lindsey graham

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

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.

Lindsey Graham Says We Need an Amendment to Fix Money in Politics

At an event with a local television station in New Hampshire this weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham was asked a question about what he would do to fight big money in politics. In his response, Graham pointed to the need for a constitutional amendment to address the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United:

Well, Citizens United has gotta be fixed. Y'all agree with that? You're gonna need a constitutional amendment to fix this problem. I was for McCain-Feingold, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that provisions in McCain-Feingold basically no longer apply.

You're gonna get sick of watching TV in New Hampshire. So the next President of the United States needs to get a commission of really smart people and find a way to create a constitutional amendment to limit the role of super PACs because there's gonna be like $100M spent on races in New Hampshire — which'll be good for this TV station — ripping everybody apart. You don't even know who the people are supplying the money, you don't even know their agenda. Eventually we're gonna destroy American politics with so much money in the political process cause they're going to turn you off to wanting to vote. [emphasis added]

This is not the first time Sen. Graham has spoken out against the big money takeover of our elections. In March, Bloomberg’s David Weigel wrote about a comment Graham made to a voter — again, in New Hampshire — about his desire to see some “control” over money in politics so it won’t “destroy the political process.”

While voicing support for an amendment is important, when the Senate voted in September on the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposal that would overturn decisions like Citizens United and help get big money out of politics, Sen. Graham voted against it.

So here’s a follow-up question for Sen. Graham: Will you back up your words with action? Will you work with your colleagues in Congress who are already pushing for an amendment and help tackle the issue of big money in politics? 

PFAW

Lindsey Graham: Frightening People All The Way To The Presidency

For Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., stoking fear makes him an expert on national security. While no one doubts the threat of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, Graham has played up wild fears as part of his naked political ambition...

Seriously? Republicans Target Birthright Citizenship Again?

This op-ed by Randy Borntager, Political Director of People For the American Way, was originally published at The Huffington Post.

After the vast majority of Republicans voted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security to oppose President Obama's immigration actions, and with Republicans blocking any hope of real immigration reform this Congress, it seems the anti-immigrant movement has instead decided to refocus its efforts on revoking the constitutional right to birthright citizenship.

Earlier this week, Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana decided to introduce a birthright citizenship amendment to the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. The amendment so far has just one cosponsor -- Sen. David Perdue of Georgia -- and it's unlikely that it will be included in the final bill, but this decision to tack an unconstitutional, anti-immigrant measure onto an important bill shows the priorities of Sen. Vitter and the Republican Party.

Sen. Vitter claims that his birthright citizenship amendment would help curb the issue of "birth tourism," recently in the news surrounding Chinese mothers coming to California -- often committing crimes in the process -- so their children can be born in the U.S. It would seem more sensible to tackle this issue through targeting the middlemen who NBC reports "pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars tax-free," and the visa, tax, and marriage fraud that are often a key part of "birth tourism." Instead, Sen. Vitter and the many Republicans who support ending birthright citizenship are trying to use the issue as cover for their attacks on immigrants and attempts to revoke a core constitutional right.

The flaws of the conservative attacks on birthright citizenship have been well documented. First, it's blatantly unconstitutional. It's clear that the drafters of the 14th Amendment intended it to guarantee citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. The only exception -- in the words of one of the amendment drafter's, Sen. Jacob Howard -- is for people "who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States," as they are not, as the 14th Amendment requires, "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States. Conservatives from Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush adviser, to the anti-immigrant Lou Dobbs have viewed attempts to undermine birthright citizenship as unconstitutional.

It's also a terrible idea. Gerson wrote, "Anti-immigration activists often claim that their real concern is to prevent law breaking, not to exclude Hispanics. But revoking birthright citizenship would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into 'criminals'--arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital." The Migration Policy Institute also found that rather than decreasing the number of undocumented immigrants in America, as birthright citizenship activists claim, revoking the right would "likely increase dramatically" the number of people in the country without authorization, leading to the "establishment of a permanent class of unauthorized persons."

Sen. Vitter is not the only Republican promoting anti-immigrant bills instead of trying for real, bipartisan solutions on immigration. In January of this year, Rep. Steve King of Iowa re-introduced a bill aiming to repeal birthright citizenship. Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Rep. Mike Coffman, and Rep. Joe Heck have all backed plans to revoke birthright citizenship in the past.

