Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has established himself as one of the Republican Party’s most influential members, and a legitimate early contender for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016. But the biggest hurdle to Paul’s ascension as a national leader may be the man whose vast political network enabled his improbable rise in the first place: his father, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul.
The elder Paul attracted legions of diehard supporters with his longshot 2012 bid, cementing his role as the public face of the GOP’s libertarian wing — a mantle that was neatly transferred to his son after the latter’s highly publicized filibuster over the Obama administration’s drone strike policy.
But his campaign also shed light on the darker aspects of Paul’s past, such as his series of racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic newsletters, and his close association with white supremacists and neo-Confederates, among other unsavory characters.
Now Paul’s disturbing connections, which he vehemently denied during the 2012 campaign, are on display for all to see at his new think tank, The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
As James Kirchick reports in The Daily Beast, the institute’s board is stocked with all manner of 9/11 truthers, supporters of authoritarian regimes, anti-Semites, neo-Confederates, and more. Among others, Paul’s associates now include:
—Lew Rockwell, a member of the right-wing fringe whom Paul explicitely disavowed during his presidential campaign, and who recently compared law enforcement after the Boston Marathon bombing to Nazi stormtroopers.
—John Laughland, who denies that the Bosnian genocide ever took place, and maintains that former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was convicted by a “kangaroo court.”
—Eric Margolis, who denies any conclusive proof linking Osama bin Laden to the September 11th attacks, and instead suggests that they may have been “a plot by America’s far right or by Israel or a giant cover-up.”
—Michael Scheuer, a former CIA intelligence officer who has described American Jews as a “fifth column” intent on sabatoging American foreign policy to benefit Israel.
—Walter Block, who believes that the Confederacy should have won the Civil War, and believes that America’s current foreign policy can be blamed on “the monster Lincoln.”
Those five names barely scratch the surface of the unsettling information that Kirchick has uncovered in his must-read article.
Although Ron Paul never had a realistic chance of winning the presidency, he still recognized that he had no choice but to disavow his connection with this rogues’ gallery of lunatics to legitimize his candidacy. But now, while his son has a very serious chance to compete for the Republican nomination in his own right, the senior Paul is drawing these disturbing figures closer than ever.
This presents a very serious problem for Rand Paul, who has presented himself as the man who can reverse the Republican Party’s dismal performance with minority voters, particularly African-Americans. Given his own troubling statements about the Civil Rights Act, the Kentucky senator would have already had trouble convincing voters that “the Republican Party has always been the party of civil rights.” With his father openly partnering with neo-Confederates, that mission — along with Paul’s equally critical task of hanging on to the moderate and independent voters who have inflated his poll numbers — may be totally impossible.
Starting with his surprising decision to endorse Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign before his father had ended his own, Rand Paul has taken great pains to present himself as more mainstream than his father, and consequently as a more realistic presidential candidate. But as long as his father persists with his fringe right-wing activity — or unless Rand Paul does the unthinkable, and publicly disavows his father — Rand may never come any closer to the presidency than Ron.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 26, 2013
The economy is slowly recovering from the 2008 meltdown, and the country could suffer another recession if the wrong policies take hold. The United States is embroiled in unstable regions that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the right has started to undermine the vital health reform law passed in 2010. Those forces are eroding women’s access to health care, and their right to control their lives. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, all Americans’ rights are cheapened by the right wing’s determination to deny marriage benefits to a selected group of us. Astonishingly, even the very right to vote is being challenged.
That is the context for the Nov. 6 election, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.
President Obama has shown a firm commitment to using government to help foster growth. He has formed sensible budget policies that are not dedicated to protecting the powerful, and has worked to save the social safety net to protect the powerless. Mr. Obama has impressive achievements despite the implacable wall of refusal erected by Congressional Republicans so intent on stopping him that they risked pushing the nation into depression, held its credit rating hostage, and hobbled economic recovery.
Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has gotten this far with a guile that allows him to say whatever he thinks an audience wants to hear. But he has tied himself to the ultraconservative forces that control the Republican Party and embraced their policies, including reckless budget cuts and 30-year-old, discredited trickle-down ideas. Voters may still be confused about Mr. Romney’s true identity, but they know the Republican Party, and a Romney administration would reflect its agenda. Mr. Romney’s choice of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate says volumes about that.
We have criticized individual policy choices that Mr. Obama has made over the last four years, and have been impatient with his unwillingness to throw himself into the political fight. But he has shaken off the hesitancy that cost him the first debate, and he approaches the election clearly ready for the partisan battles that would follow his victory.
We are confident he would challenge the Republicans in the “fiscal cliff” battle even if it meant calling their bluff, letting the Bush tax cuts expire and forcing them to confront the budget sequester they created. Electing Mr. Romney would eliminate any hope of deficit reduction that included increased revenues.
In the poisonous atmosphere of this campaign, it may be easy to overlook Mr. Obama’s many important achievements, including carrying out the economic stimulus, saving the auto industry, improving fuel efficiency standards, and making two very fine Supreme Court appointments.
Mr. Obama has achieved the most sweeping health care reforms since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The reform law takes a big step toward universal health coverage, a final piece in the social contract.
It was astonishing that Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress were able to get a bill past the Republican opposition. But the Republicans’ propagandistic distortions of the new law helped them wrest back control of the House, and they are determined now to repeal the law.
That would eliminate the many benefits the reform has already brought: allowing children under 26 to stay on their parents’ policies; lower drug costs for people on Medicare who are heavy users of prescription drugs; free immunizations, mammograms and contraceptives; a ban on lifetime limits on insurance payments. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Starting in 2014, insurers must accept all applicants. Once fully in effect, the new law would start to control health care costs.
Mr. Romney has no plan for covering the uninsured beyond his callous assumption that they will use emergency rooms. He wants to use voucher programs to shift more Medicare costs to beneficiaries and block grants to shift more Medicaid costs to the states.
Mr. Obama prevented another Great Depression. The economy was cratering when he took office in January 2009. By that June it was growing, and it has been ever since (although at a rate that disappoints everyone), thanks in large part to interventions Mr. Obama championed, like the $840 billion stimulus bill. Republicans say it failed, but it created and preserved 2.5 million jobs and prevented unemployment from reaching 12 percent. Poverty would have been much worse without the billions spent on Medicaid, food stamps and jobless benefits.
Last year, Mr. Obama introduced a jobs plan that included spending on school renovations, repair projects for roads and bridges, aid to states, and more. It was stymied by Republicans. Contrary to Mr. Romney’s claims, Mr. Obama has done good things for small businesses — like pushing through more tax write-offs for new equipment and temporary tax cuts for hiring the unemployed.
The Dodd-Frank financial regulation was an important milestone. It is still a work in progress, but it established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, initiated reform of the derivatives market, and imposed higher capital requirements for banks. Mr. Romney wants to repeal it.
If re-elected, Mr. Obama would be in position to shape the “grand bargain” that could finally combine stimulus like the jobs bill with long-term deficit reduction that includes letting the high-end Bush-era tax cuts expire. Stimulus should come first, and deficit reduction as the economy strengthens. Mr. Obama has not been as aggressive as we would have liked in addressing the housing crisis, but he has increased efforts in refinancing and loan modifications.
Mr. Romney’s economic plan, as much as we know about it, is regressive, relying on big tax cuts and deregulation. That kind of plan was not the answer after the financial crisis, and it will not create broad prosperity.
Mr. Obama and his administration have been resolute in attacking Al Qaeda’s leadership, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. He has ended the war in Iraq. Mr. Romney, however, has said he would have insisted on leaving thousands of American soldiers there. He has surrounded himself with Bush administration neocons who helped to engineer the Iraq war, and adopted their militaristic talk in a way that makes a Romney administration’s foreign policies a frightening prospect.
Mr. Obama negotiated a much tougher regime of multilateral economic sanctions on Iran. Mr. Romney likes to say the president was ineffective on Iran, but at the final debate he agreed with Mr. Obama’s policies. Mr. Obama deserves credit for his handling of the Arab Spring. The killing goes on in Syria, but the administration is working to identify and support moderate insurgent forces there. At the last debate, Mr. Romney talked about funneling arms through Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are funneling arms to jihadist groups.
