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“The GOP’s Ted Nugent Problem”: Torn Between Expanding Its Base And Appealing To Loyalists

The Republican Party in the era of the Tea Party and the “autopsy” can’t make up its mind. Torn between expanding its base so that it can survive in the long term and appeasing its loyalists so it can survive in the short term, the party doesn’t know where to go. The choice boils down to winning a few more seats in November and writing off the future of the party. Oddly, November seems to be winning every time.

For Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott the choice seems easy. He chose Ted Nugent, the physical embodiment of the off-the-rails toxicity that Republicans just don’t know how to quit. Abbott certainly had to know the stir he’d cause when he invited Nugent to join him on the campaign trail last week.

Ted Nugent is not just a former rocker who happens to be a Republican. Nugent’s infamous “subhuman mongrel” slur is just a representative sample of the bile he produces on a regular basis. He has threatened the president, saying, “Obama, he’s a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun,” told an audience to “keep a fucking gun in your hand, boys” in response to the Obama administration, implied the president is like a coyote who needs to be shot, and said before the 2012 election that if the “vile, evil America-hating” Obama were to be reelected, Nugent would be “either dead or in jail by this time next year.”(For the record, Nugent is still very much alive and free to make statements like the above.)

Why listen to Nugent (as People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch does more often than they would probably like)? Because he doesn’t just shout his rants from the stage at his concerts. He shares the stage with people like Greg Abbott.

In a time when many Republicans are trying to moderate the rhetoric they use to explain their extreme policies, Greg Abbott is just the latest who apparently has no such concerns. He ‘s more than happy to provide a platform for Nugent, an unabashedly violent, and unapologetic racist spokesperson who exults in attacking the president- – when the president is Barack Obama, that is.

Nugent has speculated whether “it would have been best had the South won the Civil War”; suggested banning people who owe no federal income tax from voting; lashed out at “those well-fed motherfucker food stamp cocksuckers”; and blamed Trayvon Martin’s death on the “mindless tendency to violence we see in black communities across America.”

In other words, Nugent’s not the sort of person any reasonable candidate would invite along on the campaign trail. But reason is not the way to prove one’s bona fides to a large share of the Tea Party that has taken over the Grand Old Party. When Nugent said in a campaign appearance that “we don’t have to question Greg Abbott’s courage, because he invited me here today,” he was reassuring the base that “autopsy reports” aside, the GOP has no intention of changing.

And that’s the problem. Ted Nugent isn’t a Greg Abbott gaffe. His presence on the Abbott campaign trail represents a deliberate effort to cultivate the most extreme elements of the Republican base. The party can moderate its positions to attract more voters. Or it can stick with extremism to keep a core of the voters it has. But it can’t have it both ways.


By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People for The American Way ; The Huffington Post Blog, February 27, 2014

February 28, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Texas, Where Crazy Gets Elected”: There’s Crazy, And Then There’s Texas Crazy

So what happens in Texas when the Republican gubernatorial candidate invites Ted Nugent to the state to campaign for him not long after the Motor City Motormouth has called the President of the United States a “subhuman mongrel,” not to mention a “Communist” and a “gangster”? Would you believe, as Maxwell Smart used to say, that the candidate increases his lead? Well that’s what has happened. There’s crazy, and then there’s Texas crazy.

In a poll that came out Monday, conducted as the Nugent controversy was brewing, Republican Greg Abbott leads Democrat Wendy Davis by 11 points, which Politico notes is up from six points in a poll last year.  Now there are surely other reasons for this little surgette, but it certainly shows that Abbott’s decision to keep company with Nugent did him no harm at all in the state.

You think that’s bad, get a load of this, from the same poll. The candidate leading the Democratic field for the right to seek John Cornyn’s Senate seat is a woman named Kesha Rogers. Two of her top ideas? Impeach Barack Obama and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Yes, you read it right. She’s the leading Democrat. She’s also a La Rouchie, a fact that far from hiding she seems intent to rub in the other candidates’ faces: I can ramble on about crazy worldwide banking conspiracies all I want, she seems to be saying, but as long as I want to impeach Obama and repeal Obamacare, you can’t touch me! There’s crazy, and there’s Texas crazy.

This would all be merely amusing, but there’s another side to Texas crazy. Let’s get serious now for a few paragraphs.

