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“Calling It What It Is”: Holder Sees Racism In Obama Opposition — He’s Right

Right-wing pundits are jumping all over Attorney General Eric Holder for daring to suggest on Sunday that “racial animus” plays a role in the “level of vehemence” that’s been directed at President Obama. They’re denouncing him for “playing the race card” and “stoking racial divisions.”

Who do they think they’re fooling?

The rhetoric is what’s hateful. Calling people out for it is not.

The racism Holder described has been obvious since the 2008 campaign, when Obama was portrayed as someone who was not a “real American” — a Muslim, a Kenyan, a communist, even a terrorist sympathizer.

Since then, an entire movement has been built around the thoroughly discredited notion that the president’s birth certificate is a fake. And that’s just the beginning.

Newt Gingrich has called Obama the “food stamp president” and referred to his “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.”

Rush Limbaugh has said Obama — and Oprah Winfrey, too, by the way — have reached the pinnacle of their professions only because they’re black. He added this week that “so-called conservative media types” praised Holder’s nomination only because he’s black.

Glenn Beck has said the president, whose mother was white, has a “deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture.”

Conservative hero and former rock star Ted Nugent, who was invited to campaign with the GOP nominee for Texas governor, called the president a “subhuman mongrel.”

A Confederate flag was waved in front of the White House during last year’s “Million Vet March.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina screamed “You lie!” during the president’s address to Congress in September 2009. When has that happened to a president before?

All manner of overtly racist posters have been seen at tea party rallies, including one depicting the president as a “witch doctor.”

We’ve repeatedly seen stories about conservative politicians sharing racist jokes about Obama.

And, we’ve seen an explosive growth of radical-right groups, including armed militias, since Obama was elected, and repeated threats that violence is needed to “take our country back” from the “tyranny” of Obama. This is part of a backlash to the growing diversity in our country, as symbolized by the presence of a black man in the White House.

I grew up in rural Alabama during the Jim Crow years and lived through the civil rights movement, when white supremacists did everything they could, including committing violent atrocities, to turn back the tide of progress. And I’ve stared across the courtroom at some of America’s most vicious hatemongers — men like neo-Nazi Frazier Glenn Cross, who recently killed three people and once targeted me. I know racism when I see it.

No one, of course, is suggesting that merely disagreeing with Obama is evidence of racism. That’s clearly not true.

But we have a political party and a right-wing media machine that pander incessantly to the racist reactionaries in our society, often through code words. It’s been going on since Nixon implemented his “Southern strategy” of appealing to white resentment in the wake of the civil rights movement.

I wish it weren’t so. But it is simply undeniable. We should call it what it is.

 

By: Morris Dees, Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center; The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2014

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Eric Holder, Racism, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obama’s Too Mean”: Filled With Contempt, Tea Party Republicans Look For Excuse To Rationalize Their Disgust

Tea Party Republicans are not known for their timidity. We are, after all, talking about a group of right-wing activists and lawmakers who push an agenda that’s as aggressive as it is regressive, reject compromise, and demand brutal policy consequences for everyone who stands in their way.

It is therefore rather amusing to hear about President Obama being a big meanie.

When tea-party Republicans arrived in Congress in 2011, many were energized and ready to shake up Washington — whatever the cost. But now, some are claiming that it is President Obama who is playing too rough.

Amid the government shutdown and debt-ceiling standoff — which has raised rhetoric sharply — they say the president has demonized what they consider healthy political opposition.

“The difference is, I don’t think his predecessors have antagonized the other side,” says Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., who was president of the tea-party-packed House Republican freshman class last session.

The sentiment was echoed by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who said Obama’s willingness to antagonize Republicans is “not good for the country.”

Wilson is perhaps best known for heckling the president during a speech to a joint session of Congress. He’s the guy complaining about Obama antagonizing him.

I’ll confess that I often find these lawmakers’ perspective inexplicable, but this strikes me as unusually bizarre, even for them.

Love him or hate him, Obama’s outreach to his rivals has no contemporary parallel. This Democratic president has brought Republicans into his cabinet and administration; he’s incorporated Republican ideas into his agenda; and he’s tried schmoozing Republicans outside of their official duties. He’s adopted policy measures his Democratic base hates, but which he’ll nevertheless tolerate in the hopes of bipartisan cooperation. He’s tried meeting Republicans more than half-way on everything from health care to immigration, deficit reduction to energy.

I can think of a variety of adjectives to describe this, but “antagonistic” isn’t one of them.

So what’s driving this?

The current complaint seems to be about the ongoing crises on Capitol Hill, but even here, the president is hardly playing hardball. He embraced Republican spending levels and called for a spending bill with no far-right riders. If the right feels “antagonized” by this, maybe the problem is with them, not the Democratic president who already gave them what they asked for in the budget fight.

Besides, we are talking about a group of lawmakers who’ve not only shut down the government, but who’ve threatened to crash the global economy on purpose unless Obama meets their demands. Do we really need to have a conversation about “healthy political opposition”?

In the larger context, though, what I think we’re seeing is something nearly as insidious. Republicans, filled with contempt for the president, are looking for an excuse to rationalize their disgust, so they’ve come up with … this. He’s hurting their feelings.

