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“Strange Justice, Indeed”: The Day Clarence Thomas Gained Power, He Lost Dignity

Should he stay or should he go?

The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may have denounced the rumor that the controversial conservative may be planning to leave the bench next year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the rumor is false. If Thomas does decide to call it a career in 2017, it will bring an end to one of the greatest legal tragedies in modern American history.

As Thomas noted in his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, there was a time when he was on the left side of the political spectrum, even voting for George McGovern in 1972. The ultimate catalyst for his shift to the far right was when he began to question the logic of federal desegregation programs, which made him a receptive audience for the pseudo-intellectualism of syndicated columnist and wingnut icon Thomas Sowell in the mid-1970s:

I felt like a thirsty man gulping down a class of cool water. Here was a black man who was saying what I thought–and not behind closed doors, either, but in the pages of a book that had just been reviewed in a national newspaper…It was far more common in the seventies to argue that whites, having caused our problems, should be responsible for solving them instantly, but while that approach was good for building political coalitions and soothing guilty white consciences, it hadn’t done much to improve the daily lives of blacks. Sowell’s perspective, by contrast, seemed old-fashioned, outdated, even mundane–but realistic. It reminded me of the mantra of the Black Muslims I had met in college: Do for self, brother.

My Grandfather’s Son is a morbidly fascinating work, one that provides insight into the odd personality that has occupied Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the High Court for over two decades. Indeed, this Friday marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of President George H. W. Bush’s nomination of Thomas to the Court.

In My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas wrote that prior to the announcement of his nomination, Bush promised him, “Judge, if you go on the Court, I will never publicly criticize any of your decisions.” One wonders if Bush privately regrets making such an awful nomination, just as he openly regrets the rise of Donald Trump. Remember when the 41st President referred to Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann as “sick puppies”? Considering the horrible votes he has cast over the past 25 years, that term is far more applicable to Thomas.

One also wonders if Thomas will ever take a hard look at his legacy once he steps down from the bench. Had Thomas never fallen for Sowell’s shtick, perhaps he would have gone on to become one of America’s great champions of civil rights, as opposed to an explicit enemy of equality. Maybe Thomas didn’t deserve some of the harsh race-based insults he received over the years–after all, no one ever accused Antonin Scalia of being a self-hating Italian-American–but he certainly deserves strong criticism for his profoundly bizarre interpretation of the Constitution, most recently on display in Utah v. Strieff. (Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent was seemingly written to challenge Thomas to confront the real-world implications of his disregard for the Fourth Amendment, or to suggest that one day, Thomas will have to face those very implications firsthand.)

It is interesting to note that in My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas actually admitted that the Republican Party he chose to embrace after being seduced by Sowell’s sentences didn’t have much use for African-Americans. Describing his days as head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Reagan administration, Thomas observed:

Too many of [President Reagan’s] political appointees seemed more interested in playing to the conservative bleachers–and I’d come to realize, as I told a reporter, that ‘conservatives don’t exactly break their necks to tell blacks that they’re welcome.’ Was it because they were prejudiced? Perhaps some of them were, but the real reason, I suspected, was that blacks didn’t vote for Republicans, nor would Democrats work with President Reagan on civil-rights issues. As a result there was little interest within the administration in helping a constituency that wouldn’t do anything in return to help the president. My suspicions were confirmed when I offered my assistance to President Reagan’s reelection campaign, only to be met with near-total indifference. One political consultant was honest enough to tell me straight out that since the president’s reelection strategy didn’t include the black vote, there was no role for me. 

Clarence Thomas is 68 years old. He knows what his national reputation is. He knows that for many Americans, he is a symbol of extreme ideology and extreme ambition. He knows that the day he gained power, he lost dignity. When he leaves the bench, how will he live with himself?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 26, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Clarence Thomas, Conservatives, Right Wing Extremisim, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“For The Far-Right, It’s One Leader Down, One To Go”: Emblematic Of The Larger Story About GOP Radicalization

There may be 54 Republicans in the Senate, but only one has publicly expressed support for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). That endorsement came from none other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Paul’s grudging home-state partner.

With this support in mind, it was curious to see Kentucky’s junior senator on Fox News this morning, confronted with a simple question: do you support McConnell’s position as majority leader? Three times the Fox host asked Rand Paul for an answer, and as TPM noted this morning, three times the senator dodged.

The furthest Paul was willing to go was this faint praise for his colleague: “Well, there is no election. There is no battle going on.” In other words, Paul supports McConnell insofar as he has no other choice right now.

But for many Capitol Hill conservatives, the fact that there is “no battle going on” is precisely the problem. Far-right members have helped force House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) out of Congress, and Politico reported late last week that many of these same lawmakers are equally eager – if not more so – to change Senate leaders, too.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a hardliner who frequently worked at odds with Boehner, was texting Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Friday morning to make a suggestion: “Next guy in the crosshairs is probably gonna be McConnell.” Lee, who chairs the conservative arm of McConnell’s GOP conference, texted back to doubt that conclusion.

