The biggest political story in the country, the defeat of Obamacare repeal legislation, featured an unlikely appearance by a person you would never expect to see: Georgia congressman Buddy Carter.
Carter, who is serving just his second term in the House of Representatives, 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 the law would result in the loss of health insurance for about 64,000 people residing in Carter’s Savannah-based district. 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, Sens. 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 ass.”
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. Some media observers accused Carter 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 “snatch a knot in their ass” — a milder version of it is “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 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.”