You have to hand it to Rand Paul. With an investment of 13 hours of his time earlier this week, the junior Senator from Kentucky (a) became the national hero of the conservative movement; (b) helped detoxify his position on national security and civil liberties issues, his (and his father’s) weak point with more conventional Republicans; (c) intimidated most other GOPers, including the senior senator from Kentucky, the ostensible leader of all Senate Republicans, into following his lead; and (d) made a strong initial bid to emulate John McCain’s old ability to stimulate admiration from people on the other side of the partisan and ideological spectrum. That McCain was largely isolated, along with his amiguito Lindsey Graham, in criticizing Paul made the whole thing even sweeter for the guy who came to the Senate bearing the family reputation for incorrigible crankiness.
By the end of his filibuster, Paul had the RNC chairman and McConnell himself (see this interesting backstory on that phenomenon from National Journal‘s Shane Goldmacher and Beth Reindard) eating out of his hand. And lefty admiration of Paul became so robust that Adele Stan felt compelled to remind progressives of everything horrific about the man and his motives.
On top of everything else, as I fretted yesterday, Paul had rekindled the Romance of the Filibuster, precisely at the time we needed to get rid of it. Not a bad day’s work for a guy so fresh from the fever swamps that you could probably smell the sulphur on him right there on the Senate floor.
David Frum, for whom Paul’s sudden hyper-respectability is very bad news, summed up the Rand-o-Fest pretty well:
Paul’s filibuster ostensibly dealt only with a very remote hypothetical contingency: targeted killings on American soil of Americans who present no imminent threat to national security. Paul insisted that all the harder questions be taken off the table. He had (he said) no issue with a targeted killing on American soil of an American who did present an imminent threat. He avoided the issue of the targeted killings of Americans outside the United States – i.e., the actual real-world problem at hand.
Instead, Paul invoked a nightmare out of a dystopian future: an evil future president shooting a missile at an American having coffee in a neighborhood cafe, merely on suspicion, without any due process of law….
Paul emerges from a milieu in which far-fetched scenarios don’t seem far-fetched at all. Paul specifically mentioned the possibility of a democratically elected Adolph Hitler like figure coming to power in the United States. Looming federal tyranny – against which the only protection is an armed citizenry – is a staple item in the Rand Paul inventory of urgent concerns.
Most Republican senators don’t share this nightmarish vision of their country, thank goodness. But they do answer to an activist base that shares a nightmarish vision of President Obama. Rand Paul stipulated that he did not intend his remarks about a Hitler-like president to apply to the present president. But he must have a pretty fair idea of what his core constituency hears when he talks about looming tyranny – and so of course must the Republican senators who joined him at the rostrum.
They saw Rand Paul’s Twitter following jump. Perhaps they sensed a great fundraising bonanza at hand. Where Rand Paul led, other Republicans followed: some out of conviction, some out of opportunism, and some out of fear.
And thus conservatives followed Paul the Younger onto the quicksand of his broader ideology, which for the most part is in the mainstream of the John Birch Society. This is not what the GOP needs right now.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 8, 2013
“Conservative Paranoid Fantasies”: The Return Of Right-Wing Insurrectionism, This Time Featuring Hitler
What is it about President Obama’s inaugurations that bring out the craziest of the right-wing crazies?
Four years ago, Obama’s historic swearing-in sparked months’ worth of teeth-chattering paranoia, trumpeted by the conservative media, about how the new Democratic president posed a mortal threat to America and that drastic action might need to be taken.
In 2009, a far-right Newsmax columnist determined that a “military coup “to resolve the ‘Obama problem’” was not “unrealistic.” That’s about the same time Glenn Beck used his then-new program on Fox News to game out bloody scenarios for the coming civil war against the Obama-led tyranny. Note that the armed rebellion rhetoric was uncorked just weeks after Obama’s first cabinet had been confirmed.
Now, four years later as Obama’s second swearing-in approaches, the same misguided insurrectionist pageantry is back on display. (The fringe John Birch Society is probing the likelihood of “armed resistance” against the government — “an unlikely prospect, for now at least.”) And this time, Adolf Hitler stars in a leading role.
In fact, there’s a disturbing collision now underway featuring two signature, conservative paranoid fantasies. One holds that Obama is like Hitler; that he’s a tyrant ready to undo democracy at home. The other is that Americans need access to an unregulated supply of assault weapons in order to fight their looming insurrectionist war with the government.
