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Steve King: Obama Destroyed The Soul of America

Republican leaders may want Rep. Steve King of Iowa to make himself scarce during the 2016 presidential election season, but the vocal far-right congressman made it clear in a speech to the Susan B. Anthony List’s gala last week that he intends to do nothing of the sort. Instead, he said, he would work to pressure the party’s candidates to take strong stances against abortion rights and LGBT equality in order to assure that the next president can “restore the soul of America” that was destroyed by President Obama.

“There are some of the candidates that think if they don’t come to Iowa, they don’t have to deal with Steve King,” the congressman told the anti-choice group. “But tomorrow morning at six o’clock I’m going to get on a plane and go to New Hampshire and next May 9, I’m going to be in South Carolina. And we are going to push full-spectrum constitutional conservatism — life and marriage — all the way through this.”

King told the group that the candidates were “good people” and that Republicans are “going to have a good nominee.” But he said that likeminded conservatives still need to pray “that God raises up a president whom he will use to restore the soul of America” after the country has been “deconstructed from the White House” by “a man who is taking on the pillars of American exceptionalism with…a procedural jackhammer.”

Grassroots Organizing to Make Money in Politics a Key Issue in 2016

From a mailman flying a gyrocopter to the Capitol to protest big money in politics, to Hillary Clinton making the issue a centerpiece of her campaign, to Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Lindsey Graham being asked about their stances on campaign finance reform at Q&A events, it’s clear that money in politics is shaping up to be a major issue in 2016. Yesterday The Washington Post’s Matea Gold reported on the grassroots push to spotlight the topic of big money’s influence on our democracy:

[F]ive years after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision — which held it was unconstitutional to ban independent political spending by corporations and unions, and helped set off a financial arms race — there are signs that politicians are beginning to confront a voter backlash.

….For those who feel strongly about it, the 2016 primaries and caucuses — and the up-close access they bring to the presidential contenders — offer a ripe opportunity to elevate the topic.

In New Hampshire, nearly 500 people have volunteered to attend public forums and press the White House hopefuls about money in politics, Weeks said.

In an interview aired Friday on National Public Radio, PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker underscored the importance of top candidates elevating this issue:

"When the leading candidate for president says she's going to make reducing the influence of money in politics one of the four pillars in her campaign, you know that that's going to be a major issue in 2016," Baker said. "So this is a very, very big deal."

While there are many issues that divide Americans, addressing the big-money takeover of our political system is not one of them. That both Lindsey Graham and Hillary Clinton expressed support for an amendment to get big money out of politics in the past two weeks underscores the fact that fighting to fix our broken democracy is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good politics – across the political spectrum.

PFAW

Virginia 'Religious Liberty' Bill Sponsor Claims Opponents Are Discriminating Against Straight People

Virginia Del. Bob Marshall, the sponsor of a measure that would go beyond the state’s existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act to explicitly allow discrimination against LGBT people, complained in a radio interview earlier this month that business that oppose such bills are implying that “heterosexuals cannot be the best and the brightest.”

Falsely claiming that a controversial “religious liberty” measure recently debated in Indiana was no different from the RFRA already on the books in Virginia and other states, Marshall told talk radio host John Fredericks that he took issue with a letter Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe published in the Indianapolis Star inviting businesses to relocate to his state’s “open, inclusive and thriving business environment.”

Such rhetoric, Marshall complained, is derogatory to straight people: “When you actually look at the rhetoric, that you need these laws to hire the best and the brightest, that kind of like is a sweeping statement that says that heterosexuals cannot be the best and the brightest.”

Marshall also objected to claims that legislation like his would diminish the rights of LGBT people. “My question is, what possible rights can a person who has this inclination have that you don’t have right now?” he asked. “I mean, homosexuals go to public schools, they can go to colleges, they vote, they drive cars, they have businesses, they go to country clubs. I don’t know what else is needed.”

 

Thanks, Mitch: Confirmed Judges to Skyrocket From One to Two

McConnell schedules a vote on one - and only one - judicial nominee.
PFAW

Allen West Blames Football Injuries On Church-State Separation

In a speech to a Gladewater, Texas, conservative group last week, former Rep. Allen West blamed high school football injuries on the end of state-sponsored prayer in schools, saying that when he was in high school, “I don’t remember anyone getting carted off that field paralyzed.”

Discussing a conflict between the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the University of Tennessee about sectarian prayers before football games, West said that in the days of state-sponsored school prayer, there was no problem with football injuries.

“Now see, I remember growing up in the inner city of Atlanta, Georgia,” he said. “I went to Grady High School and I played football and we didn’t have all this high-speed gear and everything like that, there was no such thing about ‘targeting.’ I mean, you were not a tough football player unless you did try to hit someone head-on. And even in high school, before every game at Grady Stadium, the pastor would come down and pray before every football game. I don’t remember catastrophic injuries. I don’t remember anyone getting carted off that field paralyzed.”

Needless to say, West’s selective view of the history of football injuries is not exactly accurate.

'Homosexual Armageddon!' Anti-Gay Activists Decry 'Satanic' Gay Rights Movement

Last month, far-right talk show pundit Pete Santilli hosted Harlem pastor James David Manning, notorious for his desire to “stone homos” and combat “Obama’s homo-demons,” to discuss a recent incident in which Manning claimed that “a sodomite” sent him a package filled with feces. “The sodomites are the most vicious, demonic, vile people,” Manning said.

“I’ve dealt with all kind of people, I’ve lived in the ghetto, I’ve been black all my life, I’ve been through prisons and jail, I’ve dealt with evil people, I’ve done things myself, I’ve dealt with Obama supporters, Obama lovers, Obama worshipers, I have never in my life encountered anybody has routinely evil as the sodomite. These are vicious people.”

Later, when Santilli asked him if the “promotion of sodomy” comes “directly from Satan himself,” Manning said that Satan created homosexuality.

“When we oppose the sodomites, this is not just a battle between the heterosexuals and the homosexuals,” Santilli responded, “this is a battle between good and evil, a battle between God and Satan himself. Sir, I appreciate you leading this charge in the ‘homosexual Armageddon,’ per se.”

Right-Wing Group Judicial Watch Says It Prevented A Terrorist Attack

Judicial Watch, the right-wing legal group founded by conspiracy theorist Larry Klayman, has been pushing to conservative media its new claim that the terrorist group ISIS has set up camp just south of the U.S. border with Mexico.

This weekend, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins spoke with Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, about the allegations, and Perkins announced that “authorities have confirmed” the group’s report about an ISIS base a few miles south of El Paso, Texas.

Actually, authorities have done exactly the opposite: The U.S. Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Northern Command, the Texas Department of Public Safetythe El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the Mexican government have all denied Judicial Watch’s report. Reporters who have visited the location of the supposed ISIS base have also found no evidence at all of it existing.

Fitton nonetheless told Perkins that Judicial Watch’s research is so reliable that the group actually recently prevented a terrorist attack from occurring in the U.S.

“There was going to be an imminent attack around September which we reported, I think it was averted as a result of our report,” Fitton said, before acknowledging that DHS and other agencies have denied his group’s account of an ISIS border camp.

According to Fitton, the government is only disputing Judicial Watch’s work is “because it gets in the way of the open borders agenda, it gets in the way of the amnesty agenda.”

Alex Jones: Oklahoma City Bombing A False Flag Designed To Embarrass Conservatives

Yesterday, “InfoWars” host Alex Jones marked the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing the only way he knows how: by insisting that the attack, which left 168 people dead, was a government “false flag” operation aimed at discrediting conservative talk radio and “the liberty movement.”

Jones called the Oklahoma City tragedy a Nazi-inspired “open-and-shut” false flag that was used to paint all conservatives as terrorists.

Colorado Anti-Choice Groups Split Over Reaction To Attack On Pregnant Woman

Last month, when a pregnant woman in Colorado was brutally attacked and her unborn child cut from her womb, the state’s influential fetal “personhood” movement saw a grisly opportunity.

