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Rep. Tim Huelskamp vs. Rachel Maddow: Professor ready for Round 2

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, at 6:19 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, at 7:27 p.m.

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The day after Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp called MSNBC host Rachel Maddow a cheerleader as they dueled over the congressman’s tweets during the State of the Union speech, at least one Kansas political observer would like to see them go at it again.

“Let’s bring them out to Kansas and they can take an hour and we’ll do it here at Washburn University,” said Bob Beatty, a professor of political science at the university in Topeka.

Beatty said “both sides ended up kind of garbled” when the conservative Republican Huelskamp and the liberal Maddow talked past and over each other following President Obama’s televised speech to Congress and the nation Tuesday night. “For two people who both have Ph.D.s in political science, they didn’t show too well,” he said.

Fortunately for Beatty’s plans – or maybe not – Maddow did offer Huelskamp a backhanded invitation to continue the conversation another time.

“I’ve found you spectacularly disingenuous in explaining your own words tonight, but I hope you’d come on my show and we can have this conversation one-on-one sometime soon,” Maddow said.

During and just after the speech, Huelskamp maintained a running stream of invective on Twitter, accusing Obama of an “imperial presidency” and saying his speech “reads like dictates from a King.”

One of those tweets: “Was there a diplomat in Benghazi that gave his life for his country Mr. President?” – a reference to U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, killed there in a terrorist attack in 2012.

Later on the air, when Maddow confronted Huelskamp on that tweet, he said: “If you would stop being a cheerleader and be a journalist, you’d recognize we’re not getting those answers.”

Retorted Maddow: “Did you just call me a cheerleader?”

Huelskamp chuckled: “I don’t know, maybe you have that history. I’m saying look at the facts of the (Benghazi) matter.

“No, wait wait wait, no, hold on, hold on. Wait, hold on!”

“I’m saying you’re a cheerleader for the administration.”

“So I’m a cheerleader?”

“... If it was Bush you’d be jumping and screaming …”

“You’re amazing” (laughing).

“... but because it’s Hillary Clinton you don’t want the answers Rachel, face the fact.”

Maddow also called Huelskamp out over a tweet criticizing Obama when he hailed a wounded soldier who had been invited to sit next to first lady Michelle Obama.

Although representatives and senators burst into a lengthy and bipartisan standing ovation for the Army sergeant, Huelskamp tweeted: “Obama politicizes the military to end his speech. Totally expected, Mr. President. “

Asked by Maddow to explain, Huelskamp said, “The president very clearly ran against the military. He continues to highlight them when it helps politically.”

Maddow: “How did he run against the military?

Huelskamp: “Oh it’s pretty clear. He wanted to bring the troops home, he wants to close Gitmo, he wants to do all kinds of things...”

Maddow: “Is bringing the troops home your definition of being against the military?”

Huelskamp: “No, uh, what the president talked about when he first ran obviously is very different, whether it’s his NSA issue, whether it’s the issue of how much the president should have in terms of authority. I mean he ran against Bush on all these things Rachel, it’s very clear, and all of a sudden he’s all for presidential power now.”

Setting aside the Maddow battle, Beatty said he thought it was wrong for Huelskamp to tweet during the speech in the first place.

“It think it’s disrespectful for someone to be on the phone when someone else is speaking to them,” he said. “That being said, it is the House of Representatives … lately it’s not if a breach of decorum will occur, but when.”

And Twitter didn’t help, he said.

“Twitter is the opposite of having a reasoned discussion, so I guess that it’s natural they wouldn’t be able to have one as a follow-up on his tweets,” Beatty said.

Huelskamp was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

Mel Kahn, a professor of political science at Wichita State University, didn’t see the speech or interviews afterward. His wife made him take her to the Shockers’ basketball game instead, he said.

However, he did attend a speech by Huelskamp at the Republican Pachyderm Club on Friday and said the congressman was sounding the same themes of imperial presidency there.

“If Obama was there, I think he’d say ‘I wish I had that kind of power,’” said Kahn, who is active in Democratic politics. “Far from being the king, he’s been thwarted over and over on what he wants to do.”

Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or dlefler@wichitaeagle.com.

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