They were long afraid to do it, but now conservatives have their knives out for Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Senators in her own party, congressional candidates, a lawmaker in her state’s delegation and leaders of the House Republican Conference are all lambasting the Minnesota Republican for saying the wife of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said merely floating the idea that Huma Abedin — a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — has family ties to the radical Middle East group is “pretty dangerous.”
“I don’t know Huma, but from everything I do know of her, she has a sterling character,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. “And I think accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous.” Later on CNN, Boehner said he expects to speak to Bachmann soon.
Bachmann’s accusation came in a handful of letters to intelligence and national security agencies raising questions about the Muslim Brotherhood. The letters, also signed by four other Republicans, specifically mentioned Abedin, accusing her late father of having ties to the Brotherhood.
Boehner declined to entertain a reporter’s question about whether he would toss Bachmann off the Intelligence Committee, where she’s privy to highly classified information. Behind the scenes, leadership aides said they were shaken by the comments from someone as prominent as Bachmann.
And Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, was described by several sources as incredibly angry when he heard of the incident.
The Republican backlash against Bachmann started with Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) statement on the Senate floor Wednesday, saying she had made “sinister accusations.”
Rep. Jeff Flake, a conservative Arizona lawmaker running for Senate, tweeted “Kudos to @SenJohnMcCain for his statement on Senate floor yesterday defending Clinton aide. Well said.”
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) added: “Rep. Bachmann’s accusations about Sec. Clinton aide Huma Abedin are out-of-line. This kind of rhetoric has no place in our public discourse.”
Even the Minnesota delegation is dispensing with its characteristic niceness. Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim who served in the state Legislature with Bachmann in St. Paul, said it’s not personal, but Bachmann is out of line.
“It’s not right to question the loyalty of fellow Americans without any evidence,” said Ellison, whose district is based in Minneapolis. “I object when people do that.”
Bachmann has said her letters “are unfortunately being distorted.”
And while she did not specifically mention Abedin in a follow-up comment, Bachmann is not backing down from her premise of looking into threats from the Muslim Brotherhood: “I will not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies instead of telling the truth about the threats our country faces.”
She elaborated during an interview Thursday with conservative radio host Glenn Beck.
“She is the chief aide … to the Secretary of State,” Bachmann said of Abedin. “And we quoted from the document, and this has been well reported all across Arab media, that her father, her late father who is now deceased was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, her brother was a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and her mother was part of what’s called the Muslim Sisterhood.”
Yet more and more Republicans seem to feel more comfortable coming out publicly against Bachmann now — perhaps because she’s no longer engaged in a presidential primary and has returned to the House as a rank-and-file lawmaker.
Ed Rollins, her former presidential campaign manager, said in a post on Fox News’s website that Bachmann has “difficulty with her facts.”
Former New Jersey GOP Gov. Christine Todd Whitman wrote in POLITICO’s Arena, that “the sort of unfounded attack unleashed by Congresswoman Bachmann and her [colleagues] brings back painful memories of a low point in our history.”
Former Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a recently retired Florida Republican, said “Michele means well but she sometimes doesn’t let proven facts get in the way of a possibility of having national television coverage.”
“Michele would be better served by having competent staff to check out these accusations before she goes out there sometimes appearing to be a ‘bomb thrower,’” Brown-Waite wrote on POLITICO.
Bachmann’s fundraising prowess remains impressive, but requests for donations seem dire. One last month was labeled “URGENT note from Michele,” and urged folks to pony up for her reelection effort against a self-funder who she said “will be able to keep pouring in millions of his own money to defeat me.” Her opponent is Jim Graves, a Minnesota businessman.
“My opponent just released his financial numbers and it will blow you away. His net worth is approximately $111 million. Yes, you read that correctly. One hundred and eleven million dollars,” according to a fundraising email June 26.
She remains a top House fundraiser, bringing in $1.8 million in the second quarter, bringing the total in her campaign account to $1.72 million. At this point in the previous cycle, she had $2.4 million on hand.
The question many Republicans and Democrats alike ask is whether her district — outside St. Paul — truly cares about issues like the allegations she made regarding Abedin.
“They know what she says, they know what she does,” Ellison told POLITICO. “Her district knows her. They know her well. We came into this place together. My district knows me, her district knows her. I guess they either like what she’s saying or they don’t dislike it enough to get rid of her. That’s it.”
