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“A Dangerous And Crazy Bigot”: The End Of Michele Bachmann?

Following John McCain’s condemnation of Michele Bachmann’s letter to the Department of State’s Inspector General, demanding an investigation of imagined ties of Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood, other Republicans are piling on.

GOP strategist Ed Rollins, who at one time managed Bachmann’s failed presidential campaign, weighed in at Fox News:

Having worked for Congressman Bachmann’s campaign for president, I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level…

The Republican Party, which John McCain led as our nominee in 2008, is going to become irrelevant if we become the party of intolerance and hate. The party founded by Abraham Lincoln was a party that fought slavery and intolerance at every level.

I can assure Mrs. Bachmann, that Ms. Abedin has been thru every top clearance available and would never have been given her position with any questions of her loyalty to this country.

As a member of Congress, with a seat on the House Intelligence Committee, Mrs. Bachmann you know better. Shame on you, Michele! You should stand on the floor of the House and apologize to Huma Abedin and to Secretary Clinton and to the millions of hardworking, loyal, Muslim Americans for your wild and unsubstantiated charges. As a devoted Christian, you need to ask forgiveness for this grievous lack of judgment and reckless behavior. (emphasis mine)

House Speaker John Boehner today called Bachmann’s accusations “pretty dangerous.”

This appears to be an important moment of Republicans finally trying to dial back the party’s Islamophobia wing, defending public servants from the wild-eyed imaginings of Frank Gaffney’s protégés. Bachmann and the four other signatories to her letter—Republicans Trent Franks (AZ), Louie Gohmert (TX), Thomas Rooney (FL), and Lynn Westmoreland (GA)—open their argument with one of the central lies of Gaffney’s Islamophobia complex: the US government itself, they write, “has established in federal court that the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission in the United States is ‘destroying the Western Civilization from within’—a practice the Muslim Brothers call ‘civilization jihad.’” As a result, they contend, “the apparent involvement of those with such ties raises serious security concerns that warrant your urgent attention.”

Setting aside the fact that Bachmann et al. rely entirely on Gaffney—who has been dismissed by fellow conservatives as a “crazy bigot”—for their unsubstantiated claim that Abedin has Brotherhood ties, their supposed proof of the Brotherhood’s theocratic ambitions in the United States is a fabrication. For her proof, Bachmann cites an exhibit from the US government’s prosecution in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing case. Here’s what I wrote about that exhibit, and that case, over a year ago:

This claim that the Muslim Brotherhood’s aim is a worldwide theocracy, and that all American Muslim organizations fall into lock-step with it, stems solely from a single 20-year-old document written by a single Brotherhood member in 1991. In the controversial terrorism financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation, which first resulted in a mistrial in 2007, and convictions in a 2008 re-trial, federal prosecutors introduced a document, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.”

Gaffney and others have seized upon this document developing theories that the goal of “radical Islamists” is a global theocracy and that the Muslim Brotherhood lurks in every corner of America. GWU’s [Nathan] Brown, who testified in the first Holy Land Foundation trial, said, “Nobody has ever produced any evidence that the document was more than something produced by the daydream of one enthusiast.” Noting that he has been studying Palestinian, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, and Jordanian Brotherhood movements since 2005, Brown added, “Nothing in anything that I have heard has ever struck me as similar in tone or content to the ‘master plan.’”

Yet this single document has been used to create a mythology around a supposedly global plot. Brown, addressing the document, notes that “The prosecution in the Holy Land Case painted with a broad brush and probably should not be relied upon. There is indeed a loose coordinating international structure for the Muslim Brotherhood, but it has no real authority over the chapters.” But that hasn’t stopped Gaffney, who said recently, “It is now public knowledge that nearly every major Muslim organization in the United States is actually controlled by the MB or a derivative organization. Consequently, most of the Muslim-American groups of any prominence in America are now known to be, as a matter of fact, hostile to the United States and its Constitution.”

Based on the ‘explanatory memorandum’ document identifying a number of American Muslim organizations as allies in its author’s aspirations, prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation trial publicly labeled over 200 American Muslim organizations “unindicted co-conspirators,” a highly controversial move derided at the time by legal experts as contrary to Justice Department policy and in violation of the groups’ constitutional rights. Eventually, the court ruled, on the motion of three of the groups, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), that publicly identifying them as “unindicted co-conspirators” did violate their Fifth Amendment rights. That didn’t stop The National Review’s Andrew McCarthy—a former federal prosecutor himself—from falsely claiming at CPAC, “those people were all convicted” in the Holy Land Foundation trial.

Meanwhile, the Family Research Council has just appointed Lt. General William G. “Jerry” Boykin (Ret.) as executive vice president. Boykin, among other things, has claimed that “we need to realize that Islam itself is not just a religion—it is a totalitarian way of life. It’s a legal system, shari’ah law; it’s a financial system; it’s a moral code; it’s a political system; it’s a military system. It should not be protected under the First Amendment, particularly given that those following the dictates of the Qur’an are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and replace it with shari’ah law.” Bachmann is taking heat from fellow Republicans for her attempted witch hunt of Abedin. But will those Republicans back away from the FRC’s Values Voters Summit this fall in protest of Boykin’s history of Islamophobia?

