Mike Huckabee

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.

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.

Huckabee: Wait To Join Military Until Obama Leaves Office

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed in an interview with Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson yesterday that the Obama administration has “an open hostility toward the Christian faith,” and urged prospective military recruits to wait until the end of President Obama’s term to enlist.

Mickelson asked Huckabee about a recent Washington Times story that cites right-wing legal groups to claim that Christians are being discouraged from joining the military because of a “hostile work environment.” Huckabee agreed, calling the supposed persecution of Christians in the military “one of the great tragedies of our time.”

“This administration has had an open hostility toward the Christian faith,” he said. “And I know that sounds like a bold statement, Jan, but when you have a president whose administration orders its chaplains to put its Bibles away, not to pray in Jesus name, not to counsel people on the issues of sexual morality; when you have this attitude that is more about promoting gay marriage and gay rights in the military than it is about being able to protect religious liberty for those people of faith, it’s going to be hard to find people that are truly devoted people of faith and Christian believers and Orthodox Jews and others.”

“Why would they want to be in a military that would be openly hostile and not just simply bring some scorn to their faith, but would punish them for it?” he asked.

This led Mickelson to ask Huckabee what he would tell parents whose children are considering joining the armed forces.

“There’s nothing more honorable than serving one’s country and there’s no greater heroes to our country than our military,” he responded, “but I might suggest to parents, I’d wait a couple of years until we get a new commander-in-chief that will once again believe ‘one nation under god’ and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country.”

Anti-LGBT Group: Gay Marriage Violates Separation Of Church And State

The Family Research Council announced today that it has partnered with Rick Santorum’s film company, EchoLight Studios, to produce a short film for churches to air during the April 26 event “Stand for Marriage Sunday: Religious Freedom at Risk.

In the film, which features appearances by Santorum and Mike Huckabee, the FRC warns that a Supreme Court ruling striking down bans on same-sex marriage would jeopardize religious freedom and undermine the separation of church and state. The film mentions cases in Oregon and Washington state where a baker and florist, respectively, were sued for violating their states’ non-discrimination laws — not marriage laws — for refusing service to gay customers. (The baker and florist both lost their cases).

The new FRC film, narrated by the group’s president, Tony Perkins, points to the lawsuits as signs of a dark future in which the government will infringe on the rights of religious people in order to promote gay equality.

Watch highlights here:

Huckabee: Obama Calling Michael Sam Is A Sign Of America's 'Utter Collapse'

Last week, Mike Huckabee was one of several potential GOP presidential candidates who spoke at a "family leadership regional summit" in Iowa hosted by Bob Vander Plaats and The Family Leader.

During his remarks, Huckabee said the fact that President Obama called gay football player Michael Sam is a sign that the culture in America has gone into an "utter collapse" and decried boycotts against anti-gay businesses as "economic terrorism."

"The values that so many of us hold dear are values that are under assault today," Huckabee said. "I never believed that in such a short period of time, the culture in America would go into utter collapse. If you told me just a few years ago that one day the President of the United States would use his precious time in the Oval Office to call people up simply to congratulate them for being gay, I would say, 'No, surely he'll call a veteran and thank them for their service, for losing a limb or a leg.' But even when Chris Kyle was murdered, his widow didn't get a phone call, but a gay football player who came out did."

Huckabee went on to warn that religious liberty is under attack in America, citing the criticism that Chick-fil-A received several years ago after the company donated millions of dollars to anti-gay groups and the restaurant's president said that marriage equality was "inviting God's judgment on our nation."

The backlash against the company, Huckabee said, was nothing short of "economic terrorism":

Right Wing Round-Up - 4/9/15

Five Things To Know About Iowa GOP Kingmaker Bob Vander Plaats

Four Republican presidential candidates are set to appear at a forum in Iowa tonight hosted by one of the state’s best known political organizers: Bob Vander Plaats. Vander Plaats’ group, The Family Leader, along with the National Organization for Marriage, is hosting Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal for a “family leadership regional summit.” 

