Mitt Romney’s Scalia-filled Supreme Court took to the streets again this week, this time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Following a successful Romney Court event in Columbus, Ohio, the Romney Court campaign, led in PA by People For the American Way’s Jodi Hirsh, revealed its Scalia-filled Supreme Court in Market Square to inform voters about the dangers of having Mitt Romney nominate Supreme Court justices for lifetime terms.
This piece originally appeared at The Huffington Post.
Mitt Romney got some unwanted attention early this year when he flatly stated, "I'm not concerned about the very poor." When challenged on this remark he assured Americans that the safety net for the very poor was a given, safe from any budget and tax code tinkering in Washington. This was a sinister explanation since Romney's tax and spending plan -- or as much of it as can be deciphered -- calls for further tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of social services that he claimed were safe.
Now, we see that it's not just the "very poor" who don't merit Romney's "concern." At the now-infamous $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Florida, Romney wrote off the concerns of the 47 percent of Americans who don't owe federal income taxes, saying that half of Americans are "dependent on government," "believe that they are the victims," and have the gall to "believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
That 47 percent includes families and individuals with low incomes -- about 23 percent of taxpayers, according to the Tax Policy Center. It also includes those for whom tax credits for children and working families have eliminated tax burdens -- about 7 percent. It also includes seniors who have left the workforce -- about 10 percent. Over half of the 47 percent pay federal payroll taxes. All are subject to state and local taxes, many of which, like sales taxes, are more regressive than federal taxes. (And if we ever see more Romney tax returns, we may find some years when the Romney's were in that entitled 47 percent.)
As conservative writer Reihan Salam points out in the National Review, policies like the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit -- responsible for much of this tax relief for working families -- were conservative ideas meant to reduce the "dependency" that Romney so reviles, by "encourag[ing] people get on the first rungs of the jobs ladder, and to become less dependent over time."
Romney was telling the well-heeled guests at this fundraising dinner that these people -- middle-class parents, low-income workers, the unemployed, the elderly -- aren't interested in working hard despite the fact that most of them report to the IRS each year that they work quite a lot. This isn't just tin-eared politics. Like Romney's comments on the "very poor," it represents a profound misunderstanding of how Americans' lives work and how his policies would affect those lives.
But even talking about the "47 percent versus the 53 percent" belies the fact that nobody in America is free from at least some government "dependency." We all rely on roads, hospitals, schools, firefighters, police officers, and our military -- even Mitt Romney and his $50,000-a-plate friends. Romney himself has relied on the government's safety net for businesses, securing a federal bailout for Bain & Company. Nobody succeeds without some help from a stable, functional government. That's what President Obama was saying when his "you didn't build that" comments were taken out of context.
Romney was clearly telling his funders a fantasy story that they love to hear. But that story is a lie, and we shouldn't accept it from someone who could become a president representing 100 percent of the American people.
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who now serves as a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney, appears to be taking a page from Michele Bachmann with a new claim that the Obama administration is going to begin limiting free speech and expression to prohibit anti-Muslim rhetoric. While speaking to Frank Gaffney on Secure Freedom Radio, Bolton agreed with Gaffney that the State Department under Secretary Hillary Clinton is working with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to curtail the freedom of speech and begin “reinstitute blasphemy laws.” He even warned that there are people within the Obama administration who have hate speech laws “on their agenda” and made the absurd assertion that Secretary Clinton is opposed to the freedom of expression.
Bolton: I am very worried that under the Obama administration we are submitting to this claim that people have to temper their free speech rights to be respectful of what the OIC claims is the appropriate standard. Take the US embassy in Cairo’s first statement which apologize for this film as if appeasement was going to stop the mob from coming over the embassy’s wall, while it’s true that the Obama administration repudiated that statement honestly if you look carefully at what the President and particularly Secretary Clinton said since then they still are apologizing for this act, scurrilous though it might be, of an American private citizen. And it ties in directly — it’s a direct analytical predicate for the claim that it’s the movie that’s the whole problem with the riots and demonstrations in the Middle East. I think this is something that we need a broader public debate about because the notion that somehow we’re going to reinstitute blasphemy laws in the United States is something the overwhelming majority of Americans would react instinctively against.