In the last week we’ve heard more and more conservatives try to tie the two wild tales together: Obama’s allegedly pending gun grab will prove he’s just like Hitler, which will demonstrate the need for citizens to declare war on the government.
Ignoring nearly 250 years of our democratic history, conservative voices across the media landscape have been nodding their heads in agreement suggesting it’s only a matter of time before the United States resembles a tyrannical dictatorship that will be either fascistic or Stalinist in nature (or both, if the rhetorician feels no obligation to historical accuracy).
So much for the notion of American exceptionalism — “the conviction that our country holds a unique place and role in human history” — that conservatives love to preach.
The latest round of right-wing Obama panic was prompted by the Newtown, CT, school massacre. In its wake, Obama is reportedly ready to initiate efforts to curb gun violence, including possibly using executive orders. Simply the idea of instituting common sense gun reform, among other public policy issues, has sparked violent rhetoric about war and sedition early in the new year.
Fox’s Todd Starnes warned there would “a revolution” if the government tries to “confiscate our guns.” Fox News contributor Arthur Herman declared the U.S. is “one step closer” to a looming “civil war,” while fellow contributor Pat Caddell claimed the country was in a “pre-revolutionary condition,” and “on the verge of an explosion.”
And on his syndicated radio show last week, Sean Hannity speculated that states will move to secede should the “radicalized, abusive federal government” continue on its current path, and that they’d be justified in doing so.
Who’s to blame? Obama and Hilter.
Fox News’ Dr. Keith Ablow insisted history‘s filled with examples of leaders who confiscated guns as a precursor to “catastrophic abuses” of power: “One need look no further than Nazi Germany.” Fox’s Judge Andrew Napolitano made the same connection, while a Kentucky radio host compared firearm regulations to Nazi “yellow star” laws.
That’s the hook for the latest insurrectionist rants: If Obama’s going to act like Hitler, then of course right-wing gun owners are going to wage war.
Appearing on Piers Morgan Tonight last week, and after admitting he didn’t know that Ronald Reagan had supported an assault weapons ban, Breitbart.com editor Ben Shapiro stuck to his claim that the gun debate in this country is really about “the left and the right” because the right understands Americans have to arm themselves with assault weapons to defend against the United States government [emphasis added]:
SHAPIRO: I told you, why the general population of America, law-abiding citizens, need AR-15s.
MORGAN: Why do they need those weapons?
SHAPIRO: They need them for the prospective possibility for the resistance of tyranny. Which is not a concern today, it may not be a concern tomorrow.
MORGAN: Where do you expect tyranny to come from?
SHAPIRO: It could come from the United States, because governments have gone tyrannical before, Piers.
MORGAN: So the reason we cannot remove assault weapons is because of the threat of your own government turning on you in a tyrannical way.
The right is stockpiling weapons because the U.S. government might go Nazi and declare war on a portion of its own people. And when the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines unleash their unmatched firepower on citizens, “the right” intends to be fully armed with AR-15s to fight a war within the U.S. borders.
That is the reason the Second Amendment exists? It’s not for everyday self-defense, or to protect the rights of hunters and gun enthusiasts, but to enable citizens to go to war with the U.S. government? To fend off a “tyrannical” turn at home. At least according to Shapiro’s keen take on history.
That’s what was “debated” on CNN last week. Not once but twice.
From conspiracy professional Alex Jones and his CNN harangue on January 7:
Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Chavez took the guns!” Jones ranted. “And I am here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!
We already knew from 2009 that far-right voices were fretting about the need for a citizen’s militia to stop Obama’s destructive ways. Now four years later, with gun control initiatives pending, the frantic rants have escalated and Obama’s fiercest critics are rationalizing their insurrectionist chants by comparing the presidents actions to those of Hitler. The comparison isn’t just offensive, it’s also inaccurate: the Nazis actually loosened restrictions on private gun ownership (except for Jews and other persecuted groups).
That kind of ugliness not only pollutes our public dialogue, it also gives comfort to gun radicals who embrace the rhetoric. In early 2009, fearing what a friend described as “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way,” conspiracy nut (and Alex Jones fan) Richard Poplawski lured three Pittsburgh policemen to his apartment, then shot and killed them at his front door.