It’s no surprise that the candidates are courting Vander Plaats: He is widely seen as the organizing powerhouse behind Huckabee and Santorum’s successful 2008 and 2012 Iowa caucus campaigns. It’s even less surprising that Republican candidates are seeking to ingratiate themselves to one of the country’s most radical Religious Right activists.

Vander Plaats, although he has been unsuccessful in his own three attempts to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination, has put together a political coalition in Iowa that, along with carrying Huckabee and Santorum to caucus victories, helped to oust three state supreme court judges who had ruled in favor of marriage equality in the 2010 election. While a similar attempt two years later was unsuccessful, Vander Plaats has nonetheless become a major force in the state’s conservative movement.

5) Slavery Rhetoric

Warning Republicans not to “abandon their base” by softening their opposition to gay rights, Vander Plaats insists that fighting same-sex marriage is not a losing issue for the GOP. He believes that Republicans should stand up and be proud of their refusal to support marriage equality, just as the party fought to curb slavery during its founding era.

“We actually stand for what God has designed because, just like with slavery, the truth is on our side,” Vander Plaats said last year in an interview with right-wing talk show host Steve Deace. “We can win this battle.”

He told another outlet that Republicans shouldn’t even take the position that the states should decide their own marriage laws since same-sex marriage, like slavery, is unequivocally immoral: “You don’t leave slavery up to the states, nor should you. It’s either right or it’s wrong.” In a speech in 2012, Vander Plaats said that a court ruling in favor of marriage equality should be viewed as judicial overreach on the level of Dred Scott.

During the last presidential primary season, Vander Plaats tried to get Republican candidates to sign a pledge that, among other questionable provisions, suggested that African-American families were more stable under slavery than they are today.

4) Conspiracy Theories

In Vander Plaats’ world, the right to speak freely about “faithful heterosexual monogamy” is under attack, “Sharia Islam” is a menace in American politics and President Obama’s birth certificate is missing. (Vander Plaats has praised Donald Trump’s quixotic birther crusade as “bold.”)

Perhaps no issue has Vander Plaats more concerned than gay marriage, which he has called a grave threat to liberty and a Satanic plot. One video his group produced showed images of terrorist attacks and shootings alongside stories about same-sex couples’ weddings and gay members of the Boy Scouts to make a point about the “darkness” sweeping America

3) Gay Marriage Predictions

In his campaigns against marriage equality, Vander Plaats has done whatever it takes to scare voters about the dire consequences of gay rights. He warned that the legalization of same-sex marriage would lead to “tyranny” and sanction “a parent marrying their child.”

He defended his group’s comparison of homosexuality to second-hand smoke by explaining that both represent “a public health risk,” adding: “If we’re teaching the kids, ‘don’t smoke, because that’s a risky health style,’ the same can be true of the homosexual lifestyle.”

Vander Plaats also took the time to criticize an Iowa anti-bullying conference that focused on the targeting of LGBT youth, saying that the state should instead be promoting abstinence-only summits.

2) Crush on Putin

Vander Plaats may still be weighing which Republican candidate to endorse this year, but he has already thrown his support behind one foreign leader: Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Putin signed a law that effectively bans speech in support of gay rights, Vander Plaats praised the Russian president for saying “you know what, don’t bring this homosexual propaganda into my country.”

He said that Putin now encapsulates the traditionally American values of “military might, decisive action, core values, morality, beliefs.”

“He’s taken what used to be our strengths, which has now defaulted into our weaknesses because of Barack Obama, no leadership, and he’s making them his strengths and he’s emerging now on the world stage as a newly discovered leader,” Vander Plaats said back in 2013.

1) No Separation of Church and State

While Vander Plaats’ prediction about gay marriage ushering in adult-child marriage has come true in exactly zero of the dozens of states with marriage equality, he was prophetic in one respect: Vander Plaats advocated for governors to ignore court rulings on the marriage question well before it became a widespread sentiment among conservatives.

Vander Plaats insists that a governor can simply set aside any ruling that violates his or her reading of the Bible, insisting that if a judge legalizes marriage equality in a state, the state’s governor should simply issue an executive order “that places a stay on the judge’s decision” since it “goes against the law of nature and the law of nature’s God, which means, it’s against the Constitution.”