By: Jake Sherman, Politico, July 19, 2012
During his long career as the most famous talk radio host in modern history, Rush Limbaugh has only rarely apologized for his rhetoric — so when he does, it’s worth pondering the contrition’s deeper meaning. Was his apology last week for calling a Georgetown student a “slut” just a shrewd move to undercut a potential defamation lawsuit? Was it a frightened response to an intensifying backlash from advertisers? Does it prove the power of the liberal political organizations that have an ideological ax to grind against Limbaugh?
The answer to all those queries is yes — but none of those factors is the genuine news of the matter. Instead, what makes Limbaugh’s apology so important is its context. Capping off other similar brouhahas from across the mediasphere, Limbaugh’s mea culpa — however insincere — is significant because it is proof that America may be both setting some basic standards for political discourse and rejecting the right-wing shrieks about “censorship” and “political correctness.”
Consider what preceded Limbaugh’s apology. Only a few weeks ago, MSNBC announced it had terminated its relationship with Pat Buchanan, who had become a television mainstay despite the Anti-Defamation League documenting his long record as an “unrepentant bigot.” Just prior to that, Los Angeles radio station KFI suspended two hosts for calling Whitney Houston a “crack ho”; CNN suspended commentator Roland Martin for his homophobic Super Bowl tweets; and MSNBC suspended liberal host Ed Schultz for calling a competitor a “right-wing slut.” And before that, there was the seminal big-bang moment that kicked off the whole trend: the removal of Glenn Beck from Fox News — a decision that traced its roots to an advertiser boycott after Beck insisted that President Obama has a “deep-seated hatred of white people.”
In all of these examples, as with Limbaugh’s “slut” comment, the speech in question set off a firestorm not just because it was ideologically extreme, but also because it was indisputably inappropriate. To paraphrase the jurisprudential terms surrounding pornography, it crossed the line from merely offensive to overtly obscene.
Of course, this kind of slander was tolerated for decades without so much as a peep of objection from the media powers that be. Thanks to that silence, talk radio and cable television came to be wholly defined by such political obscenity — a development that made spectacularly lucrative careers for hate-speech demagogues.
That downward spiral seemed destined to continue because any time there was even a hint of protest, the conservative movement’s powerful media intimidation machine trotted out self-righteous rants against “political correctness” and odes to the First Amendment. Looking to manufacture its own insipid version of “political correctness” that crushes dissent, this machine typically portrayed conservatives as victims, marshaling anti-censorship arguments to insinuate that bigotry, anti-Semitism, homophobia and sexism are somehow entitled to a constitutionally protected place in major media outlets.
Not surprisingly, this same argument is now being made by conservatives in defense of their disgraced heroes.
“He has every right to his ideas, as we all have the right to our own,” wrote conservative Cal Thomas in an emblematic screed criticizing MSNBC for firing Buchanan. “It’s called free speech.”
It’s certainly true that all Americans have a right to their own ideas and to advocate for those opinions on their own. But having one’s ideas broadcast to millions of Americans over the public airwaves by major media corporations is not a right. It’s a privilege.
Limbaugh’s apology, made under pressure and designed to safeguard his privilege, concedes that indisputable truth. In doing so, the talk-radio icon is implicitly acknowledging a welcome change — one in which media executives, advertisers and the larger American audience are finally declaring that privileges can be withdrawn from those who violate the most basic standards of decorum.
By: David Sirota, Salon, March 9, 2012
I’ve been holding off on writing something about the bizarre spectacle of the Derrick Bell “exposé” that has consumed the nuttier corners of the right in the last couple of days, simply because it’s so weird and pathetic that I wasn’t sure exactly how to talk about it beyond simple ridicule.
In case you missed it, here’s the story, briefly: Just before he died, conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart said his web enterprises would soon release an explosive video that would transform the 2012 election by revealing Barack Obama’s radical ties.
The video turned out to be of something that was not only utterly unremarkable, but had been reported before. In 1991, when Obama was a student at Harvard Law School, the school was embroiled in a controversy over the under-representation of minorities on the faculty. Derrick Bell, the first black tenured professor at the school and a widely admired figure in legal circles, announced that he would take a leave until the school made efforts to hire more minority faculty. Obama spoke at a rally in support of Bell, and in support of more minorities on the faculty. And that’s the shocking revelation. Oh, and one more thing that conservatives are up in arms about—they hugged. Really.