But Salmon and many other House conservatives are unswayed.

“Mitch McConnell is infinitely worse as a leader than Boehner. He surrenders at the sight of battle every time,” Salmon said.

To the extent that reality matters, Mitch McConnell, perhaps more than any Republican in the nation, has been the embodiment of anti-Obama obstructionism. No GOP lawmaker of the Obama era has gone as far as McConnell to reject every White House proposal – regardless of merit, regardless of consequence, regardless of whether or not Republicans actually agreed with the administration.

The Kentucky senator has practically pioneered the art of mindless, knee-jerk obstructionism, relying on tactics with no precedent in the American tradition, undermining governance in ways that seemed impossible in the recent past.

But for far-right lawmakers, this record just isn’t good enough.

Boehner’s resignation “should be an absolute warning sign to McConnell,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) told Politico. He added that conservatives’ focus will now “invariably and should turn to McConnell in the Senate.”

Over the weekend, the chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana urged McConnell to resign.

The odds of McConnell stepping down anytime soon are roughly zero. Boehner faced growing pressure from a significant faction of his own caucus, but McConnell faces sporadic pressure from Ted Cruz – whom most Senate Republicans are generally inclined to ignore. The qualitative and quantitative differences between the two GOP leaders are striking: McConnell was elected unanimously by his members, for example, while Boehner was not.

The importance of these developments isn’t the practical threat McConnell faces. Rather, the fact that the anti-McConnell push exists at all is emblematic of the larger story about GOP radicalization. The rationale behind the far-right campaign against Boehner is that he failed to beat President Obama – as if that were a credible outcome – which put him at odds with Republican expectations. As the bulls eye shifts from one end of Capitol Hill to the other, McConnell faces the same foolish, misguided complaint, his record of confrontation with the White House notwithstanding.

The Majority Leader’s position is secure, at least for the foreseeable future, but as the GOP base continues to direct its ire at party leaders, it’ll be worth watching to see how many Senate Republicans dodge as clumsily as Rand Paul did this morning.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 28, 2015

September 29, 2015 Posted by | John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell, Right Wing Extremisim | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Trump And White Supremacists”: They Don’t Don Sheets And Pointy Hoods Or Burn Crosses At Their Gatherings, But It’s The Same Crowd

“Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We’re moving into a new America.” He said, “I don’t think Trump is a white nationalist,” but he did believe that Trump reflected “an unconscious vision that white people have – that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon.”

That comes from a fascinating article by Evan Osnos titled: The Fearful and the Frustrated. The particular quote is from someone named Richard Spencer. Here’s how Osnos introduces him:

Richard Spencer is a self-described “identitarian” who lives in Whitefish, Montana, and promotes “white racial consciousness.” At thirty-six, Spencer is trim and preppy, with degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago. He is the president and director of the National Policy Institute, a think tank, co-founded by William Regnery, a member of the conservative publishing family, that is “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States and around the world.” The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Spencer “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old.

Apparently Osnos was doing some reporting on extremist white-rights groups when the whole Trump phenomenon hit. As such, he had a front-row seat to how this dark corner in our country reacted. The upshot of it all is…they love it.

Ever since the Tea Party’s peak, in 2010, and its fade, citizens on the American far right – Patriot militias, border vigilantes, white supremacists – have searched for a standard-bearer, and now they’d found him.

Spencer has gotten a higher profile lately due to the fact that he seems to be the go-to guy on understanding the recent popularity of the hashtag #cuckservative. Here’s Dave Weigel explaining:

Late last week, a neologism was born. Twitter was the incubator. “Cuckservative,” a portmanteau of “conservative” and “cuckold” (i.e. a man whose wife has cheated on him) burned up Twitter as fans of Donald Trump’s politicking warred with the movement conservatives who opposed it…

What is “cuckservatism?”

I’ll defer to Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute.

“#Cuckservative” is a full-scale revolt, by Identitarians and what I’ve called the ‘alt Right,’ against the Republican Party and conservative movement,” Spencer explained in an e-mail. “The ‘cuck’ slur is vulgar, yes, but then piercingly accurate. It is the cuckold who, whether knowingly or unknowingly, loses control of his future. This is an apt psychological portrait of white ‘conservatives,’ whose only identity is comprised of vague, abstract ‘values,’ and who are participating in the displacement of European Americans — their own children…

According to Spencer, “Trump is a major part of the ‘cuckservative’ phenomenon — but not because he himself is an Identitarian or traditionalist. His campaign is, in many ways, a backward-looking movement: ‘Let’s make America great again!’ Why Trump is attractive to Identitarians and the alt Right is: a) he is a tougher, superior man than ‘conservatives’ (which isn’t saying much), and b) he seems to grasp the demographic displacement of European-Americans on a visceral level. We see some hope there.”

Consider yourself on notice. People like Richard Spencer “see some hope” in the likes of Donald Trump. These guys can come up with new names for themselves (i.e., “Identitarians” or “alt Right”) and perhaps they don’t don sheets and pointy hoods or burn crosses at their gatherings. But make no mistake, it’s the same crowd.

