The latest announcement in the Ted Cruz presidential campaign’s ongoing rollout of endorsements from right-wing leaders is a group of more than 50 “Catholic influencers” led by Robert George, the intellectual muscle for the Religious Right, and Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia and failed gubernatorial candidate. The campaign announced the endorsement of Robert George yesterday; some others on the list have also been announced previously.
Not surprisingly, the list of Catholics for Cruz is heavy on culture warriors who have been fighting to criminalize abortion and resist legal equality for LGBT people and same-sex couples. Although Cruz is not Catholic, he made a reference to the Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis, saying “we have an opportunity to protect the most vulnerable and safeguard the truth revealed through Scripture and the tradition of millennia.”
Courting Extremism is a weekly feature on conservative responses to the Supreme Court vacancy.
We are introducing a new series here on Right Wing Watch as the GOP’s obstructionism reaches a new low, with many Republican leaders now claiming that whomever President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court should receive absolutely no consideration from senators, despite their duties as outlined in the Constitution.
In response to the Supreme Court blockade, we will be putting together a weekly update on the Right’s response to the current Supreme Court vacancy.
5) Federalist Society Fine With A Perpetual Vacancy
Originally, Republicans insisted that they were simply upholding a recently-discovered tradition where the Senate refuses to consider Supreme Court nominees in election years.
At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Dean Reuter of the Federalist Society, a major right-wing legal group, commended the Senate GOP leadership for refusing to consider whomever Obama nominates to fill the vacancy. When asked if Republicans should continue to block hearings if the next president is a Democrat, Reuter said he is fine leaving the seat open indefinitely:
There’s no time limit in the Constitution. And there’s nothing magical about there being nine justices. The country started out with six justices, we’ve had as many as ten at some point in time. And as recently as 2010, when Justice Elena Kagan came on the Court, she had been solicitor general so she recused herself in over a third of the cases…I don’t see a sense of urgency.
Unless, of course, a Republican is elected president.
4) Ron Johnson Gives Away The Game
Apparently, the fictitious no-appointments-in-an-election-year tradition only applies to Democratic presidents, at least according to Sen. Ron Johnson.
The Wisconsin Republican said in a radio interview yesterday that “it’d be a different situation” if a GOP president was appointing a justice to the bench, saying that the Senate Republicans would show “more accommodation” to a Republican president.
Johnson might be interested in hearing from his voters: A recent poll found that 62 percent of Wisconsinites say the open Supreme Court seat should be filled this year, and 76 percent “think the Senate should at least see who gets put forward before making a decision on whether they should be confirmed.”
3) ‘We Are Setting A Precedent Here Today’
At least one Republican senator is honest enough to admit that the Republicans don’t have Senate history on their side.
Sen. Lindsey Graham told a Judiciary Committee meeting that the GOP is about to create a new precedent by refusing to even consider a nominee from President Obama, as the Huffington Post reports:
One of the Republican Party's most candid senators, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), admitted Thursday a stark fact that the rest of his colleagues have tried their best to avoid: that their blockade of any Supreme Court nominee by President Barack Obama is unprecedented.
And he insisted that he was going to go along with it, even though he predicted it would worsen relations between the parties and the functioning of the Senate.
"We are setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year at least of a lame duck eight-year term -- I would say it’s going to be a four-year term -- that you’re not going to fill a vacancy of the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today," Graham said in an unusual session of the Judiciary Committee, where members debated not bills or judicial nominees, but Obama's right to carry out his constitutional powers in an election year.
"We're headed to changing the rules, probably in a permanent fashion," he said.
Nonetheless, Graham said that “he still supports Grassley's decision not to hold hearings for Obama's nominee.”
2) ‘It’s A Political Argument’
While Senate Republicans insist that they aren’t inserting partisanship into the Supreme Court fight and are simply following tradition, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said at CPAC that the fight is all about winning “a political clash.”
It seems that the GOP is not only ignoring the Constitution’s “advice and consent” requirement but also the heart of the Sixth Amendment.
