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Profile: Barack Obama
a.k.a. Barack Hussein Obama, Barack H. Obama
Positions that Barack Obama has held:
Barack Obama was a participant or observer in the following events:
Aaron Goldstein of the conservative American Spectator writes that President Obama’s announced attempt to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to award the 2016 Olympics to Chicago is little more than a political ploy. Goldstein notes that the Olympics will be held in the summer of 2016. If Obama wins a second term as president in 2012, the Olympics would, Goldstein asserts, become “a celebration of Obama.” He adds: “His local political base plus his legion of admirers from throughout the United States and the world would descend upon Chicago for the Obama love fest to end all Obama love fests. It will make the Roman columns used for his Democratic National Convention acceptance speech last August look modest by comparison. Think of the ostentatious style of the Obama Inaugural only in much warmer weather.” However, Goldstein continues, if Obama is defeated for re-election in 2012, the Olympics might serve as a springboard for an Obama comeback: “Well, let us remember there will be a presidential election in 2016. Obama would be 55 years old and undoubtedly eager to pull a Grover Cleveland. He would still have the same legion of admirers who would treat him as their leader in exile (albeit a very comfortable exile). The Chicago Olympics would be the perfect backdrop for a political comeback.” [American Spectator, 9/25/2009] Chicago will lose its Olympic bid, and conservative critics will blame Obama for the loss (see October 2, 2009 and October 2, 2009).
Columnist John L. Perry, a newspaper editor and writer for the conservative news Web site Newsmax, publishes an article on that site that says the US military can, and should, execute a military coup to remove President Obama from office. Perry calls it a “remote [yet] gaining possibility” that “America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the ‘Obama problem.’ Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.” Perry writes that such a coup would not be the most “preferable” solution to the “Obama problem,” but it is preferable to Obama’s “radical ideal.” He writes that the American military would execute a “civilized” coup, claims that military officers are not sworn to obey the president in his role as commander in chief, and says that “top military officers” are becoming increasingly alarmed at the “trampl[ing]” of “the Constitution they are sworn to defend” by Obama and his administration. Those officers may well decide to execute a coup on behalf of the citizens who are becoming “increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election, in which he will surely seek continuation in office.” Perry goes on to accuse the Obama administration of making the nation “financially reliant on foreign lender governments,” says Obama is “waging undeclared war on the intelligence community… dismantling… defenses against missiles targeted at this nation by avowed enemies, even as America’s troop strength is allowed to sag,” and placing both the nation and the US military “in jeopardy as never before.” Perry writes that America’s “military professionals” have the choice to either let Obama allow the Middle East to explode in a nuclear holocaust, thusly “destabilizing or subjugating the Free World,” resign their commissions en masse, continue in the hopes that Republicans will win the 2010 election and “reverse the situation,” or take drastic action. Perry asks, “Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a ‘family intervention,’ with some form of limited, shared responsibility?” He then speculates: “Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.” If the military does not intervene, Perry writes, Obama’s “exponentially accelerating agenda for ‘fundamental change’ toward a Marxist state” is all but inevitable. “A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible. Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem.” Perry concludes by saying that the American electorate in 2008 indulged in a “wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility” and as a result, “sunk the nation into this morass.” [NewsMax, 9/29/2009] A day later, Newsmax removes the column from its Web site. The site posts no apology for Perry’s column nor explains its sudden disappearance, but does issue a statement that follows: “In a blog posting to Newsmax John Perry wrote about a coup scenario involving the US military. He clearly stated that he was not advocating such a scenario but simply describing one. After several reader complaints, Newsmax wanted to insure that this article was not misinterpreted. It was removed after a short period after being posted. Newsmax strongly believes in the principles of constitutional government and would never advocate or insinuate any suggestion of an activity that would undermine our democracy or democratic institutions. Mr. Perry served as a political appointee in the Carter administration in HUD and FEMA. He has no official relationship with Newsmax other than as an unpaid blogger.” Previously, Newsmax has identified Perry as a member of “two previous administrations,” not just the Carter administration, and