Mitt Romney

Borking America

Many Presidents leave their most enduring legacy to the nation in the Justices that they name to the Supreme Court and the federal judges that they put on the bench. So what inspired former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to name former judge Robert Bork to co-chair his presidential campaign advisory committee on law, the Constitution and the judiciary?

Romney Actively Sought Nugent Endorsement and Agreed to His Demands to Win It

Mitt Romney actively sought, and won, Ted Nugent’s endorsement in early March. According to a report in the Texas Tribune and Nugent himself, the two had a lengthy conversation about gun laws and the endorsement on March 2nd.
 
Nugent made Romney pledge not to put any new restrictions on guns. Romney obliged:
It was on a phone call with the candidate earlier today that Nugent gave his blessing. He talked to Romney by phone while he was at a sporting goods store in Michigan "celebrating the orgy of guns and ammos and bows and arrows and camouflage clothing and hunting and fishing and outdoor family supplies."
 
Before endorsing him, Nugent demanded that Romney pledge there would be no new gun laws or restrictions on Second Amendment rights in his administration. Romney obliged. Nugent also warned Romney about the "out of control" U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
 
"These are not Ted Nugent demands," he said. "They're logic demands. They're 'we the people' demands. They're right over wrong, good over bad."
Nugent later tweeted:
 
 
As Tommy Christopher over at Mediaite points out, presidential candidates can’t be expected to answer for everything their supporters say. However, it’s a different story when the candidate personally seeks an endorsement: “Mitt Romney shouldn’t have to answer for every idiotic thing ever said by a conservative, if only due to time constraints. However, it is fair to ask him if he agrees with those whose endorsements he has actively sought.”
 
It's time for Romney to address Nugent's extreme and violent rhetoric on his behalf at last weekend's NRA national convention. While rallying support for Romney, Nugent compared President Obama and Democrats to a coyote that needs to be shot, called President Obama's administration "vile, evil America-hating," and ended with a call to chop off Democrats' heads: "We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November."
 
 

Nugent Compared Obama and Democrats to a Coyote that Needs to Be Shot

We reported yesterday on inflammatory remarks made by longtime NRA board member Ted Nugent at the group’s national convention on Saturday. Nugent was trying to rally attendees for Romney, who addressed the convention a day earlier, but he shot himself in the foot instead with extreme and violent rhetoric. 

In addition to the remarks we reported yesterday, Nugent compared President Obama and the Democrats to a coyote that needs to be shot. He then told the crowd that “we’re Americans because we defied the king,” and we must be like Braveheart and “ride into that battlefield and chop [Democrats’] heads off in November.”
 
Our President and Attorney General, Vice President, Hillary Clinton, they’re criminals, they’re criminals. […]
 
It isn’t the enemy that ruined America. It’s good people who bent over and let the enemy in.
 
If the coyote’s in your living room pissing on your couch, it’s not the coyote’s fault. It’s your fault for not shooting him. […]
 
We’re Americans because we defied the king. We didn’t negotiate or compromise with the king. We defied the emperors. We are patriots. We are Braveheart.
 
We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions?
People For the American Way today called on Mitt Romney to reject Nugent's endorsement and rebuke his remarks.

PFAW: Romney Should Rebuke NRA Board Member Ted Nugent for Extreme and Violent Rhetoric

People For the American Way today urged presidential candidate Mitt Romney to rebuke longtime NRA board member Ted Nugent for remarks he made at the NRA annual convention on Saturday. Nugent, who endorsed Romney in early March, called on NRA members to vote for Romney and denounced the “vile, evil, America-hating” Obama administration. He finished his remarks with a call to cut off the heads of Democrats this fall: “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”

Nugent’s comments, which were first reported by People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, came one day after Romney himself addressed the convention. Nugent’s endorsement was touted by Tagg Romney in early March.

“We don’t expect moderation from Ted Nugent,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “But we do expect a major presidential candidate like Mitt Romney to rebuke a prominent supporter for spewing hate-filled and violent rhetoric against the President of the United States.”

“This is far from the first time that Nugent has advocated violence against his political adversaries. Mitt Romney should clearly and loudly reject Nugent’s endorsement and rebuke his inflammatory comments.”

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The Religious Right's Message to Romney: Be More Like Santorum

When Rick Santorum ended his presidential campaign last week, his Religious Right supporters were heartbroken ... and now they seem to have moved on to a new strategy of pressuring Mitt Romney to adopt Santorum's campaign message is he wants to win their support:

Of course, if Santorum's message had been so energizing and effective, he probably would not have been forced to end his bid because his campaign "basically raised almost no money" toward the end.

The Games Bryan Fischer Plays

Last year, Bryan Fischer openly declared that Mitt Romney's Mormon faith "ought to be an issue in 2012" and that Romney should be forced to publicly declare whether he embraces Mormon teachings that conflict with the Bible so that voters can decide "whether they want somebody with those convictions sitting in the Oval Office."