In a taste of things to come, Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network took to the National Review to attack a possible Supreme Court nominee, Judge Jane Kelly, for having once worked as a defense attorney.
That’s right, Severino seemed to suggest that it is disqualifying that Kelly worked as a defense attorney because her past clients include people accused of vicious crimes.
Of course, everyone accused of a crime isn’t necessarily guilty, and according to the Sixth Amendment, “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial” and “to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
Severino’s outrageous article is also an opportunity to point out that her group, the Judicial Crisis Network, was originally named the Judicial Confirmation Network when it was founded during the Bush administration for the purpose of advocating for the smooth confirmation of judges.
While Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has insisted that he is blocking a Supreme Court appointment because he’s abiding by a (nonexistent) tradition that the Senate doesn't confirm justices during an election year, King seemed to give away the game and admit that Senate Republicans are engaging in a political fight to stop Obama.
Video via Democracy Partners / Americans United for Change.
The Iowa Republican congressman said he would support Grassley’s Supreme Court blockade “as long as he’s blocking an Obama appointment.” King dismissed concerns about the Senate’s constitutional obligation to consider Supreme Court nominees and made it clear that the blockade is all about anti-Obama politics.
I’m going to defend Chuck Grassley and whatever he decides to do on this at least as far as — as long as he’s blocking an Obama appointment. And I say that because I’m on the Judiciary Committee in the House, we have a voice but we don't have a vote, that this argument about who should do the nomination and whether there should be the advice and consent of the Senate so that the president can make that appointment, this swings back around.
There will be all kinds of constitutional arguments that are made and they will say “process” and "tradition” and “constitution” and “precedent” are going to guide us all. And then they’ll make up those that support their argument and some of them who are making those arguments will be contradicting their previous arguments the last time these things came up, like Schumer, for example.
But in the end, we should understand that it’s a political argument and a political clash of this will be played out with higher and higher intensity moving forward until November. If Chuck Grassley and Republicans can hold off on a nomination or vote down a nomination until the election, then I think it will be clear that it’s not going to happen until the next president makes that appointment.
After shrugging off the Constitution’s “advice and consent” provision, King said he would only support judicial nominees “who believe and adhere to the principle that the Constitution means what it says and needs to be interpreted to mean what it was understood to mean at the time of ratification.” (That’s code for results-based rulings cheered by conservatives.)
King, an Iowa Republican, said that aside from the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, his main concern was that America is following in Europe’s footsteps in committing “cultural suicide,” with President Obama administering the suicide pills in the form of refugees and other immigrants.
“I see Europe,” he said, “it’s almost past tense, you can almost say they have committed cultural suicide. And Barack Obama has been feeding us the medication that will bring about cultural suicide in the United States. And we need a president who sees that whole picture and knows that it has to be restored and has an understanding of how to restore the American exceptionalism, constitutional underpinnings and the core of our faith.”
King added that he saw such a “transformation of Western Christendom” in recent visits to immigrant communities in Minneapolis and Dearborn, Michigan, which, he said, highlighted the “demographics” that he hoped a President Ted Cruz could reverse in America.
“By the way, I went up to Minnesota, to Little Mogadishu, to see what that’s like up there,” he said, “and I spent a weekend in Dearborn to see what, again, went to a couple of mosques in there to see the transformation of the United States. And I’ve gone into a number of the major cities in Europe and walked into those no-go zones and walked down through the Muslim neighborhoods and I see the transformation of Western Christendom, and it’s very troubling. And when you look at the demographics, we must do something to reverse this, and [Cruz] is the candidate that I believe [can do it].”
While chatting today with Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News, Rep. Steve King took issue with the claim that the mounting hostility to refugees is undermining American values. The Iowa Republican said that “the argument that ‘that’s not who we are’ is just one of the mantras that they put out, it’s not supported by logic or rationale.”