Over the past few weeks, the Colorado-based Personhood USA has been touting a recent YouGov poll finding broad support for allowing prosecutors to press murder charges in similar violent attacks on pregnant women that lead to the death of a fetus. Although Colorado imposes heavy penalties on crimes against pregnant women, it has stopped short of adopting a “fetal homicide” law categorizing such attacks as murder.

The problem for personhood advocates is that while the general public is ready to throw the book at people who attack pregnant women, they do not share the personhood movement’s goal of criminalizing abortion. While 76 percent of respondents in YouGov’s poll wanted to charge a pregnant woman’s attacker with murder, only 17 percent wanted a complete ban on abortion.

As we explored in a recent series on the personhood movement, anti-choice groups have attempted to use fetal homicide laws as a back door to imposing abortion restrictions, using them to build up a body of law establishing “personhood” for fetuses. After two unsuccessful attempts to establish fetal personhood by ballot measure in Colorado, last year Personhood USA pushed a modified measure focusing on crimes against pregnant women. The measure failed, but less badly than had the group’s previous attempts.

The personhood movement’s insistence on advocating for the total criminalization of abortion, with no middle ground, has put it at odds with the most influential anti-choice groups, which share the same goal but are willing to take a more incremental approach to get there.

This conflict is playing out once again in Colorado, where the Republican state senate president has introduced a fetal homicide bill with an explicit exemption providing for abortion rights. The state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) supports the bill, but Personhood USA and Colorado Right to Life — which was kicked out of NRLC in 2007 — oppose it, saying that language preventing the prosecution of pregnant women and medical professionals undermines the ultimate anti-abortion goal.

The Denver Post reported on the split this weekend:

Personhood USA, an organization that pushed the ballot initiatives, opposes the bill because the language protects abortions — aligning it with the state's Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro Choice groups, which are concerned that it could threaten the legality of abortions.

And two prominent Colorado anti-abortion organizations are split on the measure.

"We believe that we want to protect every baby we can," said Sarah Zagorski, the executive director of Colorado Citizens for Life, which is an affiliate of the National Right to Life organization. "I don't think (the bill) says anything about how we view abortion right now."

But Colorado Right to Life's Rosalinda Lozano sees it differently.

"It was an opportunity for (Cadman) to really stand strong on life, and the way it is written he is actually affirming abortion," she said. "The Republican Party is really trying to get away from the life issue. ... They are preparing for 2016 and this is not an issue they want to fight about in a presidential election."

Bachmann: Rapture Imminent Thanks To Gay Marriage & Obama

In an interview with End Times broadcaster Jan Markell that was aired this weekend, former Rep. Michele Bachmann said that people should “not despair but rejoice” that the world has reached the “midnight hour” and that “we in our lifetimes potentially could see Jesus Christ returning to earth and the Rapture of the church.”

The former Republican congresswoman from Minnesota said that President Obama’s policies, including support for marriage equality and nuclear negotiations with Iran, are to blame for the world’s imminent demise. “We need to realize how close this clock is to getting towards the midnight hour,” Bachmann said. “Barack Obama is intent, it is his number one goal, to ensure that Iran has a nuclear weapon.”

Bachmann made similar comments in the first half of her interview with Markell, which aired last week, insisting that Obama’s presidency will bring about natural and economic disasters along with the arrival of the Last Days.

After Bachmann said that Obama intends to “lift up the agenda of radical Islam,” Markell added that legal abortion and marriage equality for gays and lesbians are bringing about divine punishment on America.

“You are right,” Bachmann responded, lamenting that God will soon lift His “hedge of protection” over “pagan” America “and we will suffer the consequences as a result.”

“That’s why so many Christians I think are sad and despairing because we know what the word of God says,” she said. “But it is also a chastening as individual believers for our good and that, to me, is extremely exciting.”

Savage: Gay Rights Supporters Are 'The Nazis Of Today' Who Will 'Destroy The Human Race'

Furious that a large group of San Francisco-area Catholics have written a letter protesting the anti-gay rhetoric of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, conservative talk show host Michael Savage said last week that gay rights supporters are “the Nazis of today.”

Savage said that the Archbishop’s “narrow-minded critics” should just leave the Roman Catholic Church and stop “persecuting the rest of us.”

“This is how bullies operate,” he said. “They’re the bullies, the Nazis of today are these bullies.”

Savage, who is seemingly under the impression that LGBT equality will end all heterosexual relationships and curtail procreation, later claimed that gay rights advocates will ultimately “destroy the human race” by teaching “children filth and pollution.”

“They want to eliminate the difference between the sexes, they want you to believe that God made man and woman identical,” Savage said. “Go tell that to the duck in the pond. You people are so stupid that you’ve lost touch with reality. Somehow Donald Duck knows who Daisy Duck is. He doesn’t mount Billy Duck or there would be no eggs and no ducks. So Donald Duck has more brains than these hundred people.”

EW Jackson: Slavery In America Wasn't A 'Racial Issue'

In an April 9 interview with Virginia talk radio host John Fredericks, conservative activist E.W. Jackson insisted that President Obama does not love his country enough, in part because he refuses to acknowledge that slavery in America was “not a racial issue.”

Jackson, the 2013 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in the state, responded to a clip of a sermon by the president’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright by insisting that Obama “always seems to want to put American down, apologize for America, indicate what America has done wrong, and yet he never — just like Jeremiah Wright — he never talks about the virtue of our country, he never talks about its greatness, its freedom.”

“I mean, Jeremiah doesn’t want to talk about, for example, the fact that slavery was a worldwide institution and that Nigerians apologized for their complicity in slavery because those slave-masters and  slave-traders could not have gotten those slaves without Africans going into the interior to bring people out,” he continued.

“So this is not a racial issue, it’s a human issue, people subjugating each other. But America’s the place where people of all races, all backgrounds, have come and found freedom. And I don’t think he understands that, the president that is, and Jeremiah Wright certainly doesn’t understand it and doesn’t want to understand it and the president sat in that church for 20 years because he agrees with it.”

 

Tom Tancredo: Obama Might Launch Attack On Israel

In WorldNetDaily this weekend, former Rep. Tom Tancredo wondered if President Obama will soon launch a military strike against Israel in order to help Iran.

Citing a fabricated quote from Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope,” the former Colorado Republican congressman wrote that the president may bring about “a U.S. military attack on Israel” to stop the country from “attack[ing] Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

He added that by refusing to impeach Obama, Republicans in Congress are giving Obama an opportunity to launch such an attack.

Would anyone be surprised to see this headline in the spring or summer of 2016: “Obama orders U.S. military attack on Israel / blocks Israeli strike at Iran / Iran grateful“?

Like it or not, there is an increasing likelihood we will see that kind of headline before Obama leaves office.

Why should we worry about that? Does water flow downhill?



Obama, by contrast, believes “Islam is a religion of peace” and “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.” Moreover, in his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama said: “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.” Well, forgive me, but nuclear missiles pointed at the United States and Tel Aviv from the foremost terrorist-sponsoring nation in the world might be construed by many as “an ugly direction.”

Who or what would stop Obama from attacking Israel? A Republicans [sic] Party that is already throwing in the towel on the Iran nuclear agreement? Republican leaders who will not even utter the word “impeachment” no matter how unconstitutional Obama’s actions? Republican presidential candidates who can’t even make a strong case for secure borders?

There is good reason why Obama does not fear the Republican-controlled Congress. Why should he? Does the snake fear the mouse?



So, it is entirely likely and predictable that if Israel decides it has no choice but to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities before Iran can produce nuclear weapons, Obama would likely act to block that military intervention by whatever means necessary, including a U.S. military attack on Israel. Why would he not do it? Who would stop him?

Right Wing Round-Up - 4/17/15

  • Warren Throckmorton @Patheos: David Barton’s War on Christian Colleges: Claims Disputed by Focus on the Family Researcher and His Own Book.

