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CPAC: The Delicate Dance Of Disassociating Oneself From “White Nationalist” Groups

Although much of the attention is on the main stage at each year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, it’s the side events where the real kookiness occurs. These events can give CPAC organizers and attendees a headache as they try to walk the line between accepting certain groups under the umbrella of the conservative movement, but also trying to make it clear they don’t want to associate themselves with some of those groups’ more questionable qualities.

Take for instance a session on the dangers of multiculturalism, that included participants from the website VDARE, which has been labeled as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Rep. Steve King was one of those who had to walk the fine line. When questioned about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s description of his fellow panelists he first reacted by going on the offensive. “I wouldn’t be sitting up on a panel with anyone from the Southern Poverty Law Center,” King told reporters. “I’m not in a position to judge people in the fashion they seem to be so free to do.”

However, King then danced a delicate series of mental pirouettes. He explained his respect for VDARE’s top dog, Peter Brimelow, while holding back from a full-on embrace. Brimelow, he said, was not someone he’d met before the panel, though he had read his books.

“I just remember I’ve read his books and I put his name in my memory, and I just remember that his rationale was a rationale that I could track and I’m glad we have his voice,” he said in response to a journalist’s question about the pair’s relationship. Meanwhile, CPAC seemed to keep their distance, with a spokeswoman directing the Daily Caller’s Alex Pappas to the sponsoring organization for comment and pointing out that it wasn’t organized by the American Conservative Union.

The host of the event was officially the group ProEnglish, and their executive director, Robert Vandervoort. CPAC opened itself up to criticism in giving him a platform as well, given that he “was also the organizer of the white nationalist group, Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance” according to the Institute for Research on Education and Human Rights.

Still, at least they got some thanks. Vandervoort praised the leaders of CPAC for “for standing up to the leftist thugs who wish to shut down this conference and our freedoms of speech and assembly.”

The panel discussion itself focused on the idea that multiculturalism and making accommodations for non-English speakers so they can do things like vote or get a public education, was a terrible thing for America to do.

Dr. Rosalie Porter, chairwoman of the board of ProEnglish and a former bilingual teacher who now thinks of bilingual education as an “insane idea,” said that part of multiculturalism is “the idea that every culture is equally valid, and one must never be judgmental and one must not say anything critical about a culture.”

Brimelow said bilingualism was “about the distribution of power in the society” and “the determination of the elites not to press immigrants to assimilate.” King was late for the panel and wasn’t even on the program, but he blended right in when he showed up, calling English the language of “success” and asking why the left was “obsessed” with multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism has even infected Republicans in the House, according to King. He recalled how an unnamed Republican leader wouldn’t let him be the floor manager of a bill he sponsored to make English the official language of the United States because he wasn’t an immigrant.

“I wanted to bring it up in the House, I was in a perfect position to do so, I had all the co-sponsors, I had worked it, I had earned it and the timing was right politically, and the answer that I got was ‘we’re looking for someone who is an immigrant or the son or daughter of an immigrant to be the floor manager of the bill’,” King said. “And the answer that I gave that unnamed leader was ‘I don’t think much of your affirmative action plan to select floor managers of bills.’ And so there’s a fear of criticism.”


By: Ryan J. Reilly, Talking Points Memo, February 11, 2012

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “Mau-Mauing” Of Mitt Romney

With Mitt Romney showing vulnerability yet again, it’s an interesting time to study the behavior of Republican elites. Most of them swarmed all over Newt Gingrich and denounced him as unacceptable after the South Carolina primary, when Gingrich had a window to win Florida and seize command of the race. In the course of doing so, many of them offered some kind words for Rick Santorum, who at the time was an also-ran. But you’re not seeing Party leaders try to rally around Santorum as the alternative to Romney. Instead they’re trying to jack up Romney for more policy concessions.

Romney’s plan for his campaign against Barack Obama is simple, and rooted in a clear-eyed reading of the data. He has one enormous asset, which is that Obama presided over an economic crisis. He wants to run against that. He does not want to run a campaign comparing the Republican vision to Obama’s vision, because Obama is both personally more popular than the Republicans, and his ideas are, in general, more popular as well. The House Republican budget is filled with wildly unpopular ideas — cutting taxes for the rich, privatizing and cutting Medicare, and deregulating Wall Street and the health insurance industry. Romney has endorsed the budget, which is now party scripture, but he does not want to run on it.

