Right-wing pundits are jumping all over Attorney General Eric Holder for daring to suggest on Sunday that “racial animus” plays a role in the “level of vehemence” that’s been directed at President Obama. They’re denouncing him for “playing the race card” and “stoking racial divisions.”
Who do they think they’re fooling?
The rhetoric is what’s hateful. Calling people out for it is not.
The racism Holder described has been obvious since the 2008 campaign, when Obama was portrayed as someone who was not a “real American” — a Muslim, a Kenyan, a communist, even a terrorist sympathizer.
Since then, an entire movement has been built around the thoroughly discredited notion that the president’s birth certificate is a fake. And that’s just the beginning.
Rush Limbaugh has said Obama — and Oprah Winfrey, too, by the way — have reached the pinnacle of their professions only because they’re black. He added this week that “so-called conservative media types” praised Holder’s nomination only because he’s black.
Glenn Beck has said the president, whose mother was white, has a “deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture.”
Conservative hero and former rock star Ted Nugent, who was invited to campaign with the GOP nominee for Texas governor, called the president a “subhuman mongrel.”
A Confederate flag was waved in front of the White House during last year’s “Million Vet March.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina screamed “You lie!” during the president’s address to Congress in September 2009. When has that happened to a president before?
All manner of overtly racist posters have been seen at tea party rallies, including one depicting the president as a “witch doctor.”
We’ve repeatedly seen stories about conservative politicians sharing racist jokes about Obama.
And, we’ve seen an explosive growth of radical-right groups, including armed militias, since Obama was elected, and repeated threats that violence is needed to “take our country back” from the “tyranny” of Obama. This is part of a backlash to the growing diversity in our country, as symbolized by the presence of a black man in the White House.
I grew up in rural Alabama during the Jim Crow years and lived through the civil rights movement, when white supremacists did everything they could, including committing violent atrocities, to turn back the tide of progress. And I’ve stared across the courtroom at some of America’s most vicious hatemongers — men like neo-Nazi Frazier Glenn Cross, who recently killed three people and once targeted me. I know racism when I see it.
No one, of course, is suggesting that merely disagreeing with Obama is evidence of racism. That’s clearly not true.
But we have a political party and a right-wing media machine that pander incessantly to the racist reactionaries in our society, often through code words. It’s been going on since Nixon implemented his “Southern strategy” of appealing to white resentment in the wake of the civil rights movement.
I wish it weren’t so. But it is simply undeniable. We should call it what it is.
By: Morris Dees, Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center; The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2014
“A Good Time To Count Our Blessings”: Imagine The Iraq Crisis–But With A GOP President At War With Iran
As Iraq spirals deeper into a sectarian crisis between an ineffectual Shi’ite government and radical Sunni militants, the importance of a grudging working relationship between the United States and Iran has never been of greater importance. Without some Iranian help, Iraq’s central government will likely fall apart and the nation will be overrun by extremists potentially as dangerous as Al Qaeda in Afghanistan ever was.
So today would be a good time to count our blessings that we do not have this man as president:
John McCain: “You know that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran? Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.”
Or this one:
Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said he would “bring the current policy of procrastination to an end.” “Hope is not a foreign policy,” Romney said. “The only thing respected by thugs and tyrants is our resolve.”
Or this one:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also addressing the group by satellite, said in his administration, “we would not keep talking while the Iranians keep building.” He said the “red line” was not when Iran was ready to detonate a nuclear bomb. “The red line is now” because the Iranians are “deepening their commitment to nuclear weapons while we talk,” Gingrich said. “It is an unacceptable risk.”
Here is what the President said after Romney, Gingrich and others were getting their war talk on:
“These folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities,” the president said. He said he was struck by the “casualness” of the way his political opponents talk about war. “I’m reminded of the costs involved in war.”
No kidding. If a Republican had been elected President in either 2008 or 2012, we would likely be at hot war with Iran by now or at the very least on the edge of it. This would have further weakened the Shi’ite position in Baghdad even as Syria devolved into the nightmare that has been helping to fuel ISIS, the Sunni extremists. The entire Middle East would be in abject chaos, with potentially nuclear consequences.
A McCain or Romney presidency would have been a foreign policy disaster that would have made George W. Bush look like a skilled statesman and general, and it would have cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of lives.
By: David Atkins, Political Animal, The Washington Times, June 28, 2014
The world is still coming to grips with the recent actions of Boko Haram, the Nigerian group responsible for kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls. The radical cult’s violence has been “too much” for fellow militants and jihadists, with even al Qaeda keeping its distance from the group.
This week, the scope of Boko Haram’s brutality came into even sharper focus.