has called him a “prize-winning newspaper editor” and a regular columnist for the site since 1999. Law professor Darren L. Hutchinson calls Perry a “rightwingnut” and accuses him of “fantasiz[ing]” about the possibility of a “military coup.” He calls Perry’s rationale for a coup a compilation of “horrible lies” and problems that began under the Bush administration, not under Obama’s leadership. [NewsMax, 9/29/2009; Media Matters, 9/30/2009; Darren L. Hutchinson, 9/30/2009] Libertarian blogger Tom Bowler speculates that, given Perry’s association with two Democratic presidential administrations and his former membership in a now-defunct Democratic think tank, Perry is “a lefty” who wrote the column in an attempt “to build the case for curbing talk radio. In the interest of national security, of course.” [Tom Bowler, 9/30/2009] However, liberal columnist Terry Krepel later notes that Perry has attacked liberals in general, and Obama in particular, since before Obama’s election, and has often accused both liberals and Obama of being “socialists.” Perry has also launched racially-motivated attacks against Obama, and speculated that his only real “power base” is “the blacks.” [Huffington Post, 10/1/2009]
Conservative lobbyists cheer the IOC’s decision not to give the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. [Source: MSNBC / Towleroad (.com)]While many Americans are shocked and upset by the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to award the 2016 Olympics to Chicago (see October 2, 2009), some conservatives cheer the decision as a personal defeat for President Obama, who spoke to the IOC on Chicago’s behalf. The conservative Web site Drudge Report blasts a large headline: “THE EGO HAS LANDED; WORLD REJECTS OBAMA: CHICAGO OUT IN FIRST ROUND.” [Huffington Post, 10/2/2009] A gathering of conservative lobbyists and officials at Americans for Prosperity erupts in cheering and applause when the news of Chicago’s loss is announced; the video of the reaction quickly makes the rounds of cable news and Internet outlets. [National Journal, 10/2/2009] Conservative blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com, one of the right’s most influential Internet commentators, celebrates the loss: “Hahahahaha,” he posts. “I thought the world would love us more now that Bush was gone. I thought if we whored ourselves out to our enemies, great things would happen. Apparently not. So Obama’s pimped us to every two-bit thug and dictator in the world, made promises to half the Olympic committee, and they did not even kiss him.” [Erick Erickson, 10/2/2009] Fellow conservative blogger Michelle Malkin writes that the IOC decision effectively ends the Obama campaign motto of “Yes We Can” by introducing a new slogan: “No, You Can’t.” Malkin continues: “Like Icarus, President Obama’s giddy ego flight has ended with melted wax and fallen wings. This is a big win and a massive relief for taxpayers. But Chicago cronies are not going to take this well. Gird your loins. Who will be first to cry RAAAAAACIST?” [Michelle Malkin, 10/2/2009] The National Review calls the decision an “embarrassment for Obama,” and adds, “If he can’t work his personal magic with the Olympians, why does he expect it to work with the Iranians?” [National Review, 10/2/2009] Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh gleefully echoes Drudge’s “the ego has landed” headline, and says the decision makes this “the worst day of [Obama’s] presidency.” He claims that Obama “has failed.… We’ve got a two-year-old manchild with a Mars-sized ego, which today crashed and burned.” The loss of the Olympics is a direct reflection of Obama’s foreign policy, Limbaugh claims: “Our president, Barack Hussein Obama, has been running around the world for nine months telling everybody how much our country sucks.… Why would anybody award the Olympics to such a crappy place?… This is a moment of weakness, and weakness invites trouble. You think I’m laughing? What do you think’s happening in Tehran?” And he says, in apparent jest, “Who knew the Olympic Committee was a bunch of racists?” [ABC News, 10/2/2009] The Huffington Post counters that “if Democrats had attacked [former President] George W. Bush for pushing Dallas as an Olympics host, they would immediately have been branded as unpatriotic.” [Huffington Post, 10/2/2009]
The Chicago 2016 Olympic logo. [Source: LogoBlog (.org)]President Obama fails in an effort to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to choose Chicago, his home town, for the 2016 Olympics. Obama flies to Copenhagen to make an unprecedented personal appeal to the IOC on Chicago’s behalf, but the IOC chooses Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro instead. Chicago mayor Richard Daley says he is “shocked” by the IOC’s decision. Obama says of the decision and the IOC’s rebuff to his presentation, “One of the most valuable things about sports is that you can play a great game and still lose.” William Daley, the brother of Mayor Daley, says the decision may have been made in part because of anti-American sentiment in parts of the world: “I think Americans have a difficult time right now with the rest of the world. I think the rest of the world doesn’t look at the US the same way it did for many years.” Some conservatives and Republicans criticize Obama for the effort, with some saying that his motivation was more personal than patriotic (see September 25, 2009). White House press secretary Robert Gibbs disagrees, saying, “If it had been Los Angeles, I think the notion that the president would have done less because it was a different US city just doesn’t hold a lot of water.” [Time, 9/30/2009; CBS News, 10/2/2009] Some Republicans called Obama’s attempt to land the Olympics for Chicago little more than an effort to provide largesse for his hometown cronies. Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said Obama let himself become distracted from other issues such as health care reform by the Olympics. “Where is the focus?” Steele asked. “At a time of war, at a time of recession… I think this trip is nice but not necessary for the president. The goal should be creating job opportunities not seven years from now, but job opportunities today.” Gibbs asked of Steele, “Who’s he rooting for?” Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Obama should focus more on the conflict in Afghanistan and not the Olympics. Republican strategist John Feehery said: “He’s taking a bunch of Chicago cronies on an all-expense-paid trip to Copenhagen for just one reason, to get the Olympics. For me it makes him seem unserious and look slightly desperate.” The right-wing Web site Drudge Report recently highlighted the murder of a Chicago teenager during a gang fight and headlined the story “Olympic Spirit.” Fox News commentator Glenn Beck insinuated that Obama’s Olympic push was at the behest of the Chicago Mafia. Curt Hamakawa, director of the Center for International Sport Business, retorted that had Obama not attempted to influence the IOC, “Republicans would have been crabbing that he didn’t do enough.” [Associated Press, 9/29/2009; Huffington Post, 10/2/2009] Many conservatives celebrate the US loss of the Olympics as a personal defeat for Obama (see October 2, 2009).
Alan Grayson. [Source: Infowars (.com)]Freshman House Democrat Alan Grayson (D-FL) takes to the floor of the House to lambast both Democrats and Republicans for not being active proponents of health care reform. Grayson’s tirade begins by criticizing his fellow Democrats for spending six months trying to persuade a single Republican, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), to vote “yes” on the reform legislation in the Senate Finance Committee. “We as a party have spent the last six months, the greatest minds in our party, dwelling on the question, the unbelievably consuming question of how to get Olympia Snowe to vote on health care reform,” Grayson says. “I want to remind us all that Olympia Snowe was not elected president last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America’s population. What America wants is health care reform. America doesn’t care if it gets 51 votes in the Senate or 60 votes in the Senate or 83 votes in the Senate, in fact America doesn’t even care about that, it doesn’t care about that at all. What America cares about is this; there are over one million Americans who go broke every single year trying to pay their health care bills. America cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that there are 44,780 Americans who die every single year on account of not having health care, that’s 122 every day. America sure cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that if you have a pre-existing condition, even if you have health insurance, it’s not covered. America cares about that a lot. America cares about the fact that you can get all the health care you need as long as you don’t need any. America cares about that a lot. But America does not care about procedures, processes, personalities, America doesn’t care about that at all.” Grayson then turns to his “Republican friends” and says: “[L]ast week I held up this report here and I pointed out that in America there are 44,789 Americans that die every year according to this Harvard report… because they have no health insurance (see September 17, 2009). That’s an extra 44,789 Americans who die whose lives could be saved, and their [Republicans’] response was to ask me for an apology. To ask me for an apology? That’s right. To ask me for an apology! Well, I’m telling you this; I will not apologize. I will not apologize. I will not apologize for a simple reason; America doesn’t care about your feelings. I violated no rules by pulling this report to America’s attention, I think a lot of people didn’t know about it beforehand. But America does care about health care in America. And if you’re against it, then get out of the way. Just get out of the way. You can lead, you can follow, or you can get out of the way. And I’m telling you now to get out of the way. America understands that there is one party in this country that is favor of health care reform and one party that is against it, and they know why. They understand that if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation. They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace they would blame him for destroying the defense industry. In fact, they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon. But that’s not what America wants, America wants solutions to it’s problems and that begins with health care, and that’s what I’m speaking for tonight.” [Crooks and Liars, 10/9/2009]