We need immigration reform. From improving the economy while reducing the deficit to ensuring that DREAMers and their families can live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation, the benefits are endless. Not only have Republicans blocked comprehensive immigration reform when it had a real chance of passing, they're now trying yet again to bring up unconstitutional bills to drive their point home. That's not what responsible governing looks like, and for a party that says they're trying to attract more Latino support, they're certainly not shy about attacking immigrants for short-term political gain.

PFAW

Lindsey Graham Tells Anti-Choice Activists: Need To Find 'Way Out Of This Definitional Problem With Rape'

Sen. Lindsey Graham, chief Senate sponsor of the GOP’s effort to undermine Roe by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, spoke this morning to the Family Research Council’s “ProLifeCon,” about the House GOP’s decision to cancel a vote on its version of the bill that had been planned for today. The House leadership pulled the plug on the vote in response to protests from some Republican women who objected to a provision that exempted rape survivors from the ban only if they report the rape to police. Some anti-choice groups have objected to including a rape exception in the bill at all, a last-minute addition after the bill’s previous House sponsor, Trent Franks, implied that women who are raped rarely get pregnant.

Graham acknowledged that opponents of rape exceptions are being “intellectually consistent and honest about ‘the baby is the baby’” but argued that banning rape survivors from accessing abortion is a political impossibility: “Some of us who have these exceptions do so in a democratic society believing that there are some places we will not go.”

“I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,” he told the audience, saying that his plan was to hold a Senate vote on a Democratic bill aimed at pushing back on state-level abortion clinic “TRAP” laws in order to show that it’s Democrats who are “extreme” on abortion rights.

“The rape exception will be part of the bill…We just need to find a way definitionally to not get us in a spot where we’re debating about what a legitimate rape is, that’s not the cause that we’re in,” he said.

This post has been updated with additional details of Graham's speech. 

Right Wing Round-Up - 1/8/15

Far-Right Furious After GOP Report Debunks Benghazi Conspiracy Theories

Fox News seems to be doing its best to bury the findings of a new report from the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee, which undercuts many of the wild accusations Fox News hosts made about the 2012 Benghazi attack. In fact, the report is the seventh official investigation into Benghazi, all of which cleared the Obama administration of wrongdoing, and follows a report from the GOP-controlled House Armed Services Committee, which also debunked many right-wing Benghazi myths.

Others on the right, however, seem content with blasting the report as part of an ever-growing plot to guard President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a conspiracy which now apparently includes the House Republicans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham dismissed the Intelligence Committee report as “full of crap” and a “complete bunch of garbage,” without bothering to rebut any of the facts laid out in the report, and demanded that Congress expand the eighth investigation by the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the incoming head of the House Oversight Committee, also pledged to launch another investigation into Benghazi.

Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak continued to use attacks on Obama and Clinton that were directly undermined by the report’s findings, while Daniel Greenfield of FrontPageMag called the report a “joke” that shouldn’t have even have been released, suggesting that House Republicans are now part of a cover-up intended to benefit Clinton:

There is simply no such thing as accountability in government. The incestuously corrupt culture of government insiders and the smug political reporters who eat out of their hands make that impossible. No matter how many whistleblowers come forward, how many of the men and women on the front lines tell their story, a group of lawyers with red pens will huddle over a report and use technicalities and word games to ignore the whistleblowers and exempt their government superiors from blame.

Washington can never allow any accountability for Benghazi because once we look closely at the murder of four Americans we might just have to start looking at the thousands of soldiers who died or were wounded in Afghanistan for many of the same reasons; including being denied support to avoid offending Muslims.

The media can never allow any accountability for Benghazi because the buck stops with their chosen presidential candidate for 2016.

Conservative commentator Walid Shoebat’s outlet held the report up as proof that House GOP has been infiltrated by — you guessed it! — the Muslim Brotherhood. He even urged the Benghazi Select Committee to depose the Intelligence Committee chairman over the matter:

A soon-to-be released House Intelligence Committee report on the Benghazi attacks reportedly lets the Obama administration off the hook, concluding that there was “no deliberate wrongdoing” on the part of the administration relative to the attacks. A consequence of this is that Benghazi Select Committee chairman Trey Gowdy is being stabbed in the back by his Republican colleague, who chairs the Intelligence Committee.



Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) is a figure who should be at the top of the list of individuals House Select Committee on Benghazi’s Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy should depose, as Shoebat.com has reported. As for the issue of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration, Rogers has a history of running interference for it. In 2012, he dismissed legitimate questions by Rep. Michele Bachmann and insisted close Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin is an “American patriot”.

