Just over a year after giving Middle Eastern Christians advice that could have put them in danger, Sen. Ted Cruz has announced Syrian Christian refugees are not a threat and should be first in line to enter the U.S.
And some of his old critics say that’s a long-overdue change in tone.
On Sept. 10, 2014, Cruz headed to the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington to speak at the gala for a conference called “In Defense of Christians,” which brought together Christian leaders from throughout the Middle East to highlight the brutal persecution their congregants faced at the hands of the Islamic State.
The fact Cruz was speaking there at all caused waves in the conservative Beltway press. It started when the Washington Free Beacon reported earlier that day that some of the conference’s speakers and attendees had controversial affiliations; one speaker had previously defended Hezbollah, and another—years earlier—had touted a conspiracy theory about “Christians with Zionist orientations.”
Despite the bad press, Cruz took the stage that evening and launched into a speech, saying that everyone present was united by their commitment to defending persecuted Christians and Jews. He criticized ISIS, Hamas, al Qaeda, and Hezbollah, all to applause. But then he started talking about Israel.
“Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state,” he said, to a mixture of boos and applause. “Let me say this, those who hate Israel, hates America.”
A mixture of boos and applause followed.
“If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, I will not stand with you,” he concluded, exiting the stage.
The next day, Cruz doubled down, defending his decision to walk out on the group. He even gave a statement to Breitbart saying the evening “deteriorated into a shameful display of bigotry and hatred.”
“[B]igotry and hatred have no place in this discussion,” he continued in that statement. “Anti-Semitism is a corrosive evil, and it reared its ugly head tonight.”
Breitbart’s initial headline of one story even implied the event’s attendees weren’t really Christians.
The event’s organizers—who brought together a historic group of Christian leaders at a moment when their communities faced (and still face) genocide—weren’t impressed.
“He came to a summit in defense of Christians and actually endangered Christian lives,” said the group’s executive director, Andrew Doran, according to the National Catholic Register.
Doran noted to the paper that “standing with Israel”—as Cruz demanded that event attendees do—can make already-vulnerable Christians top targets for Islamist extremists. And in the case of the Syrian civil war, Christian bishops have pushed for their flocks to stay neutral. Middle Eastern geopolitics make for happy hour chit-chat in Washington; for Christians in that region, though, those stances are sometimes matters of life or death.
“People had come here trusting us not to put their lives in danger,” Doran continued to the paper. “People had come here for the sake of unity, and for politicians to take advantage of this for their own agenda is absolutely disgraceful.”
So while Cruz has apologized to conservative political pundits, he has never expressed remorse for demanding that attendees applaud Israel or for characterizing them as hateful bigots.
Since launching his presidential campaign, though, event organizers say Cruz’s tone has changed. In particular, they point to comments he made on Sunday about Syrian Christians.
“There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror,” Cruz said at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina, arguing that the U.S. should admit Christian refugees but not Muslim ones.
That particular debate arose in the wake of the terror attacks on Paris, as one of the shooters entered France by pretending to be a refugee.
“If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they, we would have a different national security situation,” he continued. “But it is precisely the Obama administration’s unwillingness to recognize that or ask those questions that makes them so unable to fight this enemy. Because they pretend as if there is no religious aspect to this.”
An adviser to the In Defense of Christians group told The Daily Beast that this new approach represents a change in tone for the senator, and a welcome one at that.
“Senator Cruz took an unfortunate posture at last year’s IDC Summit considering the lives of some in the room were imperiled by what he said, and since some of the attendees were recent survivors of the invasion by Daesh, and others had lost family members to Daesh,” the advisor said.
“That said, we are pleased to now see Senator Cruz offer more thoughtful and constructive comments to improve, rather than imperil the Christians of the Middle East who seem to be forgotten when it comes to the soundness of the strategies and tactics to defeat Daesh, on the matters of refugee status, and qualifying Middle East Christians as victims of a genocide,” he continued.
Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Cruz’s campaign, strongly disagreed that the senator’s tone on Middle Eastern Christians has changed.