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 4/17/15

  • Frank Pavone of Priests for Life says: “Abortionists don’t need a reason to perform abortions – not even a pregnancy.” 
  • Mat Staver warns that gay rights advocates are bringing about “the destruction of our nation’s religious and cultural underpinnings.” 
  • After attempting to ban the Log Cabin Republicans from appearing at the Western Conservative Summit, the conference chairman says he is upset with the gay group’s “shaming and bullying pressure tactics.” 

Former Texas GOP Chair: Gay Marriage 'Could Be The End Of America'

Cathie Adams, the former chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party who now leads the state chapter of Eagle Forum, told a Republican group yesterday that if Texas doesn’t defy a potential Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality this year, it “could be the end of America.”

“On April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear arguments on marriage, and we expect that they’re going to do the wrong thing,” she said in at the end of a speech on Islam to the Smith County Republican Women, which was posted on YouTube by an attendee.

Adams told the group that before the Supreme Court decision comes down, Texas must pass a proposed bill denying compensation to county clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She said that while she admired Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s defiance of the federal courts on marriage equality, “Alabama is Alabama.”

“Texas holds a whole lot more power and a whole lot more authority,” she said, “and if we don’t come out and do something before April 28, this could be the end of America.”

“If we don’t get this done by April 28, I don’t know that we’re going to be able to hold back what is happening,” she said. “And folks, if you are a believer, you understand what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. You understand. And we are on the threshold. “

“I mean, young people in schools, elementary all the way through universities, are being lied to that these people are ‘born this way,’” she continued. “No, they’re not. I’ve met friends who have come out of that lifestyle, I’ve met men who are willing and ready and begging for a bill to come up in the Texas legislature that they can testify in support of in order to defend the right of parents and defend the right of those individuals who choose to seek a way out of sexual perversion.”
 

2016 Republican Candidates Report

As the GOP embraces the reactionary politics and anti-government zealotry of the Tea Party, it is steadily purging “moderates” and empowering extremists. Nothing shows this trend more clearly than the lineup of potential Republican presidential candidates.

In order to compete in early caucus and primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina, Republican presidential hopefuls must engage with a voter base that leans significantly farther to the right than the average American voter. Pro-corporate groups, often working outside of the public eye, have invested millions of dollars in creating a political infrastructure that has pushed the party to the extreme fringe, leading candidates to increasingly rely on a small class of mega-donors who seek to bankroll the campaigns of their personal favorites.

Candidates are already competing to see who is more skeptical of the science behind climate change, critical of any reform of America’s immigration system or financial industry, and vocal about the dangers of a Big Government that is purportedly crushing religious freedom and bent on seizing people’s guns. As the GOP moves farther to the right, its presidential candidates are moving with it.

Jeb Bush
Ben Carson
Chris Christie
Ted Cruz
Carly Fiorina
Lindsey Graham
Mike Huckabee
Bobby Jindal
Rand Paul
Rick Perry
Marco Rubio
Rick Santorum
Scott Walker

 

Jeb Bush: Staying True to W’s Legacy

A favorite among “establishment” Republicans who see him as a “serious”figure who would be competitive in a general election, Jeb Bush is emerging as the favorite of the GOP’s donor class. His brother George W. Bush’s disastrous legacy as president won’t necessarily endanger Jeb Bush’s chances among GOP voters, as the former president holds an 84 percent approval rating among Republicans

Jeb Bush’s legacy is tied to his brother’s in more ways than their shared name (and advisers). Under Bush’s leadership, Florida purged thousands of people from its voter rolls in the run-up to the 2000 election, disproportionately removing African-American voters from its lists of registered voters.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that “black voters were nearly 10 times more likely than nonblack voters to have their ballots rejected” while trying to vote in Florida that year, and that “African-Americans cast about 54 percent of the 180,000 spoiled ballots,” despite constituting just 11 percent of the voting population. The commission’s report called out Bush and other officials for showing a “lack of leadership in protecting voting rights,” and recommended that the Department of Justice pursue charges against the governor for violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In 2004, elections officials working under Bush tried again to conduct a large-scale and faulty purge of the state’s voter rolls, but were rebuffed thanks to the efforts of voting rights advocates.

Like his brother, Bush knows how to appeal to right-wing audiences. Warning that “we have a federal government that is willingly violating the religious freedom of its citizens,” Bush told students at a Pennsylvania Christian college this year that hostility to religious liberty is growing in America as a result of Obama’s leadership. Bush has also been making overtures to top Religious Right figures, including Ralph Reed and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore. Bush even tapped a leader of a notorious anti-LGBT, anti-choice group to lead his outreach to the Religious Right.

He is still fondly remembered by the Religious Right for his efforts to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, attempting to defy court orders to remove Schiavo, who had spent years in a persistent vegetative state, from life support.

As governor, Bush also signed Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, a major legislative victory that the NRA used as a launching pad to promote similar bills in other states.

Bush remains a significant player in the movement to boost corporate involvement in education, and increase taxpayer support for private and religious schools. He even co-founded a Miami charter school, which eventually shut its doors amid budgetary, financial and building troubles. But in a party whose base looks askance at even the slightest veer away from orthodoxy, Bush’s support for Common Core standards and some kinds of immigration reform may impede his efforts. Glenn Beck, for example, claimed that Bush is among the “progressives in the Republican Party” who are working to undermine the conservative movement from within.

Bush will at least have one wing of the GOP behind him: donors. The former governor is seen as a favorite among the party’s richest backers, a stature cemented by his work for the Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers until its collapse in the 2008 financial crisis and his subsequent job as an adviser for Barclays.

Bush’s experience on Wall Street could, however, come back to haunt him, particularly his role in the “Project Verde” operation, in which Bush was sent to solicit Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to bail out Lehman. The former governor’s close ties to Wall Street have helped launch his recent fundraising bonanza.

For a candidate trying to break free from the shadow of his brother, who presided over the 2008 financial meltdown, undermined voting rights, led polarizing initiatives meant to throw a bone to the Religious Right and signed an unpopular education “reform” law, Jeb Bush seems to be mirroring the 43rd president’s agenda rather than proposing new ideas for the country.

 

Ben Carson: From Gifted Neurosurgeon to Tea Party Conspiracy Theorist

Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson became an overnight conservative celebrity in 2013, when he delivered a National Prayer Breakfast speech criticizing President Obama — who was sitting beside him while he spoke from the podium — for his handling of the deficit, the national debt, taxes and health care.

He has formed an exploratory committee and PAC, while a “Draft Ben Carson for President Committee” has been campaigning on his behalf and raising lots of money. Its leaders insist that Carson can defeat Democrats by capturing a significant share of the black vote.

As a black conservative, Carson quickly emerged as a favorite speaker among Tea Party activists who relish his assurance that criticism of President Obama is never motivated by racism, while criticism of Ben Carson most certainly is.

Carson has expanded on his views in speeches to conservative gatherings and on a timely book tour, revealing himself to be a politician adept at dishing out conservative talking points and playing into right-wing fears about government persecution.

For example, Carson has called the Affordable Care Act “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” declaring it to be “slavery in a way,” and has said that the law is worse than the September 11, 2001, attacks, claiming that its passage was part of a larger Leninist push to impose communism on America.

Far-right activists eat up Carson’s claims that the U.S. military should not follow rules about war crimes and that supposedly anti-American AP U.S. History courses will inspire students to join ISIS.

Carson has inserted himself directly into popular Tea Party martyrdom narratives, claiming that he is the victim of liberal media bias and IRS targeting. Carson, a former Fox News contributor, also alleges that the Obama administration is trying to “shut down” the conservative network. Without Fox News, Carson said, Obama would have successfully introduced communism, and “we would already be Cuba.”

Carson has even claimed that he is losing his First Amendment right to free speech and that Hitlerian progressives are turning America into a society “very much like Nazi Germany.” “We live in a Gestapo age,” he has said, also arguing that Obama takes his cues from “Mein Kampf” and is effectively committing treason.