Based on what is being revealed about the forthcoming Intelligence Committee report, that reality is even clearer.

William Gheen Robocall Warns South Carolina & Virginia Voters That Immigrants Will Take Their Jobs, Welfare And Votes

Updated

Despite his group’s perpetual financial woes, William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC has managed to scrape together enough funds to deluge 122,000 households in South Carolina and Virginia with a robocall attacking Rep. Eric Cantor and Sen. Lindsey Graham for supporting immigration reform, Brietbart reports today.

“Remember that a vote for Cantor or Graham is a vote for tens of millions of illegal immigrants to get amnesty, jobs, welfare payments and a vote with or against you in future elections. Remember who to thank for amnesty. Thank Eric Cantor and Lindsey Graham” Gheen says in the robocall, which he tells Breitbart will reach 26,000 Republican households Cantor’s Virginia district and 96,000 in South Carolina.

Cantor, meanwhile, hasn’t explicitly endorsed immigration reform and is actuallyfundraising off the claim that he blocked reform from moving forward in Congress.

Gheen is one of the most extreme figures in the anti-immigrant movement, who has warned of a violent revolution if the immigrant “invasion” can’t be stopped and said that immigration reform would amount to “national rape.”

UPDATE: It looks like Gheen’s South Carolina calls violate state law, which of course gives Gheen another opportunity for self-aggrandizement. The State reports:

State law bans automatically dialed calls that deliver unsolicited, prerecorded consumer or political messages without assistance of a live operator, S.C. Republican Party chairman Matt Moore said in a memo sent out last month as a reminder to campaigns.

Graham’s campaign spokesman, Tate Zeigler, said of the automated calls, “We don't do illegal robo calls.”

Americans for Legal Immigration president William Gheen said his robo-calls comply with federal law. Gheen was not familiar with S.C. law. After reading it, he said he would turn himself in if any prosecutor decided to charge him.

He also said he would beat any charges.

“I feel quite confident in my ability to defeat this in a court of law,” Gheen said, adding he is defending his right to engage in political speech. “For our republic to function, people need to be able to communicate with voters.”

Gheen said he has one request for anyone who plans to arrest him: “The only thing I ask is that they do it before Election Day, please."

UPDATE II: Gheen has issued a press release hyping his own martyrdom, even though there has been no indication that he will even be charged under the rarely-enforced South Carolina law:

The President of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC William Gheen is facing possible charges and arrest after bumping into a unique, obscure, and unenforced state law banning automated campaign calls that are designed to warn South Carolina and Virginia voters about how the immigration reform amnesty plans of Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Eric Cantor will affect them.

...

"I know that nobody likes robo-calls, but isn't it ironic that I might be charged for violating an obscure unenforced state law curtailing freedoms of political speech while more than 12 million illegal immigrants flagrantly violate numerous federal laws designed to protect Americans from real damages?" said William Gheen of ALIPAC. "A few seconds of an annoying call is nothing compared to the millions of devastated American lives that are a result of Lindsey Graham's and Eric Cantor's support for amnesty for illegals."

Graham's Tea Party Challenger: Able-Bodied Food Stamp Recipients 'Shouldn't Eat,' Social Safety Net 'Role Of The Church'

South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright is currently leading the field of Tea Party primary challengers to Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, all of whom think the very conservative senator is not conservative enough.

To give you an idea of what someone running to the right of Lindsey Graham looks like, Bright wants anyone enforcing health care reform in South Carolina to go to jail, wants the state to have its own currency and has even joked about secession.

At a fundraising event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, Bright elaborated even further on his far-right beliefs, calling for immigrants to “self-deport,” saying that all social services should be provided by the Church and that able-bodied people relying on food stamps “shouldn’t eat,” and comparing the IRS’s income-tax collection to Nazi Germany.

Bright bashed Graham for participating in the crafting of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration law, saying that he only did so in order to bring more Democratic voters into South Carolina so he could switch parties. “Lindsey Graham would like to be a Democrat, but the numbers aren’t there,” he alleged. “But if you bring all the illegals in and they vote Democrat, then a Democrat can win in South Carolina and just about anywhere in the country.”

Bright added that his immigration solution was “self-deportation,” the draconian idea that if the government makes life miserable enough for undocumented immigrants, they’ll flee of their own will.

Later in the talk, Bright alleged that immigration reform is just a “band-aid” because “a lot” of Americans “won’t work.”