Conservative Republicans want to make sure that Romney isn’t just telling them what they want to hear only to get into office and govern the way he governed in Massachusetts. So they’re mau-mauing him, raking him over the coals for his timidity, and trying to force him to commit himself more publicly and openly to their agenda. The Wall Street Journal editorial page takes Romney to task today for proposing to index the minimum wage to inflation. (The minimum wage is set by law at a fixed dollar amount, so over time inflation erodes its value unless Congress passes regular increases.) Conservatives urge him to box out Santorum by adopting more right-wing position:

“There is not exactly Romney-mania right now,” Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl told POLITICO, adding that the former Massachusetts governor “absolutely” must shore up the weaknesses with the GOP base that were on such vivid display Tuesday.

“Playing it safe, which Romney tends to do, is not going to get it for him,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a 2008 Romney supporter and a leading voice of his party’s conservative bloc, who called the results this week “a signal.”

And Paul Ryan, in a speech tonight to the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual Washington crazy-fest, prods Romney to abandon his strategy of running against Obama simply on the theme that the economy stinks:

I know there are people in this town who are terrified at the prospect of an election with real alternative visions at stake. “Make it a referendum. Win by default,” they say. “Just oppose — we can win that way. Don’t propose bold ideas — that’s too risky.” I’ll admit, the easy way is always tempting. But my friends, if that’s all we stand for, then what are we doing at here CPAC — the place where so many giants of our movement came to advance their boldest ideas?  The next President will face fiscal and economic challenges that are huge, almost unprecedented. He can’t resolve these challenges if he wins by default. He needs a mandate — not just to displace Barack Obama, but to preserve and strengthen the very Idea of America.

This is, in fact, horrible advice. The bad economy is the only reason Republicans have a chance to defeat Obama in 2012, and Romney elevating the profile of Ryan’s ideas would be Obama’s best chance of hanging on if the recovery is still limping in November. Romney can still implement Ryan’s ideas if he wins without a mandate — look at George W. Bush in 2000, running as a compassionate, bipartisan critic of the GOP Congress, losing the popular vote, and implementing his agenda anyway.

I suspect conservatives don’t actually believe Romney needs to campaign on their ideas in order to implement them. They’d be perfectly happy with him running a stealth campaign, winning by being the out-party during a recession, and then implementing an agenda he soft-pedaled during the campaign. What they want is to ensure that Romney will really do it. So they’re trying to force him to shout it rather than whisper it. Once he wins the nomination, they’ll have no more leverage, so this is the time to make him do it.


By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, February 9, 2012

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Blessed Are The Tweakers”: The Battle Behind The Contraception Fight

It’s not really about birth control.

As you probably heard, President Obama changed the new rules on health care coverage to accommodate howls of outrage from the Catholic bishops, who didn’t want Catholic institutions paying for anything that provided women with free contraceptives.

Now, they can get a pass. But if their health policies don’t provide the coverage, their female employees will be able to get it anyway, directly from the insurance companies, which will pay the freight. Contraceptives are a win-win for them, since they’re much cheaper than paying for unintended pregnancies and deliveries.

Was it a cave, tweak or compromise? President Obama thinks of himself as a grand bargain kind of guy, but he really strikes me as the kind of person who will, when possible, go for the tweak.

Anyhow, it’s a good tweak. The women still get contraception coverage, the president has shown his respect for the bishops’ strong moral position.

Let’s skip over the flaws in the strong moral position position. Such as the fact that many states already require employers’ health care plans to cover contraception and that all over the United States there are Catholic universities and hospitals that comply.

Or that the bishops have totally failed to convince their own faithful that birth control is a moral evil and now appear to be trying to get the federal government to do the job for them. We’re rising above all that.

On Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the tweak “a first step in the right direction,” which is certainly better than nothing. Sister Carol Keehan, the head of the 600-plus-member umbrella group for Catholic hospitals, applauded the change.

So far so good. Everybody happy?

No way.