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who challenged President Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, says she will not run for president in 2012, 2016, or afterwards. Asked by NBC interviewer Ann Curry: “Will you ever run for president again? Yes or no.” Clinton replies, “No.” She then elaborates: “I mean, this is a great job. It is a 24/7 job. And I’m looking forward to retirement at some point.” Clinton would be 70 in 2016, when Obama would presumably not run again; she has long said she has no intention of challenging Obama’s re-election in 2012. Curry asks about a concern by some “that you have been marginalized, that you—that the highest-ranking woman in the United States [is] having to fight against being marginalized,” and Clinton calls such concerns “absurd.… I think there is such a—you know, maybe there is some misunderstanding which needs to be clarified. I believe in delegating power. You know, I’m not one of these people who feels like I have to have my face in the, you know, front of the newspaper or on the TV every moment of the day. I would be irresponsible and negligent were I to say, ‘Oh, no, everything must come to me.’ Now, maybe that is a woman’s thing. Maybe I’m totally secure and feel absolutely no need to go running around in order for people to see what I’m doing. It’s just the way I am. My goal is to be a very positive force to implement the kind of changes that the president and I believe are in the best interest of our country. But that doesn’t mean that it all has to be me, me, me all the time. I like lifting people up.” [Washington Post, 10/12/2009; People, 10/12/2009]
Conservative author Patrick Buchanan, in a syndicated column reprinted on the news blog Human Events and other venues, says that President Obama received what he calls an “affirmative action Nobel Prize.” Buchanan is referring to the recent granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama, in what the Nobel committee called recognition of “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Buchanan notes that former President Ronald Reagan never received the Peace Prize for concluding a historic arms-reduction treaty with the Soviet Union (see December 7-8, 1987). Nor did Pope John Paul II, for his role in ending the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. He lists other presidents who have won the Peace Prize, and asks, “What has Obama accomplished to compare with what the other sitting presidents to receive the Nobel Prize accomplished?” Buchanan says that since the news of Obama’s Peace Prize has been reported, Obama “has been a national object of mockery and mirth. In fairness, this is not his fault. There is no evidence he lobbied for the prize; no evidence he knew it was coming.” Buchanan calls the award “ridiculous,” says the Nobel committee “made fools of themselves” by giving Obama the award, and says the committee gave Obama the award mainly for not being George W. Bush. [Nobel Prize (.org), 4/29/2009; Human Events, 10/13/2009]
The Middle District Court of Georgia levies a $20,000 fine on “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz. The court accuses Taitz, who has filed a lawsuit alleging that President Obama is not a US citizen and asking the court to bar his deployment of military personnel overseas (see September 16-21, 2009), of wasting the time and resources of the Georgia court system. The judgment, issued by Judge Clay Land, against Taitz calls her “delusional.” The judgment finds: “Counsel Orly Taitz is hereby ordered to pay $20,000.00 to the United States, through the Middle District of Georgia Clerk’s Office, within 30 days of the date of this order as a sanction for her misconduct in violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Land writes: “The Court finds that counsel’s conduct was willful and not merely negligent. It demonstrates bad faith on her part. As an attorney, she is deemed to have known better. She owed a duty to follow the rules and to respect the Court. Counsel’s pattern of conduct conclusively establishes that she did not mistakenly violate a provision of law. She knowingly violated Rule 11. Her response to the Court’s show cause order is breathtaking in its arrogance and borders on delusional. She expresses no contrition or regret regarding her misconduct. To the contrary, she continues her baseless attacks on the Court.… Counsel’s frivolous and sanctionable conduct wasted the defendants’ time and valuable judicial resources that could have been devoted to legitimate cases pending with the Court. When she filed the Rhodes case, counsel indicated that it was urgent that the matter be heard because her client was facing imminent deployment. The Court rearranged its schedule, took time to read the legal papers, and conducted preliminary research in preparation for the hearing. The Army had to activate its legal team on short notice, sending a major from the Army Litigation Division in Washington, DC, and a captain from the CONUS Replacement Center at Ft. Benning. In addition, the Assistant US Attorney had to accompany them. Like the Court, the government attorneys had to prepare in an expedited manner for the hearing. During the week preceding Captain Rhodes’s deployment, the Court was in the midst of a jury trial. Therefore, the