This isn’t the first time he’s targeted a movie theater. John Russell Houser, America’s latest mass shooter, had reportedly threatened violence against theaters before he opened fire in a Louisiana cinema last night, killing two others and himself.
Houser, who’s had several run-ins with the law dating back to the 1980s, allegedly once attempted to burn down the office of a lawyer representing theaters that showed pornography. Former attorney John Swearingen told NBC News on Friday that Houser had once tried to burn down his Columbus, Georgia, law office back in the 1980s.
“I represented somebody — maybe several people — he did not like, and he tried to hire someone to burn the law office,” Swearingen said.
According to the local sheriff, Houser applied in 2006 for a permit to carry a concealed weapon but was denied because he had been arrested on an arson charge. The sheriff did not say whether Houser had been convicted. In Alabama, where Houser resided “off and on” for a nearly a decade, residents are not required to apply for a permit or license to buy or own a handgun so no background could be done.
Emerging reports also indicate that Houser was a far-right activist. Houser appears to have been a fan of the Tea Party, the Westboro Baptist Church and Golden Dawn — and extreme right-wing neo-Nazi political party in Greece. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Houser attended a conference hosted by former KKK leader David Duke in 2005 and the host of a talk radio show Houser frequently called into, described the 56-year-old as a “radical Republican.”
“He was anti-abortion. The best I can recall,” former radio host Calvin Floyd told the Washington Post. “Rusty had an issue with feminine rights. He was opposed to women having a say in anything. You could talk with him a few minutes, and you would know he had a high IQ but there was a lot missing with him,” Floyd explained.
Last night, Houser stood up in a crowded screening of Amy Schumer’s comedy “Trainwreck” at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana and opened fire, killing two young women and injuring nine other people.
Local authorities have since described Houser as a “drifter,” although at one point he did wage an unsuccessful campaign for elected office. According to court documents, in 2008 Houser’s wife removed all the guns from the couple’s home citing threats he had made to family members and his history of mental illness. CNN reports Houser had been evicted from his home in March 2014 and court records show that he filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002.
“It is a shame Tim McVeigh is not going to be with us to enjoy the hilarity of turning the tables with an IRON HAND,” Houser wrote on the Golden Dawn website, referring to the far-right mastermind of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
By: Sophia Tesfaye, Salon,
Former Senate Majority Leader and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole slammed the state of the Republican Party over the weekend, telling Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that the GOP should be “closed for repairs” and lamenting that some of the most famous Republicans would have no chance at becoming party leaders in the Tea Party era.
“I doubt [I could fit in with the modern party],” Dole said. “Reagan wouldn’t have made it, certainly Nixon wouldn’t have made it, because he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it.”
While Dole’s criticism of his party’s current platform could be debated, his assertion that Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have prospered in the current political climate is pretty much unassailable. Here are five reasons that Republicans’ favorite Republican could never fit in with today’s party:
Although modern Republicans have posthumously deified Reagan as the patron saint of tax cuts, he actually signed at least 10 tax increases totaling $132.7 billion during his eight years as president, and had raised taxes several times before that as governor of California.
Ideologically “pure” Republicans like Eric Cantor may deny it, but if Reagan ran today, he would completely flunk Grover Norquist’s anti-tax test, and be eaten alive by the Tea Party.
Modern Republicans tend to portray the federal budget deficit as an economic and moral issue of the highest importance — an attitude that Reagan echoed when he declared the deficit to be “out of control” shortly after taking office in January, 1981. Once he was in the Oval Office, however, Reagan began enacting policies that would infamously lead Vice President Dick Cheney to scoff that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” Within two years the deficit had nearly tripled, reaching $208 billion, and by the time Reagan left office it was at $155 billion; during Reagan’s two terms America went from being the world’s largest international creditor to the largest debtor nation.
In fairness, this is the one position on this list that the right may have been able to forgive. After all, as former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum once said, “We’re all Keynesians during Republican administrations.”