Since then, Fischer has repeatedly attacked Romney over his faith, calling him a "spiritually-compromised candidate" and declaring  that a Mormon president represents a threat to the "spiritual health" of the nation.

But Fischer has also realized that openly attacking Romney's faith in this manner might be problematic even at the American Family Association, so he has settled upon a trick whereby he continues to do so while pretending that is really the media which is attacking Romney's Mormon faith.

Fischer announced this trick a few months ago when wrote a piece claiming that if Romney became the Republican nominee, "the winger-left media" would not hesitate to highlight "the more unusual aspects of Mormon theology."  And he has been using this framing ever since as he launches repeated attacks upon Mormonism while thinking he is avoiding responsibility simply because he is pretending that it is the media that is really attacking Romney's faith.

Yesterday, while discussing Hilary Rosen's comment about Ann Romney, Fischer demonstrated exactly how he does it, using the flap as cover to engage in a long attack on Mormon theology while saying that the media needs to ask Mitt and Ann Romney about it because the media once asked Michele Bachmann about her theology:

So, based on nothing more than a random comment made about Ann Romney, Fischer is now demanding that the Romney's publicly address the specific tenets of their faith ... while blaming it all on the media.

As we have said before, if Fischer actually thinks that he is fooling anyone with this pathetic charade, he is even less self-aware than we ever could have imagined.

Romney’s ‘War on Women’ Gambit

So, Mitt Romney’s campaign has a new idea, which is that they will neutralize the media devastation caused by the GOP’s attacks on women by turning things around and accusing President Obama of waging a “War on Women.” So far, the one piece of evidence Romney’s team has been able to hustle up to back up their new claim is an out-of-context jobs number that Politifact has rated Mostly False.

Asked to explain their new tagline in more detail today, Romney’s advisers were at a loss.

In the meantime, Romney shows no signs of abandoning any of the GOP’s anti-woman policies. The candidates advisors told a reporter that they weren’t sure if their boss supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a landmark law – signed by President Obama – that ensures that women can sue for pay discrimination. Ledbetter fired back, saying, “If he is truly concerned about women in this economy, he wouldn’t have to take time to ‘think’ about whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.”

Romney has done a 180 on reproductive rights, supporting extreme “personhood” measures and calling the Obama administration rule making sure women have insurance coverage for contraceptives an “attack on religious conscience, religious freedom.” When a firestorm erupted over Rush Limbaugh’s false and degrading attacks on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, Romney simply said Limbaugh’s sexist slurs were “not the language I would have used.”

And of course Romney tapped Robert Bork, a vociferous opponent of feminism and reproductive rights, to head his advisory team on courts and the law.

If Romney wants to convince American voters that his opponent is the one waging a War on Women, he’s going to have an uphill battle.
 

PFAW

Fischer: Electing a 'Spiritually-Compromised Candidate' Like Romney Will Weaken America

As Brian noted in his last post, Religious Right leaders are starting to grudgingly coalesce behind Mitt Romney not that it appears all but certain that he is going to be the Republican presidential nominee.

But Bryan Fischer is not necessarily among them. 

Fischer has made no secret of his anti-Mormon views, saying that the First Amendment does not apply to Mormons and warning that electing a Mormon president is a threat to the "spiritual health" of the nation.

Romney, for his part, actually called out Fischer for his bigotry during last year's Values Voter Summit, which only solidified Fischer's distrust and dislike of him.

So when Rick Santorum announced yesterday that he was finally dropping out of the race, Fischer dedicated much of his program to discussing developments and declaring that many Religious Right voters will not be able to support a "spiritually compromised candidate" like Romney ... and that this "is perfectly understandable" because worshiping false gods will weaken the nation:

The reality is that there are just a number of Evangelicals that just will not vote for Romney because they do not want to put somebody who believes in a different god in the White House, which is perfectly understandable. He's a spiritually compromised candidate; that's the only way to put it. If he goes into the Oval Office, he will be the first polytheist that we've ever had as a president. Mitt Romney would be the first non-Christian president that we've ever had; the first president that we've ever had that did not emerge from a stream of historic Christian orthodoxy.

So this would be unprecedented, and it would be unprecedented spiritually. You remember the prophets, this is one of the things that they were toughest on the kings about is departing the worship of the true and living God for alternative gods. This was something that weakened a nation and so we're looking at that, if Mitt Romney becomes the president, we have a spiritually-compromised president who will be the first polytheist to ever hold the Oval Office, the first president who has ever believed in a multiplicity of gods, the first president who has ever believe that man can become a god, and that God didn't used to be God, he used to be a man who progressed to godhood. So this would be completely uncharted waters for America.

