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“Jindal Checks The Falwell Box”: In A Desperate Search For A “Base”

I don’t know how I missed the fact that Bobby Jindal was doing the commencement address at Liberty University on Saturday. Perhaps the Lord wanted me to have a peaceful weekend and not think about the Louisiana governor up there in Lynchburg pandering his heart out and checking the Falwell box in his desperate search for a “base” from which to run for president in 2016. Most of his remarks sound about as generic as you can get, in the Times-Pic‘s account of it:

“Today the American people, whether they know it or not, are mired in a silent war. … It is a war — a silent war — against religious liberty,” said Jindal, who spent much of the speech attacking President Barack Obama and the federal government.

This is the same rap he delivered at the Ronald Reagan Library back in February, and the only real enhancement is that he’s lucked into having an actual constituent, Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson, he can tout as the latest “victim” of politically-correct hordes of Jesus-hating sodomites. And so he has made his Christian Right persona the last of many reinventions he has pursued in his career, one that has the advantage of not relying on his record in Louisiana, where at the end of next year he’s leaving office after two full terms as governor not terribly popular with people in either party.

Indeed, he leaped effortlessly from talking about Phil Robertson to talking about Liberty’s pop-culture martyrs:

“You may think that I was defending the Robertsons simply because I am the Governor of their home state, the great state of Louisiana. You would be wrong about that. I defended them because they have every right to speak their minds,” Jindal said.

The governor then went on to say he supports David and Jason Benham, Liberty University graduates who recently lost an opportunity to have their own television show on HGTV after making controversial remarks about homosexuality and abortion.

So what distinguishes Bobby from all the other conservative pols making the holy pilgrimage to Lynchburg to offer themselves as field marshals in the spiritual warfare against godless secularists? Well, he’s got his conversion experience from Hinduism to Christianity, which he talked a lot about at Liberty, and will talk about in the future, so shameless and ruthless is his exploitation of anything in his own life that will help his candidacy. Trouble is, Bobby converted to Catholicism, not to the conservative evangelical Christianity of Jerry Falwell. I supposed he could have told the audience at Liberty this was a youthful indiscretion based on the likelihood that he would someday seek his fortune in Catholic-heavy Louisiana. But instead he’s describing himself as an “evangelical Catholic,” which is code for “don’t mind the transubstantiation and don’t listen to the current Pope, I’m as politicized as you are!”

Jindal by all accounts got a warm welcome from a national conservative evangelical audience at Liberty, and from a separate and more select group of Christian Right leaders at a private dinner over the weekend. But you have to wonder if he’s more of a novelty and a mascot for them, someone to warm up crowds with stories of hiding in the closet to read the Bible so his idol-worshiping parents couldn’t punish him, before the real presidential candidates speak. At this point, though, if that’s the role Bobby Jindal has to play to keep getting invited to do “major speeches,” that’s fine with him. Anywhere he goes will be more congenial territory than Baton Rouge.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 13, 2014

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Reaganites Called Him A Terrorist And A Phony”: All The Terrible Things Republicans Used To Say About Nelson Mandela

Before Congressional Republicans in the U.S. lionized Nelson Mandela, they despised him. And they opposed not just the great freedom fighter himself but the entire anti-apartheid movement. Even worse, they took actions that damaged the cause of equality in South Africa. Not for nothing did Bishop Desmond Tutu call Ronald Reagan’s policy towards the country “immoral, evil and totally un-Christian.” Conservative Americans’ pro-apartheid actions are not just shameful history—they are similar, in some ways, to their actions to rid the world of political Islam.

The Kennedy administration had opposed the Afrikaner government, instituting an arms embargo on the country. Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, conversely, muted criticism of the regime and opened channels of communications, in order to defeat the Soviets in the Third World. As part of his human rights-focused foreign policy, Jimmy Carter reversed course, imposed restrictions and sanctions on the apartheid government, which Mandela and his party, the African National Congress, requested.

Reagan not only removed the restrictions; he embraced the South African Apartheid regime. He instituted a policy euphemized as “constructive engagement.” Reagan said that the United States lacked the power to change the internal workings of the Afrikaner government. Not only was the claim false, it contradicted his position on the far more powerful Soviet Union, which was designed precisely to change the evil empire’s internal behavior. Reagan put Mandela on the U.S. terrorist list, a placement that wasn’t removed until 2008, incredibly. This was at a time when the South African civil war was at its peak of violence, with the conflict becoming a global cause.

In 1985, after the South African government committed some of its worst atrocities against blacks, Congress voted to impose sanctions against the country. This was a time when America accounted for about one-fifth of direct foreign investment in South Africa. Reagan vetoed the Anti-Apartheid Act, calling it “immoral” and “repugnant.”

