Iowa

Grassley Promises Anti-Choice Activists He'll Hold The Line Against Garland

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined a conference call of anti-abortion activists hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List last night to assure them that he would continue to hold the line and refuse to hold a Judiciary Committee hearing on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

Also joining the call were Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who delivered an opening prayer.

Grassley told the activists that when someone asked him for an update on the nomination last week, he said that “an update would suggest that something has changed” and that he still intends to block any nominee until the next president takes office.

He said that preventing “another liberal” from joining the Supreme Court was necessary to keep “even the reasonable restrictions on abortion that have been enacted into law through the democratic process” from being “swept away.”

Grassley cited a recent National Right to Life poll which he said found that “about 80 percent of Americans don’t believe that abortions should be available after the first trimester.” (It was more complicated than that.)

“But we know that justices who embrace the view that the Constitution is a living document don’t share that view that you and I share,” he said. “The American people, through their elected representatives, should be making these policy decisions, not unelected judges. These are life-and-death issues that we’re fighting for. They show just how important this fight over who’s going to fill Scalia’s seat is.”

In response to a question from SBA List president Marjorie Dannefelser, Grassley suggested that news reports characterizing Garland as moderate are a misleading ploy by the media (one that, if he was correct, he himself and some of his Republican colleagues would be in on).

When Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were nominated, he said, “always in these headlines at the time they were nominated, that adjective was the word ‘moderate,’ just like Garland. Well, we know how those four have turned out. So don’t believe what you read in the press about people’s basic philosophy, because they got it all wrong and probably intentionally all wrong.”

When Dannenfelser asked Grassley to respond to the argument that the Senate is neglecting its job by refusing to even consider Garland’s nomination, Grassley repeated his claim that it would actually be a waste of taxpayer money to give Garland a hearing.

“Well, we could have a hearing, we aren’t going to have a hearing, but let’s just suppose we could have a hearing,” he said. “And I know 52 people, at least 52 in the Senate, aren’t going to approve it. So you have a hearing and you spend a lot of taxpayers’ money gearing up for it, you spend a lot of time of members, a lot of research that has to be done by staff, and then it ain’t going to go anyplace.”

“It’s like getting dressed up for the prom but you don’t get to go,” Dannenfelser said.

Steve King Suspects 'A Good Chunk' Of Remittances To Mexico Are 'Laundered Drug Money'

When Donald Trump suggested this week that he would make Mexico pay for a border wall by threatening to cut off all remittance payments sent by American workers to family members in Mexico, he was echoing years of calls from anti-immigrant politicians like former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter to punish immigrants who send money to their families.

It isn’t exactly a surprise, then, that Rep. Steve King of Iowa, one of the most vocal anti-immigration advocates in Congress, seems fairly supportive of Trump’s plan despite having endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz for president.

Newsmax host Steve Malzberg asked King about Trump’s plan in an interview yesterday, and King said that while he was “torn between a couple of two fires” on the issue, he’d “like to see Donald Trump go a little further with this dialogue and see what we might be able to get done.”

King, who once insisted that most people eligible for the DREAM Act have “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” said that he suspected that “a good chunk” of remittances to Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America are “laundered drug money.”

'I Have Not Gotten The Big Things Wrong': Glenn Beck Begs Iowa Voters Not To Support Donald Trump

Today, Glenn Beck revealed that he has converted his radio studio into a full-scale replica of the Oval Office and will now be broadcasting his daily radio program from this room:

Why Beck spent who knows how much money constructing an Oval Office replica to be used for a radio broadcast is anybody's guess, not to mention how much it'll cost to ship it all to Jerusalem so Beck can continue to broadcast once America collapses.

And while he may have a fancy new set, not much else about the program has changed, as it still features Beck begging voters in Iowa not to vote for Donald Trump and to heed his warning "because I have not gotten the big things wrong."

"I beg you," Beck said. "If you have ever listened to me and you have heard 1999/Osama bin Laden, the banking crash of '08, the caliphate, and those are just the big ones."

Beck admitted that while he may have been wrong about a few small things here and there, "I've not gotten the ones wrong where I said, 'I'll fall on my sword,' have I? Where I said, "Listen guys, I know this one to be true.'"