“It’s not politically correct to say this, but we’ve got a lot of people who won’t work,” he said. “And they won’t work because we’ll provide their food, and we’ll provide their housing, and we’ll provide some spending money. We’ve all seen it, the folks in line who are using [food stamps], yet they’ve got the nicest nails and the nicest pocketbook and they get the nicest car.”

Bright acknowledged that there are some Americans who are physically unable to work, but said they should be the responsibility of the Church: “There’s people that are mentally ill, there are people that are disabled. I understand that, though I still think that’s the role of the Church to take care of those folks.

“But able-bodied people, if they don’t work, they shouldn’t eat,” he said.

In fact, three-quarters of households receiving SNAP benefits include a child, an elderly person or a disabled person and a third of recipients do work, but don’t earn living incomes.

Finally, Bright voiced his support for the Tea Party dream of abolishing the IRS and income taxes, saying that “there is no other institution in our government that people are more fearful of,” he said. Getting a letter from the IRS, he added, is something out of “Nazi Germany.”

 

Twelve Republicans Who Broke Their Pledge To Oppose Judicial Filibusters

After waging an unprecedented campaign of obstructionism against President Obama’s nominees, Republicans are now crying crocodile tears over a rules change that would end the filibuster on certain judicial nominees.

NBC News points out that Republicans are not blocking judicial nominees over “concerns about ideology or qualifications, but over the president’s ability to appoint ANYONE to these vacancies.” This unprecedented blockade leaves Democrats with few options, as dozens of nominees are left unable to receive a simple confirmation vote.

It’s even harder to be sympathetic to Senate Republicans when you remember that just a few years ago, many of the very same Republicans who are today filibustering President Obama’s nominees willy-nilly were vowing that they would never, ever filibuster judicial nominees. Some even declared that judicial filibusters were unconstitutional and un-American.

But that was before there was a Democrat in the White House.

We take a look back at some of the Senate’s most strident opponents of filibustering judicial nominees, turned master obstructers.

1. Mitch McConnell (KY)

“Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration. But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote” (5/19/05).

“Let's get back to the way the Senate operated for over 200 years, up or down votes on the president's nominee, no matter who the president is, no matter who's in control of the Senate” (5/22/05).

2. John Cornyn (TX)

“[F]ilibusters of judicial nominations are uniquely offensive to our nation’s constitutional design” (6/4/03).

“[M]embers of this distinguished body have long and consistently obeyed an unwritten rule not to block the confirmation of judicial nominees by filibuster. But, this Senate tradition, this unwritten rule has now been broken and it is crucial that we find a way to ensure the rule won’t be broken in the future” (6/5/03).

3. Lamar Alexander (TN)

“If there is a Democratic President and I am in this body, and if he nominates a judge, I will never vote to deny a vote on that judge” (3/11/03).

“I would never filibuster any President's judicial nominee. Period” (6/9/05).

4. John McCain (AZ)

“I’ve always believed that [judicial nominees deserve yes-or-no votes]. There has to be extraordinary circumstances to vote against them. Elections have consequences” (6/18/13).

5. Chuck Grassley (IA)

It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60” (2/11/03).

“[W]e can’t find anywhere in the Constitution that says a supermajority is needed for confirmation” (5/8/05).

6. Saxby Chambliss (GA)

“I believe [filibustering judicial nominees] is in violation of the Constitution” (4/13/05).

7. Lindsey Graham (SC)

“I think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think it’s unconstitutional” (5/23/05).

8. Johnny Isakson (GA)

I will vote to support a vote, up or down, on every nominee. Understanding that, were I in the minority party and the issues reversed, I would take exactly the same position because this document, our Constitution, does not equivocate” (5/19/05).

9. James Inhofe (OK)

“This outrageous grab for power by the Senate minority is wrong and contrary to our oath to support and defend the Constitution” (3/11/03).

10. Mike Crapo (ID)

“[T]he Constitution requires the Senate to hold up-or-down votes on all nominees” (5/25/05).

11 . Richard Shelby (AL)

“Why not allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it” (11/12/03).

12. Orrin Hatch (UT)*

Filibustering judicial nominees is “unfair, dangerous, partisan, and unconstitutional” (1/12/05).

*Hatch claims he still opposes filibusters of judicial nominees and often votes “present” instead of “no” on cloture votes. But as Drew noted: “Because ending a filibuster requires 60 ‘yes’ votes, voting ‘present’ is identical to voting ‘no.’ Hatch’s decision to vote ‘present’ is an affirmative decision to continue the filibuster.”

