Supreme Court

Another Senate Republican Admits His Party's Supreme Court Blockade Is All About Politics

Just hours after President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, several Senate Republicans said that they would refuse to even consider Garland’s nomination and repeated their claim that whoever wins the presidential election should be the one to fill the vacancy on the court.

These Republicans continue to justify their obstruction by pointing to a nonexistent tradition and a made-up constitutional principle that the Senate doesn’t vote on nominees to the Supreme Court in election years. They seem to be sticking with this talking point even though a cursory glance at congressional history (and the Constitution) shows that the argument is completely baseless.

According to Republicans, Obama’s presidency is effectively over nearly a year before the end of his second term.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., admitted that Republicans are going into unchartered waters with their unprecedented blockade. The GOP has decided to stand by this “principle,” no matter how wrong-headed it is, in order to claim that their maneuvering has nothing to do with partisan politics.

But Sen. Jeff Flake today exposed that argument as nothing but an excuse.

The Arizona Republican said that the Senate should consider Garland in a lame duck session if Hillary Clinton is elected president, fearing that Clinton would appoint a jurist who is more liberal than Garland.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee who is generally deferential on presidential nominees, said “yes” when asked whether he would move to confirm Garland in the lame-duck session if Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, wins in November.

“For those of us who are concerned about the direction of the court and wanting at least a more centrist figure than between him and somebody that President Clinton might nominate, I think the choice is clear — in a lame duck,” Flake said Wednesday after Obama named Garland.

Sen. Orrin Hatch also said he was open to a vote but only in the lame-duck session, and NPR’s Nina Totenberg has “learned that Senate Republicans have signaled via ‘back channels’ that they would approve Garland, but only after the general election in November.”

Flake’s suggestion shows the absurdity of the party’s blockade. If the GOP’s Supreme Court blockade was really about the principle that Obama’s successor should appoint the next justice, then Flake shouldn’t care whether President Clinton would appoint a more liberal figure than Garland.

And if the GOP really thinks that March 2016 is too late to consider an Obama nominee, then why would November or December of this year be appropriate?

Flake knows that the GOP’s stance is all about politics and that their “tradition” talking point is not only erroneous but also an attempt to avoid the charge that they are trying to play partisan politics with the Supreme Court.

Flake’s Republican colleague Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin made a similar admission when he confessed that the Senate would have considered a nominee in the president’s final year had that president been a Republican.

If it wasn’t, then he wouldn’t propose a lame-duck session to approve Garland’s nomination just in case a President-elect Clinton decides to appoint someone less to the GOP’s liking.

Conservative Groups Double Down On SCOTUS Obstruction

After President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court today, conservative groups quickly doubled down on their calls for Senate Republicans to block any person the president nominates to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Although a handful of senators are now hinting that they may be willing to at least meet with Garland — who has won praise from Republicans in the past — conservative groups have reiterated their demands that the GOP block his nomination.

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice issued a statement repeating his call for “no confirmation proceedings until after the election.” Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver similarly repeated that there should be “no Senate hearing on any Obama nominee.” Concerned Women for America announced that “President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court does not change the fact that the Senate needs to continue to do the proper thing by fulfilling its role of ‘advice and consent’” — by which CWA means blocking a nominee.

Alliance Defending Freedom’s Casey Mattox offered no criticism of Garland himself but claimed that the Obama administration is untrustworthy and so Garland’s nomination should be blocked: “The Obama administration has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to respect the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits of its own authority. So it should be no surprise that the American people would be highly skeptical that any nominee this president puts forth would be acceptable.”

Heritage Action, which was calling for an end to most judicial and executive branch confirmations even before Scalia’s death, declared that “nothing has changed” with the nomination of Garland and that we areone liberal Justice away from seeing gun rights restricted and partial birth abortion being considered a constitutional right.”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council similarly tried to paint Garland as a liberal, saying he is “far from being a consensus nominee,” although he offered no specifics about the “serious questions” he said there were about Garland’s “ability to serve as a constitutionalist.” Kayla Moore, who heads the Foundation for Moral Law, the group founded by her husband Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, also opted for vague and dire warnings, saying that Americans “may very well lose our rights” if Garland is confirmed.

Anti-abortion groups also doubled down on their opposition to any confirmation proceedings, while at the same time struggling to find specific reasons to oppose Garland.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life didn’t bother to criticize Garland at all, writing instead that this is “no time for a lame duck President to push through a judge for a lifetime appointment.” (Never mind that Obama, with nearly a year left in his second term in office, is not a lame duck president.)

The Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser wrote:

This changes nothing. We do not know this nominee but we do know Barack Obama. Anyone he nominates will join the voting bloc on the Court that consistently upholds abortion on-demand. The President should not be permitted one last opportunity to stack the Court with pro-abortion Justices.

Meanwhile, Americans United for Life dug up this one unconvincing piece of opposition research:

Consider that Judge Garland spoke at a gathering celebrating Linda Greenhouse’s book on Justice Harry Blackmun, Becoming Justice Blackmun. He described the release of the papers of the late Justice Blackmun—the author of one of the Supreme Court’s worst decisions, Roe v. Wade—as a “great gift to the country.”

Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman said his group would oppose any nominee who does not publicly “renounce Roe v. Wade”:

"Millions of lives hang in the balance of each ruling on abortion put forth by the Supreme Court. I refuse to support any nominee - Republican or Democrat - that will not renounce Roe v. Wade and commit to restoring legal protections to the pre-born," said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue.



"I strongly urge the members of the Judiciary Committee to hold fast to their promise, for the sake of the future of our country and the future of our posterity," said Newman. "The Senate Republican leadership cannot afford to break this important promise to their conservative, pro-life base, if they expect us to vote for any of them ever again."

Gun groups also came out swinging against Garland, with the National Rifle Association claiming that he “ does not respect our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense” and Gun Owners of America colorfully calling on the Senate to “bury this nomination and write ‘Dead On Arrival’ as its epitaph.” Both groups based their objections on Garland’s vote, as a D.C. Circuit judge, simply to rehear an important gun rights case.

The Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino — who previously called Garland a “best case scenario” Obama nominee to the Supreme Court — has been relying on thesame flimsy criticism to attack Garland.

We’ll update this post with more reactions as they come in.

This post has been updated.

GOP's Newest Defense of SCOTUS Obstruction Falls Apart

The GOP's talking points keep changing as they are refuted, and the latest ones are really easy to refute.
PFAW

Edit Memo: Not Just the Supreme Court: Republicans’ Blockade of Judicial Nominees Started Long Before SCOTUS Vacancy

To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: March 14, 2016
Re: Not Just the Supreme Court: Republicans’ Blockade of Judicial Nominees Started Long Before SCOTUS Vacancy

Senate Republicans’ vow to block anyone nominated for the Supreme Court by President Obama, no matter who it may be, has rightly gotten a lot of headlines. Their refusal to even consider a president’s Supreme Court nominee is unprecedented. Unfortunately, this campaign of obstruction is just latest extension of their obstinate refusal to responsibly fulfill the constitutional duty of considering the president’s nominees across all levels of the federal judiciary. Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley is leading the party’s strategy to keep vacancies open for as long as possible on our nation’s federal circuit and district courts.

This isn’t the first time that Grassley has led his party in seeking to block Obama from filling important judicial vacancies, regardless of who he might nominate. In 2013, Grassley sought to eliminate three vacant judgeships from the critically important 11-member DC Circuit Court of Appeals, rather than allow Obama to fill any of them. This was two months before the president had even nominated anyone for these seats. When his eventual nominees appeared before the Judiciary Committee, Republican members followed the lead of then-Ranking Member Grassley in opposing them regardless of their legal acumen, their professional experience, or their judicial temperament. Ted Cruz, for instance, made clear to Patricia Millett that he would join Grassley’s effort to block her confirmation “irrespective of your very fine professional qualifications.” During this high-profile partisan confrontation that Grassley created over the nation’s second most powerful court, he supported his obviously political position with principled-sounding claims that were repeatedly shown upon investigation to be without merit.

Since the GOP took control of the Senate, he has used his position as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to drastically slow down the consideration of President Obama’s judicial nominees. Perhaps the most notorious example is the nomination of L. Felipe Restrepo of Pennsylvania to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. With the tacit cooperation of home state senator (and fellow Republican) Pat Toomey, Grassley did not even hold a confirmation hearing until seven months after Restrepo’s nomination, even though Toomey claimed to support the nomination and Restrepo had already been thoroughly fully vetted for a district judgeship just two years earlier. He was approved unanimously by the Judiciary Committee last July, but then languished on the Senate floor for half a year until Republicans finally allowed a confirmation vote in January. The delay had nothing to do with Restrepo’s qualifications: When he was finally confirmed, it was with overwhelming bipartisan support, with only six senators voting against him.

The current slowdown is a sharp departure from the norm, even considering other times when the White House and Senate are controlled by different parties. For instance, at this point in George W. Bush’s last two years, the Democratic-controlled Senate had confirmed 40 circuit and district court nominees. In contrast, the GOP-controlled Senate in President Obama’s last two years has only confirmed 16 judges so far. 2015 saw only 11 confirmations, the fewest since 1960, more than half a century ago, a time when there were hundreds fewer judgeships to fill than today.

March 9 saw a typical example of the Grassley model on the Senate floor, where he or one of his GOP colleagues on the Judiciary Committee actively – and needlessly – block votes on long-delayed, fully-vetted consensus nominees. Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski made a simple request of her colleagues: to hold a confirmation vote on two consensus district court nominees from Maryland and Tennessee. Paula Xinis has been awaiting a floor vote since she was approved by the Judiciary Committee by unanimous voice vote on September 17, nearly half a year ago. Tennessee’s Waverly Crenshaw has been waiting even longer: the committee advanced him – also by unanimous voice vote – way back on July 9. Each nominee has the support of their home state senators, two Democrats and two Republicans. Yet Sen. Mikulski’s request for a vote was blocked by Republican Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn of Texas, so individuals and businesses in Maryland and Tennessee are denied fully functioning federal courts.