He is a favorite of the anti-gay right, and with good reason. Carson has linked gay rights advocates to supporters of pedophilia and bestiality, attacked LGBT-affirming churches as offensive to God, demanded that Congress oust judges who back gay rights, and accused gay people of seeking “extra rights” and creating a powerful “P.C. police who have tried in many cases to shut me up.”

Speaking at a National Organization for Marriage fundraiser, he insisted that gay marriage is a communist plot designed to bring down America and usher in a “New World Order.” However, Carson said he would no longer discuss gay rights issues after he received criticism for telling a CNN host that prison sex proves homosexuality is “absolutely” a choice.

Add Carson’s anti-gay rhetoric to his remarks that legal abortion is the same as “human sacrifice,” that the progressive income tax violates biblical principles and that America is facing a “war on God,” and you have a strong potential “standard-bearer” for the Religious Right.

Stoking fears of conservative persecution, political correctness, Big Government and gay rights is a necessary staple for Republican politicians, and Carson has mastered the art.

 

Chris Christie: The ’Problem-Solver’ Who Left New Jersey a Mess

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s ties to “establishment” party figures have enabled him to become a prolific fundraiser and frequent campaign surrogate, and his heated and bombastic rhetoric has animated many conservatives. However, the New Jersey governor has run a chaotic state government with frequent budget crises, credit downgrades and an atmosphere that led to the notorious, apparently politically motivated Fort Lee highway lane closures, just one of several scandals Christie is facing.

Christie, nonetheless, has one key ally: Fox News.

The conservative media empire that drives the agenda of the Republican Party outinely showers Christie with accoladeseven defending the embattled governor in the midst of the lane closure scandal (a scandal the network initially tried to bury). Christie is also close to top conservative bankrollers David Koch, Kenneth Langone and Paul Singer.

Religious Right activists are less warm, and sometimes  openly hostile, to Christie. He angered anti-gay activists when he said he didn’t consider homosexuality to be a sin, signed into law a bill banning the practice of ex-gay therapy on minors and decided against appealing a court ruling in favor of marriage equality. His appointments of Muslim and gay judges have also sparked outrage and far-right accusations that he supports Sharia law and the gay agenda.

At the same time, Christie has cozied up to grassroots conservatives in an attempt to prove that he’s not a moderate. A quick look at his record, including his veto of a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage and his strong opposition to abortion rights and Planned Parenthood funding, shows just some of his deeply conservative stances. He has even built a relationship with Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition leader who now heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition (and who, like Christie, has a legacy of shady political dealings), and has tried to win conservative support by relentlessly criticizing publications like The New York Times, blaming his failings on “liberal judicial activism” and pandering to anti-vaxxers.

In the wake of the Bridgegate scandal and the resulting four investigations into his administration, , Christie embraced the tried-and-true conservative strategy of playing the victim.

Christie will likely campaign as a strong fiscal conservative, but his tenure as governor reveals a miserable legacy on financial and economic issues. Under his leadership, New Jersey experienced multiple credit downgrades, regular budget shortfalls, a failed pension reform plan, fiscal mismanagement that benefited political donors, anemic job growth, a transit funding scandal and mishandling of Hurricane Sandy recovery money.

Christie is essentially running on an image the media constructed for him, that of a problem-solving, outspoken governor. In reality, however, the governor has very few accomplishments to substantiate the rhetoric surrounding him.

But Christie may prove to be an appealing candidate for conservative leaders hungry for a win after taking a beating from Obama. And just as when Romney captured the 2012 presidential nomination, the party’s far-right flank is likely to rally behind whoever ends up as the nominee, whether they like him or not, as long as he pledges to hold the line on social issues, appoint conservative ideologues to the judiciary and help elect extremist candidates to Congress.

Just as Romney’s previous support for reproductive rights, LGBT equality and Wall Street bailouts didn’t stop far-right activists from coalescing around his candidacy, Christie’s purported “center-right” reputation is unlikely to dampen Republican enthusiasm after eight years of being shut out of the White House.

Christie’s belligerent style and penchant for picking fights with Democrats may also win the support of Tea Party Republicans who believe their last two nominees lost because they were too apologetic, too moderate and too nice. Say what you will, but that certainly wouldn’t be the case with Christie.

 

Ted Cruz: The Tea Party’s Doomsday Prophet

No candidate flaunts his Tea Party bona fides more loudly than Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose 2012 campaign for an open Senate seat made him a celebrity among conservative activists nationwide. Cruz sprinkled his 2012 campaign with conspiracy theories about Sharia law and Agenda 21, and started his Senate career by suggesting — without any evidence — that defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel received money from North Korea, Saudi Arabia or “extreme or radical groups.” That turned out to be just a preview of what was to come.

Cruz continued his self-aggrandizing conservative crusade by holding a faux filibuster demanding that the government block implementation of the Affordable Care Act, holding forth in a 21-hour speech that he compared to the Bataan death march. His anti-Obamacare campaign led him to orchestrate the 2013 government shutdown, in which he and other Republicans demanded that Congress keep the government closed until President Obama agreed to repeal the health care law.

Republican leaders eventually let the government reopen, conceding that virtually no changes to the health care law would be made as a result of the Cruz-inspired shutdown that had cost the economy billions of dollars. Cruz, however, said the debacle was worth it because he was able to use the manufactured crisis to build his fundraising list.

The Tea Party can count on Cruz to advertise its conspiracy theories on nearly any issue. During the debate over expanding background checks for those purchasing firearms, Cruz brazenly argued that gun reform laws would lead to higher crime rates and a national gun registry, even though he later admitted that the bill did not provide for such a registry. He also dismissed families who lost loved ones in the Newtown massacre as “political props.”

Cruz similarly used the debate over a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Citizens United decision to warn that the government planned to stifle the speech of pastors and throw media personalities in jail. He insists that the Obama administration is targeting conservative groups and media outlets, which he says should lead to Attorney General Eric Holder’s impeachment.

At the start of this year, Cruz said that his “top priority” in the Senate would be pushing for the end of a program giving temporary deportation relief to undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children, a program he blames — again without any evidence — for this summer’s crisis of unaccompanied Central American children fleeing to the southern border of the U.S. His other legislative priority in Congress is “repealing” Common Core, which is not a federal statute.

Cruz has become notorious for his doomsday predictions. The senator, who is sponsoring a bill to curtail federal recognition of married same-sex couples, has claimed that marriage equality is a surreptitious push to outlaw the freedom of speech, imprison pastorscrush liberty and eviscerate the Constitution.

He has warned that the implementation of Obamacare will “shut down” religiouslyaffiliated “charities and hospitals.” He predicted that net neutrality will destroy “freedom online.” He criticized the constitutional amendment giving voters the power to directly elect their U.S. Senators, while calling for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act and the enactment of new legislation to make it more difficult to register to vote.

While many conservatives see him as the second coming of Ronald Reagan, Cruz sees himself as the reincarnation of a different right-wing figure: the late North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms.

 

Carly Fiorina: Falling Upward to the White House

Carly Fiorina may have lost her post on the McCain-Palin campaign and herclosely watched U.S. Senate race in California, but now the former Hewlett-Packard CEO is planning another foray into politics…this time, running for president. Fiorina told Fox News Sunday in March 2015 that there was a “higher than 90 percent” chance that she would throw her hat into the ring, noting that Hillary Clinton would “get a hitch in her swing” if she were to face a female opponent.

Fiorina insists that unlike Clinton — whom she claims “lacks a track record of accomplishment” — she knows “what leadership means” as a result of her experience in business.

However, her time at HP was not exactly a success story, as it ended with the company’s board firing her in a very public spat.