"I have not gotten the big things wrong," Beck insisted, claiming that he foresaw 9/11, the 2008 economic collapse and, falsely, the rise of the caliphate in the Mideast. This, of course, conveniently brushes aside all of the things he has demonstrably gotten wrong as meaningless and unimportant, especially in comparison to the few "big things" that he supposedly got right.

Nevertheless, Beck insisted that his warning about Trump is one of those "big things" and therefore is something that should be heeded.

"If you have ever, ever taken to heart what I am saying," Beck told voters in Iowa, "please, please do not vote for Donald Trump. Please! ... This guy is a very dangerous guy."

Iowans should not vote for Trump, he continued, especially considering that they have an opportunity to vote for Ted Cruz.

"This is the guy," Beck said. "I've never felt this way. I've never endorsed anybody. Ever! This is the guy. I truly believe he was raise for this time!"

Conservative Group Tells Iowans Gov't Will Become 'Corrupted' If It’s Not Led By Christians

Sen. Ted Cruz scored a big coup in Iowa last month when he won the endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the Iowa Religious Right group The Family Leader and an influential Republican power-broker in the state. Vander Plaats has since been crossing the state to campaign for and with Cruz, even engaging in a Twitter spat with Cruz’s main rival, Donald Trump.

Cruz has been attempting to recruit conservative evangelicals to his side by running explicitly on his personal faith and his Christian-nation views, a strategy exactly designed to appeal to a person like Vander Plaats, who earlier this week urged members of his group to convince their fellow churchgoers to caucus in Iowa because the government’s “God-given purposes easily become corrupted without Christians engaged and guiding it.”

In an email to members of The Family Leader on Monday, Vander Plaats lamented that “hundreds of thousands of Iowa Christians stayed home” during the last presidential caucus. To reverse that trend, he asked members to encourage their pastors to distribute a Family Leader-produced bulletin insert on Sunday urging their flocks to participate in Monday’s caucus.

The bulletin insert offers instructions on how to caucus as well as a list of reasons “why it's important that Christians caucus,” including that it’s necessary to choose “godly candidates” with a “Christian worldview” in order to bring revival to America.

The TFL caucus guide also reminds churchgoers that elected officials are “ministers of God,” and as such, government’s “God-given purposes easily become corrupted without Christians engaged and guiding it.”

Cruz Rallies Christian Right, Slams 'Secular Agenda' At Campaign Stop With James Dobson

At an Iowa campaign stop with influential Religious Right activist James Dobson yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz warned that people of faith have consented to “allow nonbelievers to elect our leaders,” and now a “secular agenda” bent on doing away with the Ten Commandments and stifling religious liberty is on the rise.

Cruz repeated to the audience in Winterset, Iowa, his insistence that an atheist would be unfit to be president , saying, “If you don’t begin every day on your knees asking God for His wisdom and support, I don’t believe you’re fit to do this job.”

He also repeated his assertion that Republicans lost the last two presidential elections because millions of evangelicals stayed at home. “I believe the key to winning in 2016 is very simple,” he said. “We have to bring back to the polls the millions of conservatives who stayed home, we have to awaken and energize the body of Christ.”

“You know,” he said, “we look at our federal government now, and we have a federal government that is waging a war on life, a war on marriage, a war on religious liberty. We have a federal government that is advancing a secular agenda that puts the ability of Bible-believing Christians to live our faith more and more in jeopardy and that is appeasing radical Islamic terrorism, in fact refuses even to acknowledge its name. And if you look at the federal government, you might say, ‘Why do we have government attacking life, attacking marriage, attacking faith, attacking religious liberty?’ Well, is it any wonder, when a majority of believers are staying home? If we allow nonbelievers to elect our leaders, we shouldn’t be surprised when our government doesn’t reflect our values.”

Cruz also doubled down on his criticism of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling , calling both it and the King v. Burwell ruling preserving the Affordable Care Act “fundamentally illegitimate” and “lawless.” He warned that if Hillary Clinton were to become president, the Supreme Court would “tear down our constitutional liberties fundamentally” by ruling against Ten Commandments monuments on public grounds and reversing the Heller decision, which found an individual right to bear arms. (When Cruz said that this meant “the government can make it a felony for you to own a firearm and protect your family,” an audience member yelled out, “Come and take it!”)

Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council who recently endorsed Cruz, also said he was very impressed by the candidate’s wife, Heidi Cruz, saying that “there has never in American history been a pro-life first lady” and that with her we “have a chance to get one this time.”

The Iowa conservative blog Caffeinated Thoughts recorded the event. Cruz and Dobson discuss prayer about 2 minutes into the video; the “missing” evangelical vote about 6 minutes in; the Supreme court around 13 minutes in; and Heidi Cruz about 24 minutes in.

Santorum: Iowa Christian Right Leader 'Settling' With Cruz Endorsement

Influential Iowa social conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats has, depending on who you ask, either the ability to propel his chosen Republican presidential candidate to a caucus victory or the ability to latch onto the winning campaign. So it was a big deal, if not surprising, when Vander Plaats endorsed Ted Cruz earlier this month, snubbing his 2008 and 2012 picks Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, respectively.

In an interview with conservative Iowa radio host Simon Conway yesterday, Santorum said that Vander Plaats, who heads the group The Family Leader, was “settling” with his pick of Cruz, citing Cruz’s efforts to allow states to ban same-sex marriage rather than controlling marriage on the federal level.

“Look, I understand it,” Santorum said. “Ted’s a fine guy and has really been a scrapper in Washington. I think what Mike and I both feel is that when it comes to the issues that are near and dear to The Family Leader, the family issues, marriage in particular, I think we need a stronger voice, a more principled voice that understands there’s a higher law there that we have to abide by and just because a state wants to do something doesn’t mean a state should be able to.”

This prompted Conway and Santorum to launch into an extended debate about the role of government in marriage, which Conway argued the government should have nothing to do with at all.

Santorum disagreed, saying that the government has a responsibility to ensure the “continuity” of culture, citing low birth rates among native Europeans — the unspoken subtext of which is that low birth rates necessitate greater immigration. “If you look at Europe … they’re decrying the fact that Europe is barren,” he said, "they’re not having children, and the people who are having children are not Europeans, or native Europeans, so you’ve got some really big problems and it’s beginning to occur in this country.”

He added that laws governing marriage also serve to “encourage people to behave the right way” when “fidelity, monogamy are not a natural thing” but “are learned behaviors.”

Ted Cruz Nabs Another Anti-LGBT Endorsement

Ted Cruz won a major victory in his effort to consolidate support from the Religious Right today when he was endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats, who leads the Iowa-based conservative group, The Family Leader.

Vander Plaats, a two-time gubernatorial candidate who in the two previous election cycles backed Iowa caucus winners Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, respectively, offers one of the most highly sought after endorsements in the state: Donald Trump reportedly joked that he would turn his plane around to join The Family Leader’s presidential forum if Vander Plaats would guarantee him his backing.

Vander Plaats is one of several right-wing figures to coalesce behind Cruz, who has attracted the support of ultraconservative activists like Troy Newman, who wishes the government would execute abortion providers; Ron Baity, a pastor who links gay rights to Ebola; Flip Benham, a convicted abortion doctor stalker who holds protests at gay couples’ weddings; Sandy Rios, a virulently anti-LGBT radio host and hate group official; Dick Black, a Virginia lawmaker with noxious views on marital rape and “baby pesticide”; and Cynthia Dunbar, who thinks gay rights advocacy is “the same type of thing that was done in pre-Holocaust Germany.”

While Vander Plaats and Trump would have made a strong team, as they are both birthers who admire Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Iowa activist said that Trump disqualified himself when he failed to show up at last month’s family forum. Instead, Vander Plaats hailed Cruz as “the most consistent and principled conservative who has the ability to not only win Iowa but I believe to win the nomination.”