In response to this floor action (or, more properly, floor inaction), the Judiciary Committee’s Ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy, noted the connection to the constitutional crisis over the current Supreme Court vacancy: “While Republicans refuse to even consider the next Supreme Court nominee, I would think they would at least allow consensus lower court nominees to be confirmed.” Unfortunately, the GOP’s obstructionism reaches every level of the federal judiciary.

The American system of justice, where everyone can be assured of their fair day in court when their rights are violated, depends on having enough judges to hear those cases. But since Republicans took over the Senate, the number of circuit and district vacancies has nearly doubled (from 40 to 73), and the number of those vacancies officially designated by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts as “judicial emergencies” has skyrocketed from 12 to 32.

So the refusal of the Senate GOP to do their job on judicial nominations is not new; it’s been their deliberate policy toward the entire federal court system. What’s new is the extension of that policy to the radical and irresponsible position that the Senate majority can refuse to perform its constitutional responsibility to give the president’s nominee fair consideration As chairman of the Judiciary Committee and architect of the party’s approach to judiciary matters, Chuck Grassley bears key responsibility for the harm his party is doing to the federal judiciary.

The damage is particularly bad when the vacancies occur at the circuit court level. Unlike district courts, circuit courts issue decisions that bind every federal court within their region. And since the Supreme Court takes so few cases each year, it is usually the circuit courts that have the last word on how the Constitution or federal laws will be interpreted in the regions they cover.

Fortunately, President Obama has nominated a number of highly qualified and respected individuals to serve on circuit courts around the country. When Democrats controlled the Senate, then-Chairman Patrick Leahy worked cooperatively with Republican home state senators to process circuit court nominees in a timely manner, such as when Iowan Jane Kelly was given a committee hearing less than a month after being nominated. Now that Grassley is chairman, it is imperative that he, too, work with home-state senators and fellow committee members to ensure that President Obama’s circuit court nominees have open hearings and timely committee votes. Indeed, several of these nominees could already have had their hearings by now.

Donald K. Schott of Wisconsin for the 7th Circuit (Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin): Nominated on January 12 (more than two months ago), Schott would fill a seat that has been empty for more than six years, the oldest circuit vacancy in the nation. He was evaluated and found qualified by the state’s bipartisan six-member Federal Nominating Commission, three appointed by Sen. Ron Johnson and three appointed by Sen. Tammy Baldwin. A longtime partner at a major national firm, Schott has extensive litigation experience at both the state and federal levels, and at both the trial and appellate levels. He has regularly been recognized as one of the best lawyers in the state. He also has strong support in the Wisconsin academic legal community.

Justice Myra Selby of Indiana for the 7th Circuit (covering Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin): Justice Selby was nominated on January 12 (more than two months ago). She had developed expertise in health care issues as a private practitioner and as a high-ranking state government official when she was appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court in the 1990s, becoming both the first woman and the first African American to serve on that court. Knowing the enormous impact that courts have on the lives of everyday Americans, Justice Selby led efforts to increase the state high court's accessibility to the Indiana public through public education and outreach. Since retiring from the state court, she has had a successful practice as a partner in the Indianapolis branch of a major law firm, while also chairing a state commission that studies ways to increase racial and gender fairness in the legal system. Upon confirmation to the Seventh Circuit, she would become the first African American from Indiana and the first woman from Indiana to serve on that court.

Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl of North Dakota for the 8th Circuit (covering Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota): Nominated on January 28, Puhl has worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office in North Dakota since 2002, gaining substantial experience prosecuting a variety of criminal matters. Her expertise across different areas of the law has led to her being named to a number of leadership roles, including Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Coordinator, National Security Cyber Specialist, Human Trafficking Coordinator, and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator. Puhl has played a major role in fighting human trafficking in North Dakota. Upon confirmation, Puhl would be the first woman ever to serve as a federal judge at any level in North Dakota, circuit or district. In addition, even though the 8th Circuit covers seven states, it has only had two women judges in its history.

Judge Abdul Kallon of Alabama for the 11th Circuit (covering Alabama, Florida, and Georgia): Judge Kallon was nominated on February 11. An immigrant from Sierra Leone, he began his legal career in Alabama, had extensive litigation experience, and became a partner in a major law firm based in Birmingham. His exemplary reputation in the legal community earned him the support of Alabama Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby when President Obama nominated him as a district judge in 2009. The Senate confirmed him unanimously for that position, and he has continued to earn the respect of the Alabama legal community. Upon confirmation, Kallon would become the first African American from Alabama to serve on the 11th Circuit (or on its predecessor court, the 5th Circuit, which used to include Alabama). The judgeship he would fill has been vacant since 2013 and has been formally designated a judicial emergency.

Judge Lucy Haeran Koh of California for the 9th Circuit (covering Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington): Koh was nominated on February 25 and would bring a wide range of professional experience to the bench. She spent several years at the Department of Justice, earning awards and recognition for her work as a prosecutor. She then moved to private practice and became a litigator and partner at a major law firm. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger then appointed her as a state judge in 2008. Her success at all these endeavors led President Obama to nominate her to become a federal district judge, and the Senate confirmed her unanimously in 2010. Upon confirmation to the 9th Circuit, Judge Koh would be only the second Asian American woman ever to serve on a federal circuit court. The vacancy she would fill has been formally designated a judicial emergency.