Gaffney: Yet we are seeing as a result of something called the Istanbul process, which as you mentioned Secretary State Hillary Clinton has been involved, John Bolton, which produced last December a resolution in the Human Rights Council which is aimed at trying to prevent defamation of religions and goes beyond really what Mrs. Clinton has talked about in terms of ‘old fashioned peer pressure and shaming’ as instruments of suppressing free expression that offends Muslims. It seems uniquely geared towards Muslims by the way, I’ve not heard anybody saying we have to be impede people from being critical of Christians or Jews or Hindus or anybody else. But John Bolton to the extent to what we have been seeing elsewhere around the world, notably the prosecution of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Lars Hedegaard in Denmark and Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant in Canada to what amounts to hate speech. Do you think we’re on a track in this country, maybe under the guise of incitement, of a similar kind of constraint on freedom of expression if the Obama administration has its way?
Bolton: I think there are people who clearly have that on their agenda; I don’t see how we can blanket that reality. I do think that it comes in with a deceptively cautious approach to say ‘we just want people to be respectful,’ well fine that’s a decision each individual makes. But the whole point of our first amendment which I think distinguishes us from every other country around the world and is another example of American exceptionalism is that the government does not interfere with the content of speech, that is up to the political opinion of each speaker. That favorite liberal icon, Justice Brennan, in that famous iconic case New York Times v. Sullivan, said that debate in America should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and I say I stand with Justice Brennan and against Secretary Clinton on that point.
Mitt Romney this weekend stumped alongside televangelist Pat Robertson, not minding Robertson’s legacy of incendiary, insensitive, heartless and apocalyptic rhetoric that has gotten him in trouble in the past. Apparently, Robertson’s own CBN has become aware of Robertson’s problematic statements, and may even be editing his controversial claims out of episode archives.
For example, today on the 700 Club’s “Bring It On” segment where viewers ask Robertson questions, one man wondered how he should go about repairing his marriage with a wife who “insults” him and once tried to attack him.
“Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her,” Robertson responded. “This man’s got to stand up to her and he can’t let her get away with this stuff,” Robertson continued, “I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done.”
He later said the woman is a “rebellious child” and pondered if she has psychological problems. Robertson told the viewer that since he “can’t divorce her according to the Scripture, so I say: move to Saudi Arabia.”
However, if you watch the show as posted on CBN’s website, Robertson’s words towards the end of the program about Saudi Arabia and wife-beating were noticeably edited out.
The power center that Dick Armey and FreedomWorks have been aggressively building in the U.S. Senate around reigning extremist Jim DeMint will almost certainly welcome Ted Cruz in January. The Republican convention gave most Americans their first look at Cruz, who has become a Tea Party folk hero after crushing the establishment candidate, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in a bitterly contested primary.
Ted Cruz loves to portray his victory as an upwelling from the grassroots, as he did during his Tuesday night speech from the platform. “I have the honor of standing before you this evening for one reason, because thousands upon thousands of grassroots activists stood united, not for a candidate, but for the sake of restoring liberty.”
It is certainly true that his impressive come-from-behind primary victory captured the fervor of anti-government Tea Party activists as well as conservative evangelicals that Cruz has been courting for years at religious right gatherings. But it wasn’t an act of spontaneous combustion. Pouring gasoline on the prairie fire were national right-wing super PACs and Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks. Club for Growth Action dropped millions into the race on Cruz’s behalf; Jim DeMint’s Tea Party-backing Senate Conservatives Fund also kicked in with seven-figure spending. (DeMint has since cut his formal ties to the group so that it could create a super PAC.) A FreedomWorks spokesperson said after Cruz’s primary that wins by candidates like Cruz would “force Romney to the right.”
Cruz also benefitted from endorsements by an impressive roster of right-wing figures. During the primary he bragged that he was the only candidate this year supported by all four of his favorite senators: DeMint, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Pat Toomey. he Cruz campaign used video of a Palin campaign visit for its GOTV efforts. After his primary win an excited Breitbart blogger quoted Sarah Palin’s celebration on Facebook. She wrote that Cruz's victory was a win "both for Ted and for the grassroots Tea Party movement," and that the “message of this race couldn't be clearer for the political establishment: the Tea Party is alive and well and we will not settle for business as usual. Now, it's on to November!”
While the media accurately describes Cruz as a darling of the Tea Party and its corporate backers, he also had strong backing from religious-right figures. Cruz has campaigned for support at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit and the Freedom Federation’s Awakening conference, where he said “we are engaged in spiritual warfare every day.” James Dobson and David Barton are among the religious-right leaders who backed Cruz; Rick Santorum endorsed Cruz on Glenn Beck’s television show.