“Who we are? We should not be a suicidal nation,” King said. “My wife said this morning, ‘If you had 100 grapes and you knew that two of them were fatally poisonous, would you sit there and eat the grapes until one of them killed you? Or would you decide, I’m not going to take that bunch of grapes at all?’ That’s what we’re dealing with here with the Syrian refugees.”
King argued that the U.S. has already done its part to help refugees since “America has done more than any other country in the world has done for refugees and the soil right next door to Syria that are part of Iraq, is sanctified by the blood of our warriors, our patriots. They paid a greater price than any other country in the world and we have a right to protect our borders, and by the way, we have a right to protect our culture and our civilization. I am watching as Europe has committed, it’s almost conclusive now, that they are committing cultural suicide by pouring in millions of migrants who don’t share they’re values.”
He blamed the looming end of European civilization on abortion and contraception: “The mass migration is the end of their culture and civilization and they must know that but they deny it because they’ve denied the reality that if they don’t have their babies, if they abort their babies and decide by contraceptives and abortion not to have enough babies to reproduce themselves, they’re a dying civilization.”
As a result, King said, “they are replacing themselves with people who do not share their values.”
Ted Cruz has picked up the endorsement of Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who is not only an influential political force in the first-in-the-nation caucus state but also a prominent face of the anti-gay and anti-immigration movements.
“For almost a year now, my regular prayer has been that God would raise up a leader whom he will use to restore the soul of America,” King said in a video message, asking Iowans to “do your duty for God and country, come to caucus, and support Ted Cruz for president of the United States.”
The congressman made waves nationally when he suggested that young immigrants are mostly drug smugglers who’ve “got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” but he’s been making similar comments for years, once likening immigrants to livestock while calling for an electrified border fence and depicting immigration as a “slow-motion Holocaust” and “a slow-rolling, slow-motion terrorist attack on the United States.” He has a long record of portraying immigrants as a violentthreat that will destroy the country and civilization itself.
In an interview with Iowa talk radio host Simon Conway yesterday, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, compared the power that the speaker of the House wields to “the scenario that brought about the Magna Carta” and caused “many British kings” to “lose their heads.”
Conway asked King about the efforts of Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., to reinstate an Army sergeant who was reportedly discharged for hitting an Afghan police commander who had raped a boy, efforts that he said were being held up by House Speaker John Boehner. King, who has endorsed Dan Webster, the favored speaker candidate of the House’s far-right members, told Conway that there have been “lots of discussions of how to change the rules” in the House “so that it brings out the will of the group.”
“Their job is not to impose their will on the group, as we have seen repeatedly,” he said of the House Republican leadership, “but instead to bring out the will of the group that you represent. And if you don’t do that, if you’re imposing your will on them instead of bringing out the will of them, you’re replicating the scenario that brought about the Magna Carta, for example. And how many British kings lost their head because they didn’t listen to their constituents? They don’t teach that in the history books very well, but I’m sure that heads rolled multiple times throughout history because of that, and that’s of course the big reason why the United States became the United States and separated itself.”
Immigration reform opponents are furious that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has voiced vague support for immigration reform, is on the verge of becoming speaker of the House.
Ann Coulter, who has been urging conservatives to rally behind Donald Trump and his anti-immigration stance, told religious broadcaster Eric Metaxas yesterday that her first choice for speaker of the House is Rep. Steve King, the Iowa Republican infamous for likening immigrants to livestock and expounding on the size of their calves.
Coulter said that while she also likes Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., the choice of the House Freedom Caucus, King is an “articulate,” “smart” and “incredible” communicator for the anti-immigrant right.
After comparing Trump to Roman senator Cincinnatus, hailing them as ideal citizen-statesmen, Coulter went on to explain how to find out if someone is smart or not: “The shortcut is, where do they stand on immigration? It is the litmus test of our day, it tells you how bright someone is, it tells you whether they care about the country, it separates the mice from the men.”