“Cruz rightly spoke against those who loudly booed his support for Israel,” she said. “The entire purpose of the dinner, of which he was a keynote, was to support persecuted Christians in the Middle East, a cause for which he has consistently and strongly supported. I completely disagree with any assertion that he has changed his ‘tone.’”
Does Ted Cruz talk differently about marginalized populations depending on who’s listening—defending their integrity when it’s convenient and characterizing them as hateful bigots when needed? You decide.
By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, November 18, 2015
In their brief to the Supreme Court defending their “right” to deny their employees access to contraception, Hobby Lobby owner David Green and his family asserted (PDF) their principles of “[h]onoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”
Apparently, that doesn’t include “Thou shall not steal.”
According to an exclusive by The Daily Beast’s Candida Moss and Joel Baden, the Green family has been under investigation by the federal government for smuggling antiquities. Moss and Baden report:
A senior law enforcement source with extensive knowledge of antiquities smuggling confirmed that these ancient artifacts had been purchased and were being imported by the deeply-religious owners of the crafting giant, the Green family of Oklahoma City. For the last four years, law enforcement sources tell The Daily Beast, the Greens have been under federal investigation for the illicit importation of cultural heritage from Iraq.
In 2011, a shipment of several hundred clay tablets was seized by U.S. customs agents in Memphis. The tablets, which had been shipped from Israel, were inscribed in cuneiform, the ancient script of Assyria and Babylonia in what is now present-day Iraq. And the tablets were confirmed to be several thousand years old. Yet on the customs filings, the Greens had listed the contents of the shipment as “hand-crafted clay tiles”—which was true, technically, but pretty damn misleading. Moss and Baden draw an analogy to another recent customs scandal in which a Picasso worth $15 million was shipped into the United States with a custom declaration form saying it was a “handicraft.” Again, technically true. But a deception meant to evade the scrutiny of customs officials.
So much for “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
The tablets were supposedly intended to join some 40,000 or so ancient artifacts the Green family owns and will include in the Museum of the Bible, which the family is funding and will open in Washington, D.C., in 2017.
Of course the perverse irony in all of this comes from the fact that the Green family won its historic Hobby Lobby lawsuit in the Supreme Court, establishing that corporations, which are people, too, can have religion and thus claim religious exemptions under the law. And now we have the same family allegedly breaking the law in order to build a religious museum that reflects their values. Hot damn, that’s some audacity.
Recall that in the Hobby Lobby case, the Green family didn’t want its employees to be able to access certain types of contraception under the company’s insurance plan. Prior to filing their suit, Hobby Lobby’s insurance had in fact covered such contraception and the medical and scientific community agrees that those forms of contraception are not equivalent to abortion. But the Greens asserted their personal opinion as fact, attached them to their business and used their supposed “fundamental values” to fundamentally upend the course of corporate jurisprudence and civil rights in America. Perhaps all while they were stealing religious antiquities from Iraq.
What remains unclear is how the Greens came by the antiquities in the first place. Were they outright stolen? Or purchased in the black market, from some shady group? At best, the Greens are taking the cultural heritage of Iraq. At worst, the Greens are wittingly or unwittingly supporting some really bad actors over there.
Personally, I would usually think myself above this sort of finger pointing and eyebrow raising. But the Greens brought this on themselves, not simply by illegally importing antiquities from Iraq but by doing so while promoting themselves as pillars of moral values—and altering the entire legal precedent of the United States to impose their values on others. You know how they say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? Well, people who want to use their narrowly construed extremist religious views to deny basic reproductive rights to women shouldn’t flout the most universal of religious principles by stealing and lying.
By: Sally Kohn, The Daily Beast, October 27, 2015
“Fox News Wants Kids To Fear Muslims”: Don’t Confuse Children With Facts Or Valid Information They Haven’t Been Told By Fox News
It appears that Fox News is not content with just feeding anti-Muslim crap to its older-skewing audience and now wants schools to teach children to fear Muslims, too.
On Tuesday’s episode of the Fox News show Outnumbered, the brain trust gathered to express outrage that a Georgia public school was teaching students about Islam in a way they viewed as being far too positive.