Nominations like these are important, but they don’t get the national attention that Supreme Court vacancies do. What’s important to note, however, is that when Chuck Grassley and his fellow Republicans claim some lofty-sounding principle to defend their planned and unprecedented Supreme Court blockade, they don’t have clean hands. Instead of doing their jobs of efficiently vetting and voting on judicial nominees in a timely manner, they’ve been stalling them at all levels.

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Courting Extremism: The Week The GOP Admitted Its Supreme Court Blockade Is Based On A Lie

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.

However, since this tradition doesn’t actually exist, conservatives have become more honest about what’s really going on: they just don’t like the fact that Obama is president.

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.”

In video provided by Democracy Partners and Americans United for Change, King said that he supports the actions of Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley “as long as he’s blocking an Obama appointment.”

1) Who Cares About The Sixth Amendment?

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.

Rick Joyner: Hurricane Katrina Was God's Way Of Punishing Gay People

Last week on “The Jim Bakker Show,” televangelist Rick Joyner repeated his claim that gay pride events are to blame for Hurricane Katrina, alleging that the storm was a sign of God’s judgment and “a wakeup call.”

Joyner also spent time criticizing the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality ruling during a discussion about the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

After wondering if Scalia’s death was a sign from either God or Satan, Joyner again insisted that while he doesn’t like conspiracy theories, “there’s something really suspicious” about Scalia’s death: “There’s something really fishy about this that needs to be answered.”

“This could fracture our nation and bring about Civil War,” Joyner said of Scalia’s death. “It has that potential. That sounds extreme but, I tell you, you wait and see.”

This led him to declare that the Supreme Court has become an out-of-control force of tyranny and that the five justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality “need to be impeached.”

Steve King Admits The Supreme Court Blockade Is All About Politics

In comments captured by Americans United for Change at CPAC last week, Rep. Steve King praised Sen. Chuck Grassley’s stance that the Senate should not even consider any jurist nominated by President Obama to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

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.)

Rafael Cruz: Gay Marriage Will Destroy Society

Rafael Cruz, the father and campaign surrogate of GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, launched into yet another rant about the Supreme Court in an interview today on “Breitbart News Daily,” this time warning that an additional “liberal justice” on the high court will destroy all of society.

“One more justice like that,” the elder Cruz said of the four justices appointed by President Clinton and President Obama, “and we will lose our right to keep and bear arms. We will lose all of our religious freedom. We will see abortion on demand to the day of delivery. We will see the destruction of traditional marriage, and the family is the foundation of society — if the family is destroyed, society will be destroyed.”

Of course, the Supreme Court ruled last year in favor of marriage equality — which conservatives deride as “the destruction of traditional marriage” — and society has somehow managed to survive.

He went on to say that Donald Trump would appoint a liberal jurist and so “it would be disastrous if [he] became president,” alleging that Trump is a phony conservative who “lies constantly.”

“Trump is the biggest enigma we have,” he added. “We don’t know where he’d be on any issue.”

Do Conservatives Even Believe In The Bill Of Rights?

The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) has somehow managed to stoop even lower in its dishonest and deceitful campaign to block the Senate from even considering whomever President Obama nominates to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

Carrie Severino of JCN, which was founded as the Judicial Confirmation Network but rebranded as a group opposed to judicial confirmations coincidentally after Obama took office, took to National Review last week to attack Jane Kelly, a U.S. circuit court judge whom Obama is reportedly considering nominating to the high court, for once defending a child predator while working as a public defender.

As Zachary Pleat of Media Matters pointed out, Severino not only twisted Kelly’s actions in the case, but attacked Kelly simply for doing her job as a defense attorney.

Severino, a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, must know that even people accused of heinous crimes have a right to an attorney who would vigorously defend their client. It would completely undermine the judicial process to say that the accused should have no legal representation or should have a lawyer who will simply throw the case rather than fulfill their obligation to defend them.

After all, the right to a fair trial lies at the heart of the Sixth Amendment, and JCN actively promoted the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, who once worked on the defense of convicted murderer John Ferguson.

This attack, Pleat writes, “echoes past right-wing media attacks on Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and former Department of Justice civil rights division nominee Debo Adegbile.”

Several conservative pundits accused Clinton of leading a “war on women” after she was asked by a judge, in 1975, to defend a sexual assault suspect while she was working in legal aid, while Senate Republicans successfully blocked Adegbile’s nomination to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division because they were upset he once worked on a legal team representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killed a police officer, on an appeals case regarding whether sentencing instructions given to a jury were constitutional. As Miranda said:

It was an ugly episode, in which politicians like [Ted] Cruz essentially declared that not all criminal defendants deserve the Constitution’s guarantee of legal counsel. And it’s telling that Cruz, the self-proclaimed lover of the Constitution, brought it up in his latest ugly screed.

Clinton and Adegbile aren’t the only people targeted by Republicans simply for acting as defense attorneys.

In 2014, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) ran attack ads against South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Democratic candidate for governor, for his work as a criminal defense attorney, using the tagline: “Vincent Sheheen: he represents criminals, not us.”

