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“This Is Crackpot Stuff”: Why Must We Take The Family Research Council Seriously?

The FRC, which sponsors the Values Voter Summit that took place in Washington over the past weekend, is a big, big player in conservative politics. Tony Perkins, its leader, has a lot of power in the GOP, appears on television as a serious person, and so on.

So in that context, I think it’s worth noting what goes on at those conclaves when they think no one is watching. They hosted Paul Ryan and Michelle Bachmann and the other big names last Friday. Then, on Saturday, after the mult-boxes had all been safely packed away and the media weren’t looking, out they came.

Alternet’s Zaid Jilani was watching, and here’s a bit of what he saw. Jerry Boykin, the retired lieutenant general and Christian jihadist who now works at FRC, basically called for World War III. An “ex-Muslin convert” named Kamal Saleem issued a different warning:

During the question-and-answer session, a number of attendees wanted to know more about how Muslims were supposedly infiltrating the U.S. government.

Saleem alleged that a U.N. treaty that Obama was working to enforce to replace the constitution with sharia law. Under this new, purportedly Obama-enforced regime, “churches and synagogues will go down underground because now you’ll have to submit your sermons to the government.” The consequences of an Obama re-election, he said, would be to “lose this nation.”

All right, this is crackpot stuff. But according to the Serious Men and Women of Washington, the FRC is not a crackpot outfit. Can you imagine if the Center for American Progress, say, or Jim Wallis‘s group featured a speaker who alleged that Romney had a secret plan to convert everyone to Mormonism and force Christians to reject all they’d been taught and embrace Joseph Smith’s teachings? I know I said last week I generally steer clear of analogies, but this one is pretty precise.

Except that neither CAP nor Wallis would ever dream of doing such a thing in a jillion years. And not because it would be politically unwise and they’d get their heads lopped off–but because it would just be a plainly nutty and deeply offensive thing to do. And, sure, they’d know that it would erode or destroy their credibility.

But FRC can do this and still be accorded respect. Why? Because we just take it as a given and accept that the right wing is full of nativist and reactionary and racist cranks. And this, remember, is a religious organization.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 17, 2012



September 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Smell Of Bold Change”: Occupy Wall Street Is Not The Liberal Tea Party

At an event this weekend marking the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, I was reminded why the success of these protests was so improbable in the first place. It wasn’t just that we’d tried this sort of thing before and it had never worked. It wasn’t the predominance of anarchists, whom we were all accustomed to dismissing as the irrelevant fringe at progressive protests. It was also the smell. New York City smells bad enough on its own. But put populists in a public encampment for a few days and it stinks. After months, it’s repulsive.

I was an early skeptic of Occupy Wall Street. “I want to know what democracy looks like, not what it smells like,” I wrote at the time. This was a roundabout way of criticizing the movement for its lack of polish, its incoherent leadership structure, its fuzzy demands—all that chaos that was swarming around Zuccotti Park. On its face, Occupy was a Type A organizer’s worst nightmare.

Yet, in spite of the odds that stood against it, Occupy Wall Street did not repel America, but attracted it, crystallizing and dramatizing the inequality that has become the central political struggle of our time. In the wake of an economic collapse that devastated every community in America and with a progressive movement that had been unable to respond to small crises—let alone major ones—with any unity of purpose or voice, Occupy stepped into the void. With threadbare blankets, it somehow wove together the disparate agendas of the left. Like the countless tent poles at protests across the country, Occupy gave the too-often cowering American left a spine.

But what, a year later, can we say the movement accomplished? Reflecting on Occupy’s anniversary, The New York Times, columnist Joe Nocera quoted a Prospect story that asked, “Can Occupy Wall Street Become the Liberal Tea Party?” Nocera wrote, “A year later, we know the answer: It can’t, and it isn’t. For all intents and purposes, the Occupy movement is dead, even as the Tea Party lives on.”

But perhaps this is the wrong measure of success.