Long before Rick Perry’s “oops” heard ’round the world, the Texas governor’s presidential ambitions were already on life support due to his refusal to disavow a law providing in-state college tuition for the children of illegal immigrants — a position that got him vociferously booed at a Tea Party-sponsored debate.
If the crowd couldn’t handle that benign position from Perry, they certainly wouldn’t have liked the fact that Reagan granted legal status to about three million undocumented immigrants when he signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. If you’d like to know what the right’s criticism might have sounded like, look no further than Tea Party representative Steve King (R-IA), who recently blamed the ’86 reform for President Obama’s election.
Reagan’s complicated relationship with Israel is yet another issue on which he and the Republican Party’s right wing could never have agreed — not after the Reagan administration called on Israel to adopt a total settlement freeze and place its nuclear facilities under international supervision, and sold highly advanced military jets to Saudi Arabia. Not to mention Reagan’s 1985 trip to Germany, where he initially declined to visit the site of a concentration camp but agreed to lay a wreath at a cemetery containing the remains of 49 members of the Waffen-SS. As Haaretz‘s Chemi Salev put it, “If Obama treated Israel like Reagan did, he’d be impeached.”
Even if Reagan had somehow managed to survive all of the other issues on this list, his support for expanded gun sale background checks and an assault weapon ban would certainly have killed his chances of winning over the GOP base. Although Reagan — who was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981 — makes for a sympathetic gun reform advocate, if Republicans can attack Sandy Hook parents, they could certainly have gone after the Gipper.
Plus, the “he only supported gun control because he was senile” excuse wouldn’t work quite as well for an active candidate.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, May 27, 2013
“On Orders From God And The Founding Fathers”: What Ted Cruz Means When He Says He Mistrusts Both Parties
Okay, class, here’s what should be an easy assignment:
What does it mean when Sen. Ted Cruz says the following on budget negotiations (per TPM’s Sahil Kapur)?
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday defended his objection to initiating House-Senate budget negotiations unless Democrats take a debt limit increase off the table, saying he doesn’t trust his party to hold the line.
“The senior senator from Arizona urged this body to trust the Republicans. Let me be clear, I don’t trust the Republicans,” Cruz said. “And I don’t trust the Democrats.”
On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) scolded Republicans for blocking negotiations. He was backed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
“Unfortunately,” Cruz said, “one of the reasons we got into this mess is because a lot of Republicans were complicit in this spending spree and that’s why so many Americans are disgusted with both sides of this house. … And every Republican who stands against holding the line here is really saying, let’s give the Democrats a blank check to borrow any money they want with no reforms, no leadership to fix the problem.”
Does it mean, as political reporters often blandly repeat, that “Tea Party” pols like Cruz are hardy independents who care about principle rather than about the GOP, and represent a constituency that is up in the air?
No, and I might add: Hell no! Cruz specifically and Tea Party members generally, for all their independent posturing, are the most rigid of partisans, and are about as likely to vote with or for Democrats as a three-toed sloth is likely to win a Gold Medal in the 100-meter dash. Yes, they often threaten to form a Third Party, but never do (why should they when their power in one of the two major parties is overwhelming and still growing?), and even more often threaten to “stay home” during elections, but in fact tend to vote more than just about any other sizable bloc of Americans.
So what’s with their inveterate Republican-bashing, if they usually vote and almost always vote Republican?