The importance of Vander Plaats’ endorsement reveals how the GOP has moved ever so steadily to the right, as Vander Plaats is one of the party’s most extreme figures. Vander Plaats, as we’ve reported, may be sought after by GOP candidates but he should not at all be considered part of the political mainstream:

5) Slavery Rhetoric

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

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

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

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

4) Conspiracy Theories

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

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

3) Gay Marriage Predictions

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

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

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

2) Crush on Putin

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

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

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

1) No Separation of Church and State

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

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

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

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

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

Iowa GOPer: Execute Certain Undocumented Immigrants Who Try To Reenter The Country

On Monday, the Knoxville Journal Express reported that Iowa State Sen. Mark Chelgren, who this year is challenging Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, for his seat in Congress, suggested that the U.S. use the death penalty to punish undocumented immigrants who commit felonies in the U.S. and later try to reenter the country.

“For border security, Chelgren believes a fence would define the border and control who enters and leaves. If one is found to have crossed into the country illegally, committed a felony while here, then been deported, he supports executing that individual if they break America's immigration laws a second time,” the paper reported.

Chelgren, who has served in the Iowa state senate since 2010, later confirmed his remarks in an interview with the Des Moines Register, saying that he “will be strong on crime” and “make sure that we don’t have criminals coming into the United States and victimizing our citizens.” He said that Democrats were “race-baiting” by criticizing his proposal.

State Sen. Mark Chelgren, a southeast Iowa Republican who is running for Congress, says he favors consideration of capital punishment for criminal immigrants who continually enter the United States illegally.

Iowa Democrats harshly criticized that stance Tuesday, and a spokesman for the Republican Party of Iowa issued a statement disassociating the party with Chelgren's comments.

Chelgren, an Ottumwa businessman, was quoted Monday by the Journal-Express of Knoxville and Marion County as saying that for border security, he believes a fence would define the border and control who enters and leaves. If one is found to have crossed into the country illegally, committed a felony while here, then been deported, he supports executing that individual if he or she breaks U.S. immigration laws a second time, the newspaper said.



Chelgren recently announced plans to seek Iowa's 2nd District U.S. House seat now held by Rep. Dave Loebsack, an Iowa City Democrat. He confirmed the remarks made to the Journal-Express in an interview Tuesday with The Des Moines Register, but he said he was only suggesting that capital punishment be considered narrowly in situations where persons repeatedly enter the United States with the intent of committing terrorism or other felony crimes. He contended that Democratic Party officials were overreacting to his remarks and engaging in "race-baiting."

"I am looking at people who are deported and who re-enter the country illegally. Obviously, I don't want to tear apart families. We need to be sure we are protecting the people of the United States," Chelgren said.

He added, "Of course, I will be strong on crime. I want to make sure that we don't have criminals coming into the United States and victimizing our citizens."

Steve King: Only Ted Cruz Can Save Us From Obama's 'Cultural Suicide' Pills

Rep. Steve King joined conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace last week to discuss his recent endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, which he said was motivated by his confidence that Cruz would appoint conservative Supreme Court justices and reverse President Obama’s attempt to commit “cultural suicide” through immigration.

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].”

Carly Fiorina: 'People Of Faith Make Better Leaders'

On Friday night, seven Republican presidential hopefuls gathered around a fake Thanksgiving table in Des Moines, Iowa, for a "Presidential Family Forum" hosted by The Family Leader, an influential Religious Right organization headed by Bob Vander Plaats.

Moderator Frank Luntz promised the event would be an "adult conversation" about the issues important to the conservative Christian activists in the audience and the candidates bent over backwards to appeal to these voters, with Carly Fiorina declaring at one point that all the people on stage, as well as all the people in the audience, "are people of faith who love our God" and that is important because "people of faith make better leaders."

"I do think it's worth saying," Fiorina declared, "that people of faith make better leaders because faith gives us humility, faith teaches us that no one of us is greater than any other one of us, that each of us are gifted by God. Faith gives us empathy; we know that all of us can fall and every one of us can be redeemed. And faith gives us optimism, it gives us the belief that there is something better, that there is someone bigger than all of us. And so I think it's important that we elect a leader of faith and that we elect a leader, as well, who knows that more prayer, not less, is necessary in public life and in all our lives."

Luntz then followed up on Fiorina's statement by declaring that "I can back that up statistically," asserting that "every single positive factor that you can describe is directly correlated to someone's relationship with faith, with God, and all the pathologies that you would criticize are directly related to a rejection of God."