The tactics and grassroots energy that Occupy harnessed were nothing new to the left. Certainly, its scale was unlike anything seen in decades, but progressive organizations—from Code Pink to MoveOn to the Rainforest Action Network—had long engaged in direct action and employed community-organizing-style tactics to build consensus. No, Occupy’s contribution was to give progressives a simple, effective way to talk about economic justice. That “We are the 99 percent” became such a powerful refrain was almost as refreshing as the fact that often-insular progressive organizations quickly took it up. The idea of the 99 percent didn’t take hold just because Occupy was chanting it, but because the narrative was repeated in e-mail after e-mail, speech after speech, report after report across the institutional left. Then, it crossed into the mainstream. “Just pay attention to political coverage,” says J. Matthew Smucker, who was involved at Zuccotti Park early on. “The number of times the 1 percent or the 99 percent are mentioned? It’s still not enough, but the conversation has definitely changed.” Occupy didn’t change the agenda for progressives; it changed how that agenda was articulated and for once got the rest of the country to talk about it.

But it wasn’t just the rhetoric that changed. “Occupy empowered the floundering progressive movement,” says Jodie Evans, co-founder of the activist group Code Pink. “Pieces of the Occupy movement live on inside an enormous number of organizations who will carry that spark forward.” Some of that work will continue to include protest tactics, like those of Code Pink (which occupied spaces long before Occupy even existed). While Occupy has favored protests over political engagement, the progressive movement that was inspired and invigorated by Occupy includes many organizations focused on electoral strategies, concrete policy advocacy and much more. In other words, Occupy is not the equivalent of the Tea Party; the progressive movement is. And Occupy made that movement more populist and powerful.

I was wrong about Occupy Wall Street. In pulling us professional progressives away from our business meetings and relentless focus on incrementalism, it reminded us all that dramatic, awe-inspiring change is possible. A year later, while the crowd celebrating the Occupy anniversary is still pretty stinky, the possibility for achieving big and bold change now fills the air all around us. And that has never smelled sweeter.


BY: Sally Kohn, The American Prospect, September 17, 2012

September 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Romney Owes An Apology”: A Cynical And Dishonest Effort To Take Advantage Of A National Tragedy

To a certain extent, no one should be surprised by Mitt Romney’s decision to seize on — actually, make that exploit — the attack on U.S. diplomatic outposts in Egypt and Libya as ammunition in the presidential campaign.

After all, the Republican presidential nominee wrote a book in 2010 premised on, and titled with, the false notion that Barack Obama has been going around the world apologizing for America.

“There are anti-American fires burning all across the globe; President Obama’s words are like kindling to them,” Romney wrote in “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.”

Romney repeated this falsehood in his acceptance speech in Tampa, claiming that Obama launched his presidency “with an apology tour.”

Oddly enough, Romney’s evidence for Obama’s alleged apologizing is bereft of certain words — like apology, or sorry, or regret. To Romney, apologizing means never actually having to say you’re sorry.

In the speeches that Romney criticized, Obama concedes imperfections and even mistakes in American behavior, but he couples those acknowledgments with critiques of other nations as well.

Thus, in his 2009 Cairo speech, Obama referred to the “tumultuous history” between the United States and Iran, noting that “in the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.” Then he immediately pivoted to Iran’s “role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.”

This is more factual recitation of history than craven slobbering, yet to Romney it is part of “the steady stream of criticisms, put-downs and jabs directed at the nation he was elected to represent and defend.”

So when the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released a statement condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims,” Romney was predisposed to see it through the distorted, if politically convenient, lens of apology.