There are two interconnected explanations. The first is that they want to make it clear that for them the GOP is not a tradition, or a roughly coherent set of attitudes, or a mechanism for civic participation and ultimately the shaping of public policies through democratic competition and cooperation: it’s a vehicle for the advancement of a fixed and eternal set of policies, mostly revolving around absolute property rights and pre-late-twentieth century cultural arrangements. Those who view the GOP as anything other or less than this sort of vehicle are deemed RINOs or “establishment Republicans,” and presumed to be in charge of the party, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
So when Tea Party champions or “true conservatives” or “constitutional conservatives” (three terms for the same people) say they’re not willing to sacrifice their principles to win elections, do they really mean it, and is that the difference between them and those “establishment Republicans” like John McCain that they are always attacking? No, not really. They want to win elections, too, but only in order to impose a governing order that they believe should be immune to any future election, immune from contrary popular majorities generally, and immune to any other of those “changing circumstances” that gutless RINOs always cite in the process of selling out “the base.” And that’s why they are willing to use anti-majoritarian tactics when they are in the minority, and anti-minority tactics when they are in the majority: the only thing that matters is bringing back the only legitimately conservative, the only legitimately American policies and enshrining them as powerfully as is possible.
So from that perspective, sure, they’re conservatives first and Republicans second. But this isn’t a “revolt” against the GOP, but a takeover bid, executed through primaries (e.g., Ted Cruz’s victory over “establishment Republican” David Dewhurst) and the power of money and ultimately sheer intimidation. Ted Cruz won’t “trust Republicans” until they’re all taking orders from people like him, who are in turn simply taking orders from God Almighty and the Founding Fathers.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 22, 2013
As you may have noticed, the biggest problem with the IRS scandal (from the perspective of Republicans) is that it remains stubbornly removed from the President himself. It’s all well and good to get a couple of scalps from mid-level managers, but for it to be a real presidential scandal you need to implicate the guy in the Oval Office in the wrongdoing. Confronted with Obama’s non-involvement, conservatives have turned to vague and airy accusations about the “culture” Obama has created. Mitch McConnell, for instance, is warning darkly that Obama may be not too far removed from Tony Soprano: “I think what we know for sure is that there is a culture of intimidation across this administration—the president demonizing his enemies, attempting to shut people up. There is certainly a culture of intimidation.”
The idea that Barack Obama—whom Republicans regularly accuse of being a foreign-born anti-American socialist communist marxist who is slowly carrying out a plan to destroy America—is the one “demonizing” his opponents is pretty laughable. But the nice thing about the “culture” argument is that to make it, you don’t have to point to any particular thing any particular person has done. It’s just a culture, out there in the ether.
Conservatives are also alleging that the IRS employees who gave extra scrutiny to 501(c)(4) applications of Tea Party groups were in fact acting on Obama’s instructions. It was just that the instructions came in the form of him going out on the campaign trail and lamenting the Citizens United decision and the way it opened the door for all kinds of “dark money” to be injected into campaigns. Once again, it’s a way of ascribing guilt without having any evidence of guilt, but the problem is, it fails from both ends. Lots of people, even many Republicans, joined Obama in lamenting the rise of the new super PACs and 501(c)(4)s. It was an issue when Republicans were using them against each other in the 2012 presidential primaries. And if the IRS employees were trying to help Obama, they were going about it all wrong. As Ed Kilgore says, “The ultimate howler here is that we are supposed to believe that IRS bureaucrats, in obedience to the “dog whistle” of the president’s demonization of conservative groups’ involvement in the 2012 presidential campaign, chose to ignore the groups that were involved in the campaign in a significant way, and instead go after small fry Tea Party organizations.”
But can a president create a “culture” within the government that has consequences for the behavior of bureaucrats down the line, even to the point of sanctioning wrongdoing? The easy answer is, well, sure. Every boss creates an atmosphere that can affect the behavior of the people who work for her. But when you get beyond the people who work in the president’s immediate orbit, what matters isn’t culture, it’s people and policies. For instance, the Bush administration didn’t torture prisoners because Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press and said that to fight terrorism we’d have to go to “the dark side, if you will,” and then folks just got the message and started waterboarding prisoners. It happened because the administration made torture its official policy, and had in place the personnel who were eager to do it.
The United States government is a gigantic entity; even excluding uniformed military, there are 2.7 million federal employees spread around the country. No one, not even the president, can with a few words on the campaign trail create a “culture” that allows misbehavior to happen. I realize that many conservatives believe that Obama and anyone who would ever consider working for him are so corrupt that their immorality must naturally spread through the government like the hantavirus. But that’s not how it works.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 22, 2013
Whether one thinks the demiscandals being howled about in Washington should or should not resonate more widely, they don’t.