If you read me often enough, you know that one of my themes is that the Democrats, with enough money, creativity, and guts, ought to be able to turn Obamacare into a positive. Millions of people across the country, especially in the states that opted in and accepted the Medicaid money, have insurance now and the peace of mind about themselves and their children that comes with it. Besides which, have you noticed that all the Republican hoo-ha about these alleged horror stories never holds up on examination? Paul Krugman wrote a terrific column on this topic Monday. Literally every high-profile Obamacare-nightmare story retailed by one of these yoyos turns out, once reporters start poking around, not to be at all as advertised. So we have a party that loathes the ACA and its effects and many millions of dollars to go find its victims, and so far it hasn’t really turned up one.

Now—back to Texas. Two recent briefing papers from academics affiliated with the excellent Scholars’ Strategy Network shed considerable light on what Obamacare could be doing for Texas, if only its politicians would permit it.

Texas—hold on to your ten-gallon hat, because this is a shocker—leads the country in the percentage of its people who are uninsured; a gaudy 24.6 percent. Nearly 37 percent of Hispanics are without coverage, as are 22 percent of African Americans, and 23 percent of women. That’s a small army of people who would benefit from the state having accepted the federal Medicaid money and set up an exchange. But Texas’s leaders from Rick Perry on down are having none of it.

In one paper, Jessica Sharac, Peter Shin, and Sara Rosenbaum of George Washington University cite a recent study noting that “if Texas had agreed to expand Medicaid, more than two million uninsured people would likely have gained health insurance.” In another, Ling Zhu and Markie McBrayer of the University of Houston compare how poor people are faring so far in Texas and California, the latter of course being among the states that have accepted the Medicaid expansion. They write: “More than 2.2 million Californians were added to that state’s expanded Medicaid program by the end of January, compared to just over 80,000 Texans who signed up after realizing they were already eligible for the existing state Medicaid program.”

Together, the papers (they’re very short, you should go read them) paint the picture you’d expect. Our two largest states, one working to insure its people and the other doing everything in its power to prevent that. And remember—Texas could be doing this at very minimal cost. Washington is paying full freight on the expansion until 2016, and then a slightly declining share, but still, 90 percent every year after 2019. It’s almost free. And Texas ain’t playin’. Indeed Perry turned down (cue Dr. Evil) nine billion dollars.

So now let’s circle back to the governor’s race. Of course, Abbott opened his campaign last fall pounding Davis on Obamacare, thundering that she’d open the door to this iniquity. Davis has been talking a lot about Ted Nugent, but she’s had rather little to say on the subject of Perry refusing, and Abbott vowing to continue to refuse, $9 billion.

Would all those uninsured Latinos and blacks and women be energized to come out and vote for the candidate who dared to make a big issue of this? I admit it’s hard to say. But Davis is a long shot anyway. Nothing against her—Jesus himself could come back and run as a Democrat in that state, and rather than pull that Democratic lever for Him, most Texans would just wonder when the Redeemer went socialist on them (answer: he always was!).

Of course it would be risky. Of course she’d drop in the polls for a while. But she’d still have nearly eight months to explain to people that $9 billion is real money, that all this is happening anyway whether Texas Republicans like it or not, and since it is happening well by cracky she’s not going to leave millions of Texans not getting what their counterparts in other states are getting. As it is, those people have no one really fighting for them. That’s Texas crazy, too.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 26, 2014

February 27, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicaid Expansion, Texas | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Indefensible By Any Measure”: Ted Nugent And How The Conservative Press Can’t Hide Its Hate Streak

It’s too soon to tell whether Ted Nugent’s noxious career as a conservative pundit reached a tipping point this week, but the moment he called in sick to CNN and backed out of a scheduled interview with Erin Burnett as Republican politicians denounced him might soon be seen as a flash point for the fading rock star and the incendiary brand of hate rhetoric he’s been cashing in on for years. It might also be viewed as a key stumbling moment for the conservative media, which have been unable in recent years to establish any sort of guardrails for common decency within the realm of political debate.

Increasingly reliant on bad fringe actors like Nugent to connect with their far, far-right audience, the conservative media have built up Obama-bashing personalities who no longer occupy any corner of the American mainstream. Yet Nugent enjoys deep ties with Republican campaigns all across the country. When those ties receive media scrutiny, they cannot be defended.

National Rifle Association board member Nugent found himself at the center of a campaign controversy this week when he was invited to two public events for Texas Republican Greg Abbott, who is running for governor. Of course Nugent, a former Washington Times columnist who now writes for birther website WND, recently called President Obama a “communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel” and has a long and vivid history of launching vile attacks on women. (He’s called Hillary Clinton a “toxic c**t.”)

