They say that President Obama is a Muslim, but if he isn’t, he’s a secularist who is waging war on religion. On some days he’s a Nazi, but on most others he’s merely a socialist. His especially creative opponents see him as having a “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview,” while the less adventurous say that he’s an elitist who spent too much time in Cambridge, Hyde Park and other excessively academic precincts.
Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education.
Please forgive this outburst. It’s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies. A significant part of his opposition still cannot accept that Obama is a rather moderate politician quite conventional in his tastes and his interests. And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama’s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and cliches and slanders.
True, some of this is driven by cable television (a venue in which I acknowledge regularly participating). Attacks designed to gin up the conservative base are quickly recycled to gin up outrage within Obama’s own base. Moreover, Obama is not the first president caught up in the rank unpleasantness of this particularly unforgiving political moment. A quick Google search will unearth references to George W. Bush as a “Nazi,” and Bill Clinton’s Republican opponents went so far as to impeach him in a shameful episode of extreme partisanship.
On those Hitler metaphors: Can we please agree to a voluntary cross-party ban on invoking the Fuhrer in the context of American politics? Only dictators who commit genocide against millions qualify for this odious comparison. It trivializes Hitler’s crimes to use Nazi references as everyday epithets.
But there is something especially rancid about the never-ending efforts to turn Obama into a stranger, an alien, a Manchurian Candidate with a diabolical hidden agenda. Are we trying to undo all the good it did us with the rest of the world when we elected an African American with a middle name popular among Muslims?
In my experience, even Americans who voted against Obama were proud that our nation showed friend and foe alike that we are a special place. We know it’s wrong to judge people by their race or lineage, and we so value religious freedom and openness that we elected a Christian convert who is the son of a Muslim father and an agnostic mother to lead us at one of our most difficult moments.
Yet many in the anti-Obama camp just can’t stop themselves from playing on fears that electing a man who defies old stereotypes was a terrible mistake. Thus did the Rev. Franklin Graham assert Tuesday on MSNBC not only that Muslims regard Obama as “a son of Islam” (because his father was Muslim) but also that “under President Obama, the Muslims of the world, he seems to be more concerned about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries.” Graham slightly softened his comments on CNN Wednesday, but it remains troubling that he chose to turn a legitimate concern about the persecution of Christians into a slander.
In the meantime, Republican presidential candidates want to take a disagreement over whether and how contraception should be covered in plans issued under the new health-care law and turn it into a war against religion itself. “Unfortunately, possibly because of the people the president hangs around with, and their agenda, their secular agenda — they have fought against religion,” declared Mitt Romney, who pursued a similar line of attack in Wednesday night’s debate.
It’s another breathtaking slander to label Obama’s choice as an attack on religion altogether — and I say this as someone who strongly opposed the president’s initial decision not to offer any accommodation to religiously affiliated institutions on contraception. And how strange it is that Obama’s critics imply that he’s a Muslim and also condemn him as a secularist. He must be terribly clever — maybe it’s that fancy education of his — to be both.
As for Obama as a socialist, ponder two numbers: 13,005, which the Dow Jones average hit this week, up from a low point of 6,547 in March 2009. Some socialist.
We are blessed with the freedom to say whatever we want about our president. But those who cast Obama as something other than one of us don’t understand him and don’t understand what it means to be American.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 22, 2012
We talked yesterday about the latest conservative activism against the Girl Scouts: Indiana state Rep. Bob Morris’ (R) strident opposition to the group, which he believes has been “radicalized” to promote abortion and homosexuality. Morris added that he believes the Girl Scouts have been “subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics and the destruction of traditional American family values.”
After controversial remarks by one Republican lawmaker attacking Girl Scouts as a radical group that supports abortion, House Speaker Brian Bosma made his feelings clear Tuesday, one Thin Mint cookie at a time.
Bosma, R-Indianapolis, pointedly offered Girl Scout cookies throughout the day and munched them as he presided over the House. [...]
Bosma … clearly wanted people to know he didn’t share Morris’ views. At one point Tuesday, he told House colleagues he had “purchased 278 cases of Girl Scout cookies in the last 48 hours.”
And when time came for the House to adjourn, he asked all lawmakers who had been Girl Scouts — and seemingly every female legislator stood — to give the daily motion to adjourn.
When a conservative Republican state House Speaker is making fun one of his own caucus’ members, it’s clear even the GOP in a reliably-red state was embarrassed by Morris’ antics.
For his part, Morris was asked for proof yesterday to support his claim that the Girl Scouts support abortion rights. “They’re not against it,” he said. “If you’re not against it, you’re for it.”