Religious Right Leaders Slowly Gets Behind Mitt Romney

Conservative leaders like Gary Bauer and Penny Nance immediately announced their support for Mitt Romney only after their preferred candidate, Rick Santorum, bowed out of the race, while noting that they are more excited about defeating President Obama than electing Romney. Others like Tony Perkins and Michael Farris continued to criticize Romney for his inconsistent stances on social issues and have not yet come out in favor of his candidacy. But the National Organization for Marriage was all too happy to endorse Romney, who signed NOM’s anti-gay pledge, with Brian Brown hailing the former governor as a “true champion” of their cause:

“Now is the time for all people who recognize the importance of marriage to come together to support a true champion, Mitt Romney, against an incumbent who has done virtually everything in his power to undermine the institution of marriage,” Brown said.

“President Obama has declared our nation’s marriage laws to be unconstitutional and not only has refused to defend them, his administration is actively working to repeal them in the courts. He’s come out against state constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. And he has appointed leaders of the same-sex ‘marriage’ movement as national co-chairs of his reelection campaign. Incredibly, Obama still apparently claims to personally support traditional marriage. With friends like President Obama, the institution of marriage doesn’t need enemies.”

NOM’s marriage pledge commits Governor Romney to a variety of actions upon his election as president. These include:

- Supporting an amendment to the United States Constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman;
- Appointing Supreme Court Justices and an Attorney General who will apply the original meaning of the Constitution;
- Vigorously defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court;
- Establishing a presidential commission on religious liberty; and
- Advancing legislation to return to the people of the District of Columbia their right to vote on marriage.

Meanwhile, televangelist Pat Robertson on the 700 Club today also said that Romney's Mormon faith should not prevent evangelicals from supporting him. Leaders of Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice such as Jay Sekulow and David French were early Romney supporters, and Robertson stressed that Romney is not running for “Chief Rabbi” or “Chief American Pastor,” adding that he doubts Romney will “interject the Mormon religion into the way he governs.”

From Beck to Romney, Religious Right Comes to Terms with Mormon Leaders

Last year evangelical writer and WORLD Magazine associate publisher Warren Cole Smith created quite a stir with his column pledging not to vote for Mitt Romney if he wins the Republican nomination because of the boost his presidency would provide to Mormonism. “You can't say that his religious beliefs don't matter, but his ‘values’ do,” Smith explained, “If the beliefs are false, then the behavior will eventually—but inevitably—be warped.” He pointed to the Mormon doctrine of “continuing revelation” to explain Romney’s history of flip-flops and warned that a Romney presidency “would serve to normalize the false teachings of Mormonism the world over,” drawing more people into the LDS church and away from orthodox Christianity.

But it seems that few other prominent faces of the Religious Right are agreeing with Smith’s stance.

Televangelist James Robison on Daystar told a listener that she should favor a non-Christian over a Christian just as people favored Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood actor, over Jimmy Carter, a Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher, because Reagan better understood biblical principles:

Even Robert Jeffress, the preacher who attacked Mormonism as a “cult” at the Values Voters Summit and said Christians should prefer evangelical Rick Perry over Romney, made a similar case on Janet Parshall’s radio show in January when he said a “non-Christian who embraces biblical principles” is preferable to “a professing Christian who espouses unbiblical principles”:

American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer said he will vote for Romney even though he believes a Mormon president would undermine the “spiritual health” of the U.S., and Rick Scarborough of Vision America, repeated his antipathy towards Mormonism in an interview but made clear that “if the choice comes down for me between a Mormon and Barack Obama, I’d vote for the Mormon every time.”

But the acceptance of Romney as the leader of the GOP by the Religious Right’s leadership may not come as a great surprise, as the same people have largely embraced another high profile Mormon, Glenn Beck.

Beck has become a favorite of Religious Right figures, leading his religiously-infused Restoring Honor rally at the Lincoln Memorial and introducing his clerical Black Robe Regiment, promulgating ‘Christian nation’ history with David Barton and keynoting last year’s Values Voters Summit.

The turnaround when it comes to working with Mormons, who many evangelicals see as “cobelligerents” in the culture wars along with conservative Roman Catholics and Jews, can be seen in Kirk Cameron’s own about-face.

Cameron featured Beck at the kickoff event for his movie Monumental, about how America needs to return to its theocratic Pilgrim roots, where Beck told Cameron that God confirmed to him in prayer that what they are doing is right and wants them to warn the country about America’s impending collapse.

Beck’s appearance and discussion of his talks with God in Cameron’s Religious Right “documentary” may raise eyebrows since Cameron in 2006 co-hosted an anti-Mormon film with evangelist Ray Comfort. In the show, Cameron said that it was likely Satan who appeared to Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, as the Angel Moroni and led him to golden plates that became the Book of Mormon, and even said that Mormons are “following a false Jesus” and “will end up in Hell forever.” “If you’ve ever spoken to a Mormon, sometimes you know how frustrating it could when they use the same words you do but they mean something different and you’re not sure how to finish the conversation,” Cameron said.