Vander Plaats believes that the U.S. government must fall under God’s jurisdiction and follow “God’s principles and precepts,” not just on social issues like marriage but also in economic and foreign policies.

“If you believe what you say you believe, that marriage is foundational and it’s between a man and a woman, which is what He says he believes, then you got to stand up for that, because that’s the law of nature, that’s the law of nature’s God, that’s the Declaration of Independence, which this whole country was founded on,” he said last year.

Vander Plaats specifically pointed to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, calling it a travesty that created a “constitutional crisis” by “defying the law of nature and the law of nature’s God” and “going against the document that predates the Constitution.”

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 4/3/15

  • Sounds exciting! "Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will join reality TV stars Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar for a roundtable discussion around education on Thursday, April 9."
  • Phyllis Schlafly complains that "Obama frequently refers to our Nation as 'this' country, as though it is some other country and not 'our' country."
  • Bill Muehlenberg declares that "there are no greater haters than the homosexual activists. Every day we find more conclusive proof that these folks are the most hate-filled, nasty and malicious folks in the West. The demonic rage and fury of these activists is simply frightening in the extreme."
  • Frank Turek asserts that "same-sex marriage is the new official religion" of the United States.
  • Finally, Cliff Kincaid, Peter LaBarbera, and Matt Barber will hold an event at the National Press Club on April 21 called "Crimes against Nature and the Constitution: Cultural Marxism and America’s Moral Collapse."

Paranoia-Rama: Muslims Take Over Idaho, Gays Overthrow America

Well, it seems that “homofascism” is finally here. Apparently, people who criticized an Indiana law that effectively legalized discrimination are all responsible for destroying America and ushering in a thousand years of gay darkness...

Mike Huckabee: Gay Community Won't Rest Until 'There Are No More Churches'

Mike Huckabee appeared on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” program yesterday to share his outrage that Walmart, among other businesses, came out against a right-to-discriminate bill that was passed by the state legislature in his home state of Arkansas. Huckabee told FRC president Tony Perkins, the host of the program, that the gay community has turned the controversies surrounding “religious freedom” legislation in Arkansas and Indiana into a “phony crisis.”

“It’s been manufactured by the left, just as was the war on women,” Huckabee said. “There was no war on women. The left has gotten very good on creating a crisis, something to divide the country, something to create this sense in which ‘we’ve got to go after these conservatives because they are trying to trample over our rights.’”

He added that the LGBT rights movement is like something out of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984”: “It is a classic example of — really a page out of ‘1984,’ when what things mean are the opposite of what they really are. And that’s what I’m seeing here is that in the name of tolerance, there’s intolerance. In the name of diversity, there’s uniformity. In the name of acceptance, there’s true discrimination.”

Perkins contended that gay people who are denied service by a business should simply try to find another shop that will serve them rather than filing a lawsuit against discriminatory business owners. “Where will it stop?” he asked Huckabee.

“It won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel,” Huckabee replied, “and I’m talking now about the unabridged, unapologetic Gospel that is really God’s truth.”

Later in the program, Huckabee insisted that unlike the gay community, conservative Christians would never boycott a business like Walmart. Perkins, however, interjected that he does, in fact, plan to boycott Walmart since the company is “taking a stand against religious freedom.”

Huckabee then backtracked slightly, claiming that “it may come to the place where there will be a day in which Christians have had enough of this — I don’t think they have yet, I still see too many of them folding — but there may come a day in which they realize how close they are to losing all of their freedoms. And maybe there will be a day in which every one of the believers of this nation, people of faith and even some people who aren’t necessarily Christian but they’re people of conscience and they’re people of fairness, and they’ll just say that we will have a national boycott of the following businesses, and let’s just see if they really feel that they are taking the right position.”

