The exposure of a Heritage Foundation research analyst as a proponent of racist theories reopens a troubling intellectual history that the right-wing think tank and its Republican allies would rather not discuss. This fresh embarrassment poses yet another obstacle for Republican leaders who are supposedly seeking to erase their party’s polarizing reputation and to connect with non-white voters.
Now led by former South Carolina Republican senator Jim DeMint, the team at Heritage – a lavishly funded Washington outfit long known for propagandistic research studies – certainly didn’t advance the Republican outreach effort last week. With a thinly sourced new study that claimed immigration reform would bankrupt the country with trillions of dollars in additional social welfare costs, they undermined Heritage’s fragile integrity and offended the Latino voting bloc.
However flimsy, the report certainly reflected a deep split within Republican ranks over immigration policy. What made matters far worse was the subsequent revelation in The Washington Post that Jason Richwine, the study’s co-author, had asserted in his 2009 Harvard doctoral dissertation that Latino immigrants are not only less intelligent than America’s “white native population,” but that their descendants can be expected to suffer from “low average IQ” – a condition he described as “effectively permanent.”
Following the Post article on Richwine’s dissertation, Yahoo News reported that he has posted inflammatory articles on a “white nationalist” website, Alternative Right, comparing crime rates among Hispanics, whites, and blacks. “The reality of Hispanic crime,” he concludes, “should be one of the many factors we consider when setting immigration policy.”
Seeking to control the damage from these revelations, Heritage quickly released a statement disowning Richwine’s racial theories. “This is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation,” said Heritage official Mike Gonzalez in a statement. “Nor do the findings affect the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer.”
But the true history of the Heritage Foundation – and of the American Enterprise Institute, the other major think tank where Richwine enjoyed a sinecure – reflects the ugly racial bias that has long disfigured the right in this country.
Scandalous links between the racist far right and allegedly respectable conservative institutions date back to Heritage’s earliest days in the 1970s, when the editorial board of Policy Review, its monthly publication, featured the notorious racial theorist Roger Pearson. Shortly after the Post reported Pearson’s role at Heritage, the think tank dumped him. But in the decades that followed, Heritage still lionized racially divisive politicians like Jesse Helms, the late Republican senator from North Carolina, awarding him its “highest honor” in 2002 and depicting him as an “indispensable patriot” when he died in 2008.
Over at the American Enterprise Institute, where Richwine’s anti-Hispanic essay still adorns its website, racist “scholarship” is likewise encouraged and disseminated. Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, an infamous work of pseudo-science that argues the genetic inferiority of blacks and Latinos, has been based at AEI for more than 20 years. Dinesh D’Souza held a fellowship there when he wrote The End of Racism, a book-length screed urging the repeal of basic civil rights statutes and endorsing racial discrimination by businesses, landlords, and private citizens. While D’Souza’s work provoked the resignations from AEI of black conservatives Robert Woodson and Glenn Loury, he eventually moved on to yet another conservative think tank, the Hoover Institution.
These dubious organizations — which continue to provide the intellectual ballast for the Republican Party – have emitted a spreading cesspool of academic and political racism for decades. When I published Big Lies in 2003, I examined how the arguments of Murray and D’Souza had defined a “mainstream conservative position on race” that promoted bigotry and undermined civil rights. Ten years on, despite all the talk of a kinder, gentler GOP, nothing has really changed.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, May 10, 2013
The latest of the many Big Speeches delivered by Republicans aimed at changing the party’s image without changing its ideology was delivered today by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of VA in the friendly confines of the American Enterprise Institute. So important was this speech, it seems, that Republicans accused the president of trying to “step on it” via remarks at roughly the same time on how the administration proposed to avoid the pending March 1 appropriations sequester.
Cantor’s Big Speech was officially advertised as a “rebranding” of the GOP into a nice, positive, friendly band of pols who just want to help middle-class Americans improve their daily lives. And according to National Review‘s Robert Costa, what would make the speech especially interesting was that it would focus on policies, not just rhetoric.