Cruz embodies Ralph Reed’s desire to merge the Tea Party and religious right. In his convention speech, Cruz talked about the Tea Party movement as a “Great Awakening” – a not-so-subtle shout-out to religious-right leaders who are calling for a spiritual great awakening that they believe will turn the nation back to God and its Christian roots. At Rick Santorum’s event on Wednesday afternoon, Cruz mocked media conversations about divisions between different “chunks” of Republicans, declaring the party united. “We’re all here because we believe in values and principles bigger than ourselves,” he said.
In an interview with CBS News on Monday, Mitt Romney said he disagreed with his own party’s support for criminalizing abortion without exceptions: “My position has been clear throughout this campaign; I’m in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser of Susan B. Anthony List, a major anti-choice group, in an interview with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association insisted that the Romney campaign told her that Romney does not in fact believe in exceptions for the health of the mother, contradicting what he said in the Monday interview. If he did, Dannenfelser said, he would not have received the endorsement of her anti-choice organization.
Taking over the Supreme Court is an obsession on the far right, and Mitt Romney is on course to do their bidding. Romney selected none other than Robert Bork to serve as his chief judicial advisor.
Television Ad Running Tomorrow During RNC; Telebriefing to feature Actress Kathleen Turner, Constitutional Expert Jamie Raskin
A new ad released today by People For the American Way holds Governor Mitt Romney accountable for his extreme agenda for the Supreme Court, including his decision to name right-wing ideologue Robert Bork as his chief judicial advisor.
In an interview this week, Romney insisted that the right of a woman to have an abortion in cases of rape and incest would be decided by the Supreme Court. But Romney failed to mention his promise to appoint Judges who would drastically limit women’s rights.
In an ad released today and running in the Tampa area during the RNC, People For the American Way corrected the record.
Voice Over: Mitt Romney says that a woman’s right to choose an abortion even in cases of rape and incest isn’t up to him.
Romney: This is the decision that will be made by the Supreme Court.
Voice Over: But Romney has promised to appoint Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe v Wade. As his chief judicial advisor he chose Robert Bork, a man with a long record of hostility to women’s rights.
[On Screen: Bork Record: ruled that a corporation could force female employees to be sterilized or lose their jobs / says politicians can outlaw birth control / claims the promise of Equal Protection doesn’t apply to women]
Mitt Romney: Too extreme for women. Too extreme for America.
Voice Over: People For the American Way is responsible for the content of this advertising.
People For the American Way released a report on Romney’s selection of Bork earlier this year.
This morning, in conjunction with the release of the ad, PFAW will host a short telebriefing to review Romney’s agenda for the Court.
What: Telebriefing on Romney’s Agenda for the Supreme Court and its Impact on Women
When: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Who: Michael Keegan, People For the American Way President
Jamie Raskin, PFAW Senior Fellow, MD State Senator and Professor at American University Washington College of Law
Kathleen Turner, Actress and PFAW Foundation Board Member
Marge Baker, Executive Vice President for Policy and Program, People For the American Way
For call-in information, contact Miranda Blue at (202) 467-2335
Note: this story is cross-posted at AlterNet.
The official 2012 Republican Party platform is a far-right fever dream, a compilation of pouting, posturing, and policies to meet just about every demand from the overlapping Religious Right, Tea Party, corporate, and neo-conservative wings of the GOP. If moderates have any influence in today’s Republican Party, you wouldn’t know it by reading the platform. Efforts by a few delegates to insert language favoring civil unions, comprehensive sex education, and voting rights for the District of Columbia, for example, were all shot down. Making the rounds of right-wing pre-convention events on Sunday, Rep. Michele Bachmann gushed about the platform’s right-wing tilt, telling fired-up Tea Partiers that “the Tea Party has been all over that platform.”
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s Samuel Rodriguez has been trying to push Latino voters to join the Republican Party while also begging the GOP to soften its hardline stance on immigration reform. But acting as a self-styled champion of immigrant rights while also boosting a party that is vociferously opposed to them ultimately creations tensions. It appears that for Rodriguez, helping the GOP is more important than opposing anti-immigrant policies and activists. Rodriguez is scheduled to share the spotlight at the Republican National Convention with none other than Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Rodriguez has previously described Arpaio as a “xenophobic person” and in February tweeted that “any candidate that seeks the endorsement of Sheriff Arpaio also seeks the rejection of the Hispanic community.”
Rodriguez also blasted SB 1070, Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law backed by Arpaio, as “xenophobic and nativist,” calling for a fast to protest the law and the creation of “a multi-ethnic firewall against the extremists in our nation.” “The Arizona Law stands as evidence that in 21st Century America, we may no longer be in the Desert of Segregation or the Egypt of Slavery but we just discovered there are Giants to be slain in the land of Promise,” his group proclaimed in a statement. “The Arizona Law is without a doubt, anti-Latino, anti-family, anti-immigrant, anti-Christian and unconstitutional.”
