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“The Beating Heart Of The Republican Party”: Right-Wing Extremism; Not Just For Radicals Anymore

On Sunday, it will be 20 years since the morning a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and took 168 human lives. Nineteen of those lives belonged to children.

Maybe it takes you by surprise that it has been so long. Maybe you wonder where the time went. And maybe you remember…

…the ghastly pictures of that building, the front of it sheared away.

…the firefighter emerging from the rubble, tenderly cradling that dying baby.

…the bloody and lacerated people wandering dazedly from the wreckage.

…the breathless speculation that surely the culprits had to be Muslims.

And maybe you remember, too, that sense of vertiginous shock some people felt when we got our first look at the man who planted the bomb and discovered him to be, not a swarthy Muslim with a heavy beard and hard-to-pronounce name, but a clean-cut, apple pie-faced young white man named Timothy McVeigh. People could not have been more nonplussed if Richie Cunningham had shot up a shopping mall.

But the tragedy was to contain one last surprise. It came when we learned why McVeigh committed his atrocity. It seems he hated the government.

That revelation was our introduction to a world whose very existence most of us had never suspected. Meaning the so-called patriot movement, the armed, radical right-wing extremists who refuse to recognize the authority of the nation’s duly constituted and elected government. Maybe you remember the news reports of how they spent nights and weekends drilling in the woods, playing soldier in anticipation of the day ZOG — the Zionist Occupied Government — ceded the country to the United Nations and soldiers of the New World Order came rappelling down from black helicopters to seize everybody’s guns. Maybe you remember how crazy it all sounded.

But that was then. Twenty years ago, the idea of anti-government resistance seemed confined to a lunatic fringe operating in the shadows beyond the mainstream. Twenty years later, it is the mainstream, the beating heart of the Republican Party. And while certainly no responsible figure on the right advocates or condones what he did, it is just as certain that McVeigh’s violent antipathy toward Washington, his conviction that America’s government is America’s enemy, has bound itself to the very DNA of modern conservatism.

It lives in Grover Norquist’s pledge to shrink government down until “we can drown it in the bathtub,” in Chuck Norris’ musing about the need for “a second American revolution,” in Michele Bachmann’s fear that the census is an evil conspiracy. It lives in dozens of right-wing terror plots documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center since the 1995 bombing, including last year’s murder of two police officers and a Walmart shopper by two anti-government activists in Las Vegas. It lives in Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with federal officials.

These days, it is an article of faith on the political right that “government” is a faceless, amorphous Other. But this government brought itself into being with three words — “We the people” — and they are neither incidental nor insignificant. Our government may be good, may be bad, may be something in between, but as long as we are a free society, the one thing it always is, is us. Meaning: a manifestation of our common will, a decision a majority of us made. We are allowed to be furious at it, but even in fury, we always have peaceful tools for its overthrow. So there is never a reason to do what McVeigh did.

We all know that, of course. But 20 years after the day they brought babies out of the rubble in pieces would be an excellent time to pause and remind ourselves, just the same.

 

By: Leonard Pitts., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 15, 2015

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Government, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Voting Rights Should Not Precede Gun Rights”: Conservatives Would Let Felons Vote And Pack Heat

It’s an idea so incredibly crazy it just might work: Restoring voting rights to non-violent felons—if they get back their right to own guns, too.

For some tough-on-crime conservatives, the right to bear firearms is a right that is as fundamental as the right to vote. Capitalizing on this sentiment, the strategy goes, could lead to a larger compromise on felons’ rights.

“If someone asked me if I would rather vote for mayor or have a gun, I’d rather have a gun,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a signatory to the conservative Right on Crime criminal justice reform coalition.

Criminal-justice reform is a hot topic in Washington, D.C. this Congress, driven by the prospect of bipartisan collaboration in an era of divided government. Leading lawmakers in both Republican and Democratic camps have proposed legislation that would address police militarization, civil asset forfeiture, and mandatory minimum sentences.