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 3/31/15

  • The American Family Association is calling on its activists to cancel their subscriptions to Angie's List because the company opposes Indiana's newly passed "religious freedom" law.
  • Radio host Peter Heck says that criticism of Indiana's law "is the reincarnation of a neo-fascist view."
  • Matt Barber declares that criticism of the law is all about focing "the affirmation of homosexual behavior and the homosexual lifestyle and to do away with any public exercise or representation of Christianity."
  • Cindy Jacobs will be taking her prayer warriors to New York City next month because a great economic "shaking" is about to occur.
  • Larry Tomczak warns that "opposition to Christianity is becoming more aggressive and hostile. Nowhere is this more evident than in the areas of natural marriage and sexual purity."
  • Finally, for $60 a year, you can get "exclusive" access to daily audio and weekly video commentaries from Mike Huckabee!

Mike Huckabee: Contraception Mandate Is Like The 'Tyranny' That Caused The American Revolution

Even though Mike Huckabee signed into law a contraception coverage mandate that was actually much more sweeping than a similar mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while serving as governor of Arkansas, the Republican politician has been one of the most incendiary opponents of the ACA mandate.

While speaking today with American Family Radio host Kevin McCullough, who falsely claimed that “Obamacare makes abortion taxpayer funded,” Huckabee baselessly charged that the mandate covers “abortifacients.”

Huckabee said that the mandate represents such a threat to freedom that it is similar to the actions of the British government that sparked the American Revolution: “When I go back to American history, that’s why the American revolution started. You had a government that became a tyranny and that government began to tell people what limitations of their belief could be.”

Mike Huckabee Stands Willing To 'Call Fire Down From Heaven'

As Peter noted in his write-up of the American Pastors Network conference in Pennsylvania last week, Mike Huckabee was unable to attend the event and instead sent a video greeting featuring him standing on Mt. Carmel in Israel, overlooking the valley in which the End Times battle of Armageddon is supposed to occur.

In his message, Huckabee focused on another story involving Mt. Carmel as he highlighted the Old Testament showdown in which the Prophet Elijah called down the fire of God and then destroyed several hundred prophets of Baal, which Huckabee used to urge his audience to be willing to take a stand for God just as Elijah did.

"God wants us to stand in the gap," Huckabee said. "And sometimes my heart's broken because, in our own country, a lot of pastors will stand in the pulpit but they won't stand in the gap ... We wonder why our culture has turned godless. We wonder why people don't grow up understanding the fundamentals of natural law, the moral basis of our Judeo-Christian founding as a nation. Might it be that the problem is not the history classes in our high schools but the pulpits of America who have not taken what they even believe and applied it to the pulpit and to the people?"

"I stand here on Mt. Carmel today," he concluded, "and I hope that, if called upon, I would be willing to stand all by myself [and] to call fire from Heaven and believe that God will answer even if there are hundreds and hundreds of false prophets on the other side."

"You may stand here someday," he said, pointing back to the Valley of Armageddon below, "and be called upon to call the fire from Heaven. I hope you're ready to believe that God will answer that prayer."

Pastors Network: America Going Down the Tubes, Needs Pastors To Call Down Fire

The American Pastors Network, a Religious Right group hoping to organize networks of politically active evangelical pastors in all 50 states, met with Pennsylvania pastors at Lancaster Bible College on Thursday. The day-long event featured several national speakers like “historian” David Barton, activist Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ, and right-wing broadcaster Sandy Rios, who as Kyle reported yesterday, urged participants to prepare for martyrdom

The threat of anti-Christian persecution was a frequent theme at the U-Turn conference, which took its name and themes from a recent book co-authored by Barton and evangelical pollster George Barna. For example, Steve Scheibner, an American Airlines pilot who narrowly avoided being on a flight that was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center, declared, “Persecution is coming.” But, he added, “It may be the best thing that’s ever happened to the church.” Another speaker, Dale Anderson, thanked “that rascal” Barack Obama for having woken up the church.

Paul Blair gave David Barton-esque remarks about the nation’s history and cited English jurist William Blackstone in arguing that there can be no valid law that is contrary to scripture. He declared that “Judge Roy Moore,” Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, is “a hero” for defying a federal judge’s decision on marriage equality. Blair said America is in its current state because too many pastors and people have been “sheep.” He insisted that marriage equality is a line that Christians must not allow to be crossed.