Arianna Packard, the granddaughter of HP cofounder David Packard, said Fiorina’s tenure was a “disaster” that “almost destroy[ed]” the company: “The stock price dropped by 50%, only to rally 10% on the announcement of her firing. She fired 28,000 people before she herself was fired, departing with the $21 million golden parachute that is financing her campaign.” (The golden parachute also included an additional $19 million in stock and pension benefits, which is quite a severance package for someone considered to be one of the country’s worst CEOS). David Packard’s grandson, Jason Burnett, added that Fiorina “did damage to a great company, and I don't want to see her do damage to a great country.”

Her legacy includes offshoring American jobs, overseeing huge layoffs and pushing through an ill-fated merger with Compaq, which one competitor called the “dumbest deal of the decade.” Fiorina also put business above American foreign policy interests, finding ways to work around U.S. sanctions so that HP could continue to trade with Iran.

While running for U.S. Senate, Fiorina was a strong supporter of Proposition 8, which ended marriage equality in California, and mocked efforts to address human influences driving climate change as being “worried about the weather.” Her campaign’s main contribution to the race was a bizarre ad referring to insufficiently conservative Republicans as demonic sheep.

 

Lindsey Graham: Frightening People All the Way to the Presidency

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is attempting to establish himself as the race’s expert on national security…mostly, it seems, by stoking fear among voters. While no one contests the threat posed by terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, Graham has played up wild fears in an effort to frame himself as the “security candidate,” even naming his Super PAC “Security Through Strength.”

Graham believes America is facing a “perfect storm” of terrorism and insists that the U.S. is in a “religious war”: “We’re in a religious war. These are not terrorists. They’re radical Islamists who are trying to replace our way of life with their way of life. Their way of life is motivated by religious teachings that require me and you to be killed, or enslaved, or converted.”

"This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home” Graham said of ISIS, demanding that President Obama send in ground troops to fight the violent group. He has also said that he sees an “American city in flames” because “of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and Iraq.”

In September of 2013, Graham predicted that the Syrian Civil War would lead to an all-out war between Iran and Israel in six months’ time, which would then lead to a nuclear device coming into the U.S. “in the belly of a ship in the Charleston or New York harbor.” (These statements were later cited by far-right conspiracy theorists who believed Obama nearly nuked Charleston as part of a false flag operation.) 

Revealing his trademark paranoia after Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address, Graham said that “the world is literally about to blow up,” while Obama is “doing nothing.”

“They are coming here,” Graham said of ISIS during a Fox News interview. “And if we get attacked because he has no strategy to protect us, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages.”

Despite his absolutely atrocious record on foreign policy predictions, Graham still insisted on “Meet the Press” this year that “the world is falling apart, and I’ve been more right than wrong when it comes to foreign policy.”

Graham also accused Obama of prioritizing efforts to combat Ebola over fighting ISIS, while simultaneously criticizing him for not doing enough to eradicate Ebola.

The South Carolina senator is one of the most vocal peddlers of myths about the 2012 Benghazi attack, even denouncing a Republican-led report, which joined all the other official panels that investigated the attacks in debunking right-wing accusations, calling it “full of crap" and "a bunch of garbage,”" since it knocked down many of his own beliefs about the event. In 2013, he announced his plan to block all presidential nominations in reaction to a CBS report about the attack, refusing to back down, even when the report was retracted by the news company. Unsurprisingly, Graham contributed to the discredited story, which he used to blast the "scumbags" in the Obama administration.

When a Florida pastor with a small church sparked violent incidents abroad after he very publicly burned copies of the Qu’ran, Graham said that he wished “we could find some way to hold people accountable” and went on to question free speech rights: “Free speech is a great idea, but we're in a war. During World War II, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy.”

 

Mike Huckabee: From the Pulpit to the White House, Seeking to Become America’s Pastor in Chief

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee may have lost his 2008 presidential bid, in which he ran as a folksy “Christian leader,” but the heavy media exposure he got from it helped him to become a national Religious Right hero with his very own Fox News show. He even has a new book out with the red-meat title “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.”

Huckabee has been especially active in the debate over marriage equality, hoping to convince the GOP to fight gay rights more aggressively. He told one conservative talk show host that he is “utterly exasperated” with his party and may become an independent if Republicans don’t work harder to ban gay marriage. He insists that governors should defy court decisions striking down such bans, explaining that it is appropriate to ignore gay rights measures just as it would have been right to flout laws under Jim Crow or Nazi Germany. He once said he worried that marriage equality might sanction man-sheep marriage.

Beyond just the issue of marriage, Huckabee has criticized gay people for joining the Boy Scouts and appearing on television, while also likening homosexuality to alcoholism and gay marriage to Nazi Germany. He says that states should simply ignore federal court rulings on gay rights and has vowed to restore “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” if elected president.

“I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk,” Huckabee said in 1992 during an unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate. That year, he also suggested that the government quarantine people with HIV/AIDS: “If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague.” During his 2008 presidential campaign, Huckabee defended his past remarks on homosexuality and HIV, saying, “I still believe this today.”

Not only does Huckabee believe that gay marriage will incite God’s wrath against America, the former governor has also said that abortion rights are “a curse for which we will answer.”

While other Republicans ran away from the extremist anti-abortion, anti-contraception “personhood” movement, Huckabee keynoted a fundraiser for the unsuccessful Mississippi personhood campaign, which was led by a Christian Nationalist secessionist, and endorsed another failed personhood amendment in North Dakota.

While other Republicans ran away from the extremist anti-abortion, anti-contraception “personhood” movement, Huckabee keynoted a fundraiser for the unsuccessful Mississippi personhood campaign, which was led by a Christian Nationalist secessionist, and endorsed another failed personhood amendment in North Dakota.

Befitting his role as a Fox News personality, Huckabee has wondered if Obama is ushering in the End Times, predicted that laws to curb gun violence and gay rights will lead to Nazi-style tyranny, alleged that Christians are becoming second-class citizens to Muslims, and has repeatedly pushed the birther movement’s conspiracy theories.

Huckabee has also used his newfound fame to make a bit of money pushing miracle cancer cures purportedly found in the Bible, discredited diabetes remedies and survival food supplies.

With this record of extremism, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has held Huckabee up as “a model” for other Republican politicians to follow: “I always tell people: Listen to Governor Mike Huckabee.”

 

Bobby Jindal: Champion of “The Stupid Party”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the self-styled policy wonk who once lamented that “dumbed-down conservatism” is turning the GOP into “the stupid party,” has quickly embraced the Republicans’ increasingly frantic talking points about the imminent end of liberty and freedom in America. Capturing the mood of Tea Party activists this year, Jindal touted his support for a “rebellion” and a “hostile takeover” of the government to stop the “radically, extremely liberal, ideological president.”

Jindal also jumped on the controversy surrounding Phil Robertson, star of the Louisiana-based A&E reality TV show “Duck Dynasty,” to position himself as a defender of conservative Christian values against a tyrannical government and secular media. Jindal, along with other conservative figures, turned Robertson into a cause célèbre when his show was temporarily put on hiatus after he made statements attacking gays and lesbians, and defending Jim Crow. Jindal alleged that A&E violated Robertson’s First Amendment rights when it put the star on leave, and has since cited the “Duck Dynasty” fracas to warn that the rights of same-sex marriage opponents are under “assault.” The Obama administration, gay rights advocates and the courts, Jindal told graduates of the conservative bastion Liberty University this year, are all waging a “war on religious liberty — on your freedom to exercise your religion, on your freedom to associate, on your freedom of expression.”

“The same liberal extremists that want to come take our guns are the same forces that want to take away our religious liberty,” he told a National Rifle Association gathering the month before. He added: “Our freedom is under attack. Our opponents don’t believe in individual freedom…They believe the individual is subordinate to the state, subjects of the elite…We cannot let them change who America is.”

He also alleged that freedom is under attack across countries like the United Kingdom due to Sharia law no-go zones, or areas governed by Islamic law that he believes are coming to America. When asked by a reporter where in the U.K. such no-go zones exist, Jindal was unable to name a single location. While Fox News retracted its claims about such zones after experts said that the charges were completely baseless, Jindal has turned the belief in no-go zones into a major campaign theme.