Rick Santorum, Presidential Candidate On The Move, was unimpressed. At the White House, he said, they were still “trying to impose their values on somebody else.” Imposing your values on somebody else is definitely an area where Santorum is expert.

The leader of the Republican Study Committee, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, called the tweak a “fig leaf,” which he seemed to regard as a bad thing.

Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican and leader of the House anti-abortion forces, said the latest announcement demonstrated that the president “will use force, coercion and ruinous fines that put faith-based charities, hospitals and schools at risk of closure, harming millions of kids, as well as the poor, sick and disabled that they serve, in order to force obedience to Obama’s will.”

I would take that to be a no.

Smith, however, seemed pretty mellow compared with Paul Rondeau of the American Life League, who took the president’s willingness to meet his critics halfway as proof of his unbendable will: “This man is totally addicted to abortion and totally addicted to the idea that not only is he the smartest man in the room, he is the smartest in the nation and taxpayers will fund his worldview whether they like it or not.”

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Potential Vice Presidential Candidate, expressed some vague appreciation for the president’s efforts, then rejected them totally. The whole thing, he said, “shows why we must fully repeal ObamaCare.”

And here we have the real issue, which goes way beyond contraception.

The bishops have made their point. Even if many of them had managed to avoid noticing the Catholic institutions in their own diocese that were already covering contraceptives to comply with state law, they are absolutely correct that Church doctrine holds that artificial methods of birth control are immoral. They’re not going to let the White House ignore that just because their own flocks do.

But Republican politicians have other fish to fry. They want to use the bishops and the birth control issue to get at health care reform. Right now in Congress, there are bills floating around that would allow employers to refuse to provide health care coverage for drugs or procedures they found immoral. You can’t have national health care coverage — even the patched-together system we’re working toward — with loopholes like that.

Which is the whole idea. National standards, national coverage — all of that offends the Tea Party ethos that wants to keep the federal government out of every aspect of American life that does not involve bombing another country.

But that shouldn’t be a Catholic goal. The church has always been vocal about its mission to aid the needy, and there’s nobody needier than a struggling family without health care coverage. The bishops have a chance to break the peculiar bond between social conservatives and the fiscal hard right that presumes if Jesus returned today, his first move would be to demand the repeal of the estate tax.

Let’s move on. Blessed are the tweakers.


By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 10, 2012

February 11, 2012 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How The Vatican Almost Embraced Birth Control

Since 1870, when the Roman Catholic Church formally pronounced popes infallible, a lot of Vatican energy has gone into claiming that doctrine never changes—that the church has been maintaining the same positions since the time of Jesus. Of course, historians know better: Dozens of church conferences, synods, and councils have regularly revised the teachings, all the while claiming utter consistency. Thus, when the advent of the birth control pill in the early ’60s coincided with a major push for church modernization, there was widespread hope among Catholics that the reform-minded Pope John XXIII would lift the church’s ban on contraception. After all, the Second Vatican Council had explicitly called for greater integration of scientific knowledge into church teaching.

John did establish a small commission for the Study of Problems of Population, Family, and Birth, which his successor, Paul VI, expanded to 58 members. Its job was to study whether the pill and issues such as population growth should lead to a change in the church’s prohibition on all forms of contraception (other than abstinence during periods of fertility—the “rhythm method”). The commission was led by bishops and cardinals, including a Polish bishop named Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. (The Polish government did not allow Wojtyla to attend meetings.) They were assisted by scientists, theologians—including Protestants, whose church had ended its own opposition to contraception three decades earlier—and even several lay couples. One of them, Patty and Patrick Crowley from Chicago, carried letters and stories from Catholic women worn out by multiple pregnancies, medical problems, and the financial burdens of raising large families. The commission deliberated for two years, amid much anticipation from the faithful.

The Vatican’s position on birth control has long held something of a paradox: Catholics are encouraged to plan their families, to bear only the number of children they can afford, and to consider the impact of family size on a community and the planet. In recent years, under Pope Benedict XVI, the church has also made a major push to embrace environmental stewardship. Yet Catholicism has also been the most intransigent of the world’s religions on the subject of contraception, alone in denying its use even to married couples.