Court had to alter the trial schedule to conduct the hearing during an extended lunch break, thus affecting other counsel and jurors. The Clerk’s Office was burdened by Ms. Taitz’s inability to follow the Court’s rules regarding pro hac vice admission and the Court’s rules for electronic filing. On five separate occasions in a short period, the Clerk’s Office personnel error-noticed counsel for her failure to follow simple rules. At the hearing, counsel failed to make coherent legal arguments but instead wasted the Court’s time with press conference sound bites and speeches.” [Washington Independent, 10/13/2009] Land notes that in one of her filings, Taitz accused him of meeting secretly with Attorney General Eric Holder outside the court. Holder had actually been thousands of miles away that day, giving a speech in Los Angeles. [Washington Examiner, 7/7/2010] Land includes a footnote that says one of Taitz’s supporters had contacted him, challenged him to a “round of fisticuffs on the Courthouse Square,” and asserted that “the president is not human.” Taitz says she will appeal the judgment, and accuses Land of being in the pocket of the “oppressive” Obama administration. “He’s scared to go against the regime,” she says. “He’s trying to intimidate me and other lawyers to stay away from this issue.” [Orange County Register, 10/16/2009] An appeals court will reject Taitz’s appeal and order her to pay the $20,000 (see March 15, 2010). [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 3/15/2010]
President Barack Obama signs the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The new law authorizes the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute violent attacks in which the perpetrator has targeted a victim because of his or her actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The law is part of a larger defense authorization bill. “This law honors our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short because of hate,” says Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. “Today’s signing of the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered] Americans represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality.” A statement released by 29 LGBT groups says, in part: “It took much too long, more than a decade. And it came at too great a price: the brutal killings of Matthew Shepard (see October 9, 1998 and After) and James Byrd Jr. (see June 7, 1998 and After) are just two among the thousands of crimes motivated by hate and bigotry.… [L]awmakers and the president have made an imperative statement to the country and the world: Our nation will no longer tolerate hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.” The legislation has languished in Congress for nearly a decade, largely because of conservative opposition. Representative Mike Pence (R-IL), one of the harshest critics of the new law, accuses Obama of signing the bill as part of his “radical agenda” that puts his “liberal social priorities ahead of an unambiguous affirmation of our men and women in uniform.” Pence adds: “Every day, our armed forces stand in defense of freedom and our cherished way of life. It is deeply offensive to their service and to millions of Americans to pile so-called ‘hate crimes’ legislation onto a bill that authorizes critical resources for our troops. Hate crimes legislation is antithetical to the First Amendment, unnecessary, and will have a chilling effect on religious freedom.” [Fox News, 10/28/2009; New England Bay Windows, 10/28/2009] The law was included in the National Defense and Authorization Act of 2009 in part to weaken Republican opposition. Many Republicans such as Pence railed against the bill in both the House and Senate, but many voted for the legislation despite their opposition to the act. Many Republicans have criticized the placement of the law into the defense authorization legislation. Many conservative organizations, such as the Christian group Focus on the Family (FOTF), says the new law creates “thought crimes” by outlawing not just actions, but beliefs and attitudes. FOTF and Congressional Republicans such as Representative Steve King (R-IA) have also claimed that the new law legitimizes pedophilia and other illegal sexual practices, ignoring findings by legal and political analysts who called such claims “preposterous.” [St. Petersburg Times, 5/14/2009; Colorado Independent, 10/9/2009]
Entity Tags: Matthew Shepard, Steve King, Joe Solmonese, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Focus on the Family, Barack Obama, James Byrd, Jr, Mike Pence
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Domestic Propaganda