Islamist insurgents have killed hundreds in a town in Nigeria’s northeast this week, the area’s senator, a resident and the Nigerian news media reported on Wednesday, as more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by the militants, known as Boko Haram, remained missing.
The latest attack, on Monday, followed a classic Boko Haram pattern: Dozens of militants wearing fatigues and wielding AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers descended on the town of Gamboru Ngala, chanting “Allahu akbar,” firing indiscriminately and torching houses. When it was over, at least 336 people had been killed and hundreds of houses and cars had been set on fire, said Waziri Hassan, who lives there, and Senator Ahmed Zanna.
The missing schoolgirls have grabbed the world’s attention, and more offers of help poured in to the Nigerian government on Wednesday from Britain, China and France. But Boko Haram’s deadly attack on Gamboru Ngala was similar to many others in the past several years that drew little or no notice beyond Nigeria. Bodies still lay in the street on Wednesday night, said Mr. Hassan, a cement salesman.
The scale of the violence and bloodshed is gut-wrenching, and by all appearances, intensifying.
And yet, as the world watches these events with horror, some American conservatives have decided to use this as an opportunity – to condemn Hillary Clinton.
I’ll confess that I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to exploit Boko Haram as a domestic partisan tool, but here we are.
Following the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls by terrorist group Boko Haram, right-wing media are rushing to smear former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not designating the group a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), insinuating that the kidnappings might have been prevented had the State Department issued the designation earlier. The baseless attack ignores the facts around FTO designations and foreign affairs.
The cast of “Fox & Friends” told viewers this morning that were it not for Hillary Clinton’s actions, we “could have saved these girls earlier.” National Review went with the tried and true “appeasing Islamists” line of criticism. In an apparent attempt at self-parody, Newt Gingrich today demanded congressional hearings to determine why Clinton’s State Department “refused to tell truth about radical Islamist Boko Haram.”
There’s something inherently troubling about a group of Americans who see a violent tragedy unfolding in Nigeria and, almost on instinct, begin looking for ways to use the developments for political advantage.
As for the substance, it’s true that the State Department declined to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization a few years ago, but as Hayes Brown explained very well, the reasoning matters.
“Designation is an important tool, it’s not the only tool,” a former State Department official told the Beast. “There are a lot of other things you can do in counterterrorism that doesn’t require a designation.” This includes boosting development aid to undercut the causes of unrest and deploying the FBI to assist in tracking down Boko Haram, both of which the U.S. actually did.
In addition, Clinton didn’t act in a vacuum to determine not to designate Boko Haram back in 2011. Scholars on Twitter who focus on the region, terrorism broadly, and Islamist groups in particular were quick to point out that not only were there few benefits and many possible costs to designation, many of them had argued against listing Boko Haram several years ago. In a letter to the State Department dated May 2012, twenty prominent African studies scholars wrote Clinton to implore her to hold off on placing Boko Haram on the FTO list. Acknowledging the violence Boko Haram had perpetrated, the academics argued that “an FTO designation would internationalize Boko Haram, legitimize abuses by Nigeria’s security services, limit the State Department’s latitude in shaping a long term strategy, and undermine the U.S. Government’s ability to receive effective independent analysis from the region.”
For the record, in 2013, the State Department reached the conclusion that the designation could no longer be delayed and Boko Haram was added to the list of entities considered by the United States to be a foreign terrorist organization.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 8, 2014
Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller said what’s been said countless times and worse acted on by the GOP countless times. That is that more than a few of their numbers have reflexively dithered, delayed, and flat-out tried to torpedo every policy initiative or piece of legislation that President Obama has backed solely as Rockefeller said, “because he’s the wrong color.” Rockefeller should know. He sits on a number of Senate committees and subcommittees and he’s undoubtedly seen and heard the blatant displays of not-so-subtle bigotry from more than a few of his GOP congressional adversaries. But Rockefeller is only the latest political luminary to state the obvious. Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist bluntly told an interviewer that he got out of the GOP because of its open hostility to Obama. Crist made sure that he meant hostility based not on legitimate political disagreements but on race when he specifically referred to Obama as the “African-American President.”
The relentless racial hostility toward Obama goes far beyond simply the routine racial lampooning and mocking of Obama in grotesque signs, posters, chants and harangues by loose-hinged tea party elements and unreconstructed bigots. It has been subtly stoked and orchestrated by the GOP with the clear political aim of disrupting, destabilizing and rendering politically impotent Obama’s program, initiatives and proposed legislation.
