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“The GOP’s Big Weekend”: So Much Extremism, So Little Time

If you want to know the current state of the Republican Party, look no further than the activities that the party’s leading presidential hopefuls have planned for this weekend. With two such extreme choices, how does a candidate pick just one?

Several top GOP contenders — including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — will be spending Saturday in Iowa at a conference organized by the party’s most vocal anti-immigrant extremist, Rep. Steve King, and featuring King’s favorite birther ally, Donald Trump.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, meanwhile, has a different strategy. He’ll be spending this weekend with radical Christian nationalists and anti-gay extremists to pray for the day when they gain total political control of the country.

How do you choose?

Each candidate seems to want to find just the right right-wing niche to launch his candidacy.

Republican leaders sometimes like to make a show of distancing themselves from Steve King — John Boehner memorably called him an “asshole” after he described DREAM Act beneficiaries as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes” — but that hasn’t stopped them from allowing him to have plenty of influence over immigration policy. Last summer, the House GOP handed over its immigration policy to King, passing a bill repealing deportation relief for DREAMers that King gushed was like he “ordered off the menu.” And his influence is anything but fading.

The fact that potential Republican presidential candidates are flocking to King’s “Iowa Freedom Summit” is telling enough. The fact that it is cohosted by Citizens United — an organization now synonymous with the defense of big money in politics — and features Donald Trump — a man who has dedicated himself over the past few years to proving that President Obama was born in Kenya — is just icing on the cake. Anti-immigrant hatred, racist birther theories, and legalized corruption all in one conference — truly tempting!

One person was evidently able to resist: Bobby Jindal, who already had plans to cater to another set of extremists the same weekend.

Jindal has apparently decided that if he’s going to run for president, his role model will be Rick Perry.

In 2011, as Perry was zeroing in on a presidential run, he decided to solidify his base in the religious right by holding “The Response,” a massive “prayer rally” in Texas organized by the wildly anti-gay American Family Association (AFA) and their Christian nationalist allies at the “International House of Prayer” (yes, IHOP), featuring an impressive collection of right-wing extremists. Although one participant reported that the prayer rally cured Texas of a curse left by Native American cannibals, it failed to launch Perry into the presidency.

But Jindal seems to be confident that the second time will be the charm. Jindal has signed on with the AFA to host “The Response: Baton Rouge” on the campus of Louisiana State University, which he says will cause the nation to “turn back to God” and “put these United States of America back in the right path.” Also helping to organize the rally is David Lane, a quietly influential Christian-right activist who has built strong alliances within the Republican Party in his effort to establish a U.S. government that reflects his theocratic worldview.

Jindal was already working hard, if somewhat more quietly, to solidify his ties with the religious right — for instance, by pouring millions of dollars in taxpayer money into religious schools that teach junk science and revisionist history. But what Jindal doesn’t appear to have counted on is that when you partner with extremists to host a massive public rally, it’s hard to hide the fact that you’re partnering with extremists to host a massive public rally. The AFA, which is footing most of the bill for the event, is most notorious for the bigoted ranting of its chief spokesperson, Bryan Fischer, who, from his perch at the organization’s radio network, manages to regularly insult and demean LGBT people, Muslim Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, women, and even Medal of Honor recipients. He also frequently declares that the First Amendment is meant to protect only Christians, a category in which he does not include Mormons, and calls Hinduism — the faith of Jindal’s parents — a “doctrine of demons.”

And that’s just one person! The AFA is the kind of group that boycotts Home Depot for participating in gay pride parades, dabbles in anti-Obama conspiracy theories, and is leading the charge against the “War on Christmas.”

Lane, for his part, has predicted that car bombings in major American cities will soon be part of God’s “mercy” on the country for such sins as letting an openly gay poet read at a presidential inauguration, and hopes for the day when the Bible is used as the “principle textbook” in American schools.

On top of all of this, Jindal has found it somewhat hard to back away from a “prayer guide” distributed by organizers of his rally that blamed Hurricane Katrina on gay people getting married, a claim that the AFA cheerfully stood behind even after it started to get Jindal in trouble.