Deana Potterf, director of communications for Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, told the Indianapolis Star that the organization does not address issues regarding homosexuality, abortion and sex. “Any kind of those issues are best left to the girls to talk with their families about,” Potterf said.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 22, 2012
OK, it’s true: Rick Santorum didn’t sponsor Virginia legislation to require that women seeking abortion undergo an ultrasound – and in cases of very early pregnancy, when a fetus is hard to see, a creepy and intrusive transvaginal ultrasound. But seven states have already passed ultrasound requirements for women seeking abortion. The Virginia bill is galvanizing opposition nationally at least partly due to the climate of crazy that’s been fomented by Santorum’s backward candidacy.
The man who calls contraception “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be” went from being a failed Pennsylvania senator, Mr. “Man on Dog,” to GOP presidential front-runner over the last month. Now he’s crusading against prenatal testing because he claims it encourages abortion (when in fact most prenatal testing helps women help babies who develop in utero health issues) and claiming President Obama’s policies will ultimately send Christians to the guillotine. (By the way, I apologize for harping on the way Protestants have persecuted Catholics in the U.S., because Santorum reminded me of some of the reason why, with his charge that mainline Protestant churches are a Satan-sponsored “shambles” that are “gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”) He and Mitt Romney, who’s trying to match him outrage for outrage, have been chasing women voters away from the GOP in droves over the last couple of months.
Into that polarizing political climate came the news that Virginia Republicans want to go where no politician of any stripe belongs: up the vaginal canal and into the uteruses of pregnant women who are seeking an abortion. The bill already passed the state Senate, and clearing the House of Delegates seemed a mere formality, especially given that Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas already have ultrasound requirements. A mere formality, that is, until people began paying attention.
Now, for two days straight, the Virginia House of Delegates has postponed its vote on the bill. More than a thousand protesters lined walkways to the state Capitol to silently protest the bill on Monday, and their powerful statement seemed to still resonate on Tuesday. The bill is expected to pass eventually, but with every day, the national backlash against the measure helps its opponents’ chances. On MSNBC’s “Politics Nation” Tuesday Virginia delegate Kaye Kory urged the media to keep paying attention. Gov. Bob McDonnell, who supports the bill, is often mentioned as a GOP vice presidential nominee, and his office has emitted a few warning signs of alarm over the last couple of days. As far right as Republicans have lurched, it can’t be helpful for McDonnell to find his Virginia GOP accused of supporting state-sanctioned rape for forcing unwilling women to submit to vaginal penetration in order to exercise their legal right to an abortion.
Of course, the Virginia GOP still has its fervent defenders. CNN commentator Dana Loesch outdid herself (and that takes a lot) by suggesting that women had implicitly consented to such a procedure when they consented to vaginal penetration during sex. Wait. Let me make sure I’m not misinterpreting her. Here’s what she said: “Progressives are trying to say, that it’s rape and so on and so forth … They had no problem having similar to a trans-vaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy.” If that sounds like crazy talk – and it is — a Virginia Republican who supports the procedure said much the same thing, telling a Democratic colleague that women had already consented to being “vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant,” according to Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick. I hope Virginia Republican women will ask their male partners whether they believe consenting to sex represents consenting to state-sponsored vaginal penetration as well. I know, it might be a mood-killer, but it’s a good thing to find out.
As Steve Kornacki observed this morning, Santorum may be compromising his own political future almost as much as he’s compromising women’s rights with his increasingly crackpot declarations. He’s also helping Virginians who oppose their state GOP’s extremism to get attention to their cause, while the Virginia GOP helps national Democrats sound alarms about Santorum’s lunacy. It’s a win-win for proponents of women’s freedom. I keep pinching myself to make sure it’s not a political trick.
I talked about the GOP’s war on women’s rights with Virginia delegate Kaye Kory on MSNBC’s “Politics Nation”: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/46473261#46473261
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, February 21, 2012
Lots of politicians, and quite a few presidential candidates, have changed their minds on abortion. This is partly because, in its broadest terms, it is a weighty, complex issue with a legitimate case to be made on both sides, even if one side has a stronger case (I’m not talking here about subsidiary issues like parental consent or the despicable laws requiring women to get ultrasounds or anything like that, just the basic question of whether abortion is right or wrong). It’s also because in recent years, both parties have tolerated less and less deviation on the issue, particularly in anyone who wants to be their presidential nominee. There are still a few pro-life Democrats (like Harry Reid) and pro-choice Republicans (like Olympia Snowe), but the days when someone could hope to get on a national ticket without toeing the line on abortion are gone.