Mr. Obama gathered international backing for airstrikes during the Libyan uprising, and kept American military forces in a background role. It was smart policy.
In the broadest terms, he introduced a measure of military restraint after the Bush years and helped repair America’s badly damaged reputation in many countries from the low levels to which it had sunk by 2008.
The Supreme Court
The future of the nation’s highest court hangs in the balance in this election — and along with it, reproductive freedom for American women and voting rights for all, to name just two issues. Whoever is president after the election will make at least one appointment to the court, and many more to federal appeals courts and district courts.
Mr. Obama, who appointed the impressive Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, understands how severely damaging conservative activism has been in areas like campaign spending. He would appoint justices and judges who understand that landmarks of equality like the Voting Rights Act must be defended against the steady attack from the right.
Mr. Romney’s campaign Web site says he will “nominate judges in the mold of Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito,” among the most conservative justices in the past 75 years. There is no doubt that he would appoint justices who would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The extraordinary fact of Mr. Obama’s 2008 election did not usher in a new post-racial era. In fact, the steady undercurrent of racism in national politics is truly disturbing. Mr. Obama, however, has reversed Bush administration policies that chipped away at minorities’ voting rights and has fought laws, like the ones in Arizona, that seek to turn undocumented immigrants into a class of criminals.
The military’s odious “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule was finally legislated out of existence, under the Obama administration’s leadership. There are still big hurdles to equality to be brought down, including the Defense of Marriage Act, the outrageous federal law that undermines the rights of gay men and lesbians, even in states that recognize those rights.
Though it took Mr. Obama some time to do it, he overcame his hesitation about same-sex marriage and declared his support. That support has helped spur marriage-equality movements around the country. His Justice Department has also stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act against constitutional challenges.
Mr. Romney opposes same-sex marriage and supports the federal act, which not only denies federal benefits and recognition to same-sex couples but allows states to ignore marriages made in other states. His campaign declared that Mr. Romney would not object if states also banned adoption by same-sex couples and restricted their rights to hospital visitation and other privileges.
Mr. Romney has been careful to avoid the efforts of some Republicans to criminalize abortion even in the case of women who had been raped, including by family members. He says he is not opposed to contraception, but he has promised to deny federal money to Planned Parenthood, on which millions of women depend for family planning.
For these and many other reasons, we enthusiastically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term, and express the hope that his victory will be accompanied by a new Congress willing to work for policies that Americans need.
By: The New York Times, Editorial, October 27, 2012
Florida Governor Rick Scott sent the strongest signal yet that he plans to defy the Department of Justice and continue purging registered voters the rolls. Last week, the Justice Department sent Scott a letter demanding an end the voter purgebecause it was in violation of federal law. His deadline for responding to the letter is today.
Although Florida has not formally responded to the Justice Department letter, a Scott administration spokesman strongly indicated to the Miami Herald that Governor Scott had no intention of ending the purge:
“Our letter will address the issues raised by DOJ while emphasizing the importance of having accurate voter rolls,” said Chris Cate, spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who’s in charge of the state’s elections division.
Cate would neither confirm nor deny what was in the state’s response, but he acknowledged that the state disagrees with the federal government and doesn’t plan to throw in the towel. “We know we’ve been acting responsibly,” he said…
“DOJ is making the same argument as the groups that have sent letters to us,” Cate said. “If we disagree with the interpretation — it doesn’t matter who’s raising it — we disagree with the interpretation”…
“We’ve been acting responsibly through this process,” Cate said. “And our letter will reiterate that while addressing the concerns raised by DOJ. We have continued our efforts to identify ineligible voters.”
It’s unclear what the practical impact of Governor Scott’s decision will be, however. All 67 county election supervisors, in light of the Department of Justice letter, have suspended executing the purge. Some have even reinstated voters purged previously. The local election supervisors, not the state, has the ultimate authority to remove names.