Well, you can read Cantor’s prepared remarks yourself. It certainly does avoid the usual harsh War For Civilization rhetoric usually employed by House Republicans of late. It issues no ultimatums and threatens no revolutions. But after three eye-glazing readings, my main question was: Is this all you got, Eric? Nestled in an endless series of soft-focus rhetorical gestures and “real people” shout-outs, the speech was the policy equivalent of a side order of chicken nuggets: small, greasy, and not very nourishing.
By my rough count, you had to plow through twenty-seven (27) paragraphs before coming to anything that resembled an actual policy proposal. That turned out to be a laboriously explained yet not terribly clear endorsement of the “back-pack” K-12 education voucher–e.g., use of federal funds for non-accountable (except by the parents getting the money) use in private schools. Also on the education front was a ringing endorsement of better information for students entering higher education institutions, and maybe a tilt in student loan programs to create an incentive to graduate.
Readers reeling from all this policy boldness could move on to the same endorsement of “reform” in fragmented job training programs that people in both parties have been calling for ever since Dan Quayle was bragging about the Job Training Partnership Act. There was plea for the ancient conservative chestnut of letting hourly employees convert overtime pay to some sort of comp-time, without any clarity on the question of whether and on what terms employers could require it.
But wait: Cantor also came out for reducing loopholes in the tax system! And at the same time he endorsed the child tax credit that’s been in the code since the 1990s.
On the health care front, Cantor made the usual negative assertions about Obamacare, without a hint of any alternative GOP proposal for dealing with the uninsured. He offered the dazzlingly original argument that the states should be given more flexibility in administering Medicaid. And he seemed to be arguing for a return to some sort of Medicare Advantage program encouraging seniors to buy private health insurance.
And oh yeah, bravely taking the bull by the horns, Cantor waded into the immigration controversy by generally endorsing more visas for the highly qualified, and a path to citizenship for children brought into the country without documents–which are, of course, the least contentious issue in the entire debate.
I may have missed a morsel or two scattered amongst the anecdotes and bromides. But there couldn’t have been much. If Republicans are actually proud of this essay in policy minimalism–delivered at a think tank, no less!–then they are further away from any real reinvention of themselves than even hostile observers like me thought possible.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 5, 2013
For nigh on forty years, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation have been doing a good-cop/bad-cop routine—make that a bad-cop/really bad-cop routine. Yesterday, Heritage decided to double down on bad, with stained-glass windows.
Up until now, the Heritage Foundation has done a fairly competent job of disguising itself as a “think tank” where sobersided “scholars” write unreadable “policy papers” with “executive summaries.” But by appointing Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, as its new president, Heritage risks “rebranding” itself as a full-bore, revival-tent, Jesus-saves belief tank of the Christianist right.
DeMint inhabits the outer reaches of movement conservatism pretty much across the board, but his greatest passion seems to be reserved for what are delicately termed “social issues.” On questions of sexual identity and behavior, he is a forthright bigot and a prude. Shortly before the 2008 election, speaking at a Dominionist “Greater Freedom Rally,” he summarized his position thusly:
If someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom. And he holds the same position as an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend. She shouldn’t be in the classroom.
Last year, he indicated that his belief in small government is rooted in the theory that there is a fixed and limited amount of space that can be occupied by the government and the deity combined. The size of the public sector and the size of the Almighty are inversely proportional to each other. It’s an iron law, a zero-sum game:
I’ve said it often and I believe it—the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets.
DeMint appears to believe that there is a similarly inverse, zero-sum relationship between science and Christianity. He is a notorious global-warming denialist and creationist. And he is an enemy of the very idea of public education. At the “Greater Freedom Rally,” he explained why:
The thing that we’ve conceded as a people that we’ve got to fix, is turning the education of our children over to the government…. Let ’em go to a school where they can learn that God created this earth—because we know he did. Scientists more and more are—are being trapped or backed into this whole idea. As they see the whole genome experience, experiment, or they research all the DNA, they realize that this had to be created. It could not have happened by accident. It’s impossible. So we can go out with confidence that we are created, we are given unalienable rights, and God has blessed this country beyond anything we could have imagined. And he’s put us in charge of this vineyard we call America.