All the right-wing chatter today about how Obama’s following Hitler’s lead by allegedly voiding the Second Amendment only adds fuel to an unwanted fire.
By: Eric Boehlert, The Huffington Post, January 14, 2013
When James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, looks at the Tea Party today, he flashes back to 1964 and sees the John Birch Society.
“The Tea Party, these right wingers are basically the modern-day John Birch Society,” he told U.S. News. “They are being extremists.”
The John Birch Society gained traction in the early 60s with its vehemently anti-communist rhetoric and distrust in government.
Hoffa says just like in the early 60s when the John Birch Society pushed for Barry Goldwater, who was the more conservative candidate, to be the Republican presidential nominee, the Tea Party has forced the GOP further to the right.
“It’s just like in 1964 when Goldwater ran against Johnson and the John Birch society was calling the shots.”
Hoffa says the strong voice of the Tea Party in Congress has forced the Republican leadership to ignore party centrists, which ultimately could put Republicans at risk among the general electorate this November.
“These people are so far to the right that they are putting themselves off of the field,” Hoffa says.”The Republican party and the Romney, Ryan combo have veered so far to the right that they have lost their credibility on almost any issue.”
But while Hoffa insists their ideas are too radical for the country, the one advantage that the Republicans have these days, Hoffa says is a financial one.
Hoffa argues the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case, which allowed people to donate unlimited amounts of campaign cash in the name of free speech, gave Republicans an edge and left the party vulnerable to being held hostage to radical far-right interests.
“We cannot have one person underwriting an entire campaign,” Hoffa says.
Republicans have countered the argument by accusing the Teamsters of dumping millions into elections on behalf of Democrats.
According to the Sunlight Foundation, a group that tracks election spending, public sector unions alone have spent $139 million in the election so far.
While the Teamsters are big donors, Hoffa says it’s an unfair comparison.
“There is no million dollar guy on the Teamsters giving money,” he says. “Everyone puts in $50 or $20 and they find a way to get the job done.”
By: Lauren Fox, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, September 4, 2012
This will not be Mitt Romney’s first Republican National Convention. Forty-eight years ago this summer, 17-year-old Mitt went with his father, Michigan Governor George Romney, to the party’s 1964 convention in San Francisco. As the party prepared to nominate Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for the presidency, and to embrace a platform that was even more extreme in its positions than those taken by its standard-bearer, Mitt watched as his father fought a valiant battle to prevent the party’s lurch to the right.
It was a battle of ideology, idealism and honor. George Romney, a committed supporter of the struggle for racial justice that he traced to Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, believed that Goldwater’s opposition to federal civil rights legislation meant that the presumptive nominee’s “views deviate as indicated from the heritage of our party.” He argued that the party needed to fully embrace the civil rights struggle and to explicitly reject the extremism of far-right groups such as the John Birch Society.
“There is no place in either of our parties for the purveyors of hate,” George Romney argued to no avail. The Republican Party rejected platform planks proposed by the elder Romney and the moderate wing of the Republican Party and went all-in for extremism. With that, he walked out of the convention, displaying the resolve that would lead the future president of the United States, Gerald Ford, to say “(George Romney) has never let the temporary glitter of expediency obscure the path which his integrity dictated he must follow.”
Even allowing for the overheated rhetoric of nominating speakers, there will be no such pronouncements this year regarding Mitt Romney. Nor will there be any meaningful efforts to dial back the extremism of a platform that one of its drafters, Oregon delegate and Tea Party activist Russ Walker, says “appears to be the most conservative platform in modern history.” The Washington Times echoed that assessment, as Republican U.S. Senate candidates such Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Laura Lingle of Hawaii scrambled to distance themselves from a platform defined by its:
* no-exceptions approach to abortion and a “personhood” section that seeks “legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children”
* militant opposition to marriage equality and a refusal even to acknowledge civil unions
* call for limiting the role of women in the military
* celebrations of election suppression schemes such as Voter ID laws and proof-of-citizenship requirements
* endorsement of Arizona-style anti-immigration laws
* support for overriding popular democracy and local lawmaking in the District of Columbia
* proposal to constitutionally restrict the ability of Congress to write budgets, with “exceptions for only war and national emergencies”
* pining for a return to the Gold Standard
* full embrace of soon-to-be vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s proposals to begin the process of undermining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — along lines advocated in 1964 by Goldwater but opposed by George Romney.