Facts be damned. The embassy statement was issued Tuesday morning, before the protests started, not to mention before the embassy walls were breached, not to mention before there was a murderous assault on U.S. diplomats in Libya. On Tuesday night, Romney issued his statement describing the administration’s behavior as “disgraceful” and charging that its “first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

By that point, the Cairo embassy, the State Department spokesman and the secretary of State had all condemned the attacks. “Let me be clear,” Hillary Clinton’s statement said. “There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

As irresponsible as Romney’s behavior Tuesday night, even worse was his move to double down at a Wednesday morning news conference, following word of the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other American diplomats in Libya. Tuesday night, before the killings were known, was amateurish. Wednesday morning was unconscionable.

“It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values,” Romney said, apparently believing that the embassy should have been able to foretell the attack before it occurred. In the space of three sentences, he criticized the administration for standing by the embassy statement and accused it of sending “mixed signals” by disavowing it.

The question and answer session was even worse. “Simply put, having an embassy which . . . has been breached and has protesters on its grounds, having violated the sovereignty of the United States, having that embassy reiterate a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech is not the right course for an administration,” Romney said.

Leaving aside his flawed timeline — later tweets from the embassy combined criticism of anti-Muslim bigotry with condemnation of the attacks — Romney’s interpretation of what constitutes an apology is once again far off-base.

“We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others,” the original embassy statement said. This formulation reflects a sensitive balancing of competing interests, not an apology for free speech. You can deplore the idiocy of the movie but defend to the death the producer’s right to make it.

To Romney, this amounts to “a disgraceful statement on the part of our administration to apologize for American values.”

There is something disgraceful happening here, but it doesn’t involve a comment by an obscure embassy spokesman. It is Romney’s cynical, dishonest effort to take advantage of this national tragedy for his own political ends.


By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 13, 2012

September 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yearning For “Reasonableness”: The American Election’s Global Reach

The Obama-Clinton alliance, formalized with Bill Clinton’s blockbuster speech at the Democratic National Convention, confirms what has often been played down: President Obama has chosen to build on Clinton’s legacy rather than abandon it.

This is why the 2012 election matters not only to Americans but also to supporters of the moderate left across the world. What’s at stake is whether the progressive turn that global politics took in the 1990s will make a comeback over the next decade, and also how much progressives who embraced markets during the heyday of the Third Way sponsored by Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will adjust their views to a breakdown in the financial system they did not anticipate.

Polls reflecting an Obama upturn since the conventions suggest the Obama-Clinton politics of balance is far more popular than ideological conservatism. The two conclaves plainly shifted the campaign’s focus to the views of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — and the more swing voters think about what the Republican ticket would do, the less they seem inclined to support it.

Many conservative commentators attribute Obama’s bounce to Romney’s failure to be specific enough. They don’t want to acknowledge that on core issues, the electorate is far closer to Obama’s moderate progressivism than to Romney and Ryan’s conservatism.

Voters favor tax increases on the wealthy to balance the budget, have little interest in less regulation of capitalism and widely accept that Obama inherited an economic mess caused by conservative policies. The electorate is even starting to notice what it likes about Obamacare, a reason why Romney, on “Meet the Press” this month, listed all the new law’s benefits that he would preserve.

The often-disparaged high command of the Romney campaign seems to know all this. Romney thus keeps trying to change the subject — to false attacks on Obama’s welfare changes, to misleading assaults on the health-care law’s impact on Medicare, and, disastrously, to Romney’s reckless criticisms of the president last week after the killings of Americans in Libya. Romney is scrambling because he knows the dynamics of the campaign are shifting against him.

The movement in the presidential race reflects a broader trend visible in many nations. In the immediate wake of the financial crisis, electorates moved not toward parties of the left, which is what one might expect during a crisis of capitalism, but toward the right. Conservative-leaning parties won a long list of national elections in 2009 and 2010, including the Republicans’ midterm triumph here.

But since then, the center-left has mounted a comeback, reflected in the victory this year of Socialist Francois Hollande in France and a sharp poll swing against Britain’s Conservative-led coalition government.