Barna was the Debbie Downer of the conference, reeling off pages of statistics designed to show the moral decline of America and the diminishing influence of the church in American culture.  Among the statistics that seemed to land like a punch to the gut: only nine percent of born-again Americans have what Barna calls a “biblical worldview” – just over 51 percent of Protestant senior pastors make the grade. Barna decried the fact that so many pastors do not preach about current political topics.

Barton’s speech contained no surprises for anyone familiar with his shtick about the influence of colonial-era pastors on the country’s founding, the number of Bible verses supposedly contained in the U.S. Constitution, and his insistence that the Bible is filled with specific policy prescriptions, such as opposition to minimum wages and capital gains taxes. In fact, he said, the Bible includes 613 civil laws for running the country.

Barton cited principles of warfare taught at the Army War College to argue that the church is supposed to be on offense, not defense, in current culture war battles. Making that happen is the goal of those who are working to build the American Pastors Network, including Sam Rohrer, a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a 2010 gubernatorial candidate, who serves as president of both the national and Pennsylvania networks.

Among the video presentations at the conference was a message recorded by Mike Huckabee in Israel, standing on a ridge overlooking the valley that he said would be the site of the battle of Armageddon. He stood on Mt. Carmel, the site of an Old Testament showdown in which Elijah showed up the prophets of Baal by having God rain down fire on an altar he had drenched with water. America, said Huckabee, needs pulpits willing to call down God’s fire.

Among the vendors doing a brisk business at the conference was the Institute of the Constitution, which promotes a Christian Reconstructionist ideology, and which has used its materials to train Tea Party activists in their vision of a radically, and biblically, limited role for the government.

Mike Huckabee: Obama 'Resents The Strength Of Israel,' Instead Identifies With Its Neighbors

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee celebrated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign victory during an interview today with Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg, lauding Netanyahu as “a Churchill in a world of Chamberlains.”

When Malzberg asked Huckabee why President Obama has “extraordinary disdain for Israel in general,” Huckabee responded that Obama has “an extraordinary sense of identity with and sympathy for many of the other Middle Eastern nations.”

Huckabee added that the president also resents Israel and Netanyahu’s strength: “I think he resents the strength of Israel. I think he resents very much the strength of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is absolutely forthright in his understanding of what the threats are with Islamic jihadism, a term that President Obama cannot bring himself to utter nor can his administration. I believe as a result of that he finds that Netanyahu represents what he can’t be, and that’s a very strong leader who can keep his word.”

A Spiritual Battle For America's Future: Five Takeaways From The Religious Right's Awakening Conference

On Saturday, roughly 2,000 activists gathered at Faith Assembly, a megachurch in Orlando, for the Awakening, an annual “Prayer and Patriotism event” organized by the Christian Right legal group Liberty Counsel. The Awakening, which Liberty Counsel organizes under the auspices of an amalgam of Religious Right groups called the Freedom Federation, brings together activists from the evangelical Right with the GOP politicians who want their votes.

At this year's event, GOP politicians including Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal (via video) and RNC faith director Chad Connelly shared a stage with far-right activists including "ex-gays," a phony ex-terrorist and at least two Religious Right leaders who insist that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality. 

Here are five takeaways from a day with the core of the Religious Right.

1. Gay Marriage Will Send Christians To Jail

While some on the Right may be trying to shy away from the issue of marriage equality now that it could be on its way to a Supreme Court victory, the activists at the Awakening were not among them. Throughout the conference, marriage between gay and lesbian couples was portrayed as a demonic and existential threat to liberty, one that if allowed to proceed would end in Christianity being outlawed and Christians thrown in jail.

The Republican National Committee’s faith outreach director, Chad Connelly, who was moderating a panel on abortion rights, echoed the Religious Right’s rhetoric when he warned that LGBT rights activists are “coming for the church.”

Far-right pastor Rick Scarborough, who was sitting beside him, agreed that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality, pastors will be forced to “participate in same-sex marriage ” or be thrown in jail. Liberty Counsel’s Harry Mihet, moderating a separate panel, issued a similar warning.