When Reagan met with Tutu, it was among the tensest meetings in his entire presidency. Reagan had the gall to tell the bishop that there had been “sizable progress in South Africa because of U.S. policy.” Tutu responded that the victims of Apartheid didn’t quite see that progress.  Reagan called the ANC “notorious terrorists,” and, as late as 1988, called apartheid “a tribal policy more than … a racial policy.”

It wasn’t just Reagan. Moral Majority leader Jerry Fallwell called Tutu a “phony” who didn’t speak for South Africans blacks. He even urged Americans to support the Pretoria government.  North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms filibustered the sanctions bill. Strom Thurmond and Phil Gramm likewise opposed it. And future vice-president Dick Cheney called Mandela a terrorist, saying in 2000 that he didn’t regret his position. Pat Buchanan called Mandela a “train-bomber.” The Heritage Foundation said America should stop calling for Mandela’s release from prison. Pat Robertson, Grover Norquist, future Tea Party leaders, and current Republican Senators—all were on the books supporting the Apartheid government. When 35 House Republicans broke with the Reagan administration, the National Review called them “uppity,” and Human Events called them a “lynch mob.”

Most of the opposition was justified on foreign-policy grounds. The Reaganites feared that the Soviet Union would gain from the Afrikaner regime if they alienated it. As Conservative Caucus Foundation Chair Howard Phillips put it, “It’s not just a black-white issue. It’s red versus red, white, and blue.” The man who, outside of Reagan, did more than any other to shape the administration’s pro-apartheid policy was Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker, who fashioned the Constructive Engagement policy. Wrote Crocker: “The real choice we will face in southern Africa in the 1980s concerns our readiness to compete with our global adversary in the politics of a changing region who future depends on those who participate in shaping it.” The State Department now says frankly that “Defenders of the Apartheid regime” in the West “had promoted it as a bulwark against communism.”

There were two flaws in this line of thinking. First was the notion that South Africa was an important theatre in the Cold War. It wasn’t. It wasn’t even of secondary importance, as Indochina was. Western Europe and Japan were what always mattered. Then there was the view that any means were justified in defeating the Soviet Union. Apartheid was as hideous a societal construct as existed, but many conservatives praised it just because it was anticommunist.

Both misjudgments are being replicated today. Instead of lasering in on anti-American terrorists, hawks maintain that Islamists anywhere are a threat to America everywhere. The result, if put into practice, would be a foreign policy that enmeshed the United States in unnecessary, damaging wars, sullied the country’s moral character, and caused great harm.

Similarly, with the entire globe being up for grabs in the conflict against radical Islam, all actions are deemed justified. Preventive wars against Iraq and perhaps Iran, torture, endless domestic and international surveillance—all are simply part of the toolkit needed to fight a limitless threat.

Some conservatives now concede they were wrong about Mandela. Perhaps after the threat to America from terrorists recedes, they will admit they were similarly mistaken—and damaging—in their inflation of threats from political Islam across the globe.


By: Jordan Michael Smith, The New Republic, December 6, 2013

December 8, 2013 Posted by | Nelson Mandela, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Father Of The Bride Meets Drugstore Cowboy”: Virginia’s Bob McDonnell Faces FBI Scrutiny

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is wrapping his final months in office, and would no doubt like to leave on a high note, en route to pursuing higher office.

But at this point, instead of spending time with volunteers in Iowa and New Hampshire, it looks like Governor Ultrasound will have to spend his time with his attorneys.

FBI agents are conducting interviews about the relationship between Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, his wife, Maureen, and a major campaign donor who paid for the food at the wedding of the governor’s daughter, according to four people familiar with the questioning.

The agents have been asking associates of the McDonnells about gifts provided to the family by Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and actions the Republican governor and his wife have taken that may have boosted the company, the people said.

Among the topics being explored, they said, is the $15,000 catering bill that Williams paid for the 2011 wedding of McDonnell’s daughter at Virginia’s historic Executive Mansion. But questions have extended to other, previously undisclosed gifts from Williams to Maureen McDonnell as well, they said.

Now, it’s worth clarifying that the FBI’s interest in McDonnell may be tangential — federal law enforcement has taken an interest in Williams and Star Scientific, and it’s not clear if officials suspect the governor of any criminal misdeeds.

But that doesn’t make this story any less damaging for McDonnell, whose political career is in severe jeopardy.

Following up on an item from a few weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that McDonnell’s daughter was married in 2011, and the governor said the bride and groom paid for the event. In reality, $15,000 came by way of Williams. McDonnell not only lied about the financing, but he somehow forgot to disclose Williams’ generous gift, as he’s legally required to do.

Complicating matters, shortly before the wedding, McDonnell’s wife attended an event in Florida to endorse Williams’ product, and shortly after the wedding, McDonnell hosted Williams at the governor’s home for a launch party for Williams’ product.

