In the best day-late-and-a-dollar short style that I seem to be cultivating lately, I began today to make a list of what we all now know about Rep. Brian Nieves (R-26) in the wake of his recent efforts to browbeat and then malign constituents who had the temerity to approach their state congressperson with their concerns. It doesn’t make for a pretty picture and it raises some serious concerns about what it takes to get elected to statewide office.
I’m not talking about the obvious conclusion which Sarah Jo aptly summarized in the title of her recent post on the topic, “Brian Nieves is a ticking bomb.” I myself played around with the idea that Nieves was possibly on the verge of a meltdown after the incident in which he went gunning for Shawn Bell. His lack of equilibrium in that incident netted him one of TPM’s Golden Duke award nominations for best local scandal of 2010. In case you’re not familiar with these awards, they are handed out annually to the “best purveyors of public corruption, outlandish behavior and The Crazy.” So far as I know, Nieves is not especially corrupt.
No, the character traits that Mr. Nieves has most recently revealed are different, perhaps corollary to his generally over-heated disposition, but certainly equally damming in an individual who is supposed to act as a representative of the people:
1. Nieves is, by his own admission, intellectually incapable of rational argument. He implies that when he abused the elderly constituents who visited his office, he was justified because they are the type of folks who try to “bait” him into a situation where “there’s no way to win the argument.” In other words, if someone makes a point he isn’t capable of refuting, Nieves throws a tantrum. Of course, bolstering the inference that Nieves is a bit too dim to be an effective pol, there’s also the fact that he actually admitted this intellectual failing on video – you can see his musings on the topic here. Sadly, he doesn’t even seem to realize how damming his words are.
2. Nieves plays fast and loose with the truth. As this video shows, he explicitly tried to coax the co-host of his radio show into falsifying facts. As Adam of St. Louis Activist Hub describes it:
Prior to yesterday’s show, Nieves can be seen coaching Moore to claim that three letters about him acting like a schoolyard bully were from “liberal blogs.” In fact, each of the three letters about Nieves’ bullying was printed in the Missourian, the newspaper for Washington, Missouri. Nieves tells his co-host that, “from a strategy standpoint,” he doesn’t want people to know about the letters in the Missourian and that “there are a lot of old ladies” who “want him to be nice all the time.”
3. Nieves may find elderly men terrifying (see 4 below), but he clearly holds elderly female constituents in contempt, all but labeling them weak-kneed old fools whose persnicketiness would keep a manly man from blowing his top from time to time in the way manly men do. His solution? What the old biddies don’t know, won’t hurt them – or, in this case presumably, Nieves. Proof? See above.
4. Nieves is a coward. Who but a coward would use his family to avoid taking responsibility for his boorish behavior? He also seems to be terrified of an elderly man whose only crime is that he expressed his displeasure at the ugly treatment he received from his state representative.
Surely, these character flaws can’t come as a total surprise to folks in his district who, presumably, know something about Mr. Nieves. Since he is generally acknowledged to be a Tea Party boy, one has to assume that his personality, bizarre though it may be, strikes a sympathetic note with that particular group.
There certainly seems to be an equivalence between what recent events suggest about Nieves and what one can infer about the Tea Party based on its rhetoric. Over-inflated bombast? Check. A sense of perpetual grievance at a world that refuses to recognize his/their superiority? Check. Swagger and threat as the preferred means to prevail over others? Check. A very vague understanding of the grandiose abstractions that he/they throw around so liberally? Check. Impatience with demonstrable but inconveneint facts? Check. A possible impediment to the peaceful solution to our real problems? Check and double check.