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Messenger: St. Louis prosecutor charges the new GOP mascots with a gun crime. Cue the meltdown.

Messenger: St. Louis prosecutor charges the new GOP mascots with a gun crime. Cue the meltdown.

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There’s a scene in the 1996 movie “Kingpin” where the character played by actor Woody Harrelson, whose promising bowling career collapsed after his hand was crushed in a ball return machine, realizes his last name has become a moniker for something very, very bad.

Being “Munsoned” is like finding yourself up the creek without a paddle, destitute on the side of a tucked away rural highway with no money, your dreams ruined.

So it has become with Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the wealthy attorneys whose image angrily pointing weapons at Black Lives Matter protesters from the comfy confines of their Portland Place mansion has become the new litmus test in Republican politics.

The McCloskeys are now forever associated with the latest trend in Republican politics, to find a wedge issue so outrageous that it must be embraced to the extreme, with each politician trying to outdo the next one.

Call it the McCloskification of the Republican Party. If only the couple had been eating Goya beans when the peace and quiet of their privatized existence was shattered. That would have been something.

If this story were a movie plot, it wouldn’t be believable.

Many St. Louisans, including a bipartisan list of more than a dozen neighbors of the McCloskeys who wrote an open letter condemning the couple’s actions, were horrified when they saw photos and video of the angry homeowners shaking their weapons — a pistol and an assault rifle — at the protesters marching through their neighborhood on an ostensibly private road.

But as the story built, and as Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, the first Black woman elected as prosecutor in St. Louis, announced plans to investigate possible gun crimes by the couple, Republicans slowly turned them into martyrs for the cause.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt went first, telling Fox News that the McCloskeys were likely protected by the state’s Castle Doctrine, and that Gardner has an “abysmal” record. Then disgraced former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens upped the ante, inaccurately blaming Gardner for all of the city’s various ills, and then accusing Gov. Mike Parson of “cowardice” for not doing anything about it.

On cue, as though he was trying to prove his predecessor right, the next day Parson defended the McCloskeys, and blasted Gardner, prejudging an investigation that wasn’t completed.

Not to be undone, Sen. Josh Hawley, who ironically two years ago asked Gardner to investigate Greitens for an alleged felony, sent a letter to the U.S. attorney seeking an investigation into Gardner for an abuse of power.

What’s being abused here is Republicans’ connection to reality. Six years ago this is the party that blasted Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, for suggesting there should be a “vigorous prosecution” of Michael Brown’s death. When Hawley sought felony charges against Greitens, the former governor’s camp quipped, “Fortunately for Josh, he’s better at press conferences than the law.”

The U.S. attorney’s office that Hawley wants to investigate Gardner knows a thing or two about investigating gun crimes. In fact, it charged a man who had been seen on video holding a weapon protecting his house. The investigation determined the man was a felon, and he shouldn’t have a gun. He’s in jail.

This is what prosecutors do. They investigate, and if they find evidence of a crime, they charge somebody.

On Monday afternoon, Gardner did just that, charging each of the McCloskeys with one felony count of unlawful use of a weapon.

“We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation will not be tolerated,” Gardner said in a written statement after filing the charges.

Cue the Republican meltdown. Calls by white Republicans to remove the Black Democratic prosecutor will now reach a fevered pitch.

Of course, Hawley, Schmitt, Parson and maybe even Greitens, all know there is a law on the books for a state attorney general to seek to remove a prosecutor. It’s called quo warranto, and Hawley used it once to remove a sheriff. But you have to file a motion in a court of law, with real evidence, and have a judge find grounds for removal.

Gardner can’t be removed simply because she investigated a crime and charged the new mascots of the Missouri Republican Party. She can’t be removed because Greitens’ appearance on Fox unleashed a horde of Russian Twitter bots to attack her with false accusations couched in racist rants.

She can be removed if voters decide on Aug. 4 that they prefer former deputy circuit attorney Mary Pat Carl to another four years of Gardner’s leadership.

Parson, Schmitt, Hawley and Greitens don’t have a say in the matter. Neither does Tucker Carlson.

The McCloskeys, presumably, do. All they have to do is pick up a Democratic ballot and exercise their constitutional right to vote.

One note of caution: No guns allowed in the polling place.

Tony Messenger • 314-340-8518

@tonymess on Twitter

tmessenger@post-dispatch.com

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