GOP Candidates Seek Endorsement Of Iowa Anti-Gay Leader Bob Vander Plaats

Seven Republican presidential candidates will be travelling to Iowa today to take part in a “presidential family forum” hosted by The Family Leader, a social conservative group led by activist Bob Vander Plaats, who is seen as a kingmaker in the Iowa caucus.

Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum will all be speaking at the forum, at which the candidates are arranged family-style around a Thanksgiving table. (At the 2011 forum, Michele Bachmann memorably took it upon herself to serve water to all of the male candidates.)

The endorsement of Vander Plaats, whose backing helped catapult Huckabee and Santorum to Iowa caucus victories in 2008 and 2012, is one of the most coveted in the state. While most observers think that Cruz will nab Vander Plaats’ endorsement, the activist is keeping his options open. Vander Plaats told a reporter that although Donald Trump was unable to make tonight’s forum, he told him, “If you can guarantee me your endorsement, I will turn the plane around and get there.”

As Vander Plaats’ previous endorsements of Huckabee and Santorum show, he has a powerful machine ready to push an ideologically pure social conservative. Back in 2010, Vander Plaats also led a successful effort to remove three Iowa Supreme Court judges who participated in the court’s landmark unanimous marriage equality decision.

But to get that endorsement, candidates must cater to an activist far the right of mainstream voters. Not only does Vander Plaats want to remove from office or defund the courts of judges who find in favor of marriage equality, he believes that anything, like gay marriage, that “goes against the law of nature” is by definition unconstitutional . He argues that the government is an institution of God and therefor its purpose is “to promote righteousness” and to apply “God’s principles and precepts.” He once warned that God might withdraw his blessing from America because of a Wiccan prayer at the Iowa state capitol.

Vander Plaats has suggested that marriage equality could lead to legal protections for pedophilia and “ a parent marrying their child” and compared the “public health risk” of homosexuality to second-hand smoke. He has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for his “decisive leadership” in preventing “homosexual propaganda” in his country.

Taking its anti-gay sentiment to a new level, The Family Leader was a sponsor of a conference earlier this month — at which Cruz, Huckabee and then-candidate Bobby Jindal spoke — whose organizer, Kevin Swanson, called for the death penalty for gay people and warned that God would judge America for liking the Harry Potter series too much. (The group later clarified that it does not support violence against gay people but declined to denounce Swanson.)

Speaking at an event last year, Vander Plaats played a video showing a gay pride event alongside the Boston Marathon bombing and mass shootings as illustrations of the “darkness” that has fallen over America:

Vander Plaats had also dabbled in birther conspiracy theories, implying in 2011 that the president’s birth certificate was missing and praising Trump for his “bold” crusade to uncover the truth about the president’s past.

Ted Cruz Will Bring Unity To America By Uniting Republicans Against The Media

Speaking to a press gaggle earlier this month at a conference organized by radical pastor Kevin Swanson, Sen. Ted Cruz said that he is qualified to unite a divided nation because he united his fellow Republican presidential candidates against the moderators of a recent CNBC debate.

“You have been a champion of conservative values and issues,” an unidentified reporter asked Cruz in an exchange broadcast by Indiana Christian radio host Joyce Oglesby, who was at the conference. “What are you going to do to bring unity to a divided nation?”

“It’s a great question, and let’s talk about unity for a second,” Cruz responded. “How do you bring unity? You know, we saw a moment of unity last week in the debate when I called out the debate moderators. One of the great results that happened was you saw all the Republicans on stage come together and be united, standing behind that charge of the ridiculous bias, the dripping condescension, the assumption in each of those media questions that anyone who actually believes in the conservative principles that America was built on is somehow a blithering idiot. That unity was encouraging.”

Although Cruz did show great success in uniting his fellow candidates against debate moderators asking them hard questions, his attendance at a conference that ended with a call to execute unrepentant gay people may not have been the best way to show that he can bring Americans together.

GOP Candidates Really Don't Want To Talk About 'Kill The Gays' Conference

A couple of weeks ago, we reported extensively on a conference in Iowa organized by extremist pastor Kevin Swanson, at which three Republican presidential candidates joined Swanson on stage shortly before he went off on a series of rants about how the biblical punishment for homosexuality is death, Harry Potter is bringing God’s judgment on America, and how if your gay child gets married you should show up to the wedding covered in cow manure.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow ran a segment on the conference, but other than that, as a number of commentators have noted, the media has been strangely silent on the Republican candidates’ participation in this event.