Right Wing Round-Up - 10/28/13

At VVS Heritage Predicts 'Massive Upheaval' and Right-Wing Takeover of GOP

Dissatisfaction with “establishment” Republicans has been a consistent theme at this year’s Values Voter Summit, and it reached new heights at a Saturday morning breakfast session hosted by the Heritage Foundation and its more overtly political arm, Heritage Action.

Sen. John McCain has been a favored punching bag, no doubt for having had the temerity to criticize the “Teavangelical” favorite son, Ted Cruz.  An audience member asked whether Heritage was planning to do something to take out South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, referred to by the questioner as “John McCain’s lapdog.” Heritage Action Chief Operating Officer Tim Chapman said that Heritage Action has “steered clear” of primaries since its bread and butter is working on Capitol Hill, but said the group’s materials are often used in primaries, and he praised the work of groups like Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund. 

Regarding Graham, Chapman told the questioner “I am with you” and said he would like to see some “good accountability" applied to Graham. He said he hoped one of the conservative members of the South Carolina House delegation might step up to take on Graham. Chapman slammed Republicans in Congress as “close to failing," saying the average Republican score on the group's congressional scorecard is only 67 percent, something that has "rankled a few feathers on Capitol Hill."

Chapman complained that Republican leaders were preparing to cave to Obama in the current standoff: “As we speak, Republican leaders are speaking to the White House and they are cutting a deal and I promise you the deal is going to be total garbage.”

“We are at the point right now where we are seeing a complete cleavage away from the Republican Party of the conservative movement,” he said. “You are going to see massive upheaval in the next election on all fronts…We have an opportunity to take over the party and it will be in the next election cycle.”

Krikorian Lays Out Strategy to 'Kill' Immigration Bill, Attacks 'Big Religion' SBC, 'Jerk' Graham, 'Water Boy' Rubio

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and a GOP witness at last month’s Senate hearings on immigration reform, laid out his strategy for stopping the reform bill on a Tea Party Unity conference call Thursday.

Krikorian told the Tea Party activists on the call that they were lined up against “all the big institutions in the country” including “Big Business…Big Labor, all the big donors, Big Government Big Education, Big Media, Big Philanthropy, Big Religion -- the Southern Baptist Convention has been roped into this as well.”

Opponents of immigration reform shouldn’t be “distracted by particular pieces of the bill” they might support, he said. Instead, “This needs to be a kind of kill-and-replace, like the fight on Obamacare response.”

“There may be parts of it that some people like, increasing some skilled immigration or guest worker programs, what have you,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of either of those things, but if they’re included in this bill it doesn’t matter because there’s so much in this bill that shouldn’t be there that’s so bad that the whole thing needs to be killed.”

All the big institutions in the country are behind this. Big Business is for this, Big Labor, all the big donors, Big Government, Big Education, Big Media, Big Philanthropy, Big Religion -- the Southern Baptist Convention has been roped into this as well. And once the bill came out, though, it became pretty clear that there’s plenty there to attack. The inevitability is not real. This in fact can be stopped, and in fact I think the approach needs to be not to sort of be distracted by particular pieces of the bill, but the whole thing needs to be killed. This needs to be a kind of kill-and-replace, like the fight on Obamacare response. Because this really is an equivalent to Obamacare and frankly probably much more consequential in the long term, much more damaging to the health of the country.

There may be parts of it that some people like, increasing some skilled immigration or guest worker programs, what have you. I’m not a big fan of either of those things, but if they’re included in this bill it doesn’t matter because there’s so much in this bill that shouldn’t be there that’s so bad that the whole thing needs to be killed.

Krikorian went out of his way to attack two of the four Republicans on the bipartisan Gang of Eight that devised the immigration reform proposal. Sen. Lindsey Graham, he said, is facing attack ads in South Carolina “both because he’s on the Gang of Eight and because he’s frankly kind of a jerk.”

He then accused Sen. Marco Rubio, the main Republican spokesperson for the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan proposal, of having “totally drunk the Kool-Aid” and acting as “Chuck Schumer’s water boy.” The best home immigration opponents have to stop the bill, he added, is to “scare [Rubio] enough to give him some kind of excuse to walk away.”