South Carolina Bar Association President Alice Paylor said the RGA ad campaign amounted to an attack on “the whole basis for the U.S. and the U.S. Constitution. According to them, I guess everyone accused of something is automatically guilty.”

The American Bar Association sent a letter to Gov. Chris Christie, a former prosecutor who chaired the RGA at the time, noting, “Lawyers have an ethical obligation to uphold that principle and provide zealous representation to people who otherwise would stand alone against the power and resources of the government – even to those accused or convicted of terrible crimes.”

The rule of law that governs our society delivers justice specifically because everyone has a right to competent representation. This right is especially important for those who arouse our fear and anger, to ensure that the process by which they are judged is fair and just. This process is what distinguishes us from our darker history, when mobs decided guilt or innocence and punished those they deemed guilty.

And in 2010, a group formed by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, launched attack ads “against the Obama Justice Department for hiring lawyers who, at one time or another, did legal work on behalf of terror suspects.” The group branded the lawyers the "Al Qaeda 7," questioned their loyalty to the country and demanded that the Justice Department release their names.

We can only imagine how Republicans would have gone after John Adams for representing soldiers charged with murder during the Boston Massacre.

PFAW Targets Sen. Pat Toomey for Supreme Court Obstruction with Robocalls from Alfre Woodard

In a robocall released today by People For the American Way, award-winning actress Alfre Woodard calls Pennsylvania voters urging them to contact Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and demand that he give fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. As the call states, Sen. Toomey has declared that he won’t fulfill his constitutional duty and instead falsely asserts it’s “not that big a deal” if the Supreme Court vacancy lasts for over a year.

“Sen. Toomey’s irresponsible obstruction is inexcusable,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “The Constitution is very clear that it’s the job of Senators to give fair consideration to Supreme Court nominees, and there’s certainly no exceptions during election years. Not only is it a ‘big deal’ if Sen. Toomey and his fellow Republican Senators refuse to do their jobs, it’s a crisis of constitutional proportions.”

This is the second set of robocalls that PFAW has launched on this issue. In February, Martin Sheen called Wisconsinites targeting Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for his obstruction on the Supreme Court vacancy.

Listen to the call here: 



A transcript of the recording for today’s Pennsylvania calls reads:

Hi, this is Alfre Woodard, calling on behalf of People For the American Way.

When there’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the Constitution is clear about what happens next: the President nominates a new Justice and the Senate gives that nominee fair consideration.

But Republicans, including Senator Pat Toomey, are playing politics with the law and saying they won’t fulfill their constitutional obligation. Toomey even said it’s “not that big a deal” to leave the ninth Supreme Court seat empty for more than a year!

He couldn’t be more wrong.

Call Senator Toomey at (202) 224-4254, and tell him you expect him to put his Constitutional duties first—and give fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee.

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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Ted Cruz: Supreme Court On Brink Of Throwing Religious People In Prison

Last week at CPAC, Ted Cruz continued to baselessly assert that the Supreme Court is on the verge of crushing all freedom in America.

“We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ruling that government can take our religious liberty away and force every one of us to violate our faith on penalty of prison or fine,” Cruz said. “We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ordering Ten Commandments monuments torn down all over this country. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court erasing the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.”

He went on to warn that the World Court will reign supreme and veterans memorials will be torn down across America if Democrats are allowed to place any more justices on the Supreme Court.

Federalist Society VP Says Senate Could Ignore SCOTUS Nominees Indefinitely

During the administration of George W. Bush, the Federalist Society helped the administration fill the federal courts with judges who embrace a right-wing legal ideology. Back then, group leaders criticized Democratic senators for filibustering some nominees. But at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, a senior Federalist Society staffer praised Republican Senators who have refused to even give a hearing to a nominee for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia  and suggested that if a Democrat is elected president this year, the Senate could continue its obstructionist blockade through the next administration.

The Federalist Society has often portrayed itself as a polite debating society and downplayed the important and destructive role it has played promoting far-right legal theories as well as judges and political officials who can turn that ideology into public policy. The Federalist Society’s influence reached a pinnacle with the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an ideological warrior with deep roots in the right-wing legal movement. Alito, whose nomination was shepherded through the Senate by the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, has returned the favor as a justice, helping raise money for the Federalist Society and other right-wing groups, and becoming the single most pro-corporate justice on the most pro-business Supreme Court since the New Deal.

Dean Reuter, vice president of the Federalist Society, led a brief workshop at CPAC with John Yoo, a law professor and author of the infamous “torture memos” while working at the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration. Reuter and Yoo are co-editors of “Liberty’s Nemesis: The Unchecked Expansion of the State,” published last month. The book focuses on the growth of the administrative state, but Reuter began by addressing the dispute between the White House and Senate Republican leaders who have declared that they will refuse to even consider a Supreme Court nominee this year.

Reuter said it was the Senate’s duty to act as a check on executive power.

But I’m happy to report that the law and the Constitution are on the Senate’s side here. The president surely does have a duty to nominate someone, but the Senate has a co-equal duty as a co-equal branch of government to, in this case, operate as a check. It doesn’t have any responsibility or any duty to host one-on-one meetings with the nominee, or hold a hearing, or hold a committee vote or a floor vote. There’s no timetable. It’s not as if the president sends somebody over and says, we need this back next month, or next Wednesday, or whatever.