Judge David Carter. [Source: HubPages (.com)]US District Court Judge David Carter dismisses a lawsuit brought by a group claiming that President Obama was born in Kenya and, therefore, is not qualified to be president (see August 1-4, 2009). Carter lambasts lead lawyer Orly Taitz, ruling that he is “deeply concerned” that Taitz “may have suborned perjury through witnesses she intended to bring before this court.” Carter notes in his ruling that he has received “several sworn affidavits” showing that Taitz “asked potential witnesses” to lie under oath. Additionally, he rules, Taitz engaged in “improper and unethical” conduct by encouraging her supporters to phone and write him in an “attempt to influence this Court’s decision.” Carter rules that Taitz and her co-plaintiffs have not presented any usable evidence to bolster their claim of Obama’s supposed Kenyan citizenship. Instead, Taitz “favored rhetoric seeking to arouse the emotions and prejudices of her followers rather than the language of a lawyer seeking to present arguments through cogent legal reasoning.” Taitz’s inflammatory rhetoric, Carter finds, “often hampered the efforts of her co-counsel, Gary Kreep… to bring serious issues before the Court.” Carter rules that he exhibited “extreme patience” with Taitz and Kreep’s filings, noting that while Taitz and Kreep filed their lawsuit on January 20, 2009, they failed to serve the defendants in the case until August 25, 2009, and only then after repeated court orders to do so. “Taitz also continually refused to comply with court rules and procedures,” he notes, and even tried to get Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakasato removed from the original case because Nakasato required her to follow the court rules. And, he writes, Taitz attempted to dismiss two of her clients from the suit because she did not wish to work with their co-counsel. “Plaintiffs have encouraged the Court to ignore [the] Constitution; to disregard the limits on its power put in place by the Constitution; and to effectively overthrow a sitting president who was popularly elected by ‘We the People’—over sixty-nine million of the people,” Carter writes. “Plaintiffs have attacked the judiciary, including every prior court that has dismissed their claim, as unpatriotic and even treasonous for refusing to grant their requests and for adhering to the terms of the Constitution which set forth its jurisdiction. Respecting the constitutional role and jurisdiction of this Court is not unpatriotic. Quite the contrary, this Court considers commitment to that constitutional role to be the ultimate reflection of patriotism.” [The Smoking Gun, 10/29/2009; United States District Court for the Central District of California, 10/29/2009] Taitz and Kreep have filed a similar lawsuit with failed presidential candidate Alan Keyes, which has also been dismissed (see November 12, 2008 and After and March 13, 2009). Taitz was recently fined $20,000 for judicial misconduct (see October 13-16, 2009).
Oil billionaire David Koch (see August 30, 2010), the founder of “astroturf” advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004, October 2008, and August 6, 2009), makes a rare public appearance at an AFP gathering designed to celebrate the organization’s victories against Obama administration policies (see January 2009 and After). President Obama’s poll numbers are declining, and to a man, Republican senators are refusing to cooperate with the White House or with Congressional Democrats on any issues. Political pundits are labeling Obama “inept,” and “tea party” groups are accusing him of initiating “a government takeover.” Koch praises the AFP members at the event, saying: “Days like today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors when we started this organization, five years ago.… We envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history.… Thankfully, the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow-citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.” [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, political activist Virginia Thomas. [Source: Associated Press]In November 2009, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a former Republican campaign operative and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, establishes a new “tea party” organization she calls Liberty Central. (Some media sources claim that Liberty Central begins operations in January 2010.) She describes the group as intended to bridge the gap between the conservative Republican establishment and the anti-government tea party movement. “I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Nebraska, who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you,” she says at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) discussion with tea party leaders in Washington. “I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country. I have felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great.” She also says she started the group because of her reaction to what she calls President Obama’s “hard-left agenda.” The group also intends to work to elect Republicans and defeat Democrats, and provide political strategies and “talking points” for conservative candidates. [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Commission, 7/1/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011] In May 2010, the organization officially declares itself open for business, launching a $27,000 Web site, and touting partnerships with a number of prominent conservative groups and the backing of prominent conservatives such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo, whom Justice Thomas has called “my good friend.” [Politico, 7/6/2010]