Groups such as the Brennan Center and the ACLU have also been working on reenfranchising felons in some way.

Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, proposed a bill last year that would restore voting rights for nonviolent felons, joining the ranks of Democrats such as Sen. Ben Cardin who believe that at least some felons should have their voting rights restored.

However, advocates of criminal justice reform are nervous about Sen. Chuck Grassley, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, and has not been gung ho about some of these ideas. He’s skeptical about reforms to mandatory minimums, for example, viewing them as a source of “stability in the criminal justice system.”

The thinking goes that Grassley—a senator with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association—might be brought to the negotiating table on voting rights if the right to bear firearms were in the mix (Grassley’s office did not comment for this article).

It’s a long-shot idea, and in its embryonic stage. But tough-on-crime conservatives aren’t likely to budge on the restoration of voting rights to felons—who, they suspect, will not vote for their candidates if re-enfranchised—if they don’t get something in return.

“It is the obvious compromise,” Norquist said. “Many conservatives willing to restore voting rights would not be willing to suggest Second Amendment rights are second-class rights… In talking to conservatives, some are more or less excited about speeding up voting rights restoration. But all, when asked, agree voting rights should not precede gun rights.”

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik should know something about the way the criminal justice treats felons—he’s also an ex-convict.

“[Lawmakers] should give at least equal attention to voting rights, Second Amendment rights… that you are deprived of as a result of the conviction,” Kerik told The Daily Beast.

A former cop, Kerik was appointed by the Bush administration to be an interim Iraqi minister of interior following the U.S. invasion, and was also once nominated to be U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. He withdrew his nomination after he acknowledged failing to pay taxes for a nanny he hired. After pleading guilty to charges relating to this tax issue, he was sentenced to several years in federal prison.

The theft of oysters or harvesting too many fish commercially can make you a felon, Kerik said. And, as he too well knows, so can a federal tax charge.

“I possessed a firearm for this country for 35 years. I’ve used a firearm personally when my partner was shot in a gun battle… I was convicted of false statements on tax charges primarily relating to my children’s nanny, but I can never possess firearms again for the rest of my life. Is it fair? No.” Kerik told The Daily Beast.

Kerik is also planning to launch a nonprofit organization to press for criminal justice reform in the next several weeks.

Among libertarians working on the criminal justice issue, there is some initial support for the idea, even in its early stages.

“Obviously, we’d need to see details of any proposal, but we’d be very likely to support a bill that restored voting and Second Amendment rights to nonviolent offenders who made youthful mistakes,” said David Pasch, spokesman for Generation Opportunity, a Koch-backed youth advocacy group.

Clark Neily, a senior attorney at the libertarian Institute for Justice, said he has heard about the prospect of combining voting and Second Amendment in a broader effort to restore rights to some felons. He approves of rights restoration broadly, but disapproves of the idea of a political trade on the issues.

“If what is going on is trying to limit the extent to which people are dispossessed of political rights, great. But if it’s a political ploy, I find it distasteful,” he said. “If it is in fact a trade-off, I don’t like the idea of horse-trading when it comes to liberties, or constitutional rights.”

Much of the momentum for criminal justice reform on the right has been created due to renewed efforts by libertarians like the Koch brothers.  However, many of the major groups operating in this policy area—such as the Charles Koch Institute, the Institute for Justice nor the Right on Crime coalition—have yet to take a formal stance on the restoration of Second Amendment rights to nonviolent felons.

Under federal law, felons lose their right to bear firearms, unless their rights are individually restored by a federal agency or through litigation. Felons are subject to the laws of their state when it comes to their right to vote after their time is served. In 11 states, felons lose their right to vote forever, while in two states felons continue to have the right to vote even while in prison. The remainder of the states have some sort of limitation on voting rights for felons.

For now, as the idea is being mulled, the legislative prospects for the trade-off are not good. If any compromise is made on the issue, it will likely be first formed off of Capitol Hill by outside criminal justice reform groups, away from the political poison pill of restoring rights to felons, even nonviolent ones.