Today, Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu reports that she reached out to the campaigns of the three candidates, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal (who has since dropped out of the presidential race), and found them rather reluctant to talk about it.

A spokesperson for Huckabee, who at the event deflected a question about Swanson’s extremism, told Basu after viewing video of some of Swanson’s remarks that Huckabee “appreciated the opportunity” to speak at the conference. The Cruz and Jindal campaigns didn’t bother to reply at all. (Before the conference, Cruz had been asked about his participation by CNN’s Jake Tapper, but brushed off the question.)

Calls and emails seeking a reaction to Swanson's remarks by spokespeople for Cruz and Jindal (who suspended his campaign Tuesday) went unanswered. Huckabee’s spokeswoman Alice Stewart asked for documentation and was sent a video link. She responded the next day saying, "Gov. Huckabee appreciated the opportunity to speak with an audience in Iowa about the importance of standing up for our religious liberties."

Basu also reached out to The Family Leader, an influential Iowa conservative group that sponsored Swanson’s conference and will be hosting candidates for a “presidential family forum” later this week. A Family Leader spokesman at least went as far to say that the group doesn’t condone executing gay people, but didn’t comment on the wisdom of sponsoring Swanson’s conference:

Asked if Vander Plaats or the Family Leader condemn Swanson’s remarks, Drew Zahn, its director of communications wrote in an email: “The Family Leader absolutely condemns any call for violence against homosexuals. Our involvement with the conference was intended to advocate and preserve our First Amendment religious liberties and the rights of conscience for all Americans. The Family Leader consistently advocated the Bible's principle of treating others as you would be treated, a principle come to life in the friendship between TFL President Bob Vander Plaats and One Iowa's Donna Red Wing.”

But Zahn wouldn’t say whether the organization would express those views to Swanson, or would have withdrawn sponsorship from the program if they had known what he would say.

We really wonder how long Cruz and Huckabee will be able to continue to plead ignorance about Swanson’s extremism after being asked about it repeatedly.

Extremist Congressman: God Raising Up Ted Cruz To Save America's Soul

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 violent threat that will destroy the country and civilization itself.

King has also been a leader among opponents of LGBT equality, warning that same-sex marriage will usher in socialism, leave children raised in warehouses instead of families and “throw this country into an endless trauma.” The congressman has also baselessly asserted that gay rights laws have legalized man-lawnmower marriage and pedophilia.

While Cruz may be happy that King thinks that God is backing his candidacy, he shouldn’t be complacent: King previously said that a Mitt Romney win in 2012 would be a victory for God.

Rand Paul Suggests Doing Away With The Postal Service

In a radio interview yesterday, Sen. Rand Paul said that if he were to become president, he would pare down the federal government so much that he might even do away with the U.S. Postal Service.

Paul joined Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson, who played a clip of last week’s Republican presidential debate in which the Kentucky Republican said that he wants “a government really, really small, so small you can barely see it.”

Paul told Mickelson that this microscopic government might not have room for a postal service. “I think the federal government ought to defend us from foreign attack and have a judiciary and, let’s see, I would say the post office, but they screw up the post office too, so we really don’t even need them for the post office,” he said. “So I want a government that’s really small.”

“I would have a country that defends us from foreign attack, a country that sort of keeps the peace and a country that has a judiciary, a legislative branch, but a country where the federal government didn’t do much,” he added.

Paul’s previous contribution to postal reform was trying to amend a bill to allow guns in post offices.

Kevin Swanson Defends Linking Gay Kiss To Colorado Wildfires

At this weekend’s National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, which featured GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, conservative radio host Steve Deace revealed that a Republican presidential candidate had dropped out of the summit after learning of the extremism of the conference’s organizer, Kevin Swanson. (Although Deace didn’t name the candidate, Ben Carson was at one point named as a confirmed speaker but later disappeared from the event’s schedule.)