Fox’s Keith Ablow demanded the young students be taught in world religion classes that Muslims want “to destroy the United States,” adding, “How can you leave that out?” Fox’s Harris Faulkner chimed in, “Why wouldn’t you teach it in the context of the headlines today?”
And Andrea Tantaros, who never misses the opportunity to up the hysteria, added that schools should teach students that Muslims have “been killing people for hundreds of years” and that they “have sought to destroy the West.”
So in sum, Fox News wants 11- and 12-year-old kids to learn about the best of the other faiths, but the worst about Islam. Unless, of course, these Fox hosts are truly arguing that the radicals of every faith should be taught to the kids as well.
For example, in discussing Christianity, the students would be taught about the Christian terrorists like the Army of God, “a network of violent Christianists” that openly promotes killing abortion providers like George Tiller, who was killed by a member of the group in 2009. They could also be taught about the Christian militiamen who are slaughtering Muslims in in the Central African Republic, including beheading a young Muslim man in that nation’s capital.
In teaching Judaism, the lesson plan would include the Jewish terrorists who just a few months ago burned down the famed “Loaves and Fishes” church in Israel. These Jewish radicals have also in recent years engaged in other attacks on Christian churches because they view anything that’s not Jewish in Israel as being idolatry, and as they put it, “idols will have their heads cut off.”
I’m sure that the Fox News types would object to a curriculum that included these radicals when teaching the basics of Christianity and Judaism. And they would be correct. The students should be taught about the mainstream beliefs and followers of each faith, especially when learning about these religions for the first time. By making radicals part of that lesson plan, however, they would be wrongly elevating these terrorists to the level of being a mainstream part of the religion. (Of course, incidents about religious extremism should be part of any current events curriculum.)
But the views of these Fox News personalities are almost tame when compared to some parents in states like Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida that are upset their children are learning anything about Islam. Greg Locke, a Tennessee pastor, was so outraged that students were being taught about Islam in world history class, he encouraged students last month to not do the assignments concerning Islam and instead “take an F because this history class is part of an ‘Islamic invasion.’” He also claimed that teaching kids about Islam was “absolute brainwashing” and declared, “We’re not going to stand for it.”
Likewise, a father in Georgia demanded last year that if students are taught about Islam, they must also be told about the Muslims he claims are “going around beheading people in America.”
Some parents didn’t expressly object to Islam being taught, but were concerned that Islam is being taught in school at the expense of Christianity. That sounds like a valid issue, but time and time again school officials have made it clear in these various states that Christianity and all other major religions are taught equally. In Georgia, for example, a school official explained that the curriculum on world religions has been the same for 30 years and teaches all major faiths in equal increments.
But the comment that probably best sums up how many of these parents feel comes from one in Georgia who stated: “I honestly don’t want my child learning about Islam at all.” And troublingly this sentiment is held by 44 percent of American adults who responded in a recent poll they don’t want to learn more about Islam. Apparently these people have learned all they need to know about Islam and aren’t open to changing their views. They don’t want to be confused with facts or valid information they haven’t been told by Fox News.
In a time when anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States is at record highs and with people like Donald Trump and Ben Carson ginning up the hate against Muslims, there was never a more urgent time for an accurate counter narrative to the scary images we see of terror groups like ISIS.
Thankfully, younger people have more positive view of Islam and Muslims than their older counterparts. In fact, a July poll found that 76 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds would support a Muslim for president. Sorry, Ben Carson.
The hope is that those older people who have concerns about Muslims will at least be open minded enough to have a discussion about the issue. But at the very least we shouldn’t prevent young Americans from learning about what mainstream Islam truly is, as opposed to what ISIS and al Qaeda want you to believe the faith is about. Why give these terrorist groups exactly what they want?
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, October 2, 2015
I try not to dip my brain too much into the toxic waste of anti-Islamic bigotry. But occasionally its purveyors profane the very memories they claim inspire them, as in this nasty piece of work from Carol Brown of The American Thinker, who manages to cheapen the legacy of 9/11 on 9/11:
It is now official. On Thursday the Senate let the Iran deal go through – a deal that will forever change the landscape of the world in terrifying and unthinkable ways. I need not enumerate how this collaboration with Iran (and it is a collaboration) will affect Israel, the Middle East, the United States, and indeed the entire world.