Rubio needs to be the focus, not so much of attack, although he does kind of need to be attacked. Rubio needs to be, it needs to be made clear to him he’s got to back off this bill. I’m not sure that’s possible. He’s completely, totally latched himself to Chuck Schumer at this point. But, you know, it seems to me it’s at least possible, offering him and a lot of other Republicans an opportunity, a way of backing out of this thing. Because especially if Rubio backs out, if he somehow, and it’s going to be hard at this point, but if he were to walk away from this and say, ‘Look, I tried, it just didn’t work,’ the whole thing is over, it’s collapsed and there’s just no chance the Democrats have of getting this through.

So, in a sense, Rubio really is the key guy. And your  question is, the question, the way it would have to be presented to Rubio, is, ‘Are you the conservative ambassador to this Gang of Eight writing this bill, or are you Chuck Schumer’s ambassador to conservatives?” And I’m afraid he’s the latter. He’s now Chuck Schumer’s water boy, making the case for the bill that the Democratic staff, Schumer’s staff, wrote, and making the case for it to conservatives to try to get enough people basically, you know, silenced enough that this thing can get through the Senate. That’s the real danger and that’s where it seems to me the pressure has to be applied.

There are some people running ads in South Carolina, for instance, against Lindsey Graham, both because he’s on the Gang of Eight and because he’s frankly kind of a jerk and because he’s up in 2014 and there are people talking about primarying him. My point is that making Rubio feel the heat isn’t going to get him to change his mind. He’s totally drunk the Kool-Aid.  I mean, I can’t put it too strongly: he is Chuck Schumer’s water boy. He is Chuck Schumer’s assistant in tearing out this amnesty. And he just thinks that all the rest of it doesn’t matter as long as he can get everybody amnesty. And remember, everybody’s amnesty first, within a few months of this bill passing. Everything else is just promises. ‘If, you know, we get everyone amnesty then we can get our message to Hispanic voters,’ or something. It’s a complete fantasy. He’s totally bought into it. The point is to scare him enough to give him some kind of excuse to walk away, that’s what my point is.
 

 

Right Wing Round-Up - 4/19/13

  • Benjy Sarlin @ TPM: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): Obama Should Treat Suspect As ‘Enemy Combatant.’
  • Carlos Maza @ Equality Matters: NOM Denies Anti-Gay Violence In France After Praising Activist Who Called For “Blood.”
  • David Edwards @ Raw Story: Cruz called Sandy aid ‘pork’ but wants ‘all available resources’ after Texas blast.
  • Kate Sheppard @ Mother Jones: Boy Scouts of America Proposes Dropping Ban on Gay Kids—But Not Gay Adults.
  • Media Matters: Glenn Beck: America Should "Demand Impeachment" For Government Cover-Up Of Saudi National's Role In Boston Bombings.

As Washington Begins Debate on Gun Violence Bills, National Responses Vary

As the U.S. Senate prepares to consider a package of gun violence prevention proposals this week, the current debate on the role of guns in society has led to a variety of legislative responses in D.C. and across the nation.
PFAW

Obama Condemns Filibuster of His DC Circuit Court Nominee

President Obama specifically cites the obstruction of the three remaining Republican members of the "Gang of 14."
PFAW

Right Wing Round-Up - 1/30/13

Right Wing Leftovers - 1/29/13

  • Bryan Fischer warns that “homosexual pedophiles already seek to infiltrate scouting because it provides a target rich environment for their twisted desires. Abolishing the sexual orientation standard will turn every Boy Scout in America into vulnerable prey for the sexually deviant.” 
  • Peter LaBarbera claims the BSA’s “proposal opens the door to the sexual and spiritual corruption of boys.”
  • Lindsey Graham continues to be the biggest troll in the Senate. 

Senator Polliwog (aka Lindsey Graham) on Barack Obama, Michael Phelps, and North Carolina

Barack Obama claimed the state of North Carolina today, which hasn’t gone to a Democrat since Jimmy Carter. But before we could reflect on this historic triumph, we were reminded of something we read last week, which made us think of this:


Don’t worry. We can explain.

Senator Lindsey Graham, warming up a North Carolina audience for McCain, assured them that McCain would win: "He fits North Carolina like a glove…I’ll beat Michael Phelps in swimming before Barack Obama wins North Carolina." Whoops! Graham continued, "Don't let me down, because I can’t swim."

But rather than eating his words, we hope Graham will take the opportunity to learn to swim. Swimming is an important skill, especially for a man who could himself get washed away by a blue wave.

We’ve done him the favor of inquiring about beginner lessons in South Carolina. The Columbia YMCA has two very promising offerings:


Graham was right about one thing: McCain does fit North Carolina like a glove. We tried it ourselves, and the glove kept getting hung up on Asheville:


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