Questions of Conflict of Interest, Ethics - Almost immediately, legal ethicists assert that Virginia Thomas’s role as the head of a partisan, openly political advocacy organization could taint her husband’s impartiality, especially in light of the Citizens United Court decision, in which her husband sided with the 5-4 majority (see January 21, 2010), that allows her group to accept donations and spend them without publicly disclosing information about them. The group could have benefited from the Court’s decision, and Justice Thomas’s decision could be seen as being influenced by his wife’s decision to start the group. Law school professor Lucas A. “Scot” Powe, a Court historian, says, “I think the American public expects the justices to be out of politics.” The expectations for spouses are not so clear, he adds, saying, “I really don’t know because we’ve never seen it.” Legal ethicist Stephen Gillers, another law professor, says, “We expect the justice to make decisions uninfluenced by the political or legal preferences of his or her spouse.” Moreover, the press learns that while the Court was deliberating the Citizens United case, Liberty Central received an anonymous $550,000 donation. Government watchdog organization Common Cause wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking if Justice Thomas should recuse himself from the case, and wrote that “the complete lack of transparency of Liberty Central’s finances makes it difficult to assess the full scope of the ethics issues raised by Ms. Thomas’s role in founding and leading the group.” (The media later learns that $500,000 of the anonymous $550,000 donation for the organization comes from Dallas real estate investor Harlan Crow, who also hosts a fundraising event for the organization at his home. Crow once gave Justice Thomas a $19,000 “Frederick Douglass Bible” as a gift, and donated $150,000 to build a new wing named for Justice Thomas on a Savannah, Georgia, library that he visited frequently in his youth.) Common Cause also notes that Justice Thomas had failed to report on his financial disclosure filings his wife’s income over the last 13 years, prompting him to file amendments to the filings that indicated the sources, but not the amounts, of his wife’s income. Justice Thomas refuses to recuse himself from the case.
Period of Success - Liberty Central flourishes for a brief time, with Virginia Thomas assembling a veteran staff and forging relationships with conservative donors, with most of whom she and her husband had long, close relationships. Carl Graham of the Montana Policy Institute, one of the over 30 state and national tea party groups that are listed as partners in Liberty Central’s affiliate network, says, “Her association with Justice Thomas clearly provides a level of credibility that others wouldn’t be able to have, just because of the beliefs that he has and the stands that he has on the different positions that align with our own.” Liberty Central’s connection with Justice Thomas, Graham says, “gets you to open the email, if nothing else, as opposed to some other one that you may not even open.” Liberty Central hires the services of CRC Public Relations, a prominent Washington communications firm that has garnered some $15 million in fees from a number of clients, including top Republican Party committees and the presidential campaigns or political committees of George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain, among others. Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, a tea party lobbying organization also partnered with Liberty Central (see April 14, 2009 and April 15, 2009), says, “Ginni was able to raise the seed capital to have a real launch” because of her connections in small-government conservative circles. Kibbe says most people are unaware that she is the wife of a Supreme Court justice. Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin calls Thomas a “mentor” for many tea party organizations, and says she helps these organizations “to navigate some of the waters in DC.… She’s been kind of a mentor, and when we had questions about things that we were doing, we bounced a few of the ideas off of her and also off of a few other people in DC just to make sure that what we were doing made sense.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011]
Media Attention - In a June 2010 interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Thomas says she is sure “liberals” will “persecute” her just as she says they did when her husband was undergoing confirmation for the Supreme Court. “They’re after me now sometimes,” she says. “And so, we’re not going to be dissuaded. We are in the fight for our country’s life.” She and Hannity engage in a lively conversation about the “tyranny” of the Obama administration. She also promises to “watch for conflicts” between herself and her husband. In October 2010, the media reports that Virginia Thomas leaves a voice mail for former college professor Anita Hill, who accused her husband of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings for the Court (see October 8, 1991, October 8-12, 1991, and October 11-12, 1991), demanding that Hill issue an apology to her husband. The voice mail says: “Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just want to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometimes and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay, have a good day.” The attention from the voice mail prompts more negative media attention, and some donors begin distancing themselves from the organization. (Virginia Thomas later admits that her voice mail message for Hill was “probably a mistake,” though she will call the media’s response to it “laughable.” She will call the message “an olive branch” she extends to Hill. For her part, Hill says: “I don’t apologize. I have no intention of apologizing and I stand by my testimony in 1991.”) [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Fox News, 6/8/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 10/19/2010; Washington Post, 11/15/2010]