Scarborough repeated his warning when he told activists that a pro-equality Supreme Court ruling would outlaw anti-gay speech, thus undermining “the whole nature of America.”

Multiple speakers compared a potential Supreme Court decision on marriage equality to Dred Scott, the infamous pre-Civil War decision that barred African Americans from citizenship, declaring that it should be met with similar resistance.

2. Losing The Church on Gay Rights Issues

Although the Awakening took place in what appeared to be a generationally diverse, multiethnic church, the crowd at the conference was overwhelmingly older and white. Throughout the conference, speakers bemoaned the fact that the Religious Right was losing support among younger Christians for its political agenda, especially its opposition to LGBT rights.

Liberty University’s Rena Lindevaldsen told the audience at a breakout panel on “sexual rebellion” that when fellow conservative Christians ask her what the “big deal” is about LGBT rights, she responds “it’s a big deal because it’s a big deal to God.” Marriage equality, she told the enthusiastic audience, matters to God because it is “the heart of where Satan’s attacking”:

Evangelist Franklin Graham also lamented that “a lot of pastors have quit preaching against homosexuality” out of fear of offending people in their churches who might have gay relatives. He told the audience that “God will bless you and he’ll honor you” if you “don’t shut up” about gay rights and abortion:

This was a crowd that had not given up on discredited “ex-gay” therapy. An “ex-lesbian” activist, Janet Boynes, was given a main stage speaking slot and “ex-gay” activist Greg Quinlan earned a roaring round of applause from the audience at the “sexual rebellion” panel when he announced that he had been “out of homosexuality for 27 years.”

3. A Spiritual Battle Against Islam And Progressivism

Just as the crowd at the Awakening was upset that the conservative movement and the church have supposedly become less invested in fighting LGBT rights, they were also wary of any overtures between Christians and Muslims.

Graham declared that “Islam is a wicked system” and blasted Christians who say that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Kamal Saleem, the self-proclaimed “ex-terrorist” whose personal story has never quite held up to scrutiny , also warned that churches are being “invaded by ‘Chrislam,’” lamenting that Americans are oblivious to the dangers of radical Islam: “We’re watching American Idol and they are doing jihad.” He also warned of what he called “jihad of the womb,” or Muslim immigrants giving birth in order to outnumber Christians.

What activists at the Awakening saw as a war against Islam was merely part of a larger “spiritual battle” between good and evil, God and Satan. In the panel discussion he led on LGBT rights, Matt Barber declared that there is an “Islamo-progressive axis of evil” with a “common enemy”: Christians.

Maine pastor Ken Graves repeated that theme when he declared that American Christians are fighting “militant Islam” and “militant homofascism” and secularists who want to establish a “secular humanist caliphate”:

4. Time Is Running Out On America, And It’s Up To The Church To Save It

Throughout the day, speakers warned that America is running out of time before it is lost forever, and that it is up to conservative Christians to get involved in politics to save the country.

Graham told the crowd that he is more politically outspoken than his father, Billy Graham, because America is in a more dire state of secularism. “When my father was born, the Ten Commandments were on the wall of every school in America. When my father was born, the teachers still led the class in the Lord’s Prayer. Our country is not that anymore,” he said, declaring that the 2016 election is the last chance for the Religious Right to save the country.

Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, delivered a similar message, warning that “we are heading down in a direction that, let’s be honest, no civilization has ever been able to recover from.” Conservative Christians, he declared, must reinvest themselves in politics in order, to among other things, put the Bible in public schools:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another likely GOP presidential hopeful, told the crowd that prayer was needed to bring about “spiritual revival” and change the political direction of the country: “If God’s people truly pray down a spiritual awakening, then the political landscape will change.”

“This country did not start because some people had some brilliant ideas, although they did. This country happened because God’s providence was the foundation of their brilliant ideas,” Huckabee said. “Because of his inspiration, this country has been sustained throughout all of its history because of God’s specific intervention in helping us to win battles we should never have one and in keeping us from losing battles we should have lost.”