Watch highlights of Cameron’s anti-Mormon film here:

Despite Cameron’s dogmatic warnings against Mormonism, he is now actively working with one of America’s leading Mormons. Similarly, just as many on the Religious Right once denounced the Mormon faith, they are now prepared to vote for Romney over President Obama.

Romney and Santorum Rally with Corrupt Lobbyist Ralph Reed in Wisconsin

Tomorrow morning in Waukesha, WI, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, among others (Gov. Scott Walker is listed as an invited speaker), will rally with corrupt former lobbyist Ralph Reed and the state chapter of his Faith & Freedom Coalition, which Reed created to rehabilitate his image in the wake of his deep involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Here are the event details:
It is our distinct pleasure to invite you to the Wisconsin Faith & Freedom Presidential Kick-Off, sponsored by the Wisconsin Faith & Freedom Coalition, to be held at the Country Springs Hotel on Saturday, March 31st in Waukesha, WI.  Come hear from CONFIRMED speakers Governor Mitt Romney, Senator Rick Santorum, and Speaker Newt Gingrich.
 
When Romney and Santorum – the standard–bearers of the GOP – appear on stage tomorrow with Reed, they’ll be embracing a corrupt hustler who has survived scandal after scandal by delivering cash and foot soldiers to Republican leaders (and not for the first time).
 
It wasn’t long ago that Ralph Reed was damaged goods in Republican circles, and for good reason. Reed came to national prominence as the first executive director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, beginning in 1989. However, by 1997 the groups finances were collapsing, the FEC had found that the group violated federal campaign finance laws in 1990, 1992, and 1994, and federal prosecutors were investigating allegations of financial misconduct made by the organization’s CFO. So Reed resigned and moved to Georgia to become a lobbyist.
 
In 1999, Abramoff hired Reed and ultimately paid him $1.3 million to generate opposition to legalizing video poker and a state-sponsored lottery in Alabama. The money came from the Choctaw Tribe, which runs a casino in nearby Mississippi. Reed used his extensive Religious Right contacts and engaged James Dobson and the Alabama Christian Coalition, which had a policy against being the “recipient of any funds direct or in-direct or any in-kind direct or indirect from gambling interests.” He funneled $850,000 to the group, but made sure to launder it through his longtime friend Grover Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform.
 
Before the wheels came off Jack Abramoff’s criminal lobbying enterprise, he described Reed to his business partner as “a bad version of us.” Abramoff, explaining the comment after being released from prison, said that Reed was “a tap dancer and constantly just asking for money.” And Abramoff knows more than a thing or two about Reed. He gave Reed his first job after college and, along with Norquist, formed what some called the “triumvirate” at the College Republican National Committee.
 
After the Abramoff scandal broke, Reed claimed that he had “no direct knowledge of [Abramoff’s lobbying firm’s] clients or their interests,” but the Senate Indian Affairs Committee determined that Abramoff told Reed as early as 1999 that he was taking casino money. In an interview last year with Alan Colmes, Abramoff called Reed’s denial ridiculous:
Abramoff: It's ridiculous. I mean, even the tribes that had other business, 99% of their revenue came from gaming. But a lot of those tribes had nothing but gaming.
Colmes: So, in other words, Ralph Reed was saying "hey, I'll work with you but I don't want to be paid with gambling money, I'm too clean for that." But are you saying that conversation never happened?
Abramoff: No. Never happened. Ralph didn't want it out that he was getting gambling money and, frankly, that was his choice and I think it was a big mistake.
Reed went on to become the chair of the Georgia Republican Party in 2001 and ran for lieutenant governor in 2006. However, the Abramoff scandal had broken by then, and Reed “suffered an embarrassing defeat” in the primary. The New York Times described Reed as a “close associate of Jack Abramoff” whose “candidacy was viewed as a test of the effects of the Washington lobbying scandal on core Republican voters.”
 
In 2009, Reed founded the Faith & Freedom Coalition to help resurrect his image and stature in the movement. Faith & Freedom, which Reed described as a “21st Century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids,” is really just a Tea Party-stained version of the original, and much smaller despite the steroids.
 
However, Reed is an operator in the truest sense, and knows how to “tap dance” and “constantly ask for money” with the best of them. He has apparently earned, and I do mean earned, his way back into the good graces of Republican leaders. It’s unclear, however, how long Reed can go without another scandal.

Who's Sorry Now? The Republican Art of the Non-Apology

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Ralph Reed reached out to Rush Limbaugh via Twitter yesterday and accepted his apology. "Apology accepted. Let's move on," he said -- a magnanimous gesture had Rush Limbaugh actually apologized to Ralph Reed. Too bad that, despite the too quick headlines, Limbaugh not only hadn't apologized to Reed -- he hadn't really apologized to anyone at all.