During the 2013 government shutdown fight, Rep. David Nunes, R-Calif., referred to the extremist members advocating a shutdown as “lemmings with suicide vests.” But the far-right flank, often called the “Suicide Caucus,” has only grown in power since then and has recently gained momentum in its push to remove John Boehner, who they say hasn't done enough to fight President Obama, from his position as speaker of the House.
The "Suicide Caucus" is particularly angry that the House Republican leadership approved an increase in the debt ceiling and hasn’t successfully defunded Planned Parenthood or the Affordable Care Act. Of course, there was little Boehner could do to accomplish any of these goals, since Republicans could not override an inevitable veto from the president or overcome opposition from Senate Democrats. But the “Suicide Caucus” doesn’t exactly function according to logic.
Many of the most radical members of Congress became more organized with the formation of the House Freedom Caucus, which The Economist described as a group dedicated to making “reckless and unrealistic” demands of Boehner, “consistent with their record of attempting wild, hapless heists against both Mr. Obama and the Republican leadership.”
With Boehner announcing his resignation today, it’s important to remember that the people who have spent years calling for Boehner’s ouster also represent the far-right flank of the party. As Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., put it, “this is a victory for the crazies.”
And, of course, the "Suicide Caucus" treats Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as its leader, which Boehner doesn't exactly like.
The anti-Boehner caucus also got help from conservative talk radio. American Family Radio's Sandy Rios dubbed Boehner a “big liar,” AFR's Bryan Fischer compared him to Pontius Pilate and syndicated radio host Michael Savage referred to the speaker as a “deranged drunk.”
One of Boehner’s most vocal opponents was Glenn Beck, who told his listeners that they should consider themselves “done with the Republican Party” if Boehner won re-election to his post as speaker (which he did).
Beck’s choice to replace Boehner? None other than Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, the top conspiracy theorist of the House GOP.
After Gohmert tried, and failed, to win the speakership earlier this year, he explained that Americans would only turn to him to be speaker in a time of war or a similar crisis, when everyone would realize that he was the right choice all along. “The only way a guy like me could ever get elected to be speaker would be is if we were during a time of all-out war and people had figured, ‘Wow, Louie’s been right all along and maybe we should give him a chance,’” he said. “That’s the only — we’re not going to elect me in a time of undeclared war and I know that and I understood that.”
But who could better reflect the Republican Party’s decline into a hotbed of radicalism and conspiracy theories than Gohmert?
The House today approved a bill that would block federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood for one year, unless the organization certifies that it will no longer perform abortions, something that it does not currently use federal funds for.
The vote, driven by a smear campaign from anti-choice extremists, was divided mostly along party lines, with the notable exception of Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who voted “present.” In a video statement, King explained that he didn’t think the House bill went far enough in attacking the “diabolical” Planned Parenthood, taking particular issue with the fact that the bill would allow Planned Parenthood to continue offering abortions for women who have survived rape or incest:
The Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser, one of the most influential leaders in the anti-choice movement, held trainings to teach Republican politicians how to change the subject when rape comes up. Dannenfelser has been very clear that she opposes rape exceptions in abortion bans, which she has called “abominable,” “regrettable” and “ intellectually dishonest,” but will urge lawmakers to support a bill that has to contain such exceptions for political reasons.
But hard as Dannenfelser and her allies might try to get anti-choice lawmakers to shut up about rape, they face an uphill battle. Although most anti-choice activists oppose rape exceptions, a vocal portion of the movement believes that lawmakers should automatically reject any bill that includes such exceptions.
A 20-week abortion ban that passed in the House earlier this year and will be coming up for a vote in the Senate next week has been mired for years in anti-choice infighting about rape exceptions. Before a version of the bill came up for a House vote in 2013, Republican leaders scrambled at the last minute to add a rape exception to neutralize controversial comments made by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks.
In January of this year, the House was planning to vote on the bill to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but scrapped the plan after a coalition led by female Republican lawmakers objected to a provision that would have required rape survivors to report the crime to law enforcement. An exasperated Sen. Lindsey Graham told anti-choice activists the next morning, “I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape.”