The RNC’s Connelly also made a plug for conservative churches to engage in partisan politics , urging pastors to buck IRS rules preventing politicking from the pulpit and declaring that “voting is not political, it’s spiritual.”

5. The Religious Right And The GOP Still Need Each Other

One of the strangest moments of the day came when a George W. Bush impersonator walked onto the stage with Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver as he introduced Huckabee. Staver jokingly reassured the audience that it was not the former president’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has clashed with the Religious Right over gay rights issues. It seemed to be a spontaneous addition to the program, it was hard not to see it also as a reminder to the audience of the potential power of the evangelical vote.

Unlike the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit, which has become the flagship gathering of the GOP and the Religious Right, the Awakening tends to attract only true believers in the cause. This year, Santorum and Huckabee spoke, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal submitted a video message. Connelly, who heads the GOP’s outreach to evangelical voters, moderated a panel on abortion rights, but largely deflected difficult questions from the far-right crowd.

Connelly did not, however, shy away from right-wing conspiracy theories, responding to a question about the “culture of death” in end-of-life care by claiming that the Affordable Care Act’s mythical “death panels” are “a reality":

It was clear throughout the day that however wary the Religious Right and the GOP establishment may be of each other, they still need each other. Speakers like Graham urged conservative Christians to revive the powerful Religious Right pressure machine to win GOP politicians to their side, whether or not they agreed with their issues. Meanwhile, the presence of the GOP candidates and Connelly indicated that this is a voting bloc that is still important to the party, however extreme its priorities may be.

Right Wing Round-Up - 3/17/15

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 3/16/15

  • Mike Huckabee seems to have found some pretty unconventional ways to line his pockets.
  • Last week, Rick Scarborough, James Dobson, Mat Staver, James Robison, and dozens of other pastors gathered for a conference call on the threat supposedly posed to "traditional marriage" by the Supreme Court.
  • The Benham brothers will now be writing a regular column for WND.
  • The NRA actually sent out a note to its members from Glenn Beck about his anti-Grover Norquist crusade
  • Caleb Moore, the son of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, was arrested once again for drug possession.
  • Finally, Dwight McKissick says that comparing the push for gay rights to the push for civil rights is "tantamount to high crime and treason."

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.

Jindal, Huckabee And Santorum To Join Far-Right Activists At Liberty Counsel's 'The Awakening'

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, after teaming up with Christian nationalist extremists to host his “The Response” prayer rally in Baton Rouge earlier this year, is now continuing his project of endearing himself to the far fringes of the Religious Right by addressing an annual conference hosted by Liberty Counsel this weekend.

Liberty Counsel’s “The Awakening” event will bring Jindal, along with fellow likely GOP presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, together with some of the most unapologetically extreme Religious Right leaders, including Sen. Ted Cruz’s dad Rafael.

With speakers from John Eidsmoe, a founding father of the Religious Right’s current Christian nationalist thought, to Kamal Saleem, the phony ex-terrorist and prolific anti-Obama conspiracy theorist, the candidates are sure to be treated to an exciting array of far-right ideas.

Mat Staver

The Awakening is organized by Liberty Counsel, a legal arm of Liberty University founded and chaired by Mat Staver. Staver is particularly invested in anti-LGBT activism both in the U.S. and abroad, where he has spoken out in favor of laws criminalizing homosexuality. Here at home, he has warned that marriage equality will help bring about God’s destruction of America and will be “the beginning of the end of Western Civilization.”

Staver’s extremism is not limited to LGBT rights. For instance, at the 2010 Awakening conference, Staver agreed with an audience member who asked if the Affordable Care Act created a private army of Brownshirts for President Obama.

Kamal Saleem

Kamal Saleem claims to be an ex-terrorist who worked for a number of Islamist groups before coming to America to build sleeper cells and ultimately converting to Christianity. The fact that Saleem’s story doesn’t add up — and that he’s suspiciously reluctant to talk about the details — hasn’t stopped him from being a popular speaker on the Religious Right conference circuit, where he impresses audiences with his insider knowledge that President Obama is a secret Muslim out to destroy America.