Instead, Reed and Limbaugh, with the backing of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, started up the ole vast right-wing fake apology machine -- designed to temporarily quell a too hot controversy while at the same time not giving an inch.

Unfortunately for them, after too much use of the fake apology, people are catching on.

Although considered by some in the GOP to be a little too rough around the edges, Rush Limbaugh has always been considered a net asset to Republicans. Like fellow right-wing shock-jocks Glenn Beck and Bryan Fischer, he reaches a wide audience with toxic sludge that is ultimately helpful to the Republican Party, saying all the things that fire up the right-wing base, but that the politicians wouldn't want to be caught saying themselves. But Limbaugh has a peculiar kind of power -- no matter how outrageous his comments, members of the establishment Right tiptoe around him, afraid that his toxic words might one day be directed at them. George Will said it best: "They want to bomb Iran, but they're afraid of Rush Limbaugh."

The latest boot-up of the right-wing apology machine began when Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student and contraception coverage advocate Sandra Fluke a "slut," saying "She wants to be paid to have sex." And, as if contraception was sold by the gallon or the pound, he added, "She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception."

President Obama immediately stepped up, calling Fluke to check in and encourage her after she had been smeared on national radio.

Rick Santorum, in contrast, called Limbaugh's comments "absurd," but then reasoned that "an entertainer can be absurd... He's in a very different business than I am."

Mitt Romney's response was flimsier and even more timid. Asked about it while shaking hands at a rally, he said that it was "not the language I would have used." Apparently, he had no problem with Limbaugh saying that birth control advocates want the government to pay for them to have sex. He would just use different words.

Finally, Limbaugh himself fake-apologized. "I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke," he said -- before blaming the left and going on to repeat his accusation that she was "discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress."

"I wouldn't have use those words" is the new "I apologize if anyone was offended."

Ms. Fluke did not accept Limbaugh's fake-apology. Ralph Reed, however, accepted it on her behalf. Republican leaders can't be responsible for everything that comes out of the mouths of every right-wing blowhard. But if they want to be president they can be expected to provide clear responses when comments like Limbaugh's are this outrageous, instead of hiding their heads in the sand hoping that the public exposure of these outrages will go away. How hard is it to say that women who advocate for insurance coverage for contraceptives should be heard and shouldn't be called prostitutes for stating their position on the topic? Is it really worth compromising basic decency to stay in the good graces of Rush Limbaugh?

The Republican Party is increasingly buoyed by a small base whose values are antithetical to those of most other Americans. If they want to survive politically, they are going to have to stand up and no longer be fake apologists for the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

PFAW

Romney Adds Ashcroft to List of Extreme Advisers

More mainstays of the Republican establishment announced their endorsement of Mitt Romney over the weekend. However, it’s not just the current faces of the party like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator Tom Coburn who have tipped their hats; Romney is also registering the support of ghosts of GOP past: Bush Administration attorney general John Ashcroft.

Romney is apparently trying to court as many extremists to his campaign as possible – the addition of Ashcroft dovetails closely with the fringe views of his legal adviser, the rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.

As attorney general, Ashcroft oversaw a relentless assault on Americans’ civil liberties. He approved warrantless wiretapping, secret military tribunals, racial profiling, aggressively implemented the PATRIOT Act, and created the “enemy combatant” status in an attempt to justify ignoring the Constitution in order to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects without charges.

Many of Ashcroft’s longstanding views still sit squarely with current GOP priorities:

  • He singlehandedly sabotaged confirmation of judicial nominees he didn’t like and has helped pack the federal courts with extreme Right-Wing judges;
  • He perpetuates the War on Women and has sought to amend the Constitution and pass legislation that would eliminate a women’s right an abortion, even for rape and incest victims, and supported making common birth control methods illegal;
  • He opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, designed to protect vulnerable groups of Americans who have long experienced overt discrimination for reasons having nothing to do with their job qualifications; 
  • He opposed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would have amended federal law to recognize hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender and disability;
  • He opposed school desegregation in Missouri;
  • He disregards the separation of church and state by helping funnel government funds to religious organizations that discriminate based on religion and led daily prayer and Bible study sessions at the Justice Department;
  • He helped rig the vote by investigating Republican claims of voter fraud while ignoring charges of voter disenfranchisement.

Ashcroft’s own words perfectly sum up his policy positions:

“There are voices in the Republican Party today who preach pragmatism, who champion conciliation, who counsel compromise. I stand here today to reject those deceptions. If ever there was a time to unfurl the banner of unabashed conservatism, it is now.” --April 10, 1998

If Mitt Romney shares Ashcroft’s extremist sentiments, he will be unable to unite the country should he win the nomination. Ashcroft’s open hostility to the Bill of Rights has no place in this campaign.

However, singing lessons are always welcome.

 

 

The full video is here.