Then, the story got slightly worse.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has said his daughter and her husband paid for their own wedding. So a $15,000 check from a major campaign donor to pay for the food at the affair was a gift to the bride and groom and not to him, and therefore did not have to be publicly disclosed under the law, the governor says.

But documents obtained by The Washington Post show that McDonnell signed the catering contract, making him financially responsible for the 2011 event. The governor made handwritten notes to the caterer in the margins. In addition, the governor paid nearly $8,000 in deposits for the catering.

When the combination of the governor’s deposit and the gift from the donor resulted in an overpayment to the caterer, the refund check of more than $3,500 went to McDonnell’s wife and not to his daughter, her husband or back to the donor.

The new documents suggest that the governor was more involved with the financing of the wedding than he has previously acknowledged.

Some of this is just amusing on a semantics level. McDonnell’s spokesperson said the governor’s daughter paid for the event, and she “paid for it by accepting it as a gift from one of dad’s campaign contributors.”

But some of it is also interesting on a legal level. It’s true that family members of officeholders don’t have to follow the same disclosure requirements as the officeholders themselves, and in this case, McDonnell is arguing he had nothing to do with the $15,000 gift — it went directly from the governor’s donor to the governor’s daughter. The problem is all the evidence that ties McDonnell to the money.

Making matters slightly worse still, last week we learned Williams also paid for some McDonnell vacations. In 2011, the McDonnell family “vacationed at a lake house owned by Williams and drove the executive’s Ferrari from the home, at Smith Mountain Lake southeast of Roanoke, back to Richmond.”

Yep, Ferrari.

I thought I’d also I’d re-up TNR‘s Alec MacGillis great piece on the controversy, arguing that the governor “can kiss his 2016 hopes goodbye.”

Romney passed McDonnell over and one rarely hears McDonnell mentioned on the short list of 2016 hopefuls. He did not help his standing with conservatives nationwide when, in the just-completed legislative session, he signed a transportation funding package that raises hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and taxes.”

And now this: Father of the Bride meets Drugstore Cowboy. There’s a sad irony in this denouement. McDonnell’s successful makeover involved transforming himself from a disciple of Jerry Falwell into a model Virginia gentleman, sober and highbrow, in contrast with ideological brawlers like Ken Cuccinelli, the arch-conservative attorney general who is running to succeed him. But there’s nothing sober and highbrow about having a dietary-supplement maker funneling money to your daughter’s wedding. With just months left to go in McDonnell’s term, we must say: Bob, we hardly knew ye. Though who knows, in the years ahead we may see more of you yet — on late-night TV, hawking miracle pills.

And that was written before the FBI became interested in McDonnell’s ties to Williams.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 30, 2013

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul’s Godfather”: The Party Of Far Right Activists And Christian Reconstructionists

I just realized, via Julie Ingersoll of Religion Dispatches, that Howard Phillips, one of the true founders of the Christian Right and one of that movement’s most aggressive theocrats, died over the weekend at 72 after suffering from a debilitating illness for the last couple of years.

Aside from his important role in working with Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell in building the Moral Majority and serving as an unofficial ideological commissar during the Reagan years, Phillips was better known in the 1990s for bailing out of the Republican Party and founding the U.S. Constitution Party (originally the U.S. Taxpayers Party). Phillips’ party was a vehicle for far-right activists and especially Christian Reconstructionists determined to build a society where rigid biblical norms governed culture but private activity ruled the economy. While the Constitution Party has never had any electoral clout, it has had some well-known supporters whose influence continues to rise, notes Ingersoll:

The Constitution Party’s goal is to “reestablish” Biblical Law as the foundation for American society. Part of the ability of the Constitution Party to endure, despite structural impediments to third parties in the American political system, is no doubt due to longstanding support from Ron Paul, Rand Paul and a dedicated core of their supporters.

Rand Paul spoke at a Constitution Party event as recently as 2009. His father actually endorsed the Constitution presidential ticket in 2008, and after his retirement from Congress, has devoted much of his time (as Sarah Posner has reported) to the promotion of a home-school curriculum whose development was supervised by Gary North, a major Christian Reconstructionist theorist with links to the Constitution Party, who has also been cited as an influence by Rand Paul.