Over at Breitbart’s web site, I count eight separate pieces on Derrick Bell (who died last year), trying to make the case that he was some kind of insane radical pushing radical theories of radicalism, all with the intention of oppressing white people, which is obviously what Barack Obama is up to as well. Just to get a flavor, here’s an excerpt from one of the articles:
Racialism is so woven into the thinking of Bell, and many believe Barack Obama, any white individual, regardless of ideology or personal attribute lacks the ability to understand and relate racism in America. Consequently, the notion of racial quotas is not simply based upon some idea of equality of opportunity, they must be imposed as white’s [sic] are inferior to blacks in an area Bell and Obama see as critical. While we like to think of equality as color blind, that is not the view Bell shared as a “truth” Obama embraced and encouraged others to do, as well.
You’ll notice the chain of logic, though I use that term loosely: Here’s an exaggeration of something Derrick Bell once said, “many believe” Obama thinks in the same way, here’s a leap to a parody of policies Obama doesn’t actually support, here’s a conclusion about how Obama hates white people and wants to screw them.
From the beginning of Breitbart’s enterprise, race-baiting was a key element of his attack on Barack Obama, one that continues even after his death. And he always had plenty of company, from Glenn Beck saying Obama “has a deep-seated hatred of white people,” to Rush Limbaugh’s repeated insistence to his white listeners that Obama was motivated by racial hatred in everything he did. “Obama’s entire economic program is reparations,” Limbaugh proclaimed. “The days of [minorities] not having any power are over, and they are angry,” he said. “And they want to use their power as a means of retribution. That’s what Obama’s about, gang.” When in 2009 he found a story about a white kid getting beaten up by a black kid on a school bus, Limbaugh said, “In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, ‘Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on.’” And yes, he did that last part in an exaggerated “black” accent.
The message is always the same: Obama and the blacks are mad, and they’re coming for you. Yet people like the Breitbart folks and Limbaugh have two problems. First, they’re running out of material. There aren’t any more shocking revelations to be had. The best they can do is try to make mountains of racial resentment out of the most innocuous molehills, like the fact that Obama supported Derrick Bell’s effort to diversify the faculty when he was a law student. And second, by now anyone who can be convinced that Obama is a secret Black Panther never thought otherwise. The guy has been president for three years. Americans are pretty familiar with him. He hasn’t actually started herding white people into concentration camps, and it’s an awfully tough sell to tell people that he might any day now.
This is a version of the larger problem conservatives have as we get into the 2012 election. The argument many of them will be making, in various forms, is this: Forget about what Obama has actually done. That doesn’t tell you anything. Let me tell you a story about his secret desires, his wicked thoughts, his venomous heart. That’s what your decision should be based on. You hear it from media bloviators, you hear it from interest groups, like the NRA screeching that if he’s re-elected Obama will outlaw guns, and you hear it from Mitt Romney, who is forever claiming that deep down Obama doesn’t much love America and wants to turn it into a European-style social-welfare state. Who are you going to believe, them, me, or or your own eyes?
Watching this stuff is immensely dispiriting, I’ll grant you. But it should be some consolation that it doesn’t seem to be working.
By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, March 9, 2012
Hurricane Irene obviously has the attention of millions of Americans, but some are handling the threat better than others. On the right, some of the rhetorical responses haven’t cast conservatives in the best light.
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to eliminate FEMA; congressional Republican leaders are reluctant to approve emergency disaster relief; and Fox News is running pieces like these, calling for the elimination of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.
As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, news stations bombard our televisions with constant updates from the National Hurricane Center.
While Americans ought to prepare for the coming storm, federal dollars need not subsidize their preparations. Although it might sound outrageous, the truth is that the National Hurricane Center and its parent agency, the National Weather Service, are relics from America’s past that have actually outlived their usefulness.
The Fox News piece touts private outlets, including AccuWeather, without alerting readers to a key detail: these private outlets rely on information they receive from the National Weather Service. Indeed, the NWS makes this information available to the private sector for free, since the NWS is a public agency and the data it compiles is public information.
The Fox News item goes on to say, in reference to the Weather Service, “It issues severe weather advisories and hijacks local radio and television stations to get the message out. It presumes that citizens do not pay attention to the weather and so it must force important, perhaps lifesaving, information upon them.”
This is not, by the way, a parody.
Glenn Beck, meanwhile, told his radio audience on Friday that Hurricane Irene “a blessing. It is God reminding you — as was the earthquake last week — it’s God reminding you you’re not in control. Things can happen.”
This divine “blessing” has already killed at least eight people.
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 28, 2011