Deace said that the candidate’s campaign manager had called him up and asked him about Right Wing Watch’s reporting on Swanson, including Swanson’s support for the death penalty for gay people and his blaming of natural disasters in his home state of Colorado on such affronts to God as gay people marrying and feminist women who wear pants. Deace said that he laughed and assured the campaign manager that these were all lies made up by Right Wing Watch, but that the candidate dropped out anyway.

It might be more difficult for Deace to pretend that we fabricated all of these statements after this weekend’s conference, where Swanson repeated both views with great enthusiasm. After yelling quite a bit about Leviticus, Swanson clarified on Saturday that he does not actually want the U.S. to implement the death penalty for gay people at the moment, but instead to wait and give them time to repent first.

Then, in the same speech, Swanson declared that anyone who believes in God must see that there “might be a connection” between wildfires and flooding in Colorado and the state’s government refusing to enforce biblical law, and specifically a picture that ran on the front page of the Denver Post showing Colorado’s House speaker kissing his husband after a vote on civil unions.

“You see, when this happens, it is the most egregious, the most abominable, the most arrogant insult to Almighty God,” Swanson said of the Denver Post photo. “And then, the very same year, we had the very worst fires, the most devastating fires we ever did in the state and the worst floods. In the very same year, we had the most devastating floods and the most devastating fires and the worst possible legislature in terms of well, any standard of God’s laws as conveyed in [the Bible].”

“You’ve got to believe that God is the judge of the earth and indeed there might be a connection between the worst flood, the worst fires, and the worst government in the history of the state of Colorado,” he said.

He then defended his statement that thanks to gay rights and pro-choice laws, Colorado might be becoming worse than North Korea, saying, “Well, they murder. We put homosexuals on the front page of newspapers.”

America is held to a higher standard, he said, because of its “godly heritage” stemming from “white guys” like Irish immigrants.

“We’ve got a heritage, we’ve got a great heritage, goes back 2,000 years,” he said.
“Seems to me there’s a lot of white guys in America with a lot of heritage that goes all the way back to the 500s and 600s with Patrick and others. Friends, is America a more evil nation than North Korea in the eyes of God? And I say maybe. Maybe not, I don’t know. But I’d say we’re getting pretty close.”

Ted Cruz Dodges Question About Appearing With Wildly Anti-Gay Pastor

As we have been reporting this week, three Republican presidential candidates — Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal — are scheduled to appear this weekend at an Iowa “religious liberties” conference organized by wildly anti-gay pastor and activist Kevin Swanson. To give you a flavor of this event, three speakers, including Swanson, have advocated or defended imposing the death penalty on gay people.

So we were relieved yesterday when one of these candidates finally had to answer for his participation in Swanson’s conference. At the end of an interview with Cruz yesterday, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked the Texas senator how he reconciles his constant cries of liberal “intolerance” against Christians with appearing alongside such an intolerant figure as Swanson.

Cruz, predictably, dodged the question by claiming ignorance of Swanson’s record and launching into his standard stump speech about the supposed persecution of Christians in America.

You can watch the exchange starting about 15 minutes into this video:

Tapper ran out of time to press Cruz on the issue, but we hope that Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal will continue to face questions about their participation in this event.

Does Mike Huckabee Think Sodomy Bans Are Still Valid?

Speaking at a candidates’ briefing in Iowa last week, Mike Huckabee responded to a question about the status of state anti-sodomy laws, which were struck down by the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, by launching into a speech about how, as president, he would ignore the Supreme Court’s recent marriage equality decision because “the court cannot make law.”

“We have a situation here in Iowa where the federal government has usurped their authority,” a questioner at the Caffeinated Thoughts briefing asked Huckabee. “Sodomy is against the law, on the books, this very day, and the Supreme Court has issued a decree and we have states’ rights here, they have no jurisdiction over Iowa, just as they have no jurisdiction over prostitution in Las Vegas, Nevada. What we are asking for is we’re asking for some brave soul to stand up and say that this is wrong, you’ve violated states’ rights, we’re going to impeach the five justices that voted like they didn’t have a brain in their head.”

(The questioner seems to have been confused on a number of levels: Iowa’s sodomy law was repealed by a statute, while the state's Supreme Court allowed gay couples to marry.)

“Well, I think, let’s be very clear,” Huckabee responded, “the court cannot make law.”