PFAW

Blinded by the Hate: The Real Problem With Judge Cebull's Email

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Earlier this week a Great Falls Tribune reporter found something startling in his inbox: a shockingly racist and misogynistic email forwarded from the most powerful federal judge in Montana, which "joked" that the president of the United States was the product of his mother having sex with a dog. The story soon became national news, with groups like ours calling on Judge Richard Cebull to resign. Cebull quickly apologized to the president and submitted himself to a formal ethics review, somewhat quelling the story. But the story is about more than one judge doing something wildly inappropriate and deeply disturbing. It's about a conservative movement in which the bile and animosity directed at the president -- and even his family -- are so poisonous that even someone who should know better easily confuses political criticism and sick personal attack. Come on: going after the president's late mother? Attempting to explain his email forward, Judge Cebull told the reporter, John S. Adams,

The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan. I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. Is sent it out because it's anti-Obama.

Judge Cebull is hardly alone in using the old "I'm not racist, but..." line. In fact, his email was the result of an entire movement built on "I'm not racist, but..." logic that equates disagreement with and dislike of the president with broad-based, racially charged smears. These smears, tacitly embraced by the GOP establishment, are more than personal shots at the president -- they're attacks on the millions of Americans who make up our growing and changing country. Mainstream conservatives have genuine objections to President Obama's priorities and policies. But since he started running for president, a parallel movement has sprung up trying to paint Obama as an outsider and an imposter -- in unmistakably racially charged terms. Too often, the two movements have intersected. The effort to paint Obama as a threatening foreigner sprung up around the right-wing fringe in the run-up to the 2008 election with the typically muddled conspiracy theory that painted him as both a secret Muslim and a member of an America-hating church. They soon coalesced in the birther movement, which even today is championed by a strong coalition of state legislators and a certain bombastic Arizona sheriff. But the birther movement, the "secret Muslim" meme and the idea that the president of the United States somehow hates his own country are no longer confined to the less visible right-wing fringe. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, until recently a frontrunner in the GOP presidential race, continually hammers on the president's otherness, most notably criticizing his "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior." Rick Santorum flatly claims that Obama does not have the Christian faith that he professes, and eagerly courted the endorsement of birther leader Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And before they dropped out, Rick Perry and Herman Cain couldn't resist flirting with birtherism. But perhaps more than either of these fringe-candidates-turned-frontrunners, Mitt Romney has been catering to the strain of conservatism that deliberately confuses policy disagreements with racially-charged personal animosity. Romney went in front of TV cameras to smilingly accept the endorsement of Donald Trump, whose own failed presidential campaign was based on demanding the president's readily available birth certificate. And Gov. Romney continually attacks Obama -- falsely -- for going around the world "apologizing for America." Judge Cebull needs to take responsibility for his own actions. And if the GOP has any aspirations of providing real leadership to this country, it needs to jettison the deeply personal vitriol being direct against Barack Obama and start talking about real issues. When a federal judge has seen so much racially-charged propaganda against the president of the United States that he can claim not to know the difference between genuine disagreement and offensive personal smears, something in our discourse has gone terribly awry.

PFAW

Senate Rejects Blunt Amendment, Romney Disappointed?

In a 51-48 vote today, the Senate rejected an amendment to the transportation bill by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt that would have allowed employers to deny their employees health insurance coverage for any treatment for any reason.

“The Blunt amendment was not only astoundingly bad public policy, it represented a fundamental misreading of the First Amendment. If it became law, it would have put working Americans – regardless of their religious beliefs – at the mercy of the religious beliefs of their employers. That’s not religious liberty – in fact, it’s exactly the opposite,” said PFAW president Michael Keegan in a statement released earlier today.

The extremity of this amendment wasn’t lost on every member of the GOP. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted against the amendment, and even major presidential contender Mitt Romney opposed the bill:

“I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”

But of course, after remembering that perpetuating the War on Women is one of the GOP’s primary tactics this year, he reversed course in record time:

“Of course I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception so I was simply — misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment.”

The American people, and in particular the 20 million American Women whose reproductive health coverage would have been jeopardized by the Blunt Amendment, are quickly losing patience for the type of brazen politicking that puts pandering to the extreme right-wing over the legitimate needs of the country.

PFAW

PFAW: Romney Needs to Make Up His Mind About Birth Control

Yesterday afternoon, presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a reporter that he would not support the Senate’s Blunt amendment, which would endanger access to reproductive care for as many as 20 million American women, saying, “Look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there." An hour later, his campaign told reporters that Romney does, in fact, support the Blunt amendment.

“It’s hardly a surprise to get a flip-flop from Mitt Romney, but such a quick turnabout on an issue critical to the lives of millions of women is staggering,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way.