This may have made some theological sense in the first century of Christianity, when Jesus’ followers believed he would return in their lifetime: Their mission was to prepare for the Second Coming by devoting themselves to the worship of God. Sex, they believed, was a distraction. The good life was best lived in celibacy—even in marriage. When the wait for the Second Coming evaporated, the belief that sex for its own sake was sinful did not, and abstinence remained the ideal.

Yet by the first half of the 20th century, change seemed to be in the air. In 1930, Pius XII issued the encyclical (papal letter) Casti Connubii (“on chaste wedlock”), which acknowledged that couples could seek pleasure in their sexual relations, so long as the act was still linked to procreation. Then, in 1966, Paul VI’s birth control commission presented its preliminary report to the pope. It held big news: The body had overwhelmingly voted to recommend lifting the prohibition on contraceptives. (The former Archbishop of Brussels, Cardinal Leo Suenens, went so far as to say the church needed to confront reality and avoid another “Galileo case.”)

Catholics rejoiced, and many began using the pill at once. But their hopes were dashed when, in July 1968, Paul VI released an encyclical titled Humanae Vitae (“on human life”), reaffirming the contraceptive ban. It turned out that three dissenting bishops on the commission had privately gone to plead with the pope: If the position on contraceptives was changed, they said, the teaching authority of the church would be questioned—the faithful could no longer trust the hierarchy.

Ironically, it was the prohibition on contraception that would help erode the church’s power with European and American Catholics. Laypeople overwhelmingly disregarded it, and bishops throughout Europe undermined it with statements reassuring couples to “follow their consciences.” American bishops were more circumspect, but a survey of Catholic priests in the early ’70s showed that about 60 percent of them believed the prohibition was wrong. Father Andrew Greeley, a noted sociologist, traces the decline in church membership and even vocations to the priesthood in the mid-1970s to Catholics’ disillusionment with the church’s integrity on birth control.

The church then turned its attention to Africa and Latin America—where bishops were more dependent on the Vatican for support, and Catholics, it was thought, were more traditional in their views of marriage and sexuality. The Vatican was able to keep the flock wary of modern birth control in part by linking it to colonialism: The West, the argument went, wanted to control poor people and reduce their numbers, instead of addressing the causes of their poverty.

A Congressional Research Service report on the 1994 United Nations population conference in Cairo recounts the church’s decades-long fight against population and family planning aid: “The Vatican…has sought support for its views from the developing world by accusing the West of ‘biological colonialism’ in promoting family planning programs and has sought allies in the fundamentalist Islamic nations of Libya and Iran.” (In this endeavor, it had the support of the Reagan and Bush administrations, which battled global family planning efforts seen as Trojan horses for abortion rights.)

The birth control-equals-colonialism argument was undercut, however, at the 1994 conference, when the UN for the first time framed the right to reproductive health as a human right. The shift was unwelcome news inside the Vatican­—where the conservative Pope John Paul II had begun to dismantle some of the reforms of the ’60s—and it hardened the church’s resolve. Suddenly, opposition to contraception became almost as high a priority as battling abortion. At the UN, the Holy See announced that if family planning were designated as a part of primary health care—a designation that would define the terms of international aid for churches and NGOs.

Even US bishops, who had pretty much ignored contraception for 20 years, began a fresh effort to persuade American Catholics. A new “theology of the body” postulated that eschewing artificial contraceptives could foster deeper, more spiritual relationships, even—in a bit of Goddess-speak—put women in touch with nature. But few Catholics bought into the new rhetoric; it is estimated that pill use among American Catholic women is slightly higher than in the US population at large.

What will it take to get past this paradox? In my view, nothing short of a change in the rules that prohibit priests from marrying. It is no accident that the religions most in favor of contraception—such as Anglicanism—are those that have long allowed their clergy to marry. The Catholic Church had married priests for its first 1,000 years, until it became difficult to support their wives and children (and to determine which property belonged to the church and which to the family).

The vehemence with which today’s church defends the ban on contraception—Benedict XVI has shown no sign of departing from his predecessor’s position on the issue—is the same with which it refuses to consider a change to the celibacy principle. No pope understood this better than John Paul II, who reserved his harshest condemnation for priests who defied the marriage ban. He knew that if the church’s leaders had families to provide for, the ban on contraception wouldn’t have a prayer.

