Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tea Party In Congress: Profiles from the Fringe

Mad Dog is trying to understand where the 50 members of the House of Representatives who will caucus with the Tea Party come from.  Who are these people? What are they like?

Picking from Roll Call's list of newly elected Republican likely Tea Party members, I landed on Kerry Bentivolio, first by alphabetical order.

Scanning through his official biography and what has been written about him on line, I think I got a sense of the man. 

This will be the first in a series of  "Get To Know Your Tea Party" presented by Mad Dog.

Mr. Bentivolio was elected from Michigan's 11th district. Like so many Tea Party acolytes, Mr. Bentivolio decries taxes, emphasizes the importance of cutting government spending and government programs.  He is staunch in his support for the idea the 2nd amendment guarantees any American citizen complete freedom to own and use guns. He is against abortion.

Born in 1951, he went to Vietnam rather than college, although he did later get an associate's degree from a community college, and eventually a BA in social studies and a M.A.  

According to remarks on line from a brother, Mr. Bentivolio's early life was marked by some dysfunction, including a proclivity for glue sniffing and he wound up in and out of many jobs, back and forth in and out of the military.
He remained in the National Guard and was served in the first Gulf War, rising to the rank of a Master Sergeant, in the military police.

Like so many of our elected leaders who extol the Ayn Randian notion of the independent man,  who creates his own business and asks nothing from government, Mr. Bentivolio's work history is one of being an employee, first in the military, then as a teacher and he worked as a "design engineer" in the "automotive industry," although exactly what that means, and for whom he worked is not clear. His education mentions nothing which suggests any engineering training. At any rate, he has been supported by large organizations and he has drawn a pay check for most of his life.

He did take a run at a construction business, but apparently did not pay his bills, and when he was scheduled to appear as Santa Claus at a White House function in the George H.W. Bush days, disgruntled creditors got wind of this from local newspaper reports and apparently they raised a howl, called the White House and he was disinvited. A newspaper reporter for a local Michigan paper writes that Mr. Bentivolio sued him and his paper for publishing a story Mr. Bentivolio considered slanderous. A settlement was reached, the reporter says, for nuisance money.

There are several references to Mr. Bentivolio's speckled career as a teacher: Apparently, there were some explosions of temper in the classroom, during which he slammed his fist  on his desk and after newspaper reports of his outbursts and his upsetting students, resulting in several kerfuffles he ultimately resigned his teaching positions.

During his service in the Gulf, Mr. Bentivolio injured his neck and was sent to recover at a facility in Kentucky, where, driving around in a rented car, he happened on a Tea Party rally, where Rand Paul was speaking and he was much impressed.

I'm not sure if a pattern will emerge here, but I do see some similarities in Mr. Bentivolio's profile and that of, say, Rush Limbaugh, in a desultory and sputtering  academic history, a failure at private enterprise, while extolling the superiority of the capitalist system. There is also the evidence of pugnacity and the story of being captivated by a political sales pitch rather than by rigorous debate and thoughtful analysis. 

One also gets the strong intimation being a Congressman is the best job this man could ever hope to land, the steady pay, the check, the level of pay.  

We'll see, as we look at other Tea Party types, what sort of patterns may emerge.


  1. "Get to Know your Tea Party" by Mad Dog--why that's so good of you, such a public service. Your first profile on poor Mr. Bentivolio, the rejected Santa, was very informative. How lovely of his brother to report on his previous history with glue, hints at an unusual family dynamic. His explosive temper and penchant for fist slamming should serve him well during any number of crazed Tea Party rants from the House floor. Judging from your report, Mr.B. does seem like a good fit for the Tea Party. I am looking forward to future illustrative profiles in your series...

  2. Maud,

    It's been pretty bleak. Looked at Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Rodney Alexander (R-LA)and there is nothing colorful about either. They say exactly what you'd expect. The only common feature, except for their thorough-going banality, is they all have gone to local colleges, often Saint Somebody's, which I've never heard of. Michele Bachmann, case in point--her law school was Oral Roberts, and she studied with a guy who wrote a book on the thesis the USA was founded as a Christian nation to be ruled as a theocracy. I suspect Thomas Jefferson would have been surprised to learn that. The reading is numbingly prosaic. This project may tax Mad Dog's persistance. Ironic, a Tea Party which taxes Mad Dog.


  3. Maud,

    I neglected to respond to your observation about his brother. His brother also said: 1. Mr. B failed to pay his brother $20,000 loaned to fund the failed business. 2. The brother predicted Mr. B would land in jail before the end of his term.
    Apparently, the brothers have had their differences.

    --Mad Dog

  4. Mad Dog,
    The Tea Party members are less than inspirational,hmm? Must be a bit like panning for gold at the dump.. I can see why you'd prefer reading about Harold Ickes and what could have been if more people around him exhibited the same kind of courage. So who killed his proposal?

  5. Maud,

    I only know what you can read by googling, but it looks as if the same sort of mix you would get now--people who don't like Jews, people who don't like immigrants, who view outsiders as a threat. The remarkable thing is he got as much support for the idea as he did.
    Mad Dog