“Romney is trying to have it both ways: saying he doesn’t want to get in the way of personal decisions about birth control, and then supporting a law that would do just that. The Blunt amendment would set American women back decades – and American women know that. In his lightning-fast flip-flop, Romney has shown once again that he’s more interested in catering to an extreme right-wing base than to the common-sense needs of the people he wants to lead.”
 

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Santorum Says He Doesn’t Want to Impose His Values on the Rest of Us

On Meet the Press yesterday, David Gregory questioned GOP presidential frontrunner Rick Santorum about the social issues – opposition to reproductive choice and gay rights – on which he has built his career. Stunningly, Santorum denied that he has focused on social issues and claimed, “There’s no evidence at all that I, that I want to impose those values on anybody else.”

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FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: It's so funny. I get the question all the time. Why are you talking so much about these social issues, as they, as, as people ask about me about the social issues.
MR. GREGORY: Senator, no, wait a minute.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Look, the...
MR. GREGORY: You talk about this stuff every week. And by the way, it's not just in this campaign.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: No, I talk about, I talk...
MR. GREGORY: Sir, in this campaign you talk about it. And I've gone back years when you've been in public life and you have made this a centerpiece of your public life. So the notion that these are not deeply held views worthy of question and scrutiny, it's not just about the press.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Yeah, they, they are deeply held views, but they're not what I dominantly talk about, David. You're taking things that over a course of a 20-year career and pulling out quotes from difference speeches on, on issues that are fairly tangential, not what people care about mostly in America, and saying, "Oh, he wants to impose those values." Look at my record. I've never wanted to impose any of the things that you've just talked about. These are, these are my personal held religious beliefs, and in many forums that I, that, that are, in fact, religious, because I do speak in front of church groups and I do speak in these areas, I do talk about them. But there's no evidence at all that I, that I want to impose those values on anybody else.


This is, of course, a bunch of baloney. While Santorum has spent a lot of time in his presidential campaign talking up regressive tax policies, irresponsible deregulation and anti-environmentalism, the core of his brand has always been social conservatism. His campaign has consistently and explicitly distinguished his anti-choice, anti-gay record with Mitt Romney’s in order to successfully appeal to culture-warring voters.

Santorum has also never shied away from wanting to “impose” his far-right values on the rest of the country. In a 2005 interview with NPR, for instance, he railed against the libertarian wing of the Republican party, saying, “They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do. Government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulation low and that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues, you know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world.”

And here he is at a Republican debate in November discussing how our civil laws must “comport with God’s law”:

The former senator has said that states should be allowed to outlaw birth control and gay relationships, but supports the federal law banning recognition of legal same-sex marriages. He supports so-called “personhood” laws, which would not only outlaw all abortions regardless of circumstances, but would jeopardize legal access to contraception. He says that as president, he would reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, putting the careers of openly gay members of the military at risk. Yet he says he doesn’t want to “impose” his far-right values on the rest of us.

Santorum’s interview on Meet the Press is far from the first time he’s claimed that he’s not overly interested in social issues. PFAW’s Right Wing Watch found a speech he gave in 2008 in which he claimed that it’s liberals who have made sex an issue on the campaign trail. For liberals, he said, politics “comes down to sex” and that the Democratic Party has become “the party of Woodstock.”:

And it’s just insidious. And it’s most of the time focused on the sexual issues. If you’re a hard-core free-market guy, they’re not going to call you “zealous”. They’re not going to call you “ultra-conservative”. They’re not going to do that to you.
It comes down to sex. That’s what it’s all about. It comes down to freedom, and it comes down to sex. If you have anything to with any of the sexual issues, and if you are on the wrong side of being able to do all of the sexual freedoms you want, you are a bad guy. And you’re dangerous because you are going to limit my freedom in an area that’s the most central to me. And that’s the way it’s looked at.
...
Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become the party of Woodstock. The prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom. That’s what it’s about. Homosexuality. It’s about sexual freedom.
All of the things are about sexual freedom, and they hate to be called on them. They try to somehow or other tie this to the Founding Father’s vision of liberty, which is bizarre. It’s ridiculous.
 

 

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Off the Deep End

Michael

A message to People For the American Way supporters from PFAW president Michael Keegan:

Fighting contraception. Stopping domestic violence protections. Extending tax cuts for the wealthy, while hiking taxes on the middle class. Welcoming white supremacists to a conference, but banning gay conservatives. The GOP has followed its extremist fringe off the deep end, leaving the rest of us back in the reality-based world befuddled. Their strategists warned them not to do this, but it appears that to the GOP, radical fringe issue positions are like catnip. In last night's Republican presidential debate in Arizona, the candidates even spent several minutes discussing which of them is least in favor of allowing rape victims to have access to emergency contraception.

Perhaps Bruce Bartlett, who was an economic policy official under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said it best on last night's Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Discussing the obstacles to getting smart policies agreed upon and passed in government, he said, "the problem is purely political ... frankly, one of our political parties is insane, and we all know which one it is." (Hint: he was not talking about the Democrats.)