An opponent of abortion rights “with no exceptions,” Jindal signed legislation that would have shut down all of his state’s abortion clinics if not for a federal judge’s decision to halt its enforcement. He also signed laws limiting insurance options for women seeking abortion care and mandating that a woman undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound before being allowed to have an abortion.

Jindal has led an aggressive push in his home state for the privatization of public education and the taxpayer funding of religious schools, even directing taxpayer dollars to schools espousing Creationism, which he said would let kids “be exposed to the best facts.” Unsurprisingly, these policies have failed to improve education outcomes in the state.

Jindal was at one time a strong supporter of the Common Core education standards: He once called Common Core’s adoption a key part of his education policy and was featured in a U.S. Chamber of Commerce advertisement promoting the standards. But Jindal has since done an about-face to get behind the growing Tea Party and Religious Right hostility to Common Core. The Louisiana governor is now touting his opposition to Common Core in front of conservative audiences and implying that the standards entail a surreptitious socialist agenda. Jindal’s new line on Common Core plays right into conservative conspiracy theories about the standards, including claims that they represent a federal government takeover of the education system and will indoctrinate students into left-wing politics. Louisiana’s state board of education has ignored Jindal’s reversal and is implementing the Common Core standards anyway.

Jindal’s desire to appeal to right-wing conspiracy theorists has even led him to wade into the issue of President Obama’s citizenship, supporting a “birther bill” under consideration in the state legislature in 2011. Jindal has repeatedly suggested that Obama neither understands American values nor loves America.

While Jindal works on burnishing his image for national audiences, he remains deeply unpopular among his own constituents. A majority of Louisiana voters, including Republicans, disapprove of the job Jindal has done as governor and say he shouldn’t run for president. Jindal is especially unpopular on pocketbook issues, as his economic agenda has led to a collapse in the state’s fiscal health. His policies have been so damaging that even Republican lawmakers in the state consider his policy program to be “insane.”

 

Rand Paul: The GOP's “Principled” Flip-Flopper

Following his upset victory in the 2010 Republican U.S. Senate primary in Kentucky, Rand Paul told the country that he had “a message from the Tea Party.”

That message has turned out to be a mix of anti-establishment libertarianism in the mold of his father, Rep. Ron Paul, and tired Republican ideas repackaged under the brand of the Tea Party.

Paul has received glowing media attention for his purported focus on promoting a brand of principled libertarianism and expanding the party’s base, which skews older and whiter, by building bridges to voters who typically receive little attention from Republican politicians. His campaign against the scope of the federal government plays well in today’s GOP, which is trying to shy away from the unpopular legacy of George W. Bush, and blames “big government” under Obama for any and all societal ills.

But Paul is willing to buck his ‘“principled libertarianism”’ when politically expedient — all while insisting that his positions have never changed. Paul, for example, claims that he has always supported the Civil Rights Act, even though, before he entered the national spotlight, he adamantly opposed key parts of the law.

Similarly, Paul told the Urban League in a 2014 speech that he supports the Voting Rights Act, although he had previously told the conservative outlet Newsmax that he opposed the law. He told a group of black pastors that he thinks the GOP should stop pushing restrictive voter ID laws, but then turned around and told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he doesn’t actually oppose voter ID laws and only regrets the negative attention they have received.

Paul insists that those who point to his past statements are part of a liberal media conspiracy to mischaracterize his record. But while conservatives may not mind his apparent shift on civil rights, he has also taken contradictory stances on issues that are more important to the GOP base.

Although he once proposed an end to all foreign aid, including dollars going to America’s largest aid recipient, Israel, Paul now claims that he never once tried to end aid to the country. Paul’s historical revisionism may be part of an effort to shore up support from Religious Right activists whose Christian Zionist views have made U.S. support for the Israeli government a central cause of their movement. But it may be hard for him to escape his past statements and lengthy legislative record to the contrary.

One commentator for the conservative Heritage Foundation blasted Paul’s “confusing” position on marriage equality, and it’s no wonder why. The Kentucky senator has said that he is “in favor of the concept” of a federal marriage amendment banning same-sex unions, while at the same time insisting that he opposes a federal role in the matter. Paul has repeatedly expressed support for state bans on marriage equality — even going so far as to warn that same-sex marriage will pave the way for human-animal nuptials — while also making the case that the GOP can become “a bigger tent” without a “complete flip” on the marriage issue. Now he says that he opposes same-sex marriage simply because he and others are personally “offended” by it.

Paul has also been on all sides of the question of abortion rights. Although Paul is the chief sponsor of a federal personhood bill that would ban abortion in all cases and has warned that a failure to pass the bill will result in the collapse of civilization, he has also said that he does not favor changing the nation’s abortion laws because the country is currently too divided on the issue. Paul insists that he opposes bans on birth control, despite the fact that his own personhood bill would give legal rights to zygotes and could ban common forms of contraception. In a 2013 CNN interview, Paul said that there would be “thousands of exceptions” to his personhood bill, but a spokesman later assured anti-choice activists that the senator approved of just a single exception, allowing abortion in cases where the life of the pregnant woman is at risk.

If it sounds like Rand Paul has one message for one audience and a different message for another, it’s because he does.

Paul’s pattern of policy shifts belies his image as a principled, libertarian pioneer. In reality, he attempts to portray himself as a moderate to a national audience, while boasting of his far-right views in front of GOP audiences. While this maneuvering may play to conservative voters and his loyal base, it is only a matter of time before his reversals and denials catch up with him.

 

Rick Perry: God’s Candidate for President, This Time…

Texas Gov. Rick Perry quickly won support from conservative activists, especially the Religious Right, when he made a late entry into the 2012 presidential election, unofficially launching his campaign with a prayer rally packed with Religious Right extremists. Perry came into the race midway through his third term as governor, armed with a record of right-wing economic policies; close ties to the oil industry and opposition to regulations on polluters; antagonism to the federal government; and hostility to LGBT equality and abortion rights. Portraying himself as a candidate to the right of Mitt Romney but more electable than the rest of the GOP field, Perry gained traction until his campaign self-destructed, thanks to a series of horrific debate performances and unforced errors.

Perry, who has floated the idea of secession from the United States and signed constitutionally dubious legislation defending the right of states to nullify federal laws, wants to repeal the amendments to the U.S. Constitution allowing for a progressive income tax and requiring that U.S. senators are elected directly by voters.

He believes states should be able to opt out of programs like Social Security — which he called a “Ponzi scheme” — and Medicaid. His decision to refuse Medicaid expansion in Texas has cost the state tens of billions of dollars and left millions without insurance. A staunch critic of federal economic policies who once threatened the “almost treasonous” chairman of the Federal Reserve, his opposition to the 2009 federal economic stimulus package didn’t stop him from using stimulus dollars to balance Texas’ budget and stave off a massive shortfall. But it’s unclear how much power Perry thinks economic policy actually has: He once suggested that the 2008 economic crisis was an anti-government message from God.

Perry has played with the conspiracy theories surrounding President Obama’s birth, citing Donald Trump as his source of information on the legitimacy of the president’s citizenship and saying that the conspiracy theory surrounding the president’s birth certificate is “a good issue to keep alive.”

The Texas governor has also dabbled in other anti-Obama conspiracy theories, including alleging that the Obama administration orchestrated a humanitarian crisis on the southern border for political purposes. He made waves with his decision to send the National Guard to patrol the border against Central American children, a plan he unveiled while campaigning in Iowa.

While he will likely ground his candidacy in issues relating to immigration and the economy, Perry is also a social issues warrior. As governor, Perry championed Texas’ law criminalizing consensual sex between adults of the same gender, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case. He made anti-gay animus a central part of his presidential campaign, running a desperate TV ad attacking gay military service members. After his presidential campaign, Perry became an outspoken opponent of a policy change allowing gay youths to join the Boy Scouts, likening that fight to the fight to end slavery. Earlier this year, he defended his state party’s decision to endorse pseudoscientific ex-gay therapy by comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.

