There are only 100 U.S. senators, and given the filibuster in the upper chamber, each one of them wields considerably more power than the 435 members of the House of Representatives. Thus, even political buffs will struggle to name a quarter of the members of the lower chamber.
To become nationally known as a representative, you have to be one of four things: powerful, scandal-ridden, daft or crazy.
Republican Rep. Maria Salazar of Florida definitely isn’t the first. On the second count, I can’t remember any rumblings involving kickbacks or the pool boy. On the third count, yes, she’s proved herself thoroughly daft over the past few weeks. And, after watching her thoroughly outré appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show on Wednesday, I’d say the fourth option is definitely in play.
Salazar first came under fire after comments last week that she supported a no-fly zone over Ukraine before acknowledging she didn’t really “know what it would mean.”
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Salazar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the remarks to a reporter with The Grayzone who asked if she thought a no-fly zone would involve “direct conventional warfare with Russia.” (Spoiler alert: Yes, it would, considering it would obligate the United States and its allies to shoot down Russian planes.)
“I don’t know what it will mean, but you know, freedom is not free,” she said.
But the congresswoman did know what it meant, sort of. When specifically asked whether we would “have to shoot down Russian planes,” she responded, “Of course.”
Florida @RepMariaSalazar says she supports a No Fly Zone in Ukraine even though she doesn’t “know what it would mean” before adding “freedom is not free”
— Anya Parampil (@anyaparampil) March 9, 2022
Salazar also introduced the so-called Dignity Act, a pathway-to-citizenship bill that’s little more than thinly disguised amnesty legislation. It’s the kind of Democrat-lite that went out of fashion in the Republican Party at roughly the selfsame moment Jeb(!) Bush had to tell that audience, “Please clap.”
Both of these things converged to make Salazar an unpopular figure with Republicans on Capitol Hill — particularly after Carlson played the clip last week, according to Mediaite.
Inexplicably, she thought her standing would be improved by appearing on the Fox News show.
This … didn’t go well, for reasons you might expect. Carlson has been one of the loudest critics of increasing U.S. involvement in Ukraine. Whether or not you agree with his views on the matter, instituting a no-fly zone over the country remains a fringe policy prescription on both sides of the aisle.
The reason is simple: Salazar might not “know what it will mean,” but everyone else darn well knows it means a shooting war between nuclear powers where one of the leaders involved mightn’t be entirely stable.
Salazar, appearing on Carlson’s show just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Congress, still didn’t quite grasp this — but said she didn’t actually mean we should impose a no-fly zone.
“So, since you have called for war with Russia, how do you think that war, once it begins, would play out?” Carlson asked.
“I think that’s a hypothetical question,” she responded. “I think that we should concentrate, Tucker, on what Zelenskyy asked Congress today.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t –and I’m in no way trying to cut you off, but I can’t let you elide over that,” he said. “You said we should shoot down Russian planes. That’s of course war. Since you’ve called for that –“
“I didn’t say that,” Salazar responded.
“You just said that on the tape we played,” Carlson shot back.
But no, an emphatic Salazar contended she didn’t — because naturally, the quote was “taken out of context” (isn’t it always?) and she was really saying that “of course” she knew what a no-fly zone meant, but that she wanted to give Zelenskyy planes and other equipment “so he will create his own no-fly zone.”
In the immortal words of Jeanie Bueller, dry that one out and you could fertilize the lawn — especially since she still contended a no-fly zone “should not be taken off the table.”
But I digress. The conversation turned to what U.S. policy in Ukraine should be.
Carlson is a noted isolationist on the matter and said he believed the U.S. should look after its own interests.
Salazar, meanwhile, said that she represented “district number 27, where you have millions of Cuban-Americans” who know that “we acquire peace through strength. Look at what happened in 1960. Fidel Castro and JFK.”
The Fox News host interrupted, and not because she got the year of the Bay of Pigs invasion wrong. (That’s problematic, though, when you consider the congresswoman represents a heavily Cuban-American district.)
“I’m sorry, I’m not going to take the anti-communist lecture from anybody because of course I agree with you,” Carlson said. “By the way, I hope that you’re not speaking for, quote, ‘Cuban-Americans’ but for all Americans because it’s not a racial question, it’s a question of national interest.”
“But my question is if we are providing weapons to one side in a war, I think it’s fair to ask, maybe the other side would say, ‘That’s an act of war against us.’ And if that happens, then what next?” he said.
Salazar’s position was that America was already providing weapons to the Ukrainians and that MiG-29s and missiles wouldn’t be any different. Whether or not you buy this, it wasn’t what Salazar’s stated position was before Wednesday.
But then there was her amnesty bill. Later in the interview, Salazar challenged Carlson’s characterization of her legislation as an “open borders” policy.
“You just called last month for the amnesty for tens of millions of people who came into this country illegally,” he said as she tried to talk over him. “You did, because I read the legislation today. Actually, about 20 minutes ago I read it.”
You don’t even have to read the legislation. On her website, it describes the provisions of the Dignity Act, which “[c]reates immediate legal status and streamlined path for Dreamers” and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants that’s somewhat longer than that proposed by Democrats.
First, illegal immigrants have to go through the Dignity Program™, which lasts 10 years and allows them work authorization and protection from removal proceedings. Then there’s the five-year Redemption Program™ after that, which “will offer a chance at redemption and to earn more permanent legal status,” including a pathway to citizenship.
There’s a sop of a caveat thrown in for border hawks.
“Enforcement through a functioning mandatory e-verify system and certification of a fully secure border will be completed before the Redemption Program can begin,” Salazar’s statement reads.
Guess which part of this legislation will end up getting thrown out the window somewhere down the road if it ever gets passed?
However, because of this caveat, the congresswoman said “it has one of the strongest border security measures in the history of the United States Congress.” Except for actual border security bills that aren’t just massive amnesty programs, of course.
Carlson noted there was a marked “contrast between your desire to send MiGs to Ukraine to preserve its borders, but not here.”
“Should we send the U.S. military to the Mexican border?” the Fox News host asked. “Since you have admitted that tens of millions of people have come here illegally, that our borders are porous, they’re not defended, they’re open. Should we send the U.S. military to the Mexican border?”
“All of us are appalled by the violation of Ukraine’s borders,” he said. “You don’t seem as appalled by the violation of our borders by tens of millions of people.”
And then there was the moment that summed up the interview perfectly. Carlson asked whether Salazar would support securing the border with the military “on the same timetable as sending MiGs to Ukraine.”
“That’s a hypothetical again,” she said.
And so is every policy proposal, until it’s enacted and it has real-world results — results that tend to follow historical precedent.
So fine, let’s assume the no-fly zone Salazar wouldn’t take off the table wouldn’t be “plan A” in her book, as she claimed. Even if it’s plan D, E or F, she’s acknowledging one of her plans is to get us into a shooting war with Russia over Ukraine. There’s nothing “hypothetical” about where that leads.
In regards to the Dignity Act, it’s little more than the Democrats’ amnesty legislation with the timelines elongated and a border security provision thrown in.
Conservatives of a certain age have seen these compromises before and know how they end. The timelines will be shortened and the border security provisions thrown out.
And Republicans of Salazar’s ilk will whine and grumble a little bit, but nothing substantive will be done to change that bedrock reality.
If the congresswoman thinks appearances like this help her cause — especially given her hyper-caffeinated performance — then yes, she’ll be one of those representatives who’s famous for being crazy, too, joining the likes of Maxine Waters and Eric Swalwell. She remains daft. Perhaps she’ll get herself mired in some scandal. Hope to the heavens she never becomes all that powerful.
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