Following waves of condemnations for the association, and a torrent of critical media coverage, with reporters and pundits wondering why a gubernatorial candidate would voluntarily campaign with someone who spouts “insane and racist talk,” as CNN’s Jake Tapper put it, Abbott claimed he wasn’t aware of Nugent’s history of racist and misogynistic comments. If so, Abbott’s campaign staff is utterly incompetent. (The “subhuman mongrel” comment, unearthed last month by Media Matters, was highlighted by a number of outlets at the time, including on MSNBC.)

It’s likely Abbott and his staff did know about Nugent’s dark rhetoric, since that’s all he traffics in. But because that kind of hate speech has become so accepted and even celebrated within the bubble for right-wing media, they failed to see the danger of embracing it.

Following the ill-fated campaign events, which made national headlines, Abbott has defended the decision to bring Nugent to the state, claiming that in Texas politics Nugent remain popular. But if inviting Nugent to become an Abbott surrogate was so clever, why did likely Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul step forward to denounce Nugent and his “offensive” Obama commentary?

Why did Abbott’s fellow Texan, Gov. Rick Perry “recommend” Nugent apologize? And why did Nugent back out of his CNN interview just two hours before taping?

As the media scrutiny settled on Nugent, even staunch conservative Republicans have been unable to defend him — his commentary over the years is just too vile. If the Abbott campaign didn’t directly insist on the CNN cancellation (Nugent cited illness), it’s fair to say his aides were greatly relieved that Nugent didn’t fuel the story for another 24-hour news cycle via an extended CNN interview where no doubt more confused Nazi analogies would have been aired. (CNN’s Wolf Blitzer had already condemned Nugent’s comments, noting that the phrase “subhuman mongrel” bore resemblance to “untermensch,” which is “what the Nazis called Jews … to justify the genocide of the Jewish community.”)

And then there was Fox News, Nugent’s longtime ally in the pursuit of Obama demagoguery, and where just last month Bill O’Reilly welcomed Nugent. As Abbott’s self-inflicted wound deepened this week, and as news outlets all across the country addressed the clumsy campaign association, Fox News went silent. Not only refusing to defend Nugent, Fox wouldn’t even cover the burgeoning controversy.

The network — which was happy to give Nugent a softball interview just two weeks ago — still hasn’t mentioned the firestorm over his campaigning with Abbott.

Ted Nugent has been practicing his brand of openly vile hate for a very long time. And with each passing year of the Obama administration he’s been welcomed deeper and deeper into the heart of the conservative media machine. This week’s Abbott uproar was instructive in that the bright spotlight shone on Nugent helped remind people just how radical, dangerous and out of touch that movement has become, and how that hate cannot be hidden.


By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, February 21, 2014

February 24, 2014 Posted by | Racism, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“GOP’s Wango Tango With Ted Nugent”: Republicans Are Dancing With A Professional, Maniacal, Racist Freak

For well over a year now, Americans have been treated to the spectacle of GOP leaders plotting and planning and searching for clever ways to assure the public that it is not the party of old, angry, testosterone-heavy, and most of all white grievance politics. Granted, this is a delicate task, calling for a thoughtful, multi-faceted approach. But how’s this for a modest starting point: Stop sucking up to freak-show, has-been rocker Ted Nugent?

Honestly, it was sad enough when Rep. Steve Stockman took Ted as his date to the State of the Union address this month. Then again, these days, people pretty much expect that level of adolescent fuck-you from rank-and-file House members. But a leading gubernatorial candidate from our second-most populous state?

Sure enough, there was Nugent in all his unhinged glory, campaigning in North Texas on Tuesday for state attorney general and gubernatorial wannabe Greg Abbott. Texas Dems understandably threw a fit, pointing to some of Ted’s latest ravings, most notably his calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”

Abbott’s team pushed back limply. Before the appearances, they pooh-poohed concerns about Nugent, praising him as a great patriot. As Abbott’s spokesman informed Politico:

Ted Nugent is a forceful advocate for individual liberty and constitutional rights—especially the Second Amendment rights cherished by Texans. … While he may sometimes say things or use language that Greg Abbott would not endorse or agree with, we appreciate the support of everyone who supports protecting our Constitution.

Likewise, following the rally in Denton, Abbott told reporters:

Sen. Davis knows she is suffering with voters because of her flipping and flopping on 2nd Amendment gun laws. And she knows that Ted Nugent calls her out on her disregard for 2nd Amendment rights. We are going to expose Sen. Davis’ weaknesses on the 2nd Amendment and show that in this area and in so many other areas, she represents the liberalism of Barack Obama that is so bad for Texas.”