“Tons of momentum in the public for criminal justice reform, but not nearly as much in the Republican caucus,” said a top Senate aide who works on the issue. “Many of the Republican caucus were elected when tough-on-crime was a driving force.”

Prison reform, civil asset forfeiture reform, and a juvenile justice bill are far more likely to pass in the current political environment, the aide said.

But Norquist argued that if progressive lawmakers are serious about helping felons rejoin society, the restoration of firearms rights should be on the table.

“If someone thinks [ex-felons] should not be trusted with a gun, why would you trust him with voting for the government, which is the legal monopoly on force?” he said.

 

By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, February 8, 2015

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Felons, Gun Ownership, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Walk Down Memory Lane On Republican Obstruction”: A Consciously Thought-Out Strategy To Create Dysfunction

For some of us its pretty galling to hear Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggest that the way to end dysfunction in Washington is for President Obama to move to the “middle,” or to have to listen to a Republican presidential candidate opine about the lack of “adult conversations” in D.C.

For the record, here’s a little walk down memory lane of Republicans talking publicly about their strategy for obstruction:

1993Bill Kristol writes a memo outlining a strategy for Republicans on President Clinton’s health care reform proposal.

Faced with forceful objections in the past, the [Clinton] Administration has generally preferred to bargain and compromise with Congress so as to achieve any victory it can. But health care is not, in fact, just another Clinton domestic policy. And the conventional political strategies Republicans have used in the past are inadequate to the task of defeating the Clinton plan outright. That must be our goal…

Simple, green-eyeshades criticism of the plan…is fine so far as it goes. But in the current climate, such opposition only wins concessions, not surrender…

Any Republican urge to negotiate a “least bad” compromise with the Democrats, and thereby gain momentary public credit for helping the president “do something” about health care, should also be resisted.

2003Governor Deval Patrick recalls Grover Norquist’s comments on plans for a “permanent Republican majority.”

At our 25th college reunion in 2003, Grover Norquist — the brain and able spokesman for the radical right — and I, along with other classmates who had been in public or political life, participated in a lively panel discussion about politics. During his presentation, Norquist explained why he believed that there would be a permanent Republican majority in America.

One person interrupted, as I recall, and said, “C’mon, Grover, surely one day a Democrat will win the White House.”

Norquist immediately replied: “We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat.”

2009 – As Michael Grunwald reported, these two ideas coalesced into a Republican plan on how to respond to the election of President Barack Obama.

…the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) in which they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular President-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio Senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.”

2010 – Having implemented that plan in response to President Obama’s proposal to reform health care, former speech-writer for President George W. Bush – David Frum – is ejected from the party for writing this:

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994…

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan…Too late now. They are all the law.

2011 – Former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren explains the strategy.

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

So let’s be clear…this was a consciously thought-out strategy by Republicans to create dysfunction in Congress that never fit the “both sides do it” meme embraced by much of the media.

As I’ve pointed out before, President Obama has engaged a lot of different strategies to deal with this obstruction that have each had various amounts of success at different times. But as we head into the next presidential election, we’re likely to hear a lot about how Washington doesn’t work.

That will be the big challenge for the Democratic nominee in 2016. I only wish it was possible for them to take Paul Waldman’s advice.

So imagine if a candidate in the general election, or a president in his inaugural speech, said, “This is my program. I realize that the folks in the other party don’t like it. There may be a few places where we can compromise, and if so, that would be terrific. But I’m going to treat the voters like adults and tell them that I’m not expecting a whole lot of cooperation. I’m going to fight for what I promised to do when I ran, and if you don’t like the results, you can turn me out in four years.”

That would at least be honest, and nobody would be disappointed when the result is partisan fighting.

Of course he’s right when he says that would be honest. The question is…are American voters ready for honesty?