Saleem uses his literally unbelievable personal story to sell a wide range of conspiracy theories, including claims that President Obama attends a mosque in Washington, DC, on Christmas (while he is simultaneously in Hawaii) and that Islamists are working through Sasha and Malia Obama’s babysitters to establish a shadow government.

In 2012, he told The Awakening that when President Obama appeared to be pledging allegiance to the flag, he was actually taking part in an Islamic prayer. The same year, he warned the Values Voter Summit that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be shutting down churches in America within the year:

John Eidsmoe

John Eidsmoe is one of the leading voices behind the Religious Right’s effort to rewrite American history and law to reflect a specific “biblical worldview.” Former Rep. Michele Bachmann, who was a research assistant on Eidsmoe’s influential 1987 book “Christianity and the Constitution,” cites him as an in influence and his work has permeated the segment of the Religious Right that seeks to take “dominion” over America to avoid God’s judgment.

Eidsmoe has specifically warned that gay rights will bring about divine judgment on the U.S. and wrote a whole book, “Gays & Guns,” arguing against allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, warning that they might molest children.

Eidsmoe, who has gotten in trouble in the past for speaking to white supremacist groups, is currently the “senior counsel and resident scholar” at the Foundation for Moral Law, the Christian nationalist group founded by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a longtime ally.

Rick Scarborough

Rick Scarborough, a Baptist pastor and the head of the Religious Right group Vision America, is one of the most extreme voices in the anti-LGBT movement. Although he insists that he is neither a Democrat or Republican, but a “Christ-ocrat,” he frequently allies with likeminded Republican politicians including Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee to get his followers to the polls.

Scarborough maintains that AIDS is God’s “judgment” for “an immoral act,” warns that the appointment of gay ambassadors would be perfect justification for God to nuke America, and once suggested filing a class action lawsuit against homosexuality.

Scarborough has also dabbled in anti-immigrant nativism, warning that “more non-white families” in the U.S. would lead to fewer Christians and that “if this country becomes 30 percent Hispanic we will no longer be America.”

Franklin Graham

Franklin Graham, a son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, couples his international humanitarian work with an apocalyptic approach to American politics. He predicted that President Obama’sreelectionwould bring about God’s destruction of America and railed that Americans “turned our back on God” by reelecting the president.

Graham’s opinion of the Obama administration was only reinforced when he was disinvited from speaking at an event at the Pentagon because of hishistory of anti-Muslim rhetoric. He has since claimed that the White House has been “infiltrated by Muslims” and is being run by Muslims who “hate Israel and hate Christians.” Just this week, he speculated that Obama’s mother “must have been a Muslim,” which he said explains why the president supposedly won’t fight ISIS.

While he may worry that God is getting ready to judge America for President Obama, Graham has implied that the Almighty is smiling on Russian President Vladimir Putin because of his crackdown on LGBT rights in his country. Graham, who has long claimed that Christianity is on the road to being criminalized in the U.S., said last year that pastors must be prepared to get their “heads chopped off” in the fight against gay rights.

Matt Barber

Matt Barber, a former Liberty Counsel official who still hosts a daily radio program with Staver, is best known for his over-the-top bigoted anti-gay rhetoric.

Barber often frames his battle against LGBT equality and reproductive rights as a “spiritual war” in which he is on the side of God. He has called marriage equality the “bidding of the Devil” and warned that by legalizing same-sex marriage, America is “ tempting the wrath of God.” He claims that HIV/AIDS is divine punishment for homosexuality.

Barber is fond of comparing his opponents to Nazis, calling supporters of reproductive rights “modern day Nazis” and LGBT rights advocates “Rainbowshirts” who have “broken out the long knives” to go after Christians. At the same time, he has supported repressive anti-LGBT regimes around the world, praising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay crackdown and saying he’d like to see a ban on “gay propaganda” in the U.S., and defending Uganda’s harsh criminal penalties for LGBT people.

Last year, Barber launched BarbWire.com, an online emporium for right-wing vitriol which he sees as part of his “war” against the “lies” that Satan tells through progressives.​

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