By: Judd Legum, Think Progress, June 6, 2012
“Violating Basic Civil Rights”: Gov Rick Scott’s Florida Voter Purge Gets Pushback From Elections Supervisors And U.S. Justice Dept
Florida elections supervisors said Friday they will discontinue a state-directed effort to remove names from county voter rolls because they believe the state data is flawed and because the U.S. Department of Justice has said the process violates federal voting laws.
Late Thursday, the Department of Justice sent Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner a letter telling him that an effort launched by Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration last year to remove the names of people believed to be non-citizens from voter rolls appears to violate at least two federal voting laws. The federal agency gave Detzner until Wednesday to respond.
The Justice Department letter and mistakes that the 67 county elections supervisors have found in the state list make the scrub undoable, said Martin County Elections Supervisor Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.
“There are just too many variables with this entire process at this time for supervisors to continue,” Davis said.
Ron Labasky, the association’s general counsel, sent a memo to the 67 supervisors Friday telling them to stop processing the list.
“I recommend that Supervisors of Elections cease any further action until the issues raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a Court,” Labasky wrote.
Davis said the effect on supervisors will be “if they’ve started the process and they do find out that someone is ineligible to vote and they have credible and reliable information to back it up, then they will remove that person from the database. But if they have not had contact with someone on the list, they’re stopping at that point.”
Detzner in April sent supervisors a list of more than 2,600 voters his Division of Elections had identified as potential non-citizens by matching the state’s voter registration database with driver license records. Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher received 115 such names.
Supervisors were supposed to send letters to those on the list notifying them to provide proof of citizenship within 30 days or be removed from the voter rolls. But supervisors say they have found errors, including some on the list who have died, many who have become naturalized citizens since they first got their driver licenses, and others who are U.S.-born citizens — including a 91-year-old, Brooklyn-born World War II hero who now lives in Broward County.
Detzner’s spokesman, Chris Cate, said of the supervisors’ plan, “The supervisors have the ultimate duty of making the determination of eligibility. We respect the process and we have confidence in their capability to determine if someone is an ineligible voter or not.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department said the scrub appears to violate at least two federal National Voting Rights Act laws.
Five counties in Florida require federal approval before any voting or election changes are made for those counties, but Detzner did not seek approval from the Justice Department or a federal court, according to the letter written by T. Christian Herren, chief of the Justice Department’s voting section.
Florida’s current effort also appears to violate the National Voting Right Act’s prohibition on any major voter scrub 90 days before an election, Herron wrote. With an Aug. 14 primary scheduled in Florida, that would prohibit scrubs after May 16.
Herren gave Detzner until Wednesday to respond “so that the Department can determine what further action, if any, is necessary.”
Detzner issued a press release Friday indicating he will respond on time but will not back down from the state’s effort.
“As Florida’s Chief Election Officer, I am committed to ensuring the accuracy of Florida’s voter rolls and the integrity of our elections. . . . The Department will continue to act in a responsible and cautious manner when presented with credible information about potentially ineligible voters. No one that has the right to vote has been denied the opportunity to cast a vote, and as the Secretary, it is my duty to ensure that remains the case,” Detzner said.
Cate said the agency disagrees with the federal department’s interpretation of the 90-day restriction on voter list maintenance.
“We’ll address that specifically in our response to DOJ,” he said. “We have a year-round responsibility to make sure ineligible voters cannot cast a ballot.”
Detzner also has blamed federal officials for the faulty data. On Thursday, he sent a request to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for access to its Systematic Alien Verification of Eligibility database so that his department could use it to identify potentially ineligible voters.
Last month the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles volunteered to help state elections officials by using its access to the federal database to check Florida’s list of suspected non-citizens. But this week the highway department determined it is only allowed to use the list to check the names of people who are applying for driver licenses or state identification cards, DHSMV spokeswoman Courtney Heidelberg said.
The effort to remove names of immigrants from voter rolls has sparked accusations from civil-rights and liberal groups that Scott’s Republican administration is trying to suppress voter turnout in November in the crucial swing state of Florida.