So the Senate is perfectly well within its prerogative, even the proper understanding of checks and balances, it can easily be said that the role of the Senate is to check the president’s power in this instance, the appointment power, especially I think when you’re dealing with a third branch of government and a lifetime appointment.

It’s not the president appointing the secretary of the Department of Commerce, it’s the president making an appointment to an independent, third branch of government and the Senate’s entitled to do its full due, which in this case may be not to act.

When asked if the Constitution would support the Senate’s refusal to act indefinitely if a Democrat were elected president, he said:

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 10 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.

The Federalist Society would undoubtedly experience a different sense of urgency if a Republican were elected president and given the opportunity to put more right-wing activists like Samuel Alito on the court.

PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on Women’s Health Cases at the Supreme Court

Two days after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case about laws that use unnecessary regulations to shut down abortion clinics, PFAW held a member telebriefing on the two cases that may be the most significant for women’s reproductive rights in decades. The second case, which is about access to birth control and is being called “Hobby Lobby Part Two,” will be argued at the Supreme Court later this month.

On the call, actress and advocate Kathleen Turner, PFAW’s Marge Baker, Elliot Mincberg, and Drew Courtney, and the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Kelly Baden discussed what’s at stake in these cases – Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt and Zubik v. Burwell – as well as the future of women’s reproductive rights.

Turner pointed out that these cases underscore the importance of our courts in keeping unconstitutional attacks in check and protecting women’s liberty and bodily autonomy. Baden went on to highlight the ways in which these attacks harm low-income and rural women in particular, who are least able to travel long distances and pay high price tags for abortion care.

You can listen to the full telebriefing here:

PFAW

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 3/3/16

  • James Dobson says that the future of the Supreme Court makes this "one of the most significant national elections in American history. The future of our nation is hanging in the balance, and we dare not make a mistake this time around." 
  • "Coach" Dave Daubenmire demands to know why pastors are remaining silent "as Evangelical Christian Ted Cruz OPENLY prays with Mormon Glenn Beck."
  • The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property blasts CPAC for allowing gay and atheist groups to participate: "We call upon the American Conservative Union to rescind its welcoming of organizations like Log Cabin Republicans and Atheist Voters as sponsors and exhibitors. Doing so would show consistency with the word conservative in its name."
  • FRC prays that Antonin Scalia's replacement will be "speedily confirmed" ... after being nominated by the next president, of course: "Thank God for the Senate leadership’s stand. May GOP members hold fast, whatever pressure to do otherwise may come. May the American people elect a president who will nominate a constitutional conservative justice in the New Year! May he or she be speedily confirmed. May voters be alert to the kind of justice each presidential candidate would select, given that the next president may have the opportunity to choose three or more! God have mercy upon us!"
  • Finally, CBN's David Brody defends all those poor Christians who are being criticized for supporting Donald Trump: "The condemnation of Trump’s Christian supporters from within evangelical circles is troubling. Is there now a threshold of Christianity that you need to achieve to be a 'real evangelical?' In other words, if you support Cruz you’re a true believer but if you go with Trump you’re not? Are 'Trump Christians' going to have to wear a political Scarlet Letter?"

Who’s Driving The GOP’s Supreme Court Blockade?

Almost immediately after the news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month, Republican senators started vowing to block the nomination of whomever President Obama appoints to succeed the conservative jurist. They were egged on in this kneejerk obstructionism by outside conservative groups who quickly circled the wagons in an effort to shut down any Supreme Court confirmation process.

Now, a few key conservative groups are leading the effort to pressure Republican senators to stay in line and to make it politically difficult for vulnerable Democrats to cooperate in a confirmation process. These groups have unified around a message that “the American people should decide” who the next Supreme Court justice is by waiting until the next president can nominate him or her — never mind that Americans did decide who they wanted picking Supreme Court justices when they reelected Obama in 2012.

This “let the people decide” message belies the true goals of the groups pushing it — not some idealistic belief in good governance, but an effort to shape a Supreme Court that favors business interests at the expense of workers and consumers and that helps to turn back the clock on women, LGBT people  and religious minorities.

A new report from People For the American Way looks at four of the conservative groups driving this strategy, outlining their history and their goals for the federal judiciary. It includes:

  • The Judicial Crisis Network was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network with the goal of pushing through the nominations and confirmations of far-right judges to the federal bench.
  • The American Center for Law & Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, often acts as a legal arm for the Religious Right’s attempts to deny liberties to LGBT people, Muslim Americans and others.
  • The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have become forces for obstructionism as they pressure Republicans to abandon any attempt at bipartisan cooperation or simple governance.
  • The Family Research Council is working to turn back the clock on social advances for women, LGBT people and religious minorities — something that it hopes a friendly Supreme Court will accelerate.

Read the full report here.

Who’s Driving The GOP’s Supreme Court Blockade?

Almost immediately after the news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month, Republican senators started vowing to block the nomination of whomever President Obama appoints to succeed the conservative jurist. They were egged on in this kneejerk obstructionism by outside conservative groups who quickly circled the wagons in an effort to shut down any Supreme Court confirmation process.