Not that it’s unusual for Jindal to partner with these people. The AFA is a top sponsor of the annual Values Voter Summit, which always draws a who’s who of Republican leaders. And Lane has partnered with Perry, Huckabee, Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Pence and the Republican National Committee.

As the presidential primary approaches, the GOP’s candidates are scrambling to win the support of theocrats, bigots and anti-immigrant extremists. What they don’t seem to realize is that that will make it much harder for them to win the respect of the rest of us.

 

By: Michael Keegan, President, People For the American Way; The Blog, The Huffington Post, January 22, 2015

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, GOP Presidential Candidates, Religious Right | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Wacko Birds Of A Feather”: Right Wing Obligatory Chores Essential To Maintaining Good Relations With The GOP Base

Those who marveled at my earlier post about David Barton’s belief that legalized abortion is the cause of climate change should be aware that the “historian” is not only the chief inspiration for the whole “Christian Nation” meme that has largely been accepted as a truism by much of the American Right, but swims in some of the same waters as regular old Republican pols.

This becomes apparent if you look at one of ol’ David’s favorite organizations, the American Renewal Project, the very insider Christian Right group closely aligned with the aggressively homophobic American Family Association, and run by the famously influential David Lane, whose main vehicle is the “Pastor’s Policy Briefings” that bring pols in on the carpet to be instructed by clergy in an off-the-record context.

Barton was present at the first such event of the 2014 electoral cycle in Iowa back in July. So, too, were Rand Paul, and the man who stole the show, Ted Cruz (per this account from the Des Moines Register‘s Jennifer Jacobs:

This morning, Cruz spoke for nearly an hour at the Iowa Renewal Project, a two-day, all-expenses-paid forum organized by David Lane, a political activist from California who has been quietly mobilizing evangelicals in Iowa for six years. Two top-name GOP politicians who are likely 2016 presidential candidates – Cruz and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, both born-again Christians – are the stars of today’s sessions.

Cruz lectured for 30 minutes, his voice at times rising to a shout. He answered questions for another 20 minutes, then stood at the center of a circle as pastors laid their hands on him and the whole audience – a predominantly white group with about 20 black pastors – bowed heads to pray for him.

Then there was this tidbit, which is even more interesting now that David Corn has drawn attention to a certain reverend close to the junior senator from Texas:

Cruz, who told The Des Moines Register he has never been to Iowa before, laid out his social conservative credentials in some detail, explaining all the religious issues he defended in court cases he worked on as a private lawyer and as solicitor general in Texas. He introduced his Cuban immigrant father, Rafael Cruz, who sat in the audience.

That was then. This is now, today, per Andrew Shain of The State:

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is reaching out Monday to the same audience of South Carolina pastors that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich visited twice before his surprise victory in the state’s 2012 presidential primary.

Cruz, an expected White House hopeful who was the lightning rod during last month’s 16-day partial federal government shutdown, will speak at a Columbia hotel. It is one of many events that evangelical political operative David Lane has organized in key battleground states since 2005.

Lane’s American Renewal Project is financed by the American Family Association, the Mississippi-based Christian organization that advocates on social issues. Lane’s goal is to get more evangelicals to the polls via the “pastors’ policy briefings’’ that he has held over the years, including a half-dozen in South Carolina.

SC Sen. Tim Scott is also on the agenda for this event, entitled “Rediscovering God in America.” The preachers and pols will also hear from “historian” William Federer, who argues, among other things, that Benghazi! was an Alinskyite plot by Hillary Clinton to impose “global Sharia law.” Seriously:

I could go on and on (another speaker at the SC event, Dr. Laurence White, delivered a blood-curdling speech I happened to hear in Iowa last year attacking Christians who tolerate “the perverted standards of the ungodly who live around us” and damned anyone who would in any way compromise with baby-killing pro-choicers). But you get the point. Pundits who casually talk about pols in both parties pandering to “extremists” or “interest groups” clearly don’t get it. There is no analog among Democratic politicians–certainly those considered possible serious candidates for president–consorting with people as “out there” as Barton and Federer and White and AFA founder Don Wildmon (another speaker in Columbia) and Lane and Lord knows who else. For Republicans, it’s not only business as usual, but essential to good relations with “the base” and an obligatory chore on the road to the presidential nomination.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, November 4, 2013

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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