The biggest political story in the nation, the defeat of Obamacare repeal legislation, featured an unlikely appearance by a person you would never expect to see there: Georgia congressman Buddy Carter.
Carter, who is serving just his second term in the House, is one of many Republican congressmen who want to kill off the Affordable Care Act -- it’s almost an obsession with him.
You might think it odd that Carter would want to shoot down Obamacare. It’s been estimated that repealing it would result in about one million Georgians losing their health insurance coverage, with an estimated 64,000 of those unfortunate souls residing in the 1st Congressional District that Carter represents.
It doesn’t make sense that Carter would want to hurt so many of his constituents, but then, this is a guy who really hates Obamacare. He hates it so much that he got a little carried away after the Senate failed to pass one of the motions to repeal Obamacare.
That repeal motion lost in large part because two Republican women, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against it.
When he was asked what he thought about Donald Trump criticizing Murkowski in one of the president’s tweets, Carter blurted out: “Let me tell you, somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their a**. I’m telling you, it has gotten to the point where, how can you say I voted for this last year but I’m not going to vote for it this year?”
Carter’s rustic remark caught fire and touched off a genuine media frenzy, with everyone trying to explain what it meant to snatch a knot in someone’s hind quarters.
Earlier in the week, Carter’s Republican colleague from Texas, Rep. Blake Farenthold, expressed similar frustrations about the women senators and said he wanted to challenge them to a duel because they had voted against killing Obamacare.
This prompted some media observers to accuse Carter and Farenthold of calling for violence against women.
Not so, said a spokesperson for Carter, who quickly sent out a clarifying statement: “Rep. Carter’s comment was in no way directed towards Sen. Murkowski specifically. His words speak for themselves, that he was not speaking about a single senator. This is a southern phrase used frequently throughout Rep. Carter’s lifetime which simply means get your act together.”
Carter later tweeted that he was “shocked this is so confusing.”
He was forgetting that people from other regions don’t always talk the way that Southerners do. Consequently, it’s easy for something to get lost in translation.
The phrase “jerk a knot in their tail” is one of many slang expressions that a person hears when they grow up in the South.
These Southernisms often have a hint of violence to them, especially when they are said in the heat of anger or frustration. You’ll hear someone say, “I’m gonna snatch you bald-headed,” for example, or “I’m gonna whip you like a red-headed stepchild.”
These regional phrasings also can be quite humorous. One of my favorites was the one I heard from a state legislator who was about to vote on a very controversial bill: “I’m as nervous as a whore in church.”
To use some other Southernisms, Carter was so upset at Lisa Murkowksi that you could reasonably say, “He's got a burr under his saddle,” or “His knickers are in a knot.”
Or maybe he was, in that fine Southern expression, “having a hissy fit.”
What some people see as colorful phrasings, however, are seen by others as physical threats, especially in these hyper-partisan times.
By the end of last week, Carter’s colorful language turned out to be all for nothing.
Two days after Carter’s memorable diatribe against the senator from Alaska, the Senate voted down the last attempt to pass a bill that would repeal Obamacare. Murkowski and Collins once again cast the negative votes on that motion, and they were joined by Arizona Sen. John McCain in shooting down the bill.
I didn’t see Carter trying to jerk a knot in anyone’s tail at that point, but I’m sure the congressman was feeling "lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut.”
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an internet news service at gareport.com that reports on state government and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.