As governor of Texas, Perry enacted some of the most sweeping anti-abortion rights laws in the country, even going so far as to call an emergency session of the state legislature to pass a bill to force the closure of most of the state’s abortion clinics, though a federal judge has temporarily blocked portions of the new restrictions. Perry mocked one of the bill’s principal opponents, state Sen. Wendy Davis, saying “it is just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example” of being a teen mother.

Perry was recently indicted on charges that he abused his power as governor to defund an investigative unit that was looking into a project that he had championed. Despite his best effort to portray himself as the victim of a political witch hunt, a judge declined Perry’s attempt to have the indictments thrown out.

 

Marco Rubio: The Tea Party’s Prodigal Son Returns

The Republican Party has been increasingly willing to cave to far-right purists who want to drive out anyone who they deem to be ideologically impure. The career of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is a case in point.

After winning his U.S. Senate seat with Tea Party support in 2010, Rubio tried to follow through on his pledge to work toward a bipartisan bill on immigration reform, helping to lead the efforts of the so-called “Gang of Eight.” But many conservative activists turned against Rubio for daring to sponsor a bill that drew broad support from his colleagues in the Senate and the American people at large. In the end, under pressure from the party’s far-right flank, House Republicans blocked the “Gang of Eight” bill, failing to even put the reform legislation up for a vote.

As the attacks piled up, Rubio began sending mixed messages about his position on immigration reform, even while the Senate debated his bill. After voting for his legislation, Rubio worked hard to redeem himself in the eyes of the increasingly angry base,  renouncing his support for the bill he helped to write and  promising to oppose future comprehensive reform efforts.

This was all a bit of a turnaround for a politician whose willingness to work on immigration reform had led Time Magazine to dub him “The Republican Savior.”

Instead of leading his party, the Florida senator presented a textbook study in how to cave to the party’s most extreme fringe: Denounce past positions and then try to scramble as far to the right as possible.

After the “Gang of Eight” debacle, Rubio tried to score points with anti-immigrant activists by facing off with Dreamers who called him out for “flip-flopping” on his stance on comprehensive reform and using baseless right-wing talking points to denounce relief for young undocumented immigrants. The senator briefly threatened to use a budget standoff to block President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, but eventually said that Congress should back down and fully fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Apparently fearing that his former stance on immigration has poisoned his image among conservative voters, Rubio has now embraced a whole host of right-wing causes in an attempt to win them back. Rubio pushed for a government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act, denounced a bipartisan budget deal that was derided by many Tea Party activists and criticized minimum wage laws.

The senator also boasted that he does not accept the consensus among climate scientists that human activities have an influence on climate change.

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” Rubio said. “I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow, there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate. Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and — and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activity.”

While speaking with Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly, Rubio insisted — falsely — that “surface temperatures [on] the earth have stabilized.” He also failed to disclose, when asked during a press conference, which studies he has relied on for his claim that climate change is a myth, instead choosing to simply ignore the question and vowing to oppose efforts to “ban all carbon emissions in the United States,” something that no one is proposing.

In addition, Rubio has kowtowed to the Religious Right by mocking the separation of church and state, warning of the purported loss of religious liberty under Obama, lambasting abortion rights, blocking a gay judicial nominee and denouncing the legalization of same-sex marriage in his home state.

He has also embraced the Religious Right’s victimhood rhetoric, insisting that gay rights advocates preach “intolerance” and warning that American society is marginalizing Christians.

The man who was once hailed as the leader who could help the GOP become a successful national party in a new electoral landscape seems to have given up on that ideal, settling instead for chasing approval from the party’s extreme and demanding far-right base.

 

Rick Santorum: A Religious Right Crusader Masquerading As a “Blue Collar” Conservative

Since losing to Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican presidential primary season, Rick Santorum has tried to position himself as the “anti-Romney.” The former Pennsylvania senator isn’t just a conservative warrior on issues like immigration, legal abortion and gay rights; he is also trying to change the image of his party as an organization led by and only concerned about millionaires and billionaires.

In his 2014 book, “Blue Collar Conservatives,” Santorum chides his party for being too focused on cutting taxes for the rich, and showing little empathy for workers and the unemployed. His message of right-wing populism, while not exactly revolutionary, captures the mood of many Tea Party activists who see GOP elites as too close to Wall Street and Washington. But his critique of the GOP is mostly cosmetic: Santorum offers the same tired Republican solutions for cutting taxes and domestic programs, deregulating Wall Street, promoting the fossil fuel industry and curtailing immigration.

Contrary to his rhetoric, Santorum pushes a policy agenda heavily favored by Wall Street: repealing regulations governing the financial services sector and other industries, attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board, rolling back the powers of the EPA and, of course, cutting taxes for the very rich. Santorum perfectly embodies the spirit of the Tea Party as he makes overtures to voters who are upset by Wall Street’s behavior, while pushing policies that allow Wall Street to continue that behavior unfettered.

Santorum complements his message of economic populism with a crusading stance on social issues, arguing that the GOP must become more conservative, and more aggressive, if it wants to win. Shying away from social issues, Santorum contends, would only undermine the GOP.

In a yearlong gig as a columnist for the online conspiracy theory clearinghouse WorldNetDaily that he started after dropping out of the presidential race, Santorum proved himself adept at speaking to his party’s extreme base. He used the platform to play up right-wing fears about government and gays, stoking conservative opposition to such measures as an international disability rights treaty and the inclusion of gay youths in the Boy Scouts of America.

Santorum also stands to benefit from his deep roots in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, where he built a coalition of Religious Right activists to edge out Romney in 2012. He received a late but critical endorsement from Bob Vander Plaats, a leading Iowa power broker who spearheaded Mike Huckabee’s successful 2008 caucus campaign and heads an amalgam of Religious Right groups called The Family Leader. Santorum teamed up with Vander Plaats in 2010 for the successful campaign to remove three Iowa Supreme Court judges who joined a unanimous decision in favor of marriage equality.

Santorum also won the support of a large coalition of Religious Right leaders from across the country in 2012, but only after Romney had already racked up early primary victories.

After coming up short in the presidential primary, Santorum got a job as the chief executive of a conservative Christian film company EchoLight Studios. He has used his new post to push the right-wing narrative that conservative Christians in America are facing widespread persecution as a result of gay rights, Obamacare, and the separation of church and state. The way Santorum tells it, marriage equality is a threat to the freedom of speech and religion, and Satan is using universities, mainline Protestant churches and the government to extinguish conservative values.

Naturally, he plans to center his upcoming presidential campaign on putting Bibles in public schools, criticizing the separation of church and state and gay rights, and warning of Nazi-style, anti-Christian oppression in America.

 

Scott Walker: The Koch Brothers’ Favorite Extremist

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker became a right-wing hero in 2011 when he pushed a package of union-busting labor reform laws through the state legislature as protesters occupied the Capitol Building, and then survived a subsequent recall election.

Walker — who portrays himself as an “unintimidated” leader — has attempted to turn Wisconsin into a petri dish for conservative orthodoxy, spearheading efforts to curb the rights of workers, implement austerity economics, defund and privatize education, undermine campaign finance laws, restrict voting rights and crack down on legal abortions.

After the corporate tax cuts he championed caused his state’s budget deficit to balloon, Walker argued that Wisconsin needed to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees in order to close the deficit. His proposal targeted unions that typically supported Democrats, while GOP-aligned unions were conveniently left unaffected.

Tea Party groups rallied to Walker’s defense as protests rocked Madison, and right-wing groups poured in millions of dollars to defend Walker and promote his policies. Prosecutors alleged that several of these organizations were part of a “criminal scheme” involving illegal coordination with Walker’s office.

