congress (both in the past and currently), I doubt there are many idiots who have managed to ingratiate themselves to Karl Rove, intentionally disenfranchise voters, surreptitiously depose a sitting U.S. Attorney, have the sense to know when to fold ’em in terms of trying to be U.S. Attorney, and get elected to Congress (twice) in a blue-leaning district.
The problem of starting from the position that Tim Griffin is not an idiot, however, is the cognitive dissonance that such a position causes when you actually listen to or read Griffin’s positions or his talking-point explanation of those positions. Case in point, earlier today Griffin sent out an email to his subscriber list entitled, “Accused Fort Hood shooter still drawing his Army salary.” My immediate reaction? Well, his court martial is still pending, so of course he is; that’s what the UCMJ calls for. Is Griffin going to use this to brag about some legislation that he’s sponsoring?” Then I clicked.
Do you support the Stop Pay for Violent Offenders Act?
Four years ago this November, a lone gunman opened fire at Fort Hood and killed more than a dozen people, including a pregnant mother. It’s outrageous that the sole suspect in this attack, Nidal Hasan, a Major in the U.S. Army, has continued to draw his Army salary – costing taxpayers more than $278,000. That’s why I’ve introduced the Stop Pay for Violent Offenders Act (H.R. 2777), which would suspend pay for members of the military charged with a serious crime, such as rape, sexual assault or murder.
There’s a lot to unpack in there. For one, Tim Griffin is lazy; the $278,000 number was reported back in May, H.R. 2777 was filed on July 22, and Griffin couldn’t even bother in the five days since filing to get an updated total for Hasan’s pay, nor could he bother to do some basic division and at least come up with a rough total.
Second, Griffin apparently hopes that you won’t actually read H.R. 2777. Because, unlikely his past decisions vis-a-vis Florida voters, Griffin realizes that actual laws that he hopes to pass have to comport with pesky ol’ things like due process. Which means that H.R. 2777 does not automatically suspend pay for military members charged with a serious crime. Rather, it (correctly, from a legal standpoint) requires the Secretary of the military department to which the accused belongs to provide written notice to the member regarding the potential suspension. The accused then has “a reasonable time, but not less than seven days, to request a waiver of the suspension and to furnish affidavits and other documentary evidence in support of the waiver,” and the accused is guaranteed counsel for this step and may be granted a hearing on the issue if the Secretary thinks it is appropriate. From there, the Secretary may either grant the waiver or, with a written explanation for why, he may deny it.
Even assuming the Secretary denies a waiver, the whole thing is not done. If the accused is acquitted of the charges, or if “the sentence is disapproved, commuted, or suspended,” the soldier/sailor/airman/Marine is entitled to all back pay. Why does this matter? Because, to cite but one example, of the 575 military members (of an estimated 19,000!) against whom sexual-assault charges were actually processed in the most recent reporting year, only 96 were actually brought to court martial. Worse still, even in the rare case that someone is actually convicted, there is nothing that prevents a commanding officer from tossing out the conviction and reinstating the member. Despite the language of the bill, the basic math of sexual-assault reporting, investigation, and prosecution all but guarantees that H.R. 2777 would result in about 1/2 of 1% of sexual assaults resulting in a forfeiture of pay in today’s military.
Which, in turn, brings us to the third, and most important, realization about Tim Griffin and H.R. 2777: he is willing to use the specter of sexual assault to justify H.R. 2777 without actually doing anything to combat sexual assault in the military. Think about it; despite being in Congress for over 2.5 years, during which time there have been an estimated 40,000+ sexual assaults, resulting in barely over 2,000 military members’ being investigated barely over 1,000 of those members’ being prosecuted, only now does Tim Griffin care enough to push for this bill. At no time, prior to apparently stumbling across some Fox News report on Hassan’s pay, did Tim Griffin decide to make this an issue. He has not introduced a bill that would do anything to actually curb sexual assault in the military, nor has he introduced any bills to change how such cases are investigated or prosecuted. Those things simply do not matter to him.
But Nidal Hasan? He matters to Tim Griffin.
Never mind that Hassan has not actually cashed a single check since the attack, because no bank will accept him as a customer. (Wait . . . I thought Republicans were all about free-market solutions!)
Never mind that, even in the military, Hasan is innocent until proven guilty, which is why he also can’t be dishonorably discharged unless and until he is convicted.
Never mind that Hasan’s trial is underway, with testimony slated to being August 6, so that even if H.R. 2777 becomes law, it would have no retroactive impact on Hasan (both because such retroactivity would be illegal and because H.R. 2777 doesn’t purport to be retroactive).
No, never mind any of that.
Not when Tim Griffin smells political points to be scored by pandering and using words like “outrageous” and “pregnant woman” to convince people that his bill will actually accomplish things that it will not. Not when he can use sexual assault and rape as meaningless political footballs.
You know what? If you start from the position that Tim Griffin is not an idiot, and you acknowledge the truth about H.R. 2777 in light of how he actually presents it, there’s only one conclusion that you can draw:
Tim Griffin thinks you are an idiot.
 The remaining 5% is a hedging of bets in case he’s some sort of reactionary savant.
 Of which I am a member for the same reason that some people watch Honey Boo Boo — train-wreck fascination with what dumb thing will happen next.