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“The Devil And Dan Webster”: Yet Another Sign Of The Rightward Drift Of The GOP In Recent Years

It’s very, very likely that Rep. Kevin McCarthy will succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. But it’s worth noting that the solon most likely to challenge him on behalf of disgruntled conservatives, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL), is not just a bit to the right of Jimmy Dean Sausage, but has strong links to some of the more exotic and destructive of Christian Right cults. At TPM today, Sarah Posner reminds us of this bird’s strange plumage:

[Webster] has a decades-long affiliation with the Institute in Basic Life Principles, the controversial ministry whose founder, Bill Gothard, resigned last year after more than 30 women accused him of sexual harassment. As TPM reported earlier this month, IBLP subjected young followers to victim-blaming “counseling” for rape, as well as grueling work schedules at its facilities for little or no pay, requiring women to engage in gendered tasks that included scrubbing carpets on their hands and knees.

The IBLP, you may recall, is where young Josh Duggar was sent for counseling after he was caught sexually abusing little girls. You see how well that all turned out.

But as Posner explains, Webster’s association with IBLP–and more specifically with the group’s Advanced Training Institute for homeschooling–was a lot more intimate and ongoing than that of the Duggers.

In a 2003 speech at an IBLP conference, “Discover the True Qualities of Leadership,” Webster boasted of how he diligently conducts both his private and public life according to the “commitments” he made to the principles he learned at IBLP seminars. By his own account in the speech, and according to statements in ATI newsletters, Webster began his affiliation with IBLP when he attended a seminar for legislators at IBLP’s Northwoods Conference Center in Watersmeet, Michigan, in 1984. A few months later, Webster said during the speech, he attended an IBLP “basic seminar” in Tampa, Florida. His family later joined ATI, and his wife homeschooled their six children with the curriculum. (Webster’s first legislative achievement in Florida was a bill legalizing homeschooling, which became law in 1985.)

IBLP believes strongly in submission of women to men, and opposes not just abortion but virtually every form of birth control. And they are no slackers on the spiritual warfare front, either:

Webster has claimed that the “Hedge of Thorns” prayer he learned at the legislative seminar has protected him, his family, and his congressional district from Satan. A 1990 ATI newsletter also describes how Webster “began to pray in the name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, that God would rebuke Satan and all his principalities from any evil attack in his district.” Webster and his family were featured in a 2002 newsletter, which described how he “looked to the Lord for a campaign plan, studying the Scriptures in Psalms and Proverbs that relate to leadership and government.” He continued to speak at IBLP seminars, including in 2007 and 2010. A former ATI member recalled Gothard inviting the entire Webster family to the stage at the 2007 Nashville conference, declaring, “Wouldn’t it be great to one day have a President Webster?” That, she said, was met with “loud applause.”

Well, the devil is likely to win over Dan Webster in his Speakership campaign. But the fact that this guy isn’t hooted off the podium by House Republicans for the very idea he should join the leadership is yet another sign of the rightward drift of the GOP in recent years.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 1, 2015

October 1, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Dan Webster, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Conservatives Rectitude And Piety”: Coach Denny, Grandma Nancy, And America’s Family Values

Republicans on Capitol Hill keep telling everyone how terribly shocked they are by the tawdry tale of Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House indicted last week for violations of federal money-laundering statutes in an effort to cover up alleged sexual abuse of a male high-school student many years ago.

Long upheld as a paragon of Midwestern conservative values, Hastert represented a suburban Illinois district and became his party’s longest-serving Speaker. Like Newt Gingrich, who preceded him in that post, Hastert avidly prosecuted the impeachment of Bill Clinton for trying to conceal an extramarital affair. Unlike Gingrich, whose own serial adulteries became a national joke, Hastert was evidently never suspected of any such “misconduct,” as the indictment described it.

“I don’t see how this didn’t come up on the radar before,” said a former Hastert aide following the release of his indictment.  “It’s sort of beyond belief.”

But is it truly beyond belief, at this very late date, to learn that yet another moralizing politician or preacher was always an utter hypocrite? Not unless you haven’t been paying attention for the past two decades or so. Or you’ve been mesmerized into believing the propaganda that claims only one party — the GOP — represents “family values.”

A decade ago, Hastert was hailed as a partisan symbol of superior virtue, notably in John Mickelthwaite and Adrian Wooldridge’s The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, which gleefully predicted endless victories for the Republicans and doom for the Democrats. Written by a pair of British Tories who then held top positions at The Economist magazine, that work invidiously contrasted then-Speaker Hastert with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, his counterpart on the other side of the aisle – and described their districts as emblematic of red and blue America.