DeMint’s garbled reference to genomes and DNA, by the way, was apparently a confused allusion to Francis Collins, the former director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, whom President Obama appointed to head the National Institutes of Health. Collins is an evangelical Christian, but, like all reputable scientists, he rejects creationism, including its “intelligent design” variation, and does not believe that global warming is a hoax engineered by liberal scientists motivated by a fanatical ideological preference for government regulation of private business.
The big Washington story of the moment is the battle between conservative Republicans and very conservative Republicans over whether or not to hold the economy hostage in order to prevent marginal income-tax rates on the top two per cent from reverting to the slight higher Clinton-era levels. A parallel story over the next few years may be the quiet struggle between A.E.I. and Heritage for Republican hearts and minds. A.E.I. may have the advantage when it comes to minds, but Heritage is where the hearts are. Heritage was founded in the first place because the older organization was considered too squishy. Even so, badthink has sometimes crept in. It was Heritage, you may recall, that invented the “individual mandate” that became the basis of Obamacare and, earlier, Romneycare. DeMint is unlikely to tolerate any such outbreaks of left deviationism at Heritage. Under him, its grip on the organ of G.O.P. emotion can only strengthen. Its grip on the organ of reason, such as it is, is apt to fare less well.
By: Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, December 7, 2012
Remind me to send a thank you note to Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann for their heralded Outlook piece sounding a fire alarm about the Republican party burning down the house of democracy in the Washington Post Sunday. Here is its essence:
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier…..ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by….facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
Washington’s leading experts have spoken. The word has come down from the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution. This is a nice way to say Republicans in Congress—every single one—have done everything they can to make Barack Obama’s presidency a failure, from day one. In historical retrospect, I am sure Obama will receive some long-delayed credit for bearing the burden of their slights and cuts gracefully and succeeding in spite of their spite.
But there’s something else long delayed here, and that’s a profound indictment of the Republican Party. The messengers are absolutely right, the elephant emperor has no clothes. But Ornstein and Mann’s belated recognition of reality could have been written years ago, and rung true.
Does the impeachment trial of William J. Clinton ring a bell? That Democratic president, too, was relentlessly hunted as prey, even though the country was doing well in times of peace and prosperity. The House Republicans led by Newt Gingrich didn’t give a damn, driven by partisan zeal—since we’re being real, partisan hatred. The difference is Clinton fought back against his enemies. Obama has chosen to act as if they’re not there, or that he can, with time, win them over. In fact, that strategy has been the worst flaw of his governing style.
As the co-authors acknowledge, outrages against the traditions of congressional conduct and engagement took off in once Newt Gingrich decided to become speaker by any means possible. He became speaker in 1995—a good 17 years ago. They also blame Grover Norquist, the antitax fiend, for taking the “Grand” out of the GOP. They left out the third man: Rush Limbaugh, whom Gingrich made the class mascot for the 1994 Republican takeover of the House. Limbaugh has poisoned the well of public “dis-coarse” better than anyone I know. He delivers the House Republicans huge doses of partisan ardor from his angry white middle-class male constituency.
Mann and Ornstein observe, “Divided government has produced something closer to complete gridlock than we have ever seen.” Yes, and please pass the potatoes. Republicans are acting the same way they ever did (late in the last century) in opposition to a Democratic president. It’s just that they took a half-time break, easing up during the long years of the George W. Bush presidency and its wars. The Mann-Ornstein analysis (published in a new book available this week) is sound and welcome. At last an “official” acknowledgement that there is no center in national politics, so therefore it cannot hold. To wit, Obama waited for snow to melt all summer, so anxious was he for one Senate Republican vote for healthcare reform. And no, the moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe did not melt his first summer as president.
Climate change is perhaps the most urgent issue where Congress has fallen down on the job because Republicans refuse to face the evidence all around us: The earth is warming and changing. Give them this, they are good team players.
But party discipline goes only so far in a hurting country, Mann and Ornstein could have helped us more by speaking out sooner. They take the liberty of scolding the press for trying to achieve false balance by presenting two sides of a story as equally legitimate. They also say the press should take arms against the 60-vote trend in the Senate—meaning 60 votes is necessary to cut off invisible “filibusters.” They rightly note, “The framers certainly didn’t intend it to be [routine].”