In other words, it’s Obama’s fault Republicans hate him because he made them hate him.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, October 10, 2013

October 13, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stark Raving Mad”: When Unhinged GOP Conspiracy Theories Become Self-Defeating

Remember Rep. Joe Wilson (R)? The right-wing South Carolinian has been in the U.S. House for nearly 12 years, and apparently has distinguished himself exactly once: he shouted “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress on health care policy.

Apparently, though, Wilson is still on Capitol Hill, and piped up during a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting today with a question on Syria for Secretary of State John Kerry. Watch on YouTube

For those who can’t watch clips online, note that Wilson, with a halting cadence, very carefully read a question that someone on his staff apparently prepared for him:

“With the president’s red line, why was there no call for military response in April? Was it delayed to divert attention today from the Benghazi, IRS, NSA scandals, the failure of Obamacare enforcement, the tragedy of the White House-drafted sequestration or the upcoming debt limit vote? Again, why was there no call for a military response four months ago when the president’s red line was crossed?”

Now, I can appreciate a wild-eyed conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but even by House GOP standards, this is just stark raving mad. First, the “scandals” Wilson believes in don’t exist; things are going fairly well for the Affordable Care Act; and sequestration was Republicans’ fault.

Second, think about the point Wilson is trying to make with his deeply silly question: the White House was, the theory goes, overwhelmed in April by scandals and policy fiascoes. To “divert attention” to all of these terrible problems, President Obama did … nothing.

Wilson’s conspiracy theory would at least have internal consistency if Obama had bombed Syria at the time, giving conservatives an opportunity to say the military offensive was timed to be a distraction from domestic difficulties. But Wilson doesn’t even have that — he’s saying Obama didn’t intervene in Syria in April to “divert attention” from made-up controversies, suggesting the Congressman doesn’t even understand the words of the conspiracy theory someone wrote for him to repeat during the hearing.

Alas, Wilson wasn’t alone.

Sahil Kapur reported on a related conspiracy theory from another South Carolina Republican.

Secretary of State John Kerry erupted at Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) after the congressman charged that the Obama administration cannot be trusted to carry out an attack on Syria due to mistakes made in Benghazi and controversies involving the IRS and NSA programs.

“I cannot discuss the possibility of the U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war without talking about Benghazi,” Duncan said, questioning Kerry at a Wednesday hearing.

“The administration has a serious credibility issue with the American people, due to the unanswered questions surrounding the terrorist attack in Benghazi almost a year ago. When you factor in the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the AP and James Rosen issues, Fast and Furious and NSA spying programs, the bottom line is that there is a need for accountability and trust-building from the administration,” he said. “The American people deserve answers about Benghazi before we move forward in Syria’s civil war.”

Kerry dismissed Duncan’s garbage rhetoric out of hand.

If the right-wing lawmaker’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because Duncan is fond of conspiracy theories about the IRS and firearms; he believes conspiracy theories involving the Census Bureau; and he pushed Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theories surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing in April. He’s also a birther.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 4, 2013

September 5, 2013 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tea Bags, Wind Bags, and Moneybags

Born Again Baggers?: Joe Wilson, Jim DeMint, Rick Scott, Sharon Angle (clockwise from top left)

So let’s say you’re a Republican politician who’s been working the far right side of the political highway for years, getting little national attention other than the occasional shout-out in Human Events. Or let’s say you’re a sketchy business buccaneer with a few million smackers burning a hole in your pocket, and you’ve decided that you’d like to live in the governor’s mansion for a while, but you can’t get the local GOP to see you as anything more than a walking checkbook who funds other people’s dreams.

What do you do? That’s easy: Get yourself in front of the loudest parade in town by becoming a Tea Party Activist!

There has been incessant discussion over the last year about the size, character, and intentions of the Tea Party rank-and-file. But, by and large, the political discussion has passed over another defining phenomenon: The beatific capacity of Tea Party membership, which enables virtually anyone with ambition to whitewash his hackishness—and transform from a has-been or huckster into an idealist on a crusade.

After all, to become a “Tea Party favorite” or a “Tea Party loyalist,” all a politician has to do is say that he or she is one—and maybe grab an endorsement from one of many hundreds of local groups around the country. It’s even possible to become indentified as the “Tea Party” candidate simply by entering a primary against a Republican who voted for TARP, the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, or No Child Left Behind. It’s not like there’s much upside to distancing oneself from the movement. Most Republican pols are as friendly as can be to the Tea Party; and it’s a rare, self-destructive elephant who would emulate Lindsey Graham’s dismissal of it all as a passing fad (in public at least).

Here, we’ll take a look at two specific types of politicians who have been especially eager to embrace the Tea Party movement: the fringier of conservative ideologues, for one, and also the self-funded ego freaks who can easily pose as “outsiders,” because no “insiders” would take them seriously. Let’s call these, respectively, the windbags and the moneybags.