Now, a few key conservative groups are leading the effort to pressure Republican senators to stay in line and to make it politically difficult for vulnerable Democrats to cooperate in a confirmation process. These groups have unified around a message that “the American people should decide” who the next Supreme Court justice is by waiting until the next president can nominate him or her — never mind that Americans did decide who they wanted picking Supreme Court justices when they reelected Obama in 2012.

This “let the people decide” message belies the true goals of the groups pushing it — not some idealistic belief in good governance, but an effort to shape a Supreme Court that favors business interests at the expense of workers and consumers and that helps to turn back the clock on women, LGBT people  and religious minorities.

A new report from People For the American Way looks at four of the conservative groups driving this strategy, outlining their history and their goals for the federal judiciary. It includes:

  • The Judicial Crisis Network was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network with the goal of pushing through the nominations and confirmations of far-right judges to the federal bench.
  • The American Center for Law & Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, often acts as a legal arm for the Religious Right’s attempts to deny liberties to LGBT people, Muslim Americans and others.
  • The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have become forces for obstructionism as they pressure Republicans to abandon any attempt at bipartisan cooperation or simple governance.
  • The Family Research Council is working to turn back the clock on social advances for women, LGBT people and religious minorities — something that it hopes a friendly Supreme Court will accelerate.

Read the full report here.

PFAW

New PFAW Report Examines Groups Fighting to Block SCOTUS Confirmation

Today, People For the American Way released a new report examining the role of right-wing groups pushing GOP senators to refuse giving fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, no matter who the nominee may be.

The report profiles four of the most influential groups representing the Religious Right and business interests who have come together to mount a public pressure campaign to convince senators to block whomever President Obama nominates.

  • The Judicial Crisis Network was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network with the goal of pushing through the nominations and confirmations of far-right judges to the federal bench.
  • The American Center for Law & Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson often acts as a legal arm for the Religious Right’s attempts to deny liberties to LGBT people, Muslim Americans and others.
  • The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have become forces for obstructionism as they pressure Republicans to abandon any attempt at bipartisan cooperation or simple governance.
  • The Family Research Council is working to turn back the clock on social advances for women, LGBT people and religious minorities — something that it hopes a friendly Supreme Court will accelerate.

“Americans expect their senators to do their job and give fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “Instead, we’re seeing GOP senators follow the lead of right-wing groups and politicians like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. That might win favor with Republicans’ right-wing base, but it also highlights the party’s campaign of obstruction and gridlock.”

Read the report here.

For questions about the report or to schedule an interview, please contact Laura Epstein (lepstein@pfaw.org).

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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Ted Cruz: Gay Marriage Will Pull Christian Broadcasters Off The Air

Sen. Ted Cruz has added a new twist to his unsubstantiated claim that the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision last year will cause religious schools that don’t recognize same-sex marriage to lose their tax exemptions. In a speech last week to the National Religious Broadcasters convention, Cruz said that the Obergefell ruling will also force Christian broadcasters off the airwaves.

Cruz completely twisted remarks made during the Obergefell arguments by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli. While Verrilli said that he couldn’t answer a question about tax exemptions, Cruz alleged that “the answer from the Obama Justice Department in the open court of the Supreme Court of the United States was yes, that is a very real possibility that the IRS will come after you, that if your hosts go on air and say, ‘the Bible teaches that marriage is not defined by man, it is defined by God as the union of one man and one woman to mirror the relationship of Jesus Christ and the church,’ that you risk the federal government yanking your FCC license. That’s the threat we’re facing. They’re not hiding from this threat. They’re saying in open court, ‘We will use the power of government to go after and target those who speak against us.’”

Despite Cruz’s claim, legal analysts and religious groups have said it would be highly unlikely that marriage equality will bring about the end of tax exemptions for religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage.

Secondly, the FCC issue never came up in court, and Verrilli never came close to claiming that the government will go after religious broadcasters or people who speak out against same-sex marriage.

Cruz simply made it up.

This shouldn’t be surprising, as the Texas senator also falsely claimed that the legalization of gay marriage will lead to criminal penalties for pastors who refuse to perform marriage for same-sex couples.

The Cruel Irony Of The Anti-Choice Movement's TRAP Strategy

The Supreme Court heard arguments today in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which could be the most influential abortion rights case in decades. Whole Woman’s Health, which addresses a Texas law that aims to close abortion clinics by saddling them with expensive and unnecessary regulations, puts to the test the anti-choice movement’s long-term strategy of passing targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws meant to squeeze abortion providers out of existence.

As early as 1990, attorney Walter Dellinger, who went on to serve in the Clinton administration, was warning that the emerging strategy of setting up obstacles to abortion access would push women to obtain abortions later in their pregnancies, a more expensive and less safe procedure. These supposed “compromise” measures, he noted, were at the same time sometimes coupled with calls to cut off legal abortion during the second trimester of pregnancy. Dellinger wrote in The American Prospect:

To enact in the United States laws that simply prohibit abortions after twelve or eighteen weeks would constitute a strange and cruel response to the issue of late abortions. In this country, legislative deadlines for abortion would co-exist with access regulations designed to prevent women from being able to meet the deadline. No state truly concerned about either the increased maternal health risks or the moral implications of late abortions should consider the coercive step of prohibiting second trimester abortions while simultaneously pursuing policies that cause abortion to be delayed. … Bans on funding for abortions, shutting off access to public hospitals, parental consent/ judicial bypass laws, and testing requirements all fall into this category. Legislators who are troubled in principle by late abortions should support instead measures ensuring that every woman who wants to terminate a pregnancy can do so as early and as safely as possible.