Mickelthwaite (now editor-in-chief at Bloomberg) and Wooldridge waxed on lyrically and at daunting length in praise of Coach Denny and “Hastertland,” while they cast a censorious gaze upon Nancy and “Pelosiville,” also known as San Francisco or, again in their words, “the capital of gay America.” Their description of Hastert — “a fairly straightforward conservative: antiabortion, anti-gay marriage” – rings with irony today. So does their depiction of Pelosi’s urban constituency as “a peculiar mix of blue bloods and gays, dotcom millionaires and aging hippies,” set against the “resolutely ‘normal’ ” people represented by Hastert, who “think of themselves as typical Americans.”

Key to understanding the two districts and therefore American politics, according to the authors, were differing attitudes toward “the importance of family life,” orthodox religion, and “social disorder.” In Hastertland, churches and families were growing, streets were clean, and vagrancy eliminated – and in Pelosiville exactly the reverse, with secularism rampant, bums everywhere, and even an outpost of the Church of Satan.

“Looking at ‘Pelosiville’ and ‘Hastertland,’“ they concluded, “it is not difficult to see why American politics has shifted to the Right.”

As it turned out, The Right Nation was mostly wrong, about the fates of the two major parties and much else besides. But what was most wrong was the insinuation that Republicans stand for more elevated values than Democrats, or that conservatives are morally purer than liberals. To take their own example, we now know what we know about Hastert – and we also know that Pelosi, mother of five, grandmother of eight, married more than 50 years to the same husband, advocate of gay marriage and reproductive rights, is today far more credible as a symbol of “family values” and family life.

None of this should be surprising, with all due respect to the shocked, shocked, shocked Republicans. In 2003, after Hastert already had ascended to third in line from the presidency, I reviewed the endless ranks of right-wing moral mountebanks – the cheating celebrity evangelists, the homophobic gay politicians, the lecherous legislators, and others too raunchy to mention here – in one chapter of a book called Big Lies. I included many stories about Hastert’s House colleagues, partying amid their pursuit of Clinton; some were amusing, some quite depressing. Of course, I didn’t know about “Coach Denny” back then.

But with or without his sad story, the conclusion would be the same: that liberals “care about families and children just as much as conservatives do – and that their more tolerant, humane policies do more to help families than the selfish and self-righteous approach of the Republican right.”

What should have changed by now, whenever conservatives start to cluck about their rectitude and piety, is whether anybody still listens.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, The National Memo, June 3, 2015

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Dennis Hastert, Family Values | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How ‘Public Servant’ Hastert Got His Riches”: An Indictment Of D.C.’s “Revolving Door” Money Culture

Not-so-frequently Asked Questions About the Hastert Indictment.

It’s clear that the indictment of Dennis Hastert has raised more questions than it’s provided answers. But I suspect a lot of people are asking the wrong ones. Hastert’s “misconduct” may turn out to be of sexually predatory nature, in which case talk of how much his reputation is worth is picayune compared the nature of the crime. But there are questions about what he did that are applicable to the entire industry he represents.

The most obvious question, that’s also the least relevant for most Americans: What is the “misconduct” that Hastert is alleged to have been trying to cover up?

This is an important question, to be sure, but indicting Hastert on the financial charges and lying to investigators rather than on whatever misconduct occurred seems to indicate that those charges were the best investigators could come up with. Presumably, if the misconduct was illegal, they’d have mentioned that—and indicted him for it. If the conduct was sexual abuse, as sources are saying, then the statute of limitations has run out. It follows that Hastert wasn’t paying hush money to stay out of jail, he was protecting his reputation.

A better question, and one that many Washington watchdogs leapt on quickly: How did Hastert happen to have enough money lying around that paying out $3.5 million was even within the realm of possibility?

Hastert’s ability to participate in the blackmail is, after all, itself a general indictment of D.C.’s “revolving door” money culture, in which former lawmakers move easily from government into lobbying. In Hastert’s case, the ability to profit off of one’s legislative position is especially galling: While in office, Hastert used the earmarking process to turn his investment in some Illinois farmland into a profit of 140 percent when a federal highway project just happened to make its way through those very fields. Indeed, it was this instance of a completely legal form of insider trading that helped prompt Congress to end earmarks.

And, of course, Hastert made even more money once he was out of office. One study found that, on average—and when the information is publicly available—former lawmakers get a 1,425 percent raise when they make the jump from Capitol Hill to K Street. Hastert, who was worth between $4 million and $17 million when he left Congress, was making $175,000 as a representative. His K Street bump would be to almost $2.5 million a year.