In an interview with Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson yesterday, Rep. Steve King warned that President Obama is “seeking to change the demographics” of the U.S. through his immigration and refugee resettlement policies, asking, “How long is it before the culture of America is changed?”
King had a simple explanation for the president’s policies: He wants to “change the demographics” of America in order to increase the number of “Democrat voters.”
The Iowa Republican challenged advocates of refugee resettlement to “tell me how you want America to look, because America’s being transformed because of immigration policy and I’m like Ann Coulter, I like the America we had.”
Why would you do this if you were president of the United States? He’s seeking to change the demographics of the United States of America. And changing the demographics changes the politics, they’re going to have Democrat voters at least two-to-one, some numbers go all the way to five-to-one, and I’m not speaking only of Muslims, I’m speaking of the Central American immigrants that come into America too.
So, any way to win. Bill Clinton accelerated the naturalization of more than a million people before his ’96 re-elect, and we were appalled by that. But this president is pushing, and it turns out to be millions. And we should look at the kind of character that America’s going to be.
As much as I love and appreciate people from any place on the planet, this country has been made up of, is a center-right country, is Christian based, that is our morality, we believe in freedom of religion but if you brought in, say, all the Muslims in the world into the United States, you know it changes the culture.
So if it turns into a few hundred thousand every year, how long is it before the culture of America is changed? And we’re willingly, we’re knowingly and willingly changing the culture of America by government policies driven out of the White House and we aren’t even having a national debate about how that changes our country and is it good or is it bad. I have not seen either the level of assimilation of Muslims into the broader American society, or any place in the world, for that matter. So I’d like to see that model, point to that, tell me how you want America to look, because America’s being transformed because of immigration policy and I’m like Ann Coulter, I like the America we had.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has been very impressed with Donald Trump’s candidacy, joined Minnesota talk radio host Dan “Ox” Ochsner earlier this month to discuss Trump’s far-right positions, which he said have “tapped into the emotions of fed-up Americans.”
Americans, King claimed, are “fed up” with President Obama “dismantling our military” and apologizing to “every continent out there” for things like slavery when “there’s nothing for us to apologize for.”
“They’ve delighted in dismantling our military, and it seems as though he’s apologized to every continent out there,” he said, “you know, he apologized to Africa for slavery and genuflects to the Arabic princes and genuflects to the emperor of Japan, and it goes on and on. Americans are tired of apologizing, Ox. We’re a proud people. We’re the vigor of the planet and there’s nothing for us to apologize for until they come and thank us for the things we’ve done.”
Contrary to King’s claim, Obama has not formally “apologized to Africa for slavery” and never went on what the Right has called an “apology tour.”
If you are a presidential candidate, you spend a lot of time talking to people in Iowa. And if you’re a Republican, that means a lot of time on Iowa conservative radio, including popular programs hosted by right-wing activists Steve Deace and Jan Mickelson.
The fact that Deace and Mickelson have long histories of extreme rhetoric has not dissuaded Republican candidates from joining their shows. But Mickelson just upped the ante with comments he made on his program today.
Media Matters caught Mickelson proposing that undocumented immigrants in Iowa become “property of the state” and pressed into hard labor. When a listener called in to point out that Mickelson’s proposal “sounds like slavery,” Mickelson asked, “Well, what’s wrong with slavery?” Undocumented immigrants, he went on to say, are the ones who are enslaving American citizens:
It will be interesting to see if any of the GOP candidates who have been on Mickelson’s radio program recently — which, according to Media Matters’ count, includes Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal — repudiate his remarks.
But the fact is that if these candidates were concerned about Mickelson’s rhetoric, they should have stopped going on his show long ago.
And just last week, Mickelson was getting Rep. Steve King to entertain the conspiracy theory that a botched EPA mine cleanup in Colorado was a deliberate plan to pollute a river to create a Superfund site:
Republican candidates may try to avoid Mickelson’s show after today. But given their track record, we somehow doubt that they will.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said last week that he thought it was “plausible” that the Environmental Protection Agency purposefully caused a toxic spill in the Animas River in Colorado in order to establish a Superfund site.