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 1, 2015

February 2, 2015 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Health Reform, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Austerity’s End Strengthens U.S. Recovery”: Speechless, Republicans Fall Back To Peddling More Nonsense

For a variety of partisan and ideological reasons, the right finds it necessary to believe austerity helps the economy. Conservatives, on Capitol Hill and off, remain wedded to the idea that taking capital out of the economy and weakening demand will lead to more growth, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

In an amusing twist, as the U.S. economic recovery gains strength, some on the right actually feel vindicated.

Grover Norquist would like Republicans to shut up about how bad the economy is, and instead take credit for the recovery.

The prominent anti-tax crusader hasn’t turned into a bullhorn for President Barack Obama’s economic policies; he still thinks they’re a drag on jobs and wages. But he’s also grown critical of his fellow Republicans for making poor strategic and messaging decisions on several key issues. Rather than tying the economic recovery to spending cuts ushered in by the sequester and to the continuation of 85 percent of the Bush tax cuts, he said, some in the party have insisted their own leaders fumbled those items.

It’s an interesting course correction for the right. In recent years, Republicans have said the combination of the Affordable Care Act, federal regulations, and higher taxes on the wealthy are crushing the economy. That argument obviously doesn’t make any sense in light of the strongest growth and job creation in over a decade.

So Norquist is suggesting his party flip the script: sure the economy is starting to soar, he says, but that’s only because deep spending cuts like “the sequester” gave the nation a big boost. Austerity took capital out of the system, some conservatives are now arguing, and just look at how great the results are!

It’s important to understand the degree to which Norquist has the story backwards. Recent developments haven’t bolstered conservative economic theories; they’ve done the opposite.

First, the national economy hasn’t improved as a result of spending cuts, but rather, the end of spending cuts.

For a long stretch, government spending cutbacks at all levels were a substantial drag on economic growth. Now, finally, relief is in sight. For the first time since 2011, local, state and federal governments are providing a small but significant increase to prosperity. […]

Across the nation, state and local governments, Democratic and Republican alike, are spending on projects that were stalled. Teachers, who were laid off in droves in recent years, are being hired again. Even federal spending in some sectors is on the rise.

The more the public sector starts to reinvest, as opposed to scaling back, the stronger economic growth becomes. This is the polar opposite of Republican economic theory, and yet, the laws of supply and demand don’t much care about politicians’ ideology.

Second, as Danny Vinik explained, “one of the big reasons that the economy kicked into gear in the latter half of this year is that the Murray-Ryan budget deal alleviated much of sequestration. Fiscal policy, finally, is largely not standing in the way of stronger growth.”

Paul Krugman last week seemed to anticipate Norquist’s argument, and preemptively destroyed it.

Suppose that for some reason you decided to start hitting yourself in the head, repeatedly, with a baseball bat. You’d feel pretty bad. Correspondingly, you’d probably feel a lot better if and when you finally stopped. What would that improvement in your condition tell you?

It certainly wouldn’t imply that hitting yourself in the head was a good idea. It would, however, be an indication that the pain you were experiencing wasn’t a reflection of anything fundamentally wrong with your health. Your head wasn’t hurting because you were sick; it was hurting because you kept hitting it with that baseball bat.

And now you understand the basics of what has been happening to several major economies, including the United States, over the past few years. In fact, you understand these basics better than many politicians and commentators. […]

[I]n America we haven’t had an official, declared policy of fiscal austerity – but we’ve nonetheless had plenty of austerity in practice, thanks to the federal sequester and sharp cuts by state and local governments. The good news is that we, too, seem to have stopped tightening the screws: Public spending isn’t surging, but at least it has stopped falling. And the economy is doing much better as a result.

I can appreciate the dilemma facing Norquist and his allies when it comes to explaining the sudden economic surge. Indeed, after the strongest economic growth in 11 years, Republicans greeted the news with total silence – literally.