By “fringier” conservative ideologues, I mean those who have argued, year in and year out, sometimes for decades, that even the conservative Republican Party simply is not conservative enough. Many of these politicians would be considered washed-up and isolated, or at least eccentric, in an era when “Party Wrecking” was still treated as a cardinal GOP sin. But now it’s as if they’ve been granted a license to kill. One classic example of this type is South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, who was considered such a crank in the Senate that he was often stuck eating lunch alone as recently as 2008. His views, for example that Social Security and public schools are symbols of the seduction of Americans by socialism, were not long ago considered far outside the GOP mainstream. Now, in no small part because of his identification with the Tea Party Movement, DeMint has become an avenging angel roaming across the country to smite RINOs in Republican primaries, his imprimatur sought by candidates far from the Palmetto State.

Then there’s the new House Tea Party Caucus, chaired by Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, best known for suggesting that House Democrats be investigated for treason. Its members include a rich assortment of long-time conservative cranks, including Steve (“Racial profiling is an important part of law enforcement”) King, Joe (“You lie!”) Wilson, Paul (“We’ve elected a Marxist to be President of the United States) Broun, Dan (Vince Foster Was Murdered!) Burton, and Phil (National Journal’s Most Conservative House Member in 2007) Gingrey. The key here is that these are not freshly minted “outsiders”: Burton has been in Congress for 28 years, Wilson for ten, King and Gingrey for eight. The oldest member of the House, Ralph Hall of Texas, who has been around for 30 years, is also a member of the caucus.

Even some of the younger Tea Party firebrands didn’t exactly emerge from their living rooms on April 15, 2009, to battle the stimulus legislation and Obamacare. Marco Rubio of Florida, after all, was first elected to the state legislature ten years ago and served as House Speaker under the protective wing of his political godfather, Jeb Bush. Sharron Angle first ran for office 20 years ago, and was elected to the Nevada legislature twelve years back. And of course the Pauls, father and son, are hardly political neophytes—they have just begun to look relevant again because the Tea Party movement has shifted the GOP in their direction

And, in addition to the hard-right pols who’ve emerged into the sunshine of GOP respectability, the “outsider” meme surrounding the Tea Party movement has also created running room for well-funded opportunists—the “moneybags.”

These are epitomized by Rick Scott of Florida, who probably would not have passed the most rudimentary smell test in a “normal” election year. While there are always self-funding egomaniacs running for office—California’s Meg Whitman comes to mind along with Connecticut’s Linda McMahon—the former hospital executive presents a unique test case for the whitewashing power of Tea Party identification. He has managed to overcome a deeply embarrassing embroilment in the largest Medicare fraud case in history by taking his golden parachute from Columbia-HCA and becoming a right-wing crusader against health care reform, helping to make that a central cause for the Tea Party movement. (Scott was forced out of his position as head of the for-profit hospital chain, which he tried to build into the “McDonald’s of health care,” and the organization was fined $1.7 billion for overcharging the federal government.)

Pushed out of his job after the fraud decision, Scott decided to found the Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR) group that exploded onto the national scene early in 2009 with a series of inflammatory TV ads attacking health reform, employing the same firm that crafted the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth spots against John Kerry in 2004. CPR also played a major role in organizing the town hall meeting protests in the summer of 2009, which marked the Tea Party movement’s transition from a focus on TARP and the economic stimulus bill to a broader conservative agenda.

So when Scott (a Missouri native who moved to Florida in 2003) suddenly jumped into the Florda governor’s race early in 2010, the cleansing power of tea had already transformed his image among conservatives, making his improbable campaign possible.

On the wrong side of this dynamic was Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a former congressman and sturdy, if conventional, conservative who had paid his dues by twice running unsuccessfully for the Senate. McCollum had apparently all but locked up the nomination when Scott, in mid-April, leapt into the ring with ads calling himself a “conservative outsider” who would “run our state like a business,” while tarring McCollum as the candidate of “Tallahassee insiders” responsible for “the failed policies of the past.” Then came a torrent of advertising from Scott ($22 million by mid-July, more than anyone’s ever spent in Florida in an entire primary/general-election cycle) blasting McCollum for alleged corruption, for insufficient hostility toward illegal immigration, for being soft on abortion providers. The assault voided a lifetime of McCollum’s toil in the party vineyards, vaulting the previously unknown Scott into the lead in polls by early June. Worse yet, from a Republican point of view, Scott drove up McCollum’s negatives, and increasingly his own, to toxic levels, handing Democrat Alex Sink the lead in a July general election poll. And now McCollum, fighting for his life, is striking back, drawing as much publicity as he can to Scott’s questionable past, especially the Medicare fraud case against Columbia-HCA.

So the question is: Would Rick Scott have been in a position to carry out what is beginning to look like a murder-suicide pact on the GOP’s gubernatorial prospects if he hadn’t been able to identify himself as an “outsider conservative” with close ties to the Tea Party? That’s not likely, but it’s no less likely than the remarkable epiphanies that have made career pols of marginal relevance such as Jim DeMint and Sharron Angle into apostles of an exciting new citizens’ movement. So the next time you hear a candidate posturing on behalf of the Tea Party, squint and try to imagine what they were like in their former lives. Many of them have only found respectability through the healing power of tea.

By: Ed Kilgore-The New Republic, Aug 5, 2010

August 7, 2010 Posted by | Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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