The final presidential vote in 2008 gave plenty of warning of the lethalness of the GOP’s core conservative white constituency when aroused. Overall, Obama garnered slightly more than 40 percent of the white male vote. Among Southern and Heartland America white male voters, Obama made almost no impact. The only thing that even made Obama’s showing respectable in those states was the record turnout and percentage of black votes that he got. They were all Democratic votes.
A Harvard post-election assessment of the 2008 presidential vote found that race did factor into the presidential election and that it cost Obama an added three to five percent of the national popular vote. Put bluntly, if Obama had been white the election would have been a route. During the GOP presidential primary campaign, GOP presidential candidates made sure of that with the stream of race-tinged references Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney made to food stamps, welfare, work ethics and an entitlement society. Then there were the racially-loaded newsletters from Ron Paul that resurfaced. The candidates when challenged ducked, dodged and denied any racial intent, or in the case of Paul’s newsletter, that he even penned them.
His 2012 reelection victory gave even more warning that little had changed. In fact, it got worse, he got a smaller percentage of the overall white vote than he did in 2008, and that included a small but significant defection of younger white voters who backed him in 2008.
There has not been a moment that has gone by that top GOP congressional leaders have not called Obama out on some issue. The framing of their criticism has not been polite, gentlemanly or exhibited the traditional courtesy and respect for the office of the presidency. This has done much to create a climate of distrust and vilification that has made it near legitimate, even expected, that Obama be heckled. The GOP’s official heckling has taken many forms, all mean-spirited and petty, rather than purely the customary expression of opposition to policies that clashing political parties and their leaders show toward each other.
The near textbook example of how the GOP has subtly used race to sledge hammer Obama has been its take-no-prisoners drumbeat attack on Attorney General Eric Holder. He’s been called on the GOP congressional carpet in countless hearings, and pilloried, insulted, and abused for every concocted sin from his alleged master mind bungling of the fast and furious gun sting to his supposed politicizing of the Justice Department. The attacks have all been punctuated by screams for his resignation or firing. Holder is not just a convenient surrogate punching bag for Obama. He is the one top administration official who’s not afraid to punch back at the GOP for its blatant play of the race card. He’s as much said so and this has only made his inquistors even more manic in their racial assault on Obama vis-a-vis Holder.
The GOP also in a cynical, thinly transparent move has even tried to turn the racial tables on Obama by tarring him as the race divider and baiter. His lambaste of the GOP at a keynote speech at Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention in April for doing everything humanly possible to subvert voting rights through its endless legislative ploys and constructing every obstacle it can to enforcement was the opening needed to use this tact. It won’t be the last time for this.
Which just proves again that Rockefeller and Crist as so many others before them got it right. For many in the GOP, Obama is simply the wrong color and that won’t change.
By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, The Huffington Post Blog, May 8, 2014
It’s been called “the most dangerous threat to American sovereignty”; “An anti-human document, which takes aim at Western culture, and the Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions,” that will bring “new Dark Ages of pain and misery yet unknown to mankind,” and “abolish golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads,” in the name of creating a “one-world order.”
It’s been the subject of several forewarning books and DVDs; there are organizations dedicated to stopping it and politicians have been unseated for supporting it. Glenn Beck has spent a good portion of his career making people scared of it.
Not sure what it is? You’re not alone.
The Daily Beast got a sneak peek at a new report by Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights group, which deconstructs the mythology of Agenda 21 and the organizations, individuals, and even elected officials who’ve spent years promulgating the conspiracy theory surrounding it.
Before diving into the fiction that has inflated Agenda 21 to fear mongering status, we must first understand the facts. What, exactly, is Agenda 21?
While the name might sound a bit ominous, Agenda 21 is a voluntary action plan that offers suggestions for sustainable ways local, state and national governments can combat poverty and pollution and conserve natural resources in the 21st century. (That’s where the ’21’ comes from. Get it?) 178 governments—including the U.S. led by then-President George H.W. Bush—voted to adopt the program which is, again, not legally binding in any way, at the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
It wasn’t long after Agenda 21 was introduced that right wing opposition began to swirl. The SPLC points to Tom DeWeese as one of the first to pounce on the U.N. plan. In 1998 DeWeese founded the American Policy Center, a group based in Remington, Virginia that focuses on “environmental policy and its effect on private property rights” and “the United Nations and its effect on American national sovereignty.” The SPLC report quotes DeWeese as describing Agenda 21 as a “blueprint to turn your community into a little soviet,” promoted by non-governmental organizations that pressure governments to enforce it. According to DeWeese, “It all means locking away land, resources, higher prices, sacrifice and shortages and is based on the age old socialist scheme of redistribution of wealth.”