This story originally ran under the headline “Close Your Eyes and Think of Rome: How close did the Vatican come to embracing birth control?”


By: Frances Kissling, Mother Jones, February 10, 2012

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Birth Control | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Policy Or Vision”: The Hole In Mitt Romney’s Campaign

Criticism of Mitt Romney for lacking a coherent message is grossly unfair. He has been forthright, consistent and even eloquent in pressing home his campaign’s central theme: Mitt Romney desperately wants to be president.

Everything else seems mushy or negotiable. Romney is passionate about the need, as he sees it, to defeat President Obama — but vague or self-contradictory as to why. The lyrics of “America the Beautiful,” which Romney has recited as part of his standard campaign speech, don’t solve the mystery; Obama, too, is on record as supporting spacious skies and fruited plains.

Beyond personal ambition, what does Romney stand for? Obviously, judging by Rick Santorum’s clean sweep Tuesday, I’m not the only one asking the question. I suspect an honest answer would be something like “situational competence” — Romney boasts of having rescued the 2002 Olympics, served as the Republican governor of one of the nation’s most Democratic states and made profitable choices about where to invest his money. But with the economy improving and the stock market soaring, Romney’s president-as-CEO argument loses whatever relevance it might have had.

To conservative groups, Romney can sound like a true believer who never met a tax or a labor union he could abide — and not at all like a “Massachusetts moderate,” which is what Newt Gingrich claims Romney really is.

But Romney will never be able to match Gingrich’s record, for better or worse, as one of the key figures in the development of the modern conservative movement. And Romney — who once was pro-choice — will never be able to get to the right of Santorum on social issues.

The intended centerpiece of the Romney campaign — his 160-page economic plan — is really just a list of proposed measures with no discernible ideological framework holding them together. “Any American living through this economic crisis will immediately recognize the severity of the break that Mitt Romney proposes from our current course,” the candidate promises on his Web site. But much of what he pledges to do on “Day One” has already been accomplished, or is promised, by Obama.

Romney wants to cut the corporate tax rate; Obama has said he wants to lower rates while also closing loopholes.

Romney wants to forge new trade agreements; Obama signed into law free-trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

Romney wants to weed out burdensome regulations; Obama has such a project underway.

Romney wants to survey and safely exploit U.S. energy reserves; Obama says essentially the same thing.

To be sure, some other initiatives Romney promises on Day One would take us in precisely the wrong direction. He would ask Congress for a gratuitous $20 million budget cut that would fail to make a scratch, let alone a dent, in the deficit. He would propose ending the federal role in job training, thus abdicating presidential responsibility for meeting one of the central challenges facing our economy. He would sanction China for manipulating its currency — and, perhaps, launch a needless trade war. He would seek to discourage the use of union labor on government projects, purely as a sop to the conservative GOP base.

And, of course, Romney wants to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, whose centerpiece, the individual insurance mandate, was pioneered in Massachusetts. By Romney. Who continues to defend the mandate as a good idea — too good, apparently, for the rest of the country.

My point is that even Romney’s sharp disagreements with Obama’s policies don’t add up to a philosophy or a vision. They’re more like what stuck after a bunch of random tough-sounding positions were thrown at the wall.

On foreign affairs, Romney offers a lot of blah blah blah about “restoring the sinews of American power” and the like, but nothing as distinctive as, say, Santorum’s extreme hawkishness on Iran or Ron Paul’s isolationist call to bring the troops home from just about everywhere. It’s hard to find any substantive differences between what Romney would do and what Obama is already doing.

Romney does accuse Obama of “appeasement,” and perhaps the charge would have some credibility if Obama hadn’t ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, or used unmanned missile-firing drones to decimate the international jihadist leadership, or helped eliminate dictator Moammar Gaddafi, or demonstrated in countless other ways that whatever else he might be, no one can call him some kind of flower-power peacenik.

One distinction — and, really, this may be the most original position that Romney takes on anything — is that he has ruled out negotiations with the Taliban and apparently wants to extend the U.S. troop commitment in Afghanistan indefinitely.

Wish him luck with that on the campaign trail. He’ll need it.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 9, 2012

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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