Unlike his father, Mitt Romney will make no effort to guide his party back toward the mainstream. The man who just a decade ago was identified as the brave new champion of the centrism, even liberalism, that his father once espoused will make no demand for moderation. There will be no stance on principle. No show of integrity.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus admits that the platform is frequently at odds with Mitt Romney’s stated positions — if not with those of Paul Ryan. “This is the platform of the Republican Party; it’s not the platform of Mitt Romney,” says Priebus.
But isn’t Mitt Romney effectively the leader of the Republican Party at this point, in the same sense that Barack Obama is (as Republicans so frequently suggest) the leader of the Democratic Party? Why isn’t Romney exercising leadership? Why isn’t he saying that he will not run on a platform that is at odds with his stated positions on critical social policy, economic policy and international policy issues? Why isn’t he objecting to stances that “deviate… from the heritage of our party”?
The answer is not that Romney, who once declared “I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush,” who began his own political career as an enthusiastic supporter of abortion rights and gay rights, whose Massachusetts health-care reforms laid the groundwork for “Obamacare,” is some kind of right-wing purist.
Romeny’s lack of a coherent conservatism going into the 2012 race is what scared conservatives so much that they supported, literally, Anyone-But-Romney — from Michele Bachmann to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum. Ultimately, Romney bent enough to the demands of the right to secure the nomination. And he threw conservatives a bigger bone with the selection of House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, who is a true believer, as the party’s vice presidential nominee.
It is that determination to make himself acceptable to the right that distinguishes Mitt Romney from his father. And it is what would distinguish a Romney-Ryan presidency, were the ticket to prevail in November.
Mitt Romney defers to the extremism that George Romney battled as a matter of principle. Where George Romney defended the heritage of a great American political party, Mitt Romney will this week “let the temporary glitter of expediency obscure the path which his integrity dictated he must follow.”
By: John Nichols, The Nation, August 27, 2012
In the cliché of the season, Mitt Romney is supposed to be executing a graceful “pivot” away from the grating extremist stupidity of the Republican primaries, the better to persuade us that he really is a Massachusetts moderate, or a moderate conservative – or at least something less repellent to independent voters than a Tea Party yahoo. He stumbled in mid-pivot, however, when a woman posing a question to him at a Cleveland event on Monday said President Obama “should be tried for treason,” and Romney acted as if he didn’t hear her slur.
The presumptive nominee told reporters afterward that “of course” he didn’t agree with the woman’s remark — as if he had failed to check a box on a form — but his alibi was too late and much too little. When someone slanders the President of the United States as a traitor, the responsible reaction is to respond loudly and forthrightly. Shrinking from the duty to correct the extremism of your own supporters, as Senator John McCain did without hesitation four years ago, is yet another sign of weak character and poor judgment.
Romney’s instinct is to appease the same far right forces that his father George and other conscientious Mormons broke with many years ago, although such fringe ideological obsessions held sway at the highest levels of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. He is entirely familiar with the John Birch Society paranoia and white supremacist bigotry that notoriously defaced Mormonism in those times, both of which exert an unwholesome influence on Tea Party Republicans today. Somehow, he cannot bring himself to speak up when confronted with that old nightmare mentality.
Instead Romney consistently seeks to ingratiate himself with anyone who expresses a distaste for Obama, no matter how demented. The same scenario has recurred again and again, as it did in the town of Bexley, Ohio in early March, where a man who claimed to have a concealed-carry permit asked whether the former Massachusetts governor will “allow me to keep my gun and protect myself and my family and my home and not come and get my gun? Because I want to keep it to protect myself and my wife and my family — and against a tyrannical government, which I think we are approaching and we are in, very close.”
While blandly answering that he “believes in the Second Amendment,” Romney failed to reassure this poor character that we are not, in fact, on the brink of tyranny. Is that what he believes? Of course not, he would reply – but why should he be expected to forfeit some crank’s vote by standing up for decent discourse?
The problem is not that Romney is missing opportunities to reach the benighted yahoos in his party, who are mostly beyond reason. It is that he lacks the fortitude to do so when he thinks honor and honesty might cost him. And it means that if the cranks continue to dominate Congress, as they do now, no moderating voice will emanate from a scared and silent Romney White House.
By: Joe Canason, The National Memo, May 5, 2012