He later said that the Supreme Court didn’t go far enough in striking down the law’s “draconian measures” that “polarize and segregate our communities.”
Arpaio, who is being sued by the Justice Department for violating the civil rights of Hispanics (just one of his many scandals), will address an invitation-only audience at the Republican National Convention days after Rodriguez delivers a benediction.
Of course, Arpaio’s involvement in the convention should come as no surprise, as Arpaio was the co-chair of Mitt Romney’s 2008 Arizona campaign and served as a Romney surrogate. At the time, Romney said Arpaio was one of his “strong surrogates for our optimistic message of a stronger and safer Amreica” and was “gratified” to have his support.
Mitt Romney is outraged! He's insulted! He's offended!
Why? A Republican Senate candidate dared to state a position on choice that is exactly the same as that of Romney's own running mate.
Missouri Rep. Todd Akin is attracting plenty of attention for his bizarre and idiotic justification for refusing to allow rape victims to have abortions. But the extreme policy position behind those comments - a policy that is the GOP standard -- should be getting just as much attention.
Akin explained this weekend how rape victims shouldn't be allowed reproductive choice because they already have access to some mysterious anti-pregnancy control system: "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Romney responded today in an interview with the National Review:
"Congressman's Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong," Romney said. "Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive."
"I have an entirely different view," Romney said. "What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it."
What is Romney's "entirely different view"? That Rep. Akin doesn't have a basic understanding of the female anatomy that he's so interested in legislating? That Akin feels the need to draw a distinction between "legitimate rape" and "illegitimate rape"? That Akin thinks rape victims shouldn't be able to choose whether to carry their rapists' children?
Romney should start by directing his outrage at his own running mate. Rep. Paul Ryan not only opposes abortion rights for rape victims, he was a cosponsor of a so-called "personhood" amendment that would have classified abortion as first degree murder and outlawed common types of birth control. Ryan has also bought into the "legitimate rape" nonsense, cosponsoring legislation with Akin that would have limited federal services to victims of "forcible rape" - a deliberate attempt to write out some victims of date rape and statutory rape.
Romney himself has flirted with the "personhood" idea, telling Mike Huckabee during the primary that he'd "absolutely" support such a measure. When he was later confronted about the comment at a town hall meeting, it became clear that Romney had no idea how the process he wanted to legislate actually worked.
And Romney hasn't always been keen to stand up for the victims of rape. In a Republican debate in February, he actually got in an argument with Newt Gingrich over who was least in favor of requiring hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims they were treating.
Now the Romney campaign is trying to distance itself from Akin by saying that "a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape." But Romney has also vowed to nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, returning to states the power to outlaw or allow abortion as they choose. If Romney and anti-choice activists get their wish from the Supreme Court, a Romney-Ryan administration would have no power to stop states from imposing whichever abortion bans they decide to impose. The promise to carve out an exception for rape victims is not a promise they would be able to keep.
The real scandal of Rep. Akin's comments isn't the faulty sex-ed he's teaching. Instead, his comments expose the anti-choice movement's skewed and condescending view of women. Akin can't accept that a woman who fits his definition of virtue - the victim of a "legitimate rape" - would also need to seek an abortion, and he has made up false science to support that assumption. But with or without the weird right-wing science, that same false distinction underlies all anti-choice policies - including those embraced by Romney and Ryan.
Romney can feign all the outrage he wants at Rep. Akin's misogynistic pseudo-science. But until he can draw a clear distinction between Akin's policies and his own, his protests will ring hollow.
People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action, a national coalition of African American pastors, spoke out today on Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate.
“Mitt Romney already had a dangerous agenda for America – especially Black America – and now he’s doubled down,” said Rev. Dr. Robert P. Shine, Vice-Chair of African American Ministers In Action. “Paul Ryan’s appalling budget proposal, if enacted, would strike an enormous blow to our social contract. It would absolve the very wealthiest of their obligations to give back to the country that supports them, while increasing the burdens on working people who are struggling to get by. It would rob from health care and food assistance and education to pay for tax cuts for billionaires. It would deny the least fortunate among us the opportunity to change their circumstances, while showering the most fortunate with tax cuts. These skewed priorities do not align with the teachings of Christ or with our highest American ideals.