Yet the center-left’s resurgence comes with asterisks. Last week’s elections in the Netherlands, for example, produced a mixed verdict: The center-left Dutch Labor Party made impressive gains, but these were more than matched by the advances of the governing center-right VVD, which came out narrowly ahead. The Dutch election was, to a significant degree, a victory of the center and a defeat especially for the extreme right.

This search for moderation, argues David Miliband, the former British foreign minister who is close to Blair and an architect of Third Way policies, is why it’s important that Obama is not leaving aside Clinton’s market-friendly, socially conscious approach but revising it.

In an interview with my Post colleague Dan Balz and me in Charlotte, Miliband argued that voters in the wealthy democracies are looking not for radical departures but for the new and better balance between government and the market that Third Wayers were trying to achieve. At the same time, he acknowledged that advocates of this approach needed to recognize the urgency of more effective oversight of the financial markets, one area where Obama has needed to move beyond Clinton’s policies.

At the election night gathering of the Dutch Labor Party in Amsterdam on Wednesday, I heard almost exactly the same argument from Godelieve van Heteren, a former Labor member of parliament. “There is now a new debate over what kind of regulation there should be of the market” — regulation, she said, aimed at being effective without “killing entrepreneurship.” Voters, she added, primarily yearn for “reasonableness.”

American conservatism’s glorification of the unfettered economy is thus out of step with the balanced approach that voters here and across the capitalist democracies are looking for. Obama and Clinton know this. It’s the central problem Romney faces, which is why he is flailing.


By: E. J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 16, 2012

September 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Lines In The Sand”: Is Netanyahu Trying To Blow Up The U.S. Election?

He is now actively involved in the Republican campaign to get a war against Iran – preferably before the election in order to scramble a race that Obama now looks as if he could win. He is pulling a Cheney, equating Salafist Sunni mobs in Libya with the Shiite dictatorship in Iran:

“Iran is guided by a leadership with an unbelievable fanaticism. It’s the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today. Do you want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?”

He is making Santorum’s argument that the entire regime in Iran sees itself and its entire country as a suicide bomber, eager to destroy itself in order to annihilate the Jewish state. Does he provide an historical example of such suicidal tendencies for the nation as a whole? No. Because there is no precedent. No precedent in Mao’s China in its most radical era. No precedent in the Soviet Union under Stalin. No precedent even in North Korea, run by total loonies. The obvious answer, if you believe in just war theory, is to ratchet up non-military pressure to get real, effective inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities while protecting its absolute right to pursue peaceful nuclear power. Another obvious answer, if you think non-proliferation is the key to world peace (which I don’t) is to get Israel to give up its nuclear weaponry – so that the entire region is nuke-free.

There is no just war theory on earth that can justify a pre-emptive strike against nuclear facilities which have not been used to produce a weapon in a country whose Supreme Leader has explicitly called a “sin” to deploy.

As for a radical regime in terms of international relations, which country in the Middle East has launched more wars than any other since its creation, has occupied territory it has then sought to ethnically re-balance, has killed civilians outside its borders in the thousands, has developed a nuclear capacity outside of international non-proliferation treaties, has physically attacked both Iraq and Syria to destroy their nuclear programs, and is now threatening war against Iran, a war that could convulse the entire world into a new clash of civilizations?

Israel is the answer. I have no doubt that this new incident of anti-American Salafist violence in the Middle East is now being used by prime minister Netanyahu to concoct a casus belli with which to scramble global events and get rid of Obama – and his continuing threat to Israel’s illegal expansionism.

When the prime minister of an ally is openly backing one political party in the US elections in order to plunge this country into a war whose consequences are unknowable and potentially catastrophic is a new low. If it is allowed to succeed, if Romney were to win and hand over US foreign policy in the Middle East to Netanyahu and Israel’s growing religious far right, then we will be back to the Bush era without even a veneer of sympathy for Arab democratic convulsions. Above, Netanyahu calls those, like me, who favor containment, are stupid. We are not as stupid as you think we are, Mr Netanyahu.


By: Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Beast, September 16, 2012

September 17, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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