 

By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, July 19, 2012

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Islamophobia | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just A Private Family Matter”: Mitt Romney Outsources Questions About Finances

We have no way of knowing just yet whether Ann Romney’s explanation in an interview of her husband’s refusal to release tax returns was just her own effort to get past a difficult question, or represents the Final Word from the campaign. If it’s the latter, you gotta admit it’s pretty damn bold, suggesting that Mitt’s finances—not just his tax returns, but his wealth generally—are a private family matter on which the news media and the American people are strictly on a need-to-know basis. And all they need to know is that the Romneys tithe (and no tither has ever, ever been dishonest about money, right?) and that Mitt turned down a governor’s salary in Massachusetts that probably represented a rounding error in his investment income.

This talking-point would barely pass the smell-test even if Mitt had always resolutely treated his “success” (as measured by his fabulous wealth) as irrelevant to the presidential campaign, instead of being the primary reason Americans should entrust him with the presidency, even if he won’t much talk about what he would do in that office beyond killing ObamaCare and inspiring confidence in every direction.

You have to wonder if in the future Mitt is going to “outsource” all questions about his finances to his wife, and then object that anyone who complains about it is engaging in personal attacks on his family. That tactic would certainly be consistent with his general habit of expressing outrage when critics look at his biography or his tax-and-budget plans and suggest things just don’t add up.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 19, 2012

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Prevailing Order”: The Rich Really Are Different

In the last couple of years, we’ve occasionally seen stories where Wall Street types justify their enormous compensation packages by saying they work really, really hard. They stay late, they work weekends, they just keep their noses to the grindstone, and that’s why they get paid what they do. Sure, $30 million a year is a lot of money. But the hedge fund manager who made it probably worked 1,000 times harder than the electrician who made $30,000. Right?

I thought of those Wall Streeters and their rhetoric about hard work when considering the question of Mitt Romney’s tax returns. One of the things we’ve found out in the whole when-did-Romney-leave-Bain controversy is that even after he retired/went on a leave of absence, he was being paid at least $100,000 a year for doing what he swears was absolutely nothing. That’s a lot of money for doing nothing, at least to people like you and me, but remember that to Mitt Romney, it’s peanuts. According to the information he has released, he made over $42 million in 2010 and 2011 without doing any actual work. He hasn’t held a job in five and a half years, since he left the Massachusetts governor’s office. Tens of millions of dollars just keep pouring into his many bank accounts, without him lifting a finger. And of course, he pays a far lower tax rate on all that income than people who work for a living.

But it really seems that Romney has a hard time understanding why that would rankle people. The entire system is set up to allow people like him to play by a set of rules that was established by the wealthy, for the wealthy; but when you’re the beneficiary, it seems like the prevailing order is a just order. And what Romney wants is to make income from investments and inheritances taxed at an even lower rate. You probably haven’t heard, since there hasn’t been much discussion about it, but Barack Obama’s official position (even if he’s not going to do much about it) is that investment income should be taxed at the same rate as wage income; in other words, money you work for shouldn’t be taxed more (as it is now) than money you make when your money makes you more money. I’m sure that if somebody asked Mitt Romney about taxing all income at the same rate, he’d think the idea was nothing short of insane.

It’s not impossible for someone to benefit greatly from that system and still manage to wrap their heads around the fact that it’s unfair. There are plenty of rich people who do (Warren Buffett is the most visible example). I keep returning to Mitt’s repeated comments that of course he took advantage of every tax loophole he could find to make sure he paid as little as possible. We could argue about whether that’s unpatriotic, but the thing is that for most people who do a job and get paid a salary, there just aren’t those kinds of loopholes available. Not only can’t they afford to hire a team of accountants and tax lawyers; even if they could, there wouldn’t be much those people could do for them.

There is obviously something in Mitt Romney’s pre-2010 tax returns that he really, really doesn’t want people to see. Just how awful it is, we have no way of knowing; it could be something truly shocking, or just more of the offshore accounts and low tax rates we already know about from his 2010 return. But whatever it is, revealing it would no doubt have the effect of reminding people just how different the rules people like Mitt Romney play by really are. And if he’s afraid of that, maybe he’s more self-aware than I’m giving him credit for.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 19, 2012

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Do They Have To Hide?”: Romney, The Senate GOP And the Right-Wing Secrecy Machine

Yesterday, Senate Republicans voted, for a second time in two days, to continue their filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would simply require outside groups spending money on elections to tell the public where their money comes from. At the same time, not surprisingly, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is in hot water for failing to disclose more than the minimum of personal tax returns and lying about his history at the company that made his fortune — all while we know that a portion of his wealth was hidden in infamously secretive Swiss bank accounts.

