Politicians do and say outrageous things all the time. In Kansas, a state lawmaker suggested that the state confront illegal immigration the same way it deals with feral hogs: with rifles aimed from helicopters. Another lawmaker compared unplanned pregnancy with a flat tire. "We do need to plan ahead in life, don't we?" Rep. Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican, said during the debate over a bill that prohibits insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in their general plans. The only exception: if the mother's life is in danger. Rape victims are on their own.
What stands out about Missouri state Sen. Brian Nieves, though, is the relentlessness of his peculiar behavior. Some of it is sort of cute. In his online writings, Nieves struggles with proper spelling, and his use of exclamation points rivals that of a seventh-grader new to Facebook. His Twitter page is occasionally hard to follow, on account of his tendency to forget that posts are limited to 140 characters.
Other stuff that Nieves does isn't so much endearing as it is disturbing. We've rated some of his actions on a scale of one to four brains, with four representing maximum crazy:
Nieves has a show on a radio station in Washington, Missouri, a town 50 miles west of St. Louis where he lives. Guns are a favorite subject. Speaking with a guest, Nieves refers to a semiautomatic rifle as a "Nancy Pelosi special."
During his Senate primary race in 2010, Nieves releases a 30-second advertisement that begins with him yelling (really -- full-on yelling) a brief lesson about the U.S. Constitution to an unseen audience. Then his gaze turns toward the camera, and he makes a final exhortation: "Federal government, Barack Hussein Obama and your liberal ilk, leave us alone!"
Nieves defeats Dick Stratman in the Republican primary. Shawn Bell, Stratman's campaign manager, complains to police that Nieves threw him up against a wall, head-butted him and threatened his life when he stopped by Nieves' campaign headquarters to congratulate a friend who had worked for Nieves. "I really thought when he pulled out the gun, I was going to die," Bell writes in his report. The "meeting" ends after Bell apologizes to Nieves' wife, Julie, on the phone for a rumor that was spread during the campaign. The prosecutor decides not to bring charges.
Nieves becomes upset when he learns that Attorney General Chris Koster's website has a Spanish-language version. As a state representative, Nieves had pushed a constitutional amendment establishing English as the language for all official proceedings in Missouri. Nieves went to the trouble despite Missouri already having a law recognizing that English is the state's "most common language."
Nieves pursues a constitutional amendment prohibiting the federal government from passing legislation that conservatives find odious: restrictions on firearms, expansion of the definition of marriage, etc. Nieves titles his legislation the "Hard Core State Sovereignty Amendment."
Nieves introduces a bill taking away the Capitol press corps' parking and office privileges. He tells reporters that he is "tired of government picking winners and losers." The bill goes nowhere.
In April, a constituent and retired teacher who had sought a meeting with Nieves in Jefferson City writes a critical letter to The Missourian, Nieves' hometown paper. The constituent, Tom Smith, mentions in his letter that Nieves was preparing to attend a conference in Cincinnati hosted by a right-wing think tank. Two weeks later, Smith and other retired teachers visit Nieves' office in Jefferson City. They claim that during the visit, Nieves launches a verbal tirade at Smith, calling him a "fucking prick" and a "fucking pussy." Nieves accuses Smith of putting his family in jeopardy when he stated in his letter the dates that Nieves would be out of town.
Nieves goes on to complain about Smith's letter on Facebook and in his own letter to The Missourian, calling Smith an "intimidatingly large thug" with "sneering, evil eyes." Nieves fails to mention those instances when he himself has alerted the public to his whereabouts. On May 3, as the legislative session was winding down, Nieves geared up for a "Good & Proper" filibuster on Twitter, announcing, "This may very well go ALL Night."