Readers know all too well.
And yet, you’d hardly know how our fate was sealed on Thursday. America’s alignment with the Nazis of the 21st century hardly made a dent in media coverage. Headlines appeared as they do on any other day.
[O]n Thursday, after Republican leaders spent months colluding with the Democrats, the Washington cartel ensured that our children and grandchildren will live in a world with a nuclear Iran.
In between profound sorrow, incredible dread, and blind rage, I find myself asking: Why?
Perhaps many elected officials don’t care about America, their oath of office, or our children. Apparently their allegiance to party and power trump concern for even their own children.
If reading this annoys you, be glad I left out the long, long quote from Mark Levin. But here’s the coda:
And so we now not only have a 9/11, but a 9/10 – when our leaders sold us down the river. Yet again. But this time the stakes are as high as they get.
People like Brown and Levin want, welcome, demand constant global war with Islam, and will accept nothing less (Brown has been singled out by the Anti-Defamation League for her “ugly rhetoric” about Musims). They should stay the hell away from the memorials to 9/11, since their joy over hatred and destruction is grossly inappropriate to the commemoration of innocents and those who died to in an effort to save them.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 11, 2015
Donald Trump’s first real interview on matters of foreign policy and national security clearly didn’t go well. Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt pressed the Republican frontrunner on a variety of key issues – the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, for example – and the GOP presidential candidate not only struggled, Trump dismissed the questions themselves as “ridiculous.”
The second-day question, of course, is whether a candidate’s ignorance has any effect on his or her standing. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), talking earlier to CNN, clearly hopes to make Trump’s difficulties as consequential as possible.
“If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you are not going to be able to serve as commander and chief,” Rubio told CNN in an interview here.
“This should be part of the reason why you are running because you understand the threats that the world is facing, you have deep understanding and you understand what to do about it,” Rubio added. “And if someone doesn’t, I think it is very concerning.”
At face value, there’s probably something to this. Even if someone were to give Trump the benefit of the doubt – maybe he confused the Quds Forces and the Kurds because it was a phone interview and he misheard the host – major-party presidential candidates should know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah. Heck, anyone who reads news articles once in a while about the Middle East should know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah.
If Rubio wants to make the case that interviews like the Trump-Hewitt exchange point to a candidate who’s probably unprepared for national office, it’s a credible message.
The trouble, however, is with the messenger.
Rubio, a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, is basing much of his campaign on his alleged expertise on international affairs. The far-right Floridian would love nothing more than to be seen as the candidate who has a “deep understanding” of “the threats that the world is facing.”
But Rubio has run into Trump-like problems of his own. Just last week, in a big speech on foreign policy, the GOP senator told an embarrassing whopper about military preparedness, touching on an issue Rubio should have understood far better.
In June, Rubio was asked about his approach towards Iraq. Told that his policy sounds like nation-building, the senator responded, “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”
Just this year, Rubio has flubbed the details of Iran’s Green Revolution. His criticisms on the Obama administration’s approach towards Israel were quickly discredited as nonsense. His statements of nuclear diplomacy were practically gibberish.
In the spring, Rubio had a memorable confrontation with Secretary of State John Kerry, which was a debacle – the senator stumbled badly on several key details, and Kerry made him look pretty foolish.
Soon after, Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that the Republican senator “should be embarrassed.” Swan added, “By his own standard that the next president have a ‘clear view of what’s happening in the world’ and a ‘practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs,’ Rubio fails the test.”
What’s more, as readers may recall, when Rubio has tried to articulate a substantive vision, he’s relied a little too heavily on shallow, bumper-sticker-style sloganeering, rather than actual policy measures. Rubio declared “our strategy” on national security should mirror Liam Neeson’s catchphrase in the film “Taken”: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”
Rubio said this morning, “If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then you are not going to be able to serve as commander and chief.” That may be true. But is there any reason to believe the Florida Republican knows the answer to these questions?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 4, 2015