Okay, he made his money as a lobbyist, doing presumably sneaky lobbyist things. That raises the next question: How can Hastert’s reputation even be worth $3.5 million?

Hastert is a former member of Congress known to have profited off of a shady land deal and he’s a registered lobbyist—these are already the two professions that Americans regard as the most disreputable careers available. They are literally last (lobbyist) and second-to-last (congressman) on Gallup’s list of what jobs Americans regard as “honest” and “ethical.” What would one have to do to be thought even less of?

Given the ickiness of what has been reported, it might not be good to think about that question too hard, so let’s turn that question on its head: What kind of reputation could be worth spending $3.5 million to protect?

To consider $3.5 million a reasonable sum to spend on protecting one’s reputation, presumably it has to be worth a lot more than that. And, indeed, in the context of the lobbying world, $3.5 million just isn’t that much money. Especially considering that Hastert was apparently making pay-offs over time. Special interest groups spent almost 1000 times that—$3.2 billion—in 2015 alone. If Hastert viewed protecting his reputation as a kind of investment in future earnings, $3.5 million is on the scale of buying an alarm system for your home, not buying a whole other house.

And, it’s important to remember, what Hastert was covering up with that hush money was not a “reputation” as an average citizen might conceive of it: something akin to honor or trustworthiness or fidelity. A lobbyist’s reputation, after all, actually hinges on his or her established lack of principles. A lobbying client for someone who is a former member of Congress is paying a premium for that person’s willingness to engage in barely-legal favor-trading. A lobbyist’s prices go up the more corrupt he is. Who wants to hire an honest one?

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Daily Beast, May 30, 2015

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Dennis Hastert, Lobbyists | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Yea, Right; Seeking God Like Never Before”: Meet The Duggars; Reality TV Stars And Moral Hypocrites

The Duggar family, of TLC’s popular reality series 19 Kids and Counting, has admitted their oldest son had a undisclosed history of molesting his own sisters. Josh Duggar, now 27 years old and father to three young children, has since made statements regretting his “inexcusable” actions.

The Duggars are known for their unusually G-rated show, in which they espouse a conservative, Christian lifestyle. Birth control is discouraged (obviously), women wear modest clothing, and contact between the sexes is strictly monitored.

Despite their moralizing, Josh, the oldest in the long line of children, has been revealed to have a history of fondling multiple unnamed minors. According to InTouch magazine, which originally broke the story, a female member of the Duggar brood informed her father in early 2002 that Josh had been fondling her while she slept.

Several months later, another daughter also confessed that Josh had been sexually abusing her. Other minors complained of ongoing abuse, finally prompting Jim Bob, the Duggar family patriarch, to go to the authorities.

Unfortunately, those “authorities” were, in fact, the church elders — and in their wisdom, they chose not to involve the police. Instead, Josh Duggar was sent to a “Christian program” consisting of “hard physical work and counseling” from March to July 2003.

Michelle Duggar, the family’s mother, later admitted the so-called program was actually just a temporary stay at a family friend’s house. The friend, a contractor, had no counseling experience.

Finally, in 2006, Jim Bob reported the abuse to the police. No other official action was taken and the family says that the victims “forgave” Josh, who had “sought after God and turned back to God.”

Since the molestation came to light, Josh Duggar has resigned his position at the Washington, DC-based Family Research Council, a conservative, religious non-governmental organization considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

TLC has canceled all shows featuring the Duggars that were set to air, and the program’s chances of renewal remain questionable.

The family has spoken out in defense of their son, stating, “That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before. Even though we would never choose to go through something so terrible, each one of our family members drew closer to God.”

Josh’s wife, Anna, has also spoken out in support of her husband. She was evidently informed of Josh’s so-called “mistakes” two years before their engagement, and believes he is simply “someone who had gone down a wrong path and had humbled himself before God and those whom he had offended.”

The man at the center of the storm has also issued a statement, released to People magazine, saying, “I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”

As far as Josh Duggar is concerned, God’s grace may let a confessed child molester off the hook, but it does not extend to gays and lesbians, whose sexual orientation Duggar has, not incidentally, frequently linked to pedophilia.

But if God has forgiven Josh and his family, He is not alone. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has already declared his support, so at least he’s guaranteed 10 votes from the Duggar household.

 

By: Bridget Hughes, The National Memo, May 22, 2015

May 24, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Family Research Council, Family Values, The Duggars | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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