“The question no one is asking is why are they doing this,” said Progress Florida Political Director Damien Filer. “The fact is Rick Scott is carrying on a disgraceful GOP legacy of disenfranchising voters in Florida. And he’s doing it on purpose. Sadly, Florida is once again a late-show punch line. Jon Stewart and Jay Leno are no doubt thrilled. Florida voters, not so much.”
In 2000, thousands of eligible voters were not allowed to vote because of an error-riddled felon voter list created under Gov. Jeb Bush’s administration. State officials abandoned another problematic felon voter list four years later.
Liberal activists started an online petition at credoaction.com asking the Justice Department to intervene, and Democrats, including Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, have asked Scott’s administration to abandon the effort.
GOP leaders also intensified the rhetoric this week.
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry urged supporters to call or e–mail the White House to demand that the Homeland Security department give Detzner access to its database.
“While Democrats and their liberal special interests demagogue the important issue of securing our elections, they seem happy to accept that illegal voters may be in our system,” Curry said on the party’s website, rpof.org. “Florida’s Republicans believe the vote is the foundation of our democracy, and it is too important to allow even one illegal vote to be cast.”
Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux responded, “Pointing the finger at SAVE or other databases is a smokescreen and it’s a red herring for a system that’s clearly rife with error.”
By: Dara Kam, Staff Writer, The Palm Beach Post, June 2, 2012
Now that Mitt Romney has ground out a victory against the weakest GOP field in a generation and the most extreme in history, he’s now turning his attention to the general election. To use a particularly vivid metaphor, he’s shaking his Etch-a-Sketch as hard as he can, trying to erase his far-right pandering in the primaries. But despite his head fakes towards moderation, no one should doubt that a President Mitt Romney would enact a dangerously extreme agenda for our country, and nothing makes that clearer than the person he selected as his constitutional and judicial advisor: Robert Bork.
Yes, that Robert Bork.
In a primary dominated by sideshows appealing to the fringe element, important issues like the Supreme Court were rarely discussed in detail, but Romney’s announcement that Bork would be his judicial advisor is the clearest possible signal of how far to the right Romney has moved since his days as a “moderate” Republican in Massachusetts and of his willingness to embrace all the fringiest opinions of all his primary opponents.
Sure, Rick Santorum promised to attack legalized birth control, Ron Paul says the Civil Rights Act “destroyed” privacy, and Newt Gingrich thinks child labor laws are “truly stupid.” But none of them can hold a candle to the extremism of Robert Bork, the patron saint of far-right ideologues. And Bork’s choice in this infamous field? Mitt Romney.
When Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987, his nomination was rejected as too extreme by a bipartisan majority in a 58-42 vote. Since then he’s only moved further out of the mainstream.
Robert Bork insists that art and literature aren’t protected by the First Amendment. He defended the constitutionality of poll taxes and literacy tests for voters, and he called the Civil Rights Act “unsurpassed ugliness.” He’s defended state laws that made gay sex a criminal offense. As a judge he routinely ruled in favor of big business over individual Americans.
Perhaps most disturbing are Bork’s reactionary views on how the law treats women. Robert Bork doesn’t just think abortion should be criminalized, he thinks states should be free to outlaw birth control. He’s argued that the Equal Protection Clause doesn’t apply to women. And what seems almost too unbelievable to be real, he even ruled that a company is free to tell female employees to be sterilized or lose their jobs.
In any sane election, Robert Bork would be the hidden crazy uncle or at least denounced as a political liability, but then again this hasn’t been a sane election. Instead, Mitt Romney has bragged about nabbing the endorsement and held Bork up as a model for the judges he’d appoint to the bench, including the Supreme Court. He’s said he wishes Bork were on the court today. Any questions regarding the types of judges Romney would nominate?
With Election Day on the horizon, it’s all but inevitable that Mitt Romney will start reshaping his rhetoric for the general election. But regardless of his carefully calibrated statements or his poll-tested promises, no one should forget that by choosing Robert Bork as a key advisor, Mitt Romney has made crystal clear his frighteningly extreme agenda for America.
By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For The American Way, The Huffington Post, April 23, 2012