Walker’s recipe for economic prosperity in Wisconsin, which he wants to replicate nationwide, hasn’t exactly been a success, as the state lags in job growth compared to its neighbors, and Walker badly missed his goal of creating 250,000 jobs by the end of his first term.

Walker coupled his offensive against workers with attacks on families who rely on public health insurance, costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicaid subsidies. He also drove through new laws curbing early voting and making it harder for the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents without drivers licenses to vote, a move that disproportionately affected people of color and young people [PDF].

But most recently, Walker has been receiving attention for his clear policy shifts as he prepares to run for president. He signed so-called “right-to-work” legislation crippling private-sector unions, a bill he repeatedly said he wouldn’t touch as governor; reversed his position on whether undocumented immigrants should have a pathway to citizenship, saying that, despite past statements, he is now opposed to such a plan; he endorsed a federal ethanol mandate, popular among Iowans, that he previously criticized for interfering in free markets and opposed as far back as 1999; and he pledged to sign into law a 20-week abortion ban, although he had vowed in a campaign ad to leave the “final decision” on terminating a pregnancy to “a woman and her doctor.”

After pivoting to the center to win a tight race for re-election, Walker now seems comfortable embracing his previous right-wing stances as he explores a campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. Despite his campaign claims that he doesn’t have a position on marriage equality and will not “focus on” or “obsess with” abortion rights, Walker actually has a long record of Religious Right-aligned political activism.

Walker used his position as governor to fulfill a right-wing wish list, successfully repealing a law that allowed women to challenge discriminatory payment practices in state court; blocking the defense of a state law granting hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners; enacting targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws aimed at closing clinics and limiting coverage; requiring women who seek an abortion to undergo an ultrasound; restricting birth control access; ending the state’s relationship with Planned Parenthood; and weakening comprehensive sex education in favor of abstinence-only lessons.

One Wisconsin Republican state senator criticized Walker’s policies as “way too extreme,” arguing that they serve “an out-of-state billionaire-funded and driven agenda.” One of Walker’s own fundraising officials emphasized the need for the governor to solicit money from the Koch brothers and billionaire GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, writing, “Corporations. Go heavy after them to give.”

With such experience, it is no wonder that Walker cited his standoff with pro-labor demonstrators as a reason that he would be effective in fighting terrorists.

GOP Rep Compares Obamacare To North Korea

Rep. David Brat, R-Va., took issue with a PolitiFact post that rated a recent anti-Obamacare statement he made as “false,” telling conservative talk show host Lars Larson at yesterday’s “Hold Their Feet To The Fire” conference that the Affordable Care Act represents a severe threat to the country.

Brat said that Obamacare, which Larson inaccurately referred to as “a health care system run by government,” will move America away from a free market system. He pointed to the two Koreas as an example of the dangers of such policies: “Look at every country in the world. Look at North Korea and South Korea. It’s the same culture, it’s the same people, look at a map at night, one of the countries is not lit, there’s no lights, and the bottom free-market country, all Koreans, is lit up. So you make your bet on which country you want to be, you want to go free market.”

“We have poverty on the rise because we’re moving away from free markets,” he said.

He added that in high schools he visits most graduating seniors “can’t tell you what a business is” because the schools “are not teaching people that business is a good thing.”

Mike Huckabee's Five Worst Moments

Mike Huckabee says he is making a big announcement tonight on Fox News, the former home of his television talk show, which is leaving many to speculate that he will throw his hat into the presidential race.

Huckabee has made repeated campaign-like stops in Iowa and a top Iowa political operative launched has a “super PAC” to help a potential Huckabee campaign. The former Arkansas governor is also slated to speak next Saturday at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff along with other declared and likely GOP presidential candidates.

Whether or not Huckabee decides to launch another presidential campaign, the self-proclaimed ambassador of “Bubba-ville” is sure to remain a force in Republican politics.

Although Huckabee has never made it very far in his presidential ambitions, his national media platform and popularity in the Religious Right have made him influential in pushing his party further to the fringe including LGBT equality, birth control and the separation of church and state.

1) Extreme Opposition To Gay Rights

During an unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1992, Huckabee argued that “homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle” that can “pose a dangerous public health risk,” asserting that the government should make sure that people with HIV/AIDs are “isolated from the general population.” Huckabee stood by his remarks when he was asked about his comments during his last presidential bid.

Huckabee has since emerged as a consistent source of anti-gay bias, likening gay rights to Nazismcomparing gay people to alcoholics and people who have sex with sheep; attacking the presence of gay people in television commercials and professional sports; demanding the reinstitution of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; and urging states to simply ignore court rulings on gay rights.

So it should come as no surprise that Huckabee believes that God will soon punish America for gay marriage and thinks the gay rights movement ultimately aims to close all of the country’s churches.

2) Contraception Plan Hypocrisy

Huckabee waded into the legal fight over whether the government can mandate that insurance plans cover contraceptives by becoming one of the most outspoken defenders of Hobby Lobby, the craft company that dropped its own coverage of contraceptive drugs in order to sue the government.

Not only did Huckabee erroneously refer to such drugs as “tax-funded abortion pills,” but he even claimed — without a shred of evidence — that the Obama administration was trying to force “business owners to pay for employees’ abortions.” He launched a Hobby Lobby “buycott” day to support the company, disparaging the government for “thinking it’s God and trying to act like it” and imposing a “tyranny” that reminded him of “why the American revolution started.”

The former governor criticized Democratic supporters of the contraceptive coverage plan for thinking that women must depend on “Uncle Sugar” for “providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido.”

Of course, Huckabee conveniently ignored the fact that, as governor of Arkansas, he signed a contraceptive coverage mandate much more sweeping than the federal version, as it even affected church-affiliated groups.

3) Huckabee’s School Shootings Solution

Huckabee even connected his hostility to the contraception insurance mandate to the Sandy Hook school shooting, saying that the insurance policy was a sign that America has kicked God “out of our culture and marched him off the public square.” Therefore, Huckabee said, people shouldn’t “express our surprise” when a school shooting occurs.

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee told Fox News on the day of the Sandy Hook massacre. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

Huckabee’s advice to public schools seeking to prevent shootings? Organize chapel services and Bible readings.

4) Pushing The Persecution Myth

Huckabee is under the impression that the rights of Christians are under assault in the U.S., insisting that the government “will protect the rights of almost any religion except Christians.”

According to Huckabee, President Obama has made sure that his administration does “everything possible to accommodate Muslims” — who “enjoy special rights and privileges” in America – while at the same time “stomping all over Christians.”

When Bill Maher asked Huckabee to explain his “persecution complex,” the evidence he produced was the portrayal of Christian characters in “television shows and movies.”

5) Advertising Quack Cures

While Huckabee is angry with how the entertainment industry treats conservative Christians, he seems to have no problem with sending his overwhelmingly conservative Christian email subscribers sponsored content from quack doctors and conspiracy theorists. Huckabee has used his email list to advertise bogus cures to diabetesAlzheimer’s and cancer (the latter a cure allegedly gleaned from the 859th page of an ancient Bible).

Huckabee himself once appeared in an advertisement promoting the pseudo-scientific diabetes treatment, although we still aren’t sure if he ever bought into the messages he sponsored from a notorious financial fraudster peddling survival food and investment advice.

Louie Gohmert Blames Gyrocopter Landing On Obama's Immigration Policies

Rep. Louie Gohmert said yesterday that “it ought to scare people” that a man was able to land a gyrocopter near the U.S. Capitol earlier this week, blaming the incident on President Obama’s immigration policy.

In an interview with conservative talk radio host Lars Larson, who was broadcasting from the annual “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” event held by the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Gohmert said that the Department of Homeland Security was trying to portray the event as “a hologram that didn’t really happen.”

“Homeland Security is so overwhelmed in trying to bring in and ship around illegal aliens and give amnesty to as many people as they can, the millions we’re told will ultimately have this amnesty, that they can’t do something as simple as protect the United States Capitol,” Gohmert said.

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