So if you’ve been around a while, there’s a chance you held one belief in your early years, but then moved to align with your party later on. This is what happened, for instance, to George H.W. Bush (a great advocate of reproductive rights in his early years as a member of Congress) and Al Gore (who started off his career pro-life). Chances are most people don’t even know that about Bush or Gore, but people sure do know that Mitt Romney changed his views on abortion. Why? A few reasons.
First, it happened very recently—over a period between 2004 and 2005, when he was moving toward his first run for president. Second, there’s lots of video of Romney loudly declaring his pro-choice position and promising to be a vigilant guardian of a woman’s right to choose. Third, he has flipped on a lot of things, so the abortion change fits in with a broader impression of Romney as opportunistic and unprincipled. And finally, Romney has never offered an explanation of why he changed that Republican voters find persuasive.
So today, Will Saletan offers a long, exhaustive story about Romney’s history with abortion, documenting every movement on the issue over Romney’s career, and all the ways (many of them shamelessly dishonest) that he has tried to justify those movements:
When you see the story in its full context, three things become clear. First, this was no flip-flop. Romney is a man with many facets, groping his way through a series of fluid positions on an array of difficult issues. His journey isn’t complete. It never will be. Second, for Romney, abortion was never really a policy question. He didn’t want to change the law. What he wanted to change was his identity. And third, the malleability at Romney’s core is as much about his past as about his future. Again and again, he has struggled to make sense not just of what he should do, but of who he has been. The problem with Romney isn’t that he keeps changing his mind. The problem is that he keeps changing his story.
Saletan paints Romney’s history of changes on abortion like everything else about Romney: careful, methodical, planned, full of rewritings of the past, and utterly devoid of any discernible principle or genuine sentiment.
If he gets elected, though, will Romney be different in any meaningful way from a candidate who had been anti-abortion all his or her life? Let’s look at what he’ll actually do. He’ll instantly reinstate the Mexico City Policy that bans U.S. support for any group that even suggests abortion overseas, pushing that pendulum back to the Republican side. He’ll sign any legislation Congress might come up with restricting reproductive rights. And perhaps most importantly, he’ll appoint to federal courts, and to the Supreme Court, judges who want to overturn Roe v. Wade. If Romney were elected and one of the five justices who currently support Roe (Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor) retires or dies, he will absolutely, positively appoint a successor who is ready to overturn Roe.
Because he doesn’t have much choice, whatever he believes deep down. He has to dance with the one who brung him, and the Republican party will simply not tolerate anything less. Republicans may fear that he’ll get to the White House and suddenly shift back to being pro-choice, but that simply isn’t going to happen. Try to imagine the category-5 shitstorm that would result if a President Romney nominated someone to the Supreme Court that Republicans felt was a less-than-reliable vote to overturn Roe. If he was in his first term, he’d immediately get primary challengers. If he was in his second term, they’d try to impeach him. Even if most Americans don’t want to overturn Roe, the political cost of another shift for Romney would just be too high. And it’s hard to argue that for him, there’s any other calculation to be made.
By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, February 22, 2012
Mitt Romney can’t help but reveal that he’s a boring technocrat.
Mitt Romney’s main problem with conservative voters is that they don’t trust him or his commitment to conservative values. And for good reason; it’s only been six years since he left office as the moderate, pro-choice governor of a liberal state who pioneered health care reform for the country. Romney has tried to overcome this with constant pandering, open contempt for President Obama, and casual dishonesty, but it hasn’t done the trick. What’s more, there are times when the mask slips, and Romney reveals how much he actually is a boring technocrat. Yesterday was one of those times:
Speaking in Shelby Township, MI, the former Massachusetts governor took a question about the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission empaneled by President Obama to address the nation’s deficit and debt issues. In his response, he said that addressing taxes and spending issues are essential.
“If you just cut, if all you’re thinking about doing is cutting spending, as you cut spending you’ll slow down the economy,” he said in part of his response. “So you have to, at the same time, create pro-growth tax policies.”
In other words, Romney just admitted—in a momentary lapse of judgment—that some form of government spending can grow the economy during a recession. Nevermind that this is the accepted position of most economists, conservative and otherwise. It runs counter to the core dogma of the conservative movement, that spending cuts (and tax cuts) always grow the economy. It’s a relatively small slip—like his “severely conservative” comment at CPAC—but it’s emblematic of Romney’s distance from the party he wants to lead.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, February 22, 2012