Standing Up for Women's Health -- We all heard about the War on Women's Health last year, when Tea Party-empowered state legislatures passed a record slew of anti-choice laws -- like Arizona's ban on "race-based abortions" and Virginia's attempt to shut down most abortion clinics in the state. These state legislatures were joined by an enthusiastic right-wing Congress that attempted to defund the entire $317 million federal family program, tried to redefine "rape" and eagerly promoted lies about their favorite bogeyman, Planned Parenthood. Well, the War on Women's Health is back, and it looks to be more an all-out War on Women. PFAW members spoke out when Susan G. Komen for the Cure threatened to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood because of internal influences from right-wing staff and board members. We're currently fighting an amendment in the U.S. Senate that would give employers the power to deny any health care to their employees that they take "moral" issue with personally. And we continue to track closely dangerous and extreme state legislation like the recent bill passed by Virginia’s right-wing Assembly that would force women considering abortions -- even rape victims -- to undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasounds.

Exposing the GOP Candidates' Extremism -- PFAW's Right Wing Watch last week uncovered the audio recording of a speech Rick Santorum gave to students at Ave Maria University in 2008 in which he said Satan, the "Father of Lies" was focusing all his attention on the United States of America. He said that academia had long ago fallen to this Satanic attack, derided mainline Protestant churches as no longer Christian and said that we are involved in a "spiritual war," as opposed to a political or cultural war -- a war in which we could only assume people with opposing views to Santorum's are on the side of Satan. The story took off like wildfire in both the blogosphere and the mainstream news media. It became the dominant storyline of the GOP debate for the two days leading up to the last debate and even had right-wing pundits like Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh, and politicians like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, asserting that Santorum's religious extremism is too much for a majority of Americans.

Fighting Judicial Obstruction -- A new PFAW fact sheet shows the extremity and unprecedented nature of Senate Republicans obstruction of judicial nominees, as well as its impact on Americans' access to justice. While a vacancy crisis persists on many of the nation's federal courts, our persistence is paying off and we're finally making headway in getting some of the president's qualified nominees confirmed. This month, the Senate confirmed Cathy Ann Bencivengo and Jesse Furman to U.S. District Courts in California and New York respectively, and Adalberto Jose Jordan to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, all of whom had been waiting months on the Senate calendar for a vote despite the fact that they came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee without any opposition. But dozens of other qualified nominees, most of whom had little or no opposition in Committee, still await confirmation. We'll continue to hold Republicans accountable for their obstruction and keep the pressure on to confirm these judges as swiftly as possible, and one at a time if necessary.

Youth Spotlight: Young Elected Officials take on Citizens United v. FEC -- In state, city and municipal governing bodies in at least seven states, members of our affiliate PFAW Foundation's Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network have put forward resolutions that call for the end of corporate personhood and unlimited special interest money in politics. One of the first big victories in this coordinated national effort was that of Missoula, Montana Councilwoman Cynthia Wolken. After attending a session on Citizens United at the 2011 YEO National Convening, Councilwoman Wolken took a sample resolution and introduced a city-wide referendum calling for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that made it clear that corporations are not people. The referendum passed overwhelmingly, with over 75% of the vote, bringing an abundance of media attention to the issue and forcing leaders in Montana's state government to weigh-in as well.

As always, thank you for your support, without which none of our work would be possible.

Best,

Michael B. Keegan signature

Michael Keegan

 

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Republicans Debate Who is Least in Favor of Emergency Care for Rape Victims

In case we needed any more evidence that the former mainstream of the GOP has gone completely off the deep end, Republican presidential candidates spent several minutes at last night’s CNN debate discussing which of them is least in favor of allowing rape victims to have access to emergency contraception. Watch:

The exchange came at the heels of a week that was chock-full of shockingly regressive Republican attacks on women. PFAW’s Marge Baker summed last week up in the Huffington Post:

Just this week, we have seen not just the stunning spectacle of major presidential candidates coming out against birth control coverage, but Republicans in the Senate holding up domestic violence protections because they protect too many people; a potential vice presidential candidate pick poised to sign a law requiring women to receive medically unnecessary vaginal probes without their consent; a leading presidential candidate claiming that "emotions" will get in the way of women serving in combat; and a House committee holding a hearing on birth control access -- with a panel consisting entirely of men.

And that’s not to mention billionaire Santorum supporter Foster Friess’s saying he didn’t see why birth control was expensive because, “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly."

The GOP candidates’ exchange over emergency contraception for rape victims took this tone-deafness to a new level of insensitivity. Does Mitt Romney really think he’ll appeal to female voters by attacking not just contraception but emergency care for rape victims?

It looks like not. TPM reports that since Romney started attacking birth control, he’s “suffered a precipitous drop in support among women voters.”

You don’t say.
 

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