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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 15: Roughing the Congressman

Debbie Schlussel freaks out after a football coach-turned-member of Congress tries to figure out why he attacked her.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/19/2001

Perhaps it's time to wonder about the mental state of Debbie Schlussel.

We're already discussed the types of movies the columnist is attracted to. Now, she gets a couple of phone calls from a congressman and all of a sudden she's crying harassment.

First, some background: Schlussel wrote a WorldNetDaily column July 17 ridiculing a bill by Nebraska Rep. Tom Osborne, the former coach of the University of Nebraska's perennial-powerhouse football team, that seeks $150 million in federal money to create a program under which college and professional athletes can mentor youths.

"College athletes – especially Osborne's – mentoring kids about social ills! Is there a bigger joke?" wrote Schlussel. "While head coach of the University of Nebraska football team, Osborne had an interesting approach to mentoring against social ills. He allowed criminal after criminal to play on his team – rarely disciplining them and constantly coming to their defense – in his win-at-all-costs mentality. Like a typical Kennedy liberal, he rewarded these players from the killing fields of America for their killing-field behavior, constantly arguing that we must understand the root causes and backgrounds of his beloved vicious thugs."

Note the old conservative rhetorical warhorse of invoking the name "Kennedy" as the ultimate criticism. She also invokes the names of Gary Condit and Bill Clinton, suggesting that "under Tom Osborne's new program, Clinton would qualify" as a mentor.

By the way, Osborne is a Republican.

As one might imagine after taking such a literary beating, Osborne wanted to talk to Schlussel about it.Schlussel's Aug. 7 WorldNetDaily column discusses in paranoiac detail what happened next.

Late Thursday evening, the former Nebraska football coach turned politician, Rep. Osborne – obviously angry about a column I wrote last month – telephoned me at my home, insisting that he wanted to speak with me. But when I told him I didn't want to speak with him and asked that he not call me again, he couldn't take "no" for an answer. Even after I asked him to stop harassing me and hung up, the stubborn Mr. Osborne – like a pathetic, jilted lover – called right back.

"I just want to talk to you," Osborne told me. But, although I made it clear that I did not want to talk to Osborne, he pushed further. Upset that I've written about his hypocrisy posing as a religious conservative, do-gooder Congressman, when in his past life he was anything but – playing criminal after criminal on his win-at-all-costs football team and then attacking the victims of his athletes' crimes – Osborne wouldn't leave me alone.

The facts as established by Schlussel: Osborne called Schlussel. Schlussel refused to listen to the point of view of someone she criticized and hung up on him. Osborne calls back. Schlussel still refuses. That's the end of it, despite the "Osborne wouldn't leave me alone" line.

Schlussel manages to twist two simple phone calls into something else: "In fact, Osborne wasn't really interested in talking to me. The goal of his calls to my home was quite obviously to intimidate me." Never mind the most intimidating thing Schlussel quotes Osborne as saying is "I just want to talk to you." She goes on: "Mr. Osborne quite obviously wants to silence me. Just like Condit's calls to stewardess Ann Marie Smith were meant to intimidate her into silence and into signing a document absolving Condit of an affair with her. Just like Bill Clinton's lawyers and private detectives tried to silence witnesses and paramours in his many scandals." Then she goes for the trifecta in name-checking Osborne as the enemy of all that is good and conservative: "In fact, the pro-campaign finance reform, anti-death penalty, pro-government waste and spending, Osborne is among the McCainest of Republicans."

Related article on ConWebWatch:

Exhibit 14: Debbie Does Movies -- Badly

Schlussel than cites the cases of a few Cornhusker players who ran afoul of the law while Osborne was coach as Osborne, in Schlussel's words, "immorally supported and propped up criminals with virtual impunity and belittled the serious nature of their crimes."

All this based on two phone calls. Apparently, no one is permitted to contradict Schlussel -- especially not a victim of one of her scorched-earth tirades. Shrill rantings aside, she offers absolutely no evidence that Osborne wanted anything other than to have his side of the story heard. "I just want to talk to you" does not a threat make.

As the coup de grace, she smears the folks who voted for him: "Blind Nebraska football fans will, no doubt, re-elect Osborne for as long as he wants – so that he may serve to harass many others."

Well. What about those "blind" Nebraskans who watched Osborne as a head coach for 25 years? What do they have to say?

As a native Nebraskan who lived there during nearly all of Osborne's coaching tenure, I could answer that -- but I won't, instead leaving it to another (unfortunately, anonymous) Husker fan who knows the history of the incidents Schlussel cites better than I. Specifically, he knows the history of those incidents well enough to point out that Schlussel doesn't have her facts straight:

  • One person Schlussel cites as an eyewitness to one alleged assault committed by an NU player apparently wasn't an eyewitness at all.
  • Among other college football players convicted of similar assaults, the NU player was the most severely punished by the team he played for, and that among Osborne's conditions for the player to play again was an apology to the victim and her family and asking their permission to return to the team.
  • Schlussel cites an allegation of rape against another player, but fails to add that the allegation was investigated by police, who declined to file charges.

It makes one wonder. What kind of person defines two phone calls as "harassment"? What kind of person is so afraid of views different from her own that anyone who attempts to offer them to her is branded a "harasser"? This is far beyond the usual conservative delusionalism.

And then, we noticed Schlussel's Aug. 17 column trashing the new daytime talk show by Iyanla Vanzant, in which she notes that "Iyanla recommended practicing kegel exercises and talked about hot flashes and vaginal dryness.Yuck! And, again, TMI – too much information." This from the same woman for whom writing about "anal-sex rape prison" movies wasn't "too much information."

This woman needs professional help.

My diagnosis: Some in-patient treatment definitely seems to be in order. I suggest the world-famous Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, which is close enough to Nebraska (and almost certainly closer than she's ever been to the state) that she could be let out on a day pass to visit a few Nebraskans to find out just how "blind" they are.

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