Oh, so this is all about Abbott’s love for the Second Amendment? Bullshit. Yes, Nugent is loud and proud about his fondness for playing with guns. But the Texas governor’s race is not about protecting gun rights. Wendy Davis is no Michael Bloomberg here. She has voted to allow guns in cars on college campuses and to put armed marshals in schools. The woman supports open-carry laws, for God’s sake. She may not strut around begging the president to “suck on my machine gun” ala Nugent, but that’s only because she’s not a professional maniac.

Abbott’s snuggling up to Nugent is not about the Second Amendment or the Fourth Amendment or any part of the Constitution. It is about courting and stoking the absolute ugliest, most paranoid, most ass-backwards elements of the GOP coalition. We’re not talking here about garden-variety gun lovers or small-government enthusiasts or evangelical values voters. We’re talking about people who find it quaint when Nugent starts raving about how black people are lazy or how disgusting he finds gays or how Hillary Clinton is a “toxic cunt” and “a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.” (Media Matters has a sprawling, multi-decade sampling of Ted’s greatest hits here.) We’re talking about people who find it hilarious when Nugent waves his little guns around and froths, “Hey Hillary! You might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”

A great patriot indeed.

To be fair, Abbott is hardly the only prominent Republican to embrace the unhinged rocker. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the very man Abbott is looking to succeed, asked his good buddy Ted to headline Perry’s 2007 inaugural ball. (With a respectful nod to Texas’s increasingly diverse populace, Nugent showed up clad in a confederate-flag shirt and started talking smack about the state’s non-English speaking residents.) Nor are Texas pols the only Nugent courters. Even poor Mitt Romney sought Nugent’s (grudging) endorsement two years ago.

That said, it was Romney’s—and the broader GOP’s—epic failure that touched off this recent round of soul-searching among Republicans. Sure, the trials and tribulations of Obamacare have given them breathing space of late, but the times they are a changing—along with the nation’s demographics—and Republicans’ cozying up to characters like Nugent is not a recipe for a healthy national party.

The morning after Ted and Greg’s road show, I emailed a handful of Republican strategists. Subject line: “Ted Nugent.” Question: “Why? That’s all I want to know. Why?” Not even the most conservative among them had a serious answer.

As for Gregg Abbott, when pressed by reporters about the appropriateness of his new pal’s comments, the candidate, predictably, claimed ignorance. “I don’t know what he may have done or said in his background. What I do know is that Ted Nugent stands for the Constitution.”

I like to think that Abbott is not actually this stupid. It’s far less troubling to assume that the man likely to become the next governor of Texas is a shameless liar than to imagine that he’d embrace the famously vile Nugent without some vague sense of what made the guy a wingnut celebrity to begin with. (Hint for the would-be governor: It’s not Nugent’s 40-year-old hit song.)

Then again, maybe Abbott really is that clueless. At this point, Nugent has been spouting racist, sexist, generally insane invective for so long that the ugly particulars of any one rant quickly dissolve into his vast sea of lunacy. People tend to roll their eyes and give Nugent a pass because the ranting is seen as just part of his schtick. I mean, he’s the Motor City Madman, right? And, this being America, the guy can say whatever the hell he wants, right?

That he can—and does. But so long as Republicans keep hitching their wagon to a star like Nugent, they really shouldn’t wonder why more and more Americans see the party as defined by an unsettling blend of rage and ignorance.


By: Michelle Cottle, The Daily Beast, February 19, 2014

February 20, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Signature Brand Of Hate”: Trayvon Martin And Why The Right-Wing Media Spent 16 Months Smearing A Dead Teenager

Appearing on Fox & Friends in the wake of a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, Geraldo Rivera’s claim that Martin brought about his own death by dressing in a hooded sweatshirt the night of the killing was shocking, but not surprising. Echoing earlier comments he made on the program, Rivera proclaimed: “You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug.”

It was shocking because the idea of a well-paid commentator going on television and blaming an unarmed teen for being shot while walking home inside a gated community because he wore a hoodie — because he tried to look like “a thug” as Rivera put it — is repellent.

So yes, Rivera’s comments were shockingly awful and irresponsible. As was his claim that the all-female jury “would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did.” But his comments weren’t surprising, because Fox News and too much of the right-wing media have spent the last 16 months zeroing in on the memory of a dead teenager and doing their best to denigrate it.

Apart from the far right’s gleeful and disrespectful response to the not guilty verdict, there remains a separate thread of loud tastelessness that dates back to 2012 and focuses on the victim for all the wrong reasons, suggesting he somehow got what he deserved. (Or what he “sought.”)