We’ve all been watching the elephant emperor with no clothes and we all let the parade go on too long. By golly, I’ll write that thank you note, and hope Ornstein and Mann will understand if it’s a little late.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, April 30, 2012
By an accident of timing, Herman Cain appeared on Monday morning at the intersection of 17th and M Streets, Northwest – the location of the National Restaurant Association, where he is alleged to have sexually harassed two women when he was the group’s chief executive.
The allegations, first reported by Politico, could not have come at a worse time for the front-running Republican presidential candidate: just ahead of a very public day of speeches in Washington. The first was scheduled at the American Enterprise Institute, which happens to be right across the street from the restaurant association. It was, as one political reporter at the AEI event put it, like going into the lion’s den wearing a Lady Gaga meat suit.
And so Cain did what he always does: He turned a devastating situation to his advantage. “By the way, folks, yes, I am an unconventional candidate,” he told the overflowing crowd. “And, yes, I do have a sense of humor. And some people have a problem with that. But . . . Herman is going to stay Herman.”
So the women who filed the complaints didn’t get his sense of humor? And that’s the end of it?
It just may be. This sort of scandal would end the career of many a politician. But the usual rules don’t apply to Herman Cain. He survives gaffes and scandal the way he beat colon cancer – and whatever doesn’t kill him makes him stronger.
He says he would negotiate a swap of terrorists at Gitmo – then claims he misunderstood the question. He claims abortion should be an individual choice – then again says he misunderstood. He proposes an electrified border fence that could kill immigrants from Mexico – then says people didn’t get the joke.
Evidence that he has said something dumb, or offensive, only confirms to his supporters that he is not another polished pol like Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. And so Cain doesn’t need to know what a neocon is, he can weather campaign-funding irregularities, he can have his campaign manager blow cigarette smoke in a campaign ad, he can skip the early primary states in favor of a book tour of the south, and he can sing about pizza to a John Lennon tune. If Herman Cain were found to be a serial killer, his supporters would take this, too, as reassuring evidence that he is not just another career politician.
This allows Cain to perform as a self-parody on the campaign trail, confident that whatever absurdity he comes up with will only add to his outsider mystique. Arriving on stage for the AEI speech, he began by asking his microphone be turned down because “I’ll blow this thing to smithereens.”
He then proceeded to blow up the usual political constraints. He responded to a British reporter with a phony English accent. When asked about energy policy, Cain said he’d get to it on day two of his administration. “Day one, I’m going to take a nap.” Asked about his prospects to remain a top-tier candidate, he replied: “This flavor of the week is now the flavor of the month, and it still tastes good.”
Cain’s hosts at AEI forbid any questions about the sexual harassment claims; ABC’s Jonathan Karl had the microphone taken from him and shut off when he tried to ask about the “big cloud” over Cain.
That had the effect of moving the reporters’ interest to Cain’s second appearance of the day, at the National Press Club. “I have never sexually harassed anyone,” the candidate said. If the trade group paid a settlement, “I hope it wasn’t for much.” (Later in the day he acknowledged remembering one of the settlements.)
So would he ask for records of the investigation to be released in order to shoot down the allegations? “No, there’s nothing to shoot down,” he replied, and “the policies of the restaurant association is not to divulge that information.”
Nothing to see here. Move along. And Cain did. He had more fun with his signature policy proposal (“How did we come up with 9-9-9? Why not 10-10-10, why not 8-8-8?). And he asserted his belief that life imitates the pizza business. “The way we renewed Godfather’s Pizza as a company is the same approach I will use to renew America.”
When asked to go beyond the slogans, Cain requested a lifeline, inviting advisor Rich Lowrie to answer the question for him. Though letting his aide field the tough stuff, Cain was happy to handle the final question himself – a request for a song. This time, Cain crooned a few bars from the hymn “He Looked Beyond My Fault.”
For Cain and his forgiving supporters, it could be a theme song.