According to a Gallup report released Thursday, “The amount of attention Americans are paying to the I.R.S. and the Benghazi situations is well below the average for news stories Gallup has tracked over the years.” (The Associated Press phone records case wasn’t mentioned.) Why might this be? I have a few theories:
CREDIBILITY People know that the Internal Revenue Service is the conservatives’ bogeyman. It’s the agency that collects the taxes that Republicans hate so much. Some Americans see taxes as, at worst, a necessary nuisance; Republicans see them as an absolute evil. The I.R.S. is the agency that collects the wealth from “us” for the government to redistribute to “them.” As National Journal pointed out Friday, “The agency also implements much of the country’s social policy through the tax code.” We all know that anything with “social” in its name activates the conservative gag reflex.
And on the Associated Press front, it just doesn’t ring true to have Republicans standing up as defenders of the “lame-stream media.” It’s like the person with the club feigning common cause with the baby seal. People just don’t buy it.
Furthermore, Republicans have exhibited a near-pathological need to say anything, no matter how outlandish, that would invalidate the Obama presidency. This has left them with little credibility now that there may be legitimate problems. This is the story of the political party that cried “Kenyan.”
COMPLEXITY Where is Benghazi? Seriously, folks, quickly point it out on a map. Thought so. Now, to the controversy: the talking points — what they said, and the machination of how that was altered, and whether Al Qaeda should have been immediately blamed, and whether the word “terror” should have had an “-ist” or an “-ism.” Seeking to find the killers of four dead Americans is honorable; endless testimony about a fussed-over script used to explain the tragedy is mind-numbing.
UNPOPULARITY It is clear that the Justice Department overreached on the Associated Press scandal and that its strong-arm tactics are likely to have a chilling effect. But Americans are not big fans of mass media. A November Gallup poll found that only a fourth of Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of journalists highly. Even bankers ranked higher.
As for Tea Party groups that received extra scrutiny from the I.R.S., an Associated Press-GfK poll released last month found that fewer than a fourth of Americans say they support the group. The Tea Party may well be passé.
The policy issue is a different story, as The Washington Post pointed out this week: “In 2010, the Supreme Court’s landmark ‘Citizens United’ decision cleared the way for corporations and labor unions to raise and spend unlimited sums of money, and register for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4).”
That decision was extremely unpopular. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released nearly a month after the decision was handed down found that 80 percent of Americans opposed it.
So an unpopular movement applied for tax-exempt status under conditions made possible by an unpopular court decision, in order to influence politics with unfathomable amounts money from unnamed donors? Good luck gaining sympathy for that.
ZEALOTRY The Congressional Tea Party Caucus founder, Michele Bachmann, who never misses a chance to say something asinine, suggested to the conservative site wnd.com that it was “reasonable” to worry that the I.R.S. might use Obamacare to kill conservatives.
The article reads, in part:
“Since the I.R.S. also is the chief enforcer of Obamacare requirements, she asked whether the I.R.S.’s admission means it ‘will deny or delay access to health care’ for conservatives. At this point, she said, that ‘is a reasonable question to ask.’ ”
“Reasonable” and “Bachmann” don’t even belong in the same conversation, let alone the same sentence, and yet she remains one of the most visible spokeswomen for the movement.
Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned Republicans against overreaching. In an NPR interview that aired Friday, Gingrich, referring to the impeachment of President Clinton, said, “I think we overreached in ’98 — how’s that for a quote you can use?”
He continued, advising his party to be “calm and factual.” Ha! That’s too rich, and too late. Republicans are already invoking the I-word.
Republicans are their own worst enemies at times like these, unable to leave well-enough alone, and missing chances to honestly engage the public as they race off the cliff in the supercharged outrage machine.
By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 17, 2013