Senate Republicans and Romney are spending a lot of time and energy this week to keep their financial histories secret. It’s only natural to ask: What do they have to hide?

You would think the DISCLOSE Act would be an easy bill to pass. In fact, many Republican Senators were “for it before they were against it“. What it does is simple: it requires any organization — corporation, union, super PAC or non-profit — that spends money influencing elections to report within a day any election-related expenditure of $10,000 or more. It also requires that these organizations make public the names of the individuals and corporations contributing $10,000 or more to fund this election spending. In short, all those front groups that have been pouring money into elections since Citizens United will have to disclose who their major donors are. Voters would know who was trying to tell them what.

This is not a partisan issue. Disclosure requirements, like those in the DISCLOSE Act, were endorsed as constitutional by the Supreme Court majority that handed down Citizens United. Even the conservative justices who saw no problem with more money in politics assumed that disclosure would be a check on the integrity of the election process.

But Republicans in Congress have been fighting tooth and nail to keep DISCLOSE from the books. Why? The fact that they might not want to publicize the motives of some of these super donors, and the fact that the new flood of outside political spending overwhelmingly favors conservatives, might have something to do with it.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is having disclosure problems of his own. It’s standard practice for presidential candidates to release their past tax returns — President Obama has made public his returns from the past dozen years. Even Romney called on his gubernatorial opponents in Massachusetts to release their returns. (In a classic Romney flip-flop, when he was later asked to hold himself to the same standard, he said his original demands had been wrong).

The only conclusion to draw from Romney’s tax-return reticence is that there’s something he doesn’t want us to see. The recent revelations that Romney has told conflicting stories about when he left his job at Bain Capital might give us a taste of what he’s kept hidden. And hiding part of his fortune in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and in Swiss bank accounts that have for centuries epitomized financial secrecy doesn’t help.

The issue of financial disclosure isn’t a sideshow to this election — it’s a big part of what this election is about. How can we trust senators who spend more time covering up the sources of election spending on their behalf than they do legislating? How can we trust a candidate who won’t be open and honest with voters about the source of his personal fortune and the taxes he has paid?

Full disclosure should be a no-brainer in honest politics. The public knows that. Even the Supreme Court knows that. The only people who seem to be missing the message are the politicians who are desperately trying to win elections without telling voters who might be buying them.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 18, 2012

 

 

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Tool Of Prophetic Vengeance”: George Zimmerman, Portrait Of A Contemptible Human Being

George Zimmerman is a contemptible human being.

In court, Zimmerman apologized to Trayvon Martin’s parents because their child ran into the bullet that he fired. Doubling down, Zimmerman, appearing on Fox News last night, had the unmitigated gall to offer up the following statement:

“My wife and I don’t have any children… I love my children even though they aren’t born yet, and I am sorry that they buried their child. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, and I pray for them daily.”

Zimmerman is possessed of a type of self-righteous narcissism and faux-empathy for those people whose lives he has ruined. In keeping with his belief that he was a tool of prophetic vengeance, Zimmerman also suggested that it was “god’s plan” that he killed Trayvon Martin.

I do not know who is worse: Is Zimmerman the true villain here, a killer, perhaps mentally unbalanced and a child molester, with a cop fetish priapism who played Dirty Harry because he couldn’t let one of “the blacks” get away again?

Or are those Right-wing reactionary conservatives like Sean Hannity who worship, coddle, and protect Zimmerman doing so because they wish that they were him, a trigger man, one who got to engage in the most dangerous game, hunting down and killing an innocent person of color for sport?

The role of George Zimmerman as an idol, victim, and martyr for the Right is both absurd and freakish.

Unfortunately, for many people who live in a society where political ideology and racial attitudes form a type of Gordian knot, they see justice for Trayvon Martin through a lens which views all people of color, and young blacks in particular, as perpetual suspects whose lives, citizenship, and safety are contingent and not absolute.

Criminality is a precondition of our existence for folks like George Zimmerman and his allies. This is especially true when black folks are confronted by White authority…and those who are overly identified with it.

In all, Zimmerman is likely surprised that he was arrested for the murder of Trayvon Martin. He intimately understands that black life is cheap in America. As such, what is the fuss over shooting dead a black teenager in the street? Zimmerman still does not have an answer to that question. Likewise, his supporters also do not have an answer to that question either.

This is the source of their love for Zimmerman, and sincere rage at his arrest and prosecution. If anything, the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman should have just been a minor inconvenience for all involved–except of course the victim, his family, and community. He is just a black anyway, so what’s the big deal? They die everyday in America and no one cares either way.

Consequently, how dare anyone suggest that legal and personal accountability should interfere with George Zimmerman’s fantasy play and rent-a-cop, amusement park, joyride of death.

 

By: Chauncey DeVega, Open Salon Blog, July 19, 2012

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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