While he didn’t directly address Lawrence, Huckabee said that the next president should simply ignore the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling.

“It means that the next president ought to have the courage to say, ‘We appreciate the court decision, but we ignore it because it’s not constitutional, there’s nothing in the Constitution that gives the federal government the authority to dictate or mandate what the definition of marriage is, and until the elected representatives have decided on this, there’s nothing for us to follow other than, ‘Thank you for your thoughts and opinions,’” he said. The former governor has repeatedly argued that court rulings have no legal authority unless Congress or state legislatures pass new laws.

Huckabee added that his Supreme Court nominees would have to publicly declare that they “do not believe in judicial supremacy.”

Elsewhere in his talk, Huckabee repeated his pledge to ban abortion (and possibly some forms of birth control) through a “personhood” edict granting full constitutional rights to zygotes and fetuses, thereby bypassing any effort to pass a constitutional amendment overturning Roe v. Wade, an idea that he said was “fairy dust.”

In response to an audience member who asked about how to deal with the “mainstream media,” Huckabee responded that Iowans can ask him directly about his views on issues like abortion rights.

“If I tell you that I’m pro-life, demand to test me on that,” he said. “If I tell you that I really don’t believe in judicial supremacy, put me to the test. Ask me just exactly what I would do. If I tell you that we will end abortion, not just by promising to have a constitutional amendment, which is fairy dust to say we’re going to do those [things], but to tell me how I’m going to do it by invoking the Fifth and 14th Amendment, put me to the test and see if I know what I’m talking about.”

Cruz, Jindal And Huckabee To Join Multiple Speakers Who Want Gays Put To Death

Yesterday we reported that GOP presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are all scheduled to speak at an upcoming "National Religious Liberties Conference" in Iowa next week that has been organized by far-right pastor Kevin Swanson, who has openly and repeatedly defended laws that impose the capital punishment on gay people.

Given that the chief organizer of this event holds such views, it should comes as no surprise to discover that several of the other scheduled speakers share similar views, in particular Phil Kayser, pastor of Dominion Covenant Church, and Joel McDurmon, president of the Christian Reconstructionist organization American Vision, which espouses the Christian Reconstructionist view that "men must choose in their civil affairs to be governed by God’s law" as explicitly set out in the Old Testament. 

Kayser, who is scheduled to lead two workshops at the conference, was at the center of controversy back in 2011 when he endorsed Ron Paul for president and Paul's campaign proudly welcomed the endorsement only to try and cover it up once Kayser's extremist views on homosexuality became known, as Talking Points Memo reported at the time:

Paul's Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, recently touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a pastor at the Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska who also draws members from Iowa, putting out a press release praising "the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul's approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs." But Kayser's views on homosexuality go way beyond the bounds of typical anti-gay evangelical politics and into the violent fringe: he recently authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law ... Reached by phone, Kayser confirmed to TPM that he believed in reinstating Biblical punishments for homosexuals -- including the death penalty -- even if he didn't see much hope for it happening anytime soon.

Also speaking at the event is McDurmon, who recently took over as president of American Vision, and who likewise believes that "God revealed that the homosexual act is a civil crime, and it just so happens that He revealed that the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty."

In fact, McDurmon's views are so extreme that, back in 2009, he criticized Uganda for not going far enough with its draconian anti-gay legislation, saying that if the nation was "going to go to Old Testament law ... they should also make the death penalty for adultery" and other Old Testament crimes as well.

But as he explained the time, Uganda was absolutely right to seek to put gays to death because "it is perfectly normal [and] it definitely should be in place [that] homosexuality should receive the death penalty":

So let us reiterate once again that, in 2015, three Republican presidential hopefuls — including a sitting senator, a sitting governor, and one former governor — are all scheduled to speak at an event organized by and featuring several speakers who openly advocate putting gay people to death.

UPDATE: McDurmon has released a statement insisting that his position is that "the Bible does not criminalize 'homosexuality,' but only the homosexual act of sodomy" and therefore he does not believe "that homosexuality in general should receive the death penalty; but rather that the Bible teaches that the 'act' of sodomy should receive such."

We'll leave it up to readers to determine whether or not this clarification makes his position any less extreme.

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