And if I were in their shoes, I’d probably be speechless, too. But that’s no excuse for peddling nonsense – those hoping to credit austerity for a healthy recovery clearly have no idea what they’re talking about.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 2, 2014

January 4, 2015 Posted by | Austerity, Economic Recovery, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Page One Of His Playbook”: Karl Rove Has A Democratic Candidate For Governor ‘Arrested’

Karl Rove has committed felonies—uh, not felonies, I mean smears. To avoid any confusion, I’ll repeat: Karl Rove has not been convicted of committing felonies. But he has committed smears (not unlike the one I just committed on him). And, virtually unnoticed by the media, he has smeared again, yesterday on Fox News Sunday.

It was recently revealed that Paul Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor of Kansas, had a most awkward moment sixteen years ago. Police raided a strip club near Coffeyville for drugs and found Davis, then 26 and unmarried, getting a lap dance. He wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing, no charges were brought against him, and even in Kansas, lap-dancing isn’t illegal.

Still, the lap-dance story is fair game for supporters of Sam Brownback, the embattled Republican governor who’s running for re-election. On Meet the Press yesterday, Grover Norquist, for example, interrupted his anti-tax talk to relate the lap-dance incident (“with the naked lady”), which Thomas Frank later shot down as ancient small fry.

But over at Fox, Rove dramatically raised the stakes for Davis, saying that Kansas’s possible future governor had been “arrested”:

The governor’s race in Kansas is close. However, late last week, it was revealed that the Democratic candidate for governor had been arrested—or not arrested, he’d been detained briefly a number of years ago when he was an attorney for a strip joint and the police found him getting a lap dance.

Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace let it slide, presumably because Rove corrected himself. But the “correction” allowed Rove to repeat the word “arrested,” a word that, even when used in the negative, Fox viewers can now associate with Davis and repeat until it seems true. No small thing when many diehard Republicans in Kansas are so disgusted with the devastation wreaked by Brownback’s tax cuts, that they’re actually considering a vote for Davis.

Of course, Rove may have simply made an honest slip of the tongue. But “Bush’s Brain” has a long list of such ambiguous slips.

Most recently, he suggested that Hillary Clinton had suffered a “traumatic brain injury.” Several months after her December 2012 fall, which caused a blood clot, Rove said, “Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she’s wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what’s up with that.” She was hospitalized for three days, not thirty, and later that day Rove tried to deny (while simultaneously reinforcing) his innuendo, saying, “Of course she doesn’t have brain damage.”

“You could believe Rove’s denial—but you would have to ignore virtually his entire political career,” as George Zornick wrote in The Nation. “For decades Rove has been circulating nasty, personal rumors about political opponents and placing them in the public conversation, all while obscuring his fingerprints, making the rumors become the opponent’s problem, not his. It’s page one of his playbook.”

A protégé of the late Lee Atwater, the GOP dirty trickster who once boasted that “states’ rights” and “tax cuts” could be used as code words for “nigger,” Rove has been associated with whisper campaigns suggesting that his clients’ opponents were homosexual (Texas governor Ann Richards in 1994), pedophiles (a Democratic candidate for Alabama Supreme Court, also in ’94), or mentally impaired (John McCain in 2000). “Other rumors tied to the Rove-led campaign” in 2000, writes Think Progress, “included allegations that McCain’s wife had a drug problem and that his adopted Bangladesh-born daughter was an ‘illegitimate black child.’”

Rove is sparing Davis the “mental” and “homo” tags, but having him “arrested” just might do the dirty trick. (And it might help obscure reports, cited by Davis, that the FBI is investigating the fund-raising and lobbying practices of Brownback associates. Brownback has denied any wrongdoing.)As for Davis, a Kansas state representative, he released a statement to Politico on Saturday. “When I was 26 years old, I was taken to a club by my boss—the club owner was one of our legal clients,” he said in the statement. “While we were in the building, the police showed up. I was never accused of having done anything wrong, but rather I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

On Fox, Rove was, once again, in the right place at the right time to say the wrong thing.

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, September 22, 2014

September 23, 2014 Posted by | Kansas, Karl Rove, Paul Davis | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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