Earlier this month, a crew working for the EPA to clean up an abandoned gold mine accidentally caused three million gallons of contaminated water to spill into the river. The Denver Post reported this weekend that a “theory has been making its way around town that the EPA purposefully caused” the spill in order to ensure that the area is designated as a Superfund site. That theory, based on a letter to the editor of a local paper that some say “predicted” the EPA conspiracy, has begun to get national attention, including from the website of Fox News.
“I only saw the headline on that, so that’s all I know,” King responded, “but when you say this to me, what flashes through my mind is Fast and Furious, how plausible did that sound when it first emerged, and it sounded completely implausible and yet it turned out to be completely true. So I don’t want to make allegations about this particular incident, I certainly want to learn a lot more about it, and I will, but it’s plausible.”
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said yesterday that he hopes that Congress defunds Planned Parenthood before there is a “full investigation” into its fetal tissue donation program, saying that Congress’ response to recent attacks the women’s health group should resemble its defunding of the community organizing group ACORN in 2009.
“When we hear people say, well we can’t defund Planned Parenthood because we don’t know all of the places that they’re getting money from and we can’t be passing judgment on this until we do a full investigation, I completely disagree with that,” King told Iowa talk radio host Simon Conway. “This is similar in the function of ACORN. When we saw what ACORN was doing inside the offices across the country from the videos that were put out there by Hanna [Giles] and James [O’Keefe], that was enough to be convincing for Congress to shut off all money to ACORN, which was far more complex than shutting off the money to Planned Parenthood because they had affiliates that were different names."
“We wrote language that was broad and that encompassed it and did shut off most of, and there are still, we didn’t quite get the people followed but we got the organizations followed to do that. We can do this with Planned Parenthood, and we must.”
Richard Land is steamed that President Obama denounced Kenya’s criminalization of homosexuality, adding that “President Obama being president of the United States is in itself a judgment of God on the United States.”
Ann Coulter insists that “the Republican Party is going to go the way of the Whigs” unless it embraces Donald Trump and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Alan Keyes attacks “the GOP’s quisling leaders” for failing to successfully defund Planned Parenthood.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, defended his staunch anti-immigrant record at last week’s New Hampshire National Security Action Summit, alleging that proponents of immigration reform “advocate the destruction of rule of law and for anarchy and the descending down into Third World status.”
“You notice that the people that are for amnesty, they’re the ones that make race and ethnicity an issue because they’ve lost the argument and are reduced to calling names,” King said.
Fortunately, King said, at least one candidate is addressing his concerns: Donald Trump.
“I’m glad Donald Trump is making this a big issue,” the congressman said, before explaining that he thinks just one border wall isn’t enough. King added that the next president must “restore the respect for the rule of law” because “without it we cannot be a civilization anything any better than Third World.”
He then took a dig at undocumented immigrants: “By the way, when people come over here and live in the shadows and then they come to us and protest out in the open that we’re supposed to somehow give them a path to citizenship because we’re making them live in the shadows, they came here to live in the shadows. We don’t have a moral obligation to pull them out of the shadows, I just say get right with the law.”
In an interview with The Hill newspaper today, Rep. Steve King defended Donald Trump’s comments calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and drug dealers, echoing Trump in claiming that the risk of sexual assault for women crossing the southern border translates into Mexican and Central American men being rapists.
"So yes, they’re being raped, they’re being murdered they’re being brutalized,” he told The Hill, “and when I know I’ve been challenged on that, 'well you can’t conclude that (it's) Mexicans or Central Americans that are doing the raping,' well, can you conclude anything else? They are being raped, they are victims of rape, and the price for the transit sometimes is, often is and predominantly is their body.”
Interestingly, while Republican presidential candidates have been scrambling to distance themselves from Trump, they continue to cater to King.