Fast forward to late last year, when a study showed that exactly that had happened after Texas implemented its restrictive new law:

A new report released by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project — a research group based at the University of Texas at Austin that’s been tracking the state’s reproductive health policy over the past four years — finds that recent clinic shutdowns have greatly limited access to timely abortions statewide. In some cases, women had to wait nearly a month to be seen. In others, clinics had to turn women away, since they had no available appointment slots open.

As wait time to get an abortion increases, the estimated proportion of abortions performed in the second trimester increases. These later surgical abortions, although safe, are associated with a higher risk of complications and are significantly more costly to women than an earlier medical abortion. And even staunch abortion opponents are more opposed to late-term abortions compared to earlier procedures, citing the scientifically disputed theory that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks gestation.

At today’s arguments in Whole Women’s health, Justice Anthony Kennedy hinted at this issue, according to the Wall Street Journal’s early reports:

Justice Kennedy ends the string of questions from the women justices.

He notes that drug-induced abortions are up nationwide, but down in Texas, where the number of surgical abortions is up since the state enacted its law. He wondered whether such an impact was “medically wise.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg similarly called out Texas’ solicitor general for undermining his own claim that the state’s regulations were meant to protect women’s health:

Justice Ginsburg asks: How many women will be located more than 100 miles from a clinic? Mr. Keller makes reference to a 25% number, but says that number is high because it doesn’t take into account some women close to clinics in New Mexico.

That’s odd, Justice Ginsburg says. She wonders why Texas would consider those New Mexico clinics an option, given that they wouldn’t meet the standards set forth in the state law. If your argument is right, New Mexico is “not a way out” for Texas, the justice tells Mr. Keller.

Even as the anti-choice movement is pushing restrictive regulations that, as the Texas study showed, drive women to seek abortions later in their pregnancy, it is championing measures at the state and federal level that would cut off legal abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, partway through the second trimester.

Of course, the anti-choice movement is focusing on these two strategies because they believe they can pass muster in the courts and in public opinion in a way that the ultimate goal — an outright ban on abortion — would not. But what is left is not a regime that protects women’s health, as proponents of Texas’ law claim, but one that makes it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for women to obtain an abortion, which has been their ultimate goal all along.

Ben Carson: 'Conspiracy Books' Prove Gay Rights Are A Communist Plot Against America

At last week’s National Religious Broadcasters Presidential Forum, Ben Carson said that the separation of church and state and marriage equality are incompatible with the First Amendment and the Bible, while boasting that he’s read enough “conspiracy books” to know that public school lessons and anti-discrimination laws are authored by communist subversives.

Carson told host Eric Metaxas that “the First Amendment gives you the right to live according to your faith without being harassed,” adding that “separation of church and state is not in the United States Constitution, it was a Supreme Court ruling a few decades ago where it actually entered the lexicon.” In fact, the phrase was used by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

This led him to criticize “our judicial Supreme Court” for making “bad decisions” like “the Dred Scott Act [sic]” and “the Uberfeld [sic] ruling on gay marriage.” (We assume that Carson was referring to the Supreme Court’s rulings in Dred Scott v. Sandford and Obergefell v. Hodges, respectively.)

He called Obergefell “way out of whack” because it “impinges upon the ability of people to live according to their faith," saying that “as president I would really encourage them to come up with legislation that protects the livelihood and the freedom of people who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. There’s no reason that those people should be persecuted in our society.”

Carson then explained that “the advocates of gay marriage” want to completely undo the Bible and, as a result, American society: “The Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, is pretty firm against their way of thinking but if you can negate that then you can negate other portions of the Bible as well. This is the camel’s nose under the tent to undermine the Christian foundation of our nation.”

“I believe that there are a group of progressive individuals,” he said, “who have intentionally been trying to take over our school systems, been trying to take over the media in particular and various areas where they, through their propaganda, can change and undermine the principles that made America great and substitute them with their principles. And they have imposed political correctness so that you can’t even talk about it while they change the fabric of society. That’s what’s happened. That’s why we’ve changed so quickly. And that’s why, if we don’t do something about it, which takes courage, we will end up with a very fundamentally changed nation.”

He then reiterated his belief that gay rights are part of a larger conspiracy to destroy America, boasting that he knows the truth after reading “conspiracy books”: “Many people have been mesmerized by the secular-progressive movement and they have come to accept it almost by osmosis, without recognizing what the implications are. I know fully what they’re doing but that’s because I do a lot of reading. I read conspiracy books, I read all kinds of books. I also read communist books and socialist books and I know about some of these plans that they have.”

Carson went on to say that Bernie Sanders has performed well in the youth vote because leftists “have taken over the educational institutions so they can basically change the thinking of our young people.”

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