A hulking, 12-foot paper-mache likeness of Sen. Patty Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, complete with lavender housecoat, lumbered in front of the Capitol steps Tuesday next to a 20-foot inflatable black coal plant.
Her nametag read, "Smokestack Patty," and dangling from her hand were three marionettes of Republican Sens. Mike Bishop, Roger Kahn and Randy Richardville. Smug environmentalists took to the podium to blast Birkholz and "her Senate coal industry stooges" for an energy bill they claim will rape the earth.
Meantime, they were content to molest the senator's reputation, rather than do the grownup thing and negotiate on policy.
Dan Farough, the extremist left's favorite carnival barker, defended the ogre-like effigy (his words), saying it sends out a message to Birkholz and others that "there's a price to be paid for bad legislation."
"Sometimes you have to use the hammer," he grinned and I just couldn't imagine why he wasn't working for a reasonable intellectual like House Speaker Andy Dillon anymore.
As far as political theater went, it was a cheap Michael Moore knockoff, but tee-vee showed up and that's what counts. That's pretty much the M.O. of Farough's Progress Michigan, an ain't-we-cool, in-your-face liberal hype machine that usually can't be bothered with the facts.
In February, the group hyperventilated that there were 89 lobbyists in Lansing working for the pharmaceutical industry, but a Michigan Information & Research Service investigation revealed the number was less than half that. Firms like Public Affairs Associates hadn't hired or even heard of some of their supposed employees.
This is a group that carted around woeful widow Leslie Richter, claiming she'd never get a dime from Big Pharma for her husband's death, long after the media exposed her settlement in a New Jersey suit over Vioxx.
But considering the fact that PM's crack research staff includes Julielyn Gibbons, she of the mindlessly indignant "Liberal Lucy" blog, it all starts to make sense.
Some of my Democratic friends, bless their hearts, have wondered why I have to blast progressives, even when they play fast and loose with the facts or denigrate John McCain's years in the Hanoi Hilton. For years, my stomach churned as the right-wing attack machine eviscerated its enemies as gay-marryin' abortionists out to steal our guns.
Too many on the left, emboldened by the 2006 electoral tsunami, have adopted that playbook down to playground taunts and character assassination. If that's the sewer the netroots want to bathe in, fine - but expect most of us to chuckle when you huffily try to claim the moral high ground.
So the ironies of this latest stunt were many - starting with the fact that Birkholz, who always dons purple and a smile, is beloved by Democrats and Republicans alike at the Capitol and would never bludgeon her opponents so crudely.
Yet this is the second time in a few months enviros have turned their fire on Birkholz, one of the most green-friendly conservatives in the Legislature who just shepherded passage of the landmark Great Lakes Compact.
Oh, and she was hardly the mastermind behind the Senate energy package. Anyone actually paying attention would know GOP Sens. Cameron Brown and Wayne Kuipers were the ones pushing the free-market envelope. I'd love to see how far the protesters would get with that pair.
Right now, I'm sure they're both devastated they won't live on in infamy via yarn, paste and chicken wire. Dare to dream, boys.
Look, I'm not a big fan of coal and think we need an aggressive alternative energy policy. Environmentalists back the House bills, which really just gave Consumers Energy and DTE carte blanche, along with a meager 10 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2015. The Senate RPS was 3 percent less.
Let's be honest. Neither will create the 45,000-job bonanza enviros were crying about this week - not when states like Iowa enacted a standard back in 1983 and New York will have 25 percent renewable energy by 2013.
So beyond tastelessness, inaccuracy and misplaced rage, there's the simple fact that activists were just boneheaded this week. They disparaged the very people with whom they'll have to negotiate. Even sensible, sunny folks like Patty Birkholz don't relish being repeatedly insulted.
Farough sloughed off such criticism, maintaining his antics were "a good tactic politically and legislatively." He laughably said Progress Michigan had a good track record, citing the so-called "drug immunity" bills, which passed the House but have been strangled in the Senate.
"It flipped the House," he blustered.
Oh, please. Farough knows he has the carnage in Iraq and Mark Foley's (remember him?) fondness for male pages to thank for the down-ballot victories two years ago. Talk about an overblown sense of importance.
If environmentalists want to associate with the circus act that is Progress Michigan, they'll continue to grab headlines. The price, of course, is forfeiting their reputations and effectiveness at the bargaining table.