P.S. Daniel Marans and Kim Bellware have a run-down on Trump’s white supremacists fan club.

 

By: Nancy LeTournea, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 27, 2015

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Right Wing Extremisim, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Next Generation Of Birthers?”: Bizarre Ideas Make Their Way From The Far-Right Fringe To The Conservative Mainstream

We tend not to hear much from the “birther” activists anymore. For a while, these right-wing critics were obsessed with President Obama’s birthplace, ignoring all evidence in order to turn a ridiculous conspiracy theory into a cottage industry.

But with the president already thinking about his post-White House plans, and the 2016 election season underway, even the most unhinged conservatives no longer see much of a point in focusing on Obama’s origins. They’re just not going to force him from office.

And while it’s tempting to think the entire strain of nonsense is behind us, TPM reports that this may be wishful thinking. The birther “movement” has effectively surrendered in its crusade against President Obama, but what about some of his would-be successors?

In a column published last week on the conspiracy theory website WND, author Jack Cashill noted that questions had been raised about whether four of the 17 candidates in the GOP field were really “natural born citizens” and therefore eligible to run for President.

Ted Cruz has already dealt with those questions publicly – the Canadian-born senator from Texas renounced his citizenship with that country last summer in anticipation of a 2016 bid – but Cashill also listed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) among those who were suspect.

Though the line between satire and sincerity can seem blurry in far-right media, the WorldNetDaily piece does not appear to be a joke. It starts with a passive-voice classic – “The question has been raised for Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal and even Rick Santorum” – and proceeds from there as if this were a legitimate area of inquiry.

It goes so far as to argue, “No one doubts that Jindal was born in the United States, but what is not clear is where the loyalty of his parents lay and whether Jindal is a natural born citizen under the law.”

I’ve read this a few times, and I’ll confess, I’m still not sure what that’s supposed to mean.

And what about Santorum? Why is he included in the mix? Jack Cashill, the author of the WorldNetDaily piece, told TPM, “Because his father was born in Italy and there’s some question as to whether his father was a citizen at the time Santorum was born. That’s a strange case. Only the purest of the constitutionalists would take up that challenge.”

I’m sure Santorum is relieved.

But I’m still stuck on, “The question has been raised.” By whom? When? Why? Cashill told TPM, “Especially in very strict constitutional tea party circles it’s a very lively topic…. It is an undercurrent. It’s not enough to turn an election, but it’s enough to cost like 1 percent of a potential electorate.”

There is, to be sure, a considerable distance between one article on WorldNetDaily and months of scuttlebutt in non-fringe campaign circles. But as we’ve seen many times, bizarre ideas can make their way from the far-right fringe to the conservative mainstream with surprising speed.

There is literally no reason to question the presidential eligibility of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum, but if your weird uncle sends you an all-caps email on the subject, now you’ll know why.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 18, 2015

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Birthers, GOP Presidential Candidates, Right Wing Extremisim | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Company Elected Officials Keep”: Is There Any Group Too Extreme For A Member Of Congress To Meet With?

Even among right-wing groups, the Oath Keepers organization is a pretty alarming bunch. As recently as May, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes told a conservative gathering that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) should be tried for treason and “hung by the neck until dead” for going “along with the program of the destruction of this country.”

A month later, Rhodes was in New York, insisting that President Obama is “trying to” create “a race war.” He added, “[T]he leftists in this country hate this country, they hate it, and they will get in bed with radical Islamists because they have a common enemy, western civilization.”

With this in mind, it was of interest to see the New York Daily News report that Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) recently spoke to an Oath Keepers chapter.

A Zeldin spokeswoman acknowledges that last month he addressed the Long Island chapter of Oath Keepers, a group of retired military, police and fire department employees who say they are committed to fighting “the tyranny we experience in our local, state and federal governments.”

The organization has dabbled in what critics call “fringe conspiracy theories,” citing concern about concentration camps and martial law in the United States. The chapter’s website includes postings by a member embracing a film that claims the December 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax and calling President Obama a “Muslim/Extremist.”

The congressman’s office doesn’t deny Zeldin, an Iraq war veteran, attended the Oath Keepers event. Rather, the Republican lawmaker’s spokesperson said he’s met with a variety of groups “representing all sides of the ideological spectrum.”

“It is completely absurd to make it a litmus test for a member of Congress to agree with every individual or group 100% in order to meet with them,” Zeldin spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena told the Daily News.

At first blush, that might seem vaguely compelling. Lawmakers often have diverse constituencies, so they’re bound to meet with a variety of organizations, some of which they’ll like, some of which they won’t.

That said, is there really no limit? Zeldin apparently doesn’t agree with “100%” of the Oath Keepers’ message, and I’m glad to hear it. But what percentage does he agree with?

Is there any group that Zeldin might consider too extreme for a member of Congress to meet with? And if so, why doesn’t Oath Keepers meet that standard?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 10, 2015

July 13, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Oath Keepers, Right Wing Extremisim | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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