I wonder how aware some of the young hip libertarians attracted to the Family Paul–or for that matter, the MSM journalists who occasionally interpret the Paulite message in the image of their own economic conservative/cultural liberal views–about the Christian Reconstructionist associations of Ron and Rand. Sure, it’s possible to systematically dislike government on purely libertarian or even anarchist grounds, but it’s also possible to hate “government schools” because they compete with strict conservative evangelical madrassa training and wish to undermine government generally for interfering with the imposition of biblical law. If Rand Paul does emerge as a viable candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 or later, I do hope he’s asked early and often about Howard Phillips and the Constitution Party, and exactly how much freedom he actually wants us to have from the Revealed Truth as he understands it.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 23, 2013

April 25, 2013 Posted by | Libertarians, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It Was Fun While It Lasted”: The Coming GOP-Evangelical Divorce

What are evangelical conservatives going to do? I ask the question not with any sympathy, but with a mountain of schadenfreudian glee—I am profoundly reassured about my country’s direction every time I hear Tony Perkins bemoan it. But however it’s asked, it’s a question that’s growing more and more urgent. Mike Huckabee says that if the GOP embraces same-sex marriage, “evangelicals will take a walk.” Others pooh-pooh this on the usual grounds that they’ve got nowhere else to go. But they do: back to private life. And it’s my bet that in, say, eight or 12 years’ time, that’s where a lot of evangelicals will be. Having gotten into politics to rescue America from the sinners and fornicators, I reckon a critical mass will decide by 2024 that it was fun while it lasted, but that the fight is hopeless.

It’s going to be fascinating to watch and see what the party does on same-sex marriage as these next months and years progress. I, for one, do not expect to see the senators tumble like dominoes after the push from Ohio’s Rob Portman. Too many of them are from states where adopting that position would be suicide. Remember, we’re talking here not about the mores of the state as a whole, but of its GOP primary voters. So Claire McCaskill could announce her support for same-sex marriage in Democratic Missouri. But Roy Blunt in Republican Missouri? One doubts it. Different state, really. He in fact just reaffirmed his support for the Defense of Marriage Act.

Perusing the list of GOP senators, one sees only a few who might follow Portman. Susan Collins of course; Mark Kirk; Kelly Ayotte, at least on geographic grounds, although she’s quite conservative. You get the idea. I haven’t studied the political situations of all 232 GOP House members, and I won’t, but the general picture is similar. Right now, a grand total of two GOP House members back gay marriage—Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of upstate New York. Two.

This is all pretty amusing because after Portman, some people started talking and writing as if some sort of floodgates were opening, but in reality it would be completely shocking if more than 20 of Capitol Hill’s 279 Republican solons were backing same-sex marriage as we approach 2016. There may well not be more than 10.

This is the kind of issue on which the party’s position will largely be determined by the person it nominates to be president. All the contenders are reliably anti-, yes, even Rand Paul. His libertarian disposition brings him up short of the usual epileptic hatred of gay people, but he’s against them all the same. So the party will likely head into the 2016 election with a position identical to the one it has now. The hard-shell platform, which in 2012 backed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman, may get a nip here or tuck there, which those sad Log Cabin people will tout as a great advance, but no more than that.

And, by 2016, it will be more clear than it is today that their bigoted position is a big electoral loser for them. They likely will have lost again, assuming Hillary Clinton runs. And then, staring at the grim reality of 16 straight years of Democratic governance by two people they believe to be Satan and, uh, Satan, they’ll start to make some changes. They’ll study up on the actuarial charts, and same-sex marriage is one of the changes they’ll make—maybe not whole hog right at first, but eventually and inevitably. By 2024—after Hillary, that is—the Republicans will be not all that distinguishable (at least through evangelical eyes) from the Democrats, with a platform supporting same-sex marriage, or at least tolerating it in antiseptic language.

Then what for the Christian right? They got into politics in the 1970s. Remember, Jerry Falwell himself, in a 1965 sermon called “Ministers and Marches,” denounced mixing religion and politics. But then came late-’60s tumult, Roe v. Wade, and kindred signs of the devil’s grip (preceded by the Supreme Court’s decision to take God out of the classroom). Religious conservatives got into politics to undo those things. And here we are, 50 years later, and it’s only gotten worse as far as they’re concerned. By 2024, if my forecasts are correct, things will get only worse still.

Well, how much patience can a movement have? By 2024, evangelicals will have been up to their armpits in politics for half a century. With what to show for it? A country where (I’m betting) abortion is still legal, and now Adam and Steve are saying vows. And their vehicle for their agenda, the Republican Party, will be walking away from them to a place where they smell more votes (and money).

And that’s how the GOP-evangelical divorce will happen. Not all evangelicals will leave. Maybe not even half. But a reduction in the Republican primary electorate from 50 percent evangelical, which is roughly what it is now, to 30 percent would make for some enormous improvements in how the party approaches social issues. And many evangelicals, heeding that old Falwell advice, will stop obsessing so much over this life and spend more time preparing for what they believe is the next one, where (if their own predictions are correct) they won’t feel like hating anyone anymore anyway.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 30, 2013

March 31, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Religious Right | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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