Remember the fake, menacing photo of Martin that right-wing sites passed around last year? And when The Daily Caller published tweets from the slain boy’s closed Twitter account? Tweets that conservatives then used to portray the teen as a thug?

This week, Fox favorite Ten Nugent practically danced on Martin’s grave, accusing the dead teenager of being a “dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe” who was “responsible” for being shot by a volunteer neighborhood watchman on the night of February 26, 2012.

Comments by Rivera, Nugent and others were proof that a smear campaign was in full swing this week and a reminder the attacks are a continuation of the foul smears first unleashed in the wake of the killing. At the time, the attacks were an ugly attempt to justify Martin’s death, to shift the blame away from the gunman, Zimmerman, and to cloud the debate about Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law. (Rivera in 2012: “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”)

Trayvon Martin deserves better. Indeed, every victim, and particularly every victim of gun violence in America, deserves better than to have a well-funded media machine like the one led by Fox News targeting shooting victims for endless attacks on their character and on the choices, large and small, they made while alive.

There’s something spectacularly misguided about wanting to turn an unarmed shooting victim, an unarmed minor, into the bad guy and blame him for walking home with Skittles and an iced tea. But that’s what conservatives in the press have been doing, on and off, for nearly a year and a half now.

Recall the Slate headline from March, 2012, highlighting the trend: “When in Doubt, Smear the Dead Kid.”

Yet one of the puzzling questions surrounding the public saga of Martin’s death has always been why the partisan, conservative political movement in America, led by its powerful media outlets, felt the need to become so deeply invested in the case, and felt so strongly about defending the shooter, as well as demeaning the victim.

I understand why civil rights leaders who traditionally lean to the left politically embraced the case, why they saw it as part of a long history of injustice for blacks, and why they urged that Zimmerman be charged with a crime. But why did GOP bloggers, pundits and talk show hosts eventually go all in with their signature brand of hate for a local crime story?

As Kevin Drum wrote at Mother Jones last year:

There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says neighborhood watch captains should be able to shoot anyone who looks suspicious. There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says local police forces should barely even pretend to investigate the circumstances of a shooting. There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says young black men shouldn’t wear hoodies.

And if you go back and look at the coverage of the Martin story as it began to unfold nationally in the winter of 2012, the conservative media, including Fox News, were especially slow to take interest in the matter. That’s in part, I suspect, because there was no natural angle to pursue. As Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab wrote at the time, there was “no good way for gun proponents to spin the death of an unarmed teenager.” The Martin killing didn’t fit the far right’s usual narrative about violence and minorities and how white America is allegedly under physical assault from Obama’s violent African-American base.

At the time, National Review editor Rich Lowry even wrote a blog post headlined “Al Sharpton is right,” agreeing that Zimmerman should be charged with the killing of Martin. (Lowry slammed the shooter’s “stupendous errors in judgment” that fateful night.)

That same day, on March 23, President Obama answered a direct question about the controversy and said, “My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” That quickly sparked a mindless right-wing media stampede as Obama Derangement Syndrome kicked in. “Once Obama spoke out, caring about Martin became a ‘Democratic’ issue, and Republicans felt not just free but obligated to fling all sorts of shit,” Alex Pareene wrote last year at Salon.

Pledging to uncover the “truth” about the shooting victim and determined to prove definitively that anti-black racism doesn’t exists in America (it’s a political tool used by liberals, Republican press allies insist), many in the right-wing media have dropped any pretense of mourning Martin’s death and set out to show how he probably deserved it.

Along with the fake photo of Martin being passed around online, chatter about his alleged drug-dealing past, and his teenage Tweets being dissected, bloggers also pushed the phony claim that a photo of Martin used by the news media had been lightened to make him look more “innocent.” (The charge was bogus.)

Then Glenn Beck’s The Blaze published a laundry list of criminal offenses Martin may have committed while he was alive:

• Aggravated assault

• Aggravated battery against a non-staff member

• Armed robbery

• Arson

• Assault/Threat against M-DCPS employees or persons conducting official business

• Battery or Aggravated battery against M-DCPS employees or persons conducting official business*

• Homicide

• Kidnapping/Abduction

• Making a false report/threat against the school*

• Sexual battery

• Possession, use, sale, or distribution of firearms, explosives, destructive devices, and other weapons.

It was a textbook example of trying to blame the victim. And it’s the miserable course Rivera, Nugent and others continued this week.


By: Eric Boehlert, The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2013

July 20, 2013 Posted by | Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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