DeWeese has continued to deride the dangers of Agenda 21 well into the 21st Century, making appearances on Fox News and fitting in nicely with the Tea Party movement. The American Policy Center was just the first of many anti-Agenda 21 organizations to spring up in the past 15 or so years and the SPLC points out the 11 most pervasive.
To those who don’t closely follow the carryings on of fringe conspiracists, Glenn Beck might be the most recognizable face of the modern Anti-21 movement. Particularly during his reign at Fox News, Beck used his cable TV soapbox to scare his loyal viewers. “Those pushing…government control on a global level have mastered the art of hiding it in plain sight and then just dismissing it as a joke,” the SPLC quotes Beck saying around 2011 while waving a copy of the 294-page Agenda 21 document on his show. “Once they put their fangs into our communities and suck all the blood out of it [sic], we will not be able to survive.”
Never one to miss an opportunity to cash on in people’s fears, Beck published a dystopian science fiction novel in 2012 called Agenda 21, about a version of America where mating partners are arranged, children are raised away from their parents in group homes, and the book’s heroine spends hours walking on a sort of treadmill that generates energy in an apartment in a planned community. In the book’s afterword, Beck warns, “[I]f the United Nations in partnership with radical environmental activists and naive local governments get their way, then the themes explored in this novel may start to look very familiar, very quickly.”
But while Glenn Beck can technically be dismissed as nothing more than a fringe figure, a conspiratorial talking head—no matter how large his audience may be—the elected officials who have taken a similarly strong stance against Agenda 21 cannot. In the report, the SPLC points out Newt Gingrich, who said he would “explicitly repudiate” the plan if elected president during his 2012 White House bid; Oklahoma Sen. Sally Kern and Arizona state Sen. Judy Burges who both introduced anti-Agenda 21 legislation that ultimately failed; and former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers who “organized a four-hour, closed-door anti-Agenda briefing in October 2012” during which “attendees were told President Obama was using ‘mind control’ techniques to push land use planning, and that the U.N. planned to force Americans from suburbs into cities and also was implementing mandatory contraception to curb population growth.” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has claimed that Agenda 21 sought to abolish “golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads.”
And as recently as 2012, the SPLC writes, the Republican National Committee’s platform included the line, “We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty.”
Several anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi groups have also jumped on the anti-Agenda 21 bandwagon, seizing the opportunity to blame the controversial document on none other than the Jews.
“Anti-Semitism is basically a conspiracy theory,” the American Jewish Committee’s Ken Stern told the SPLC. He explains how neo-Nazis have linked Agenda 21 to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a falsified document that is alleged to reveal a secret Jewish plot to take over the world. “It’s Jews conspiring to harm non-Jews, and that conspiracy explains a lot of what goes wrong with the world,” Stern said.
To be sure, not all of Agenda 21’s opponents are on the far right of the political spectrum. The group Democrats Against U.N. Agenda 21 hosted a conference on the plan in California in 2011. Its founder, “self-described lesbian feminist Rosa Koire,” wrote the book Behind the Green Mask: U.N. Agenda 21, which claims the the plan will ultimately lead to the U.S.’s economic demise.
In fact, the anti-Semitic crowd’s interest in the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory sort of explains why it appeals to all of its followers, regardless of political leanings.
“Any time you get some sort of UN program that suggests any kind of change in the way people live, even if it seems outwardly benign and even voluntary, it’s going to be taken up by people with a conspiracist bent,” Michael Barkun, a Syracuse University political scientist and scholar of conspiracy theories, told the SPLC.
At this point in the explanation, it bears asking whether any of this matters. Is the federal government—or any state or local subsidiaries—even considering implementing any of the plan’s suggestions for sustainable development? The SPLC report states plainly: “For all the agitation, it’s not clear.” 98 percent of people who responded to a June 2012 poll by the American Planning Association said they didn’t know enough about Agenda 21 to support or oppose it. Six percent said they were against it, while nine percent stated that they were in favor.
The SPLC does note that some politicians, like Chattanooga, Tennessee Mayor Ron Littlefield, have denounced the anti-Agenda 21 conspiracists as modern-day Joseph McCarthy’s who will finally tire the public with their scare tactics. Still, they write, “an enormous number of politicians, commentators, activists, conspiracy theorists and others have swallowed the story of the anti-Agenda 21 zealots making any kind of rational discussion of the environment and related issues extremely difficult.”
“And that is the basic problem,” the report continues. “Dealing with the serious problems that confront our nation and our planet becomes incredibly difficult when the public discussion is poisoned with groundless conspiracy theories.”
By: Caitlin Dickson, The Daily Beast, April 13, 2014