“Like the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, we believe that Paul Ryan’s vision for American ‘fails to meet… moral criteria.’ Now, Mitt Romney, in an effort to pander to the farthest of the far right, has adopted Ryan’s flawed vision as his own. We can’t afford to have Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in the White House.”
Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance said that besides his one-time vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, she is excited “to pull back out my t-shirt from 2008 that says ‘Our VP is hotter than your VP!’”
Paul Ryan is a great choice. He has one little blip in that he voted for ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) a long time ago but voted right on the marriage amendment and supports the unborn. Plus, I get to pull back out my t-shirt from 2008 that says ‘Our VP is hotter than your VP!’ Bonus.
Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition commended Ryan’s “100 percent pro-life and pro-family voting record.”
Mitt Romney choosing Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee is an inspired, outstanding selection. Paul Ryan is a rare and exceptional public servant who combines the courage of his convictions with a sharp intellect and a winsome personality. I have known him since he worked for Jack Kemp at Empower America in the early 1990s, worked with him in passing sound budgets in the House, and am proud to count him as a friend. He is a person of devout Christian faith who has a 100 percent pro-life and pro-family voting record in his 14 years in Congress. He will excite and energize social conservatives, who will play a critical role in the outcome of the elections.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council is proud that Ryan “believes that social, fiscal and national security conservatism is indivisible.”
Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan shows that he is serious about getting America's fiscal house in order. Paul Ryan's voting record also suggests that he believes that social, fiscal and national security conservatism is indivisible. Paul Ryan's philosophy clearly includes the understanding that America's financial greatness is tied directly to its moral and cultural wholeness.
As a member of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, he has been a defender of religious expression in the public square. Paul Ryan has spoken out strongly against President Obama's abortion drug and contraception mandates as an affront to religious liberty. He has articulately described how the President's government takeover of health care has pushed aside our First Amendment right of religious freedom.
We look forward to hearing Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan speak at the upcoming Values Voter Summit so that the conservative grassroots will have an opportunity to hear more about their agenda on the critical issues facing our country including religious liberty, marriage, the sanctity of human life as well as fiscal responsibility and national security.
The Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjore Dannenfelser hailed Ryan’s rejection of a “culture war truce.”
“By selecting Congressman Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, Governor Romney demonstrates his commitment to protecting American women and unborn children,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List. “A longtime pro-life advocate and a strong fiscal conservative, Congressman Ryan has insisted that there can be no ‘truce’ when it comes to advancing the rights of the unborn and achieving fiscal responsibility. He has a pristine pro-life voting record and will be an asset to Governor Romney’s campaign.
“Pro-life voters are a key demographic and help secure victory in critical elections,” continued Dannenfelser. “The addition of a second strong pro-life leader to the ticket energizes the pro-life base – we are thrilled with this pick.”
The Catholic Association called Ryan an “excellent choice” since “he has been thoughtful and articulate in applying Catholic principles to the other challenges facing America.”
We believe Governor Romney has made an excellent choice. As a smart, serious Catholic, Congressman Ryan has been steadfast on issues of fundamental principle – defending religious liberty, life, and traditional marriage.
In addition, he has been thoughtful and articulate in applying Catholic principles to the other challenges facing America.
The American Center for Law and Justice’s David French noted Ryan’s opposition to reproductive rights.
In the next days and weeks, there will be a lot of attention on Paul Ryan’s economic expertise and experience with fiscal reform. He became famous in political circles for the “Ryan budget” and for his fearlessness and effectiveness in challenging President Obama in the midst of the Obamacare debate. But what many may not know is that Paul Ryan is a man completely committed to the cause of life.
Gary Bauer of the Campaign for Working Families is glad this “youthful, forward-looking ticket [is] reminding us that with the right choices America's best days are still ahead of us.”
Just moments ago, Governor Mitt Romney formally announced his selection of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to be his vice presidential running mate. He made the announcement at a naval museum in Norfolk, Virginia, with the USS Wisconsin as his backdrop. This is a bold choice, and I am very excited about this pick!
The selection of Paul Ryan shows Governor Romney is serious about confronting the fiscal challenges facing our country. It shows the kind of talented and experienced team Governor Romney will put together that will work for American exceptionalism.
Ryan is a strong conservative. He is pro-life and believes in traditional marriage. Of course, what he is most known for is entitlement reform and stopping the growth of government. He's 42 with a young family.
So this will be a youthful, forward-looking ticket, reminding us that with the right choices America's best days are still ahead of us. It will be a stark contrast to Obama's failed tax and spend policies that are taking us down the dead-end road of European-style socialism. It's clear which presidential ticket is serious about making real change!