Thomas Steps Down, Group Merges with Another Organization - In November 2010, Virginia Thomas steps down from her leadership post at Liberty Central. The group then merges with another, similar group called the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, an organization founded by ex-CIA agent Gary Aldrich, who wrote a largely discredited book “exposing” the “secrets” of the Clinton administration. Sources later tell reporters that Virginia Thomas sells off Liberty Central because it cannot raise the funds needed to support its large staff and high overhead. According to CRC spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll, Thomas will “take a back seat so that Liberty Central can continue with its mission without any of the distractions. After discussing it with the board, Mrs. Thomas determined that it was best for the organization.” However, Sarah E. Field, general counsel of Liberty Central, disagrees, saying: “There are many opportunities being presented to Liberty Central, but there is no agreement at this time.… The sources of this story appear to be people without full understanding of the facts.” Keith Appell of CRC tells a reporter that the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner “breached confidentiality” by reporting her conversation with Carroll. Gardner responds, “Everything I attributed to Caitlin Carroll comes from an on-the-record conversation we had by telephone this morning.” Within hours, Thomas files incorporation papers for a new political lobbying and consulting firm, Liberty Consulting (see February 4, 2011). [Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 11/15/2010; Washington Post, 11/15/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011]
Entity Tags: Lucas A. (“Scot”) Powe, Liberty Central, US Department of Justice, Matt Kibbe, Leonard Leo, Obama administration, US Supreme Court, Sean Hannity, Virginia (“Ginni”) Thomas, Keith Appell, Stephen Gillers, Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, Jenny Beth Martin, Sarah E. Field, Gary Aldrich, Barack Obama, Anita Hill, Amy Gardner, CRC Public Relations, Caitlin Carroll, Harlan Crow, Clarence Thomas, FreedomWorks, Carl Graham, Donald Rumsfeld, Common Cause, Conservative Political Action Conference
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
An image of Dede Scozzafava, altered by a conservative activist to make her appear as Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold. [Source: Saberpoint (.com)]Democratic candidate Bill Owens wins an unexpected, narrow victory in a special election for the US House seat representing New York State’s 23rd District, a win widely seen as a setback to the national tea party movement. Owens ran against Conservative Party candidate Douglas L. Hoffman in a race that saw the original Republican Party candidate, Dede Scozzafava, drop out under heavy pressure from local, state, and national tea party organizations to give way to Hoffman, their preferred candidate. Scozzafava was the unanimous choice of the 11 county chairs of the district’s Republican Party organization. The 23rd District is traditionally Republican. Conservative figures identified with the tea party, such as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), who has presidential aspirations, came out strongly in favor of Hoffman and against Scozzafava, as did talk show hosts Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Fred Thompson, and the editorial pages of the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal. Scozzafava is a moderate Republican who supports gay and abortion rights, and the federal economic stimulus package promoted by the Bush and Obama administrations. The Republican National Committee (RNC), which had backed Scozzafava, applauded her decision to withdraw and endorsed Hoffman. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who like the RNC had supported Scozzzafava but in the days before the election endorsed Hoffman, says he worries that having third-party candidates routinely enter races would split conservative votes and give Democrats control of federal and state governments. “This makes life more complicated from the standpoint of this,” he says.“If we get into a cycle where every time one side loses, they run a third-party candidate, we’ll make [Nancy] Pelosi [D-CA] speaker for life and guarantee [President] Obama’s re-election.… I think we are going to get into a very difficult environment around the country if suddenly conservative leaders decide they are going to anoint people without regard to local primaries and local choices.” After Hoffman’s loss, some tea party figures blame the Republican Party for the defeat, saying that if the party had gotten behind Hoffman from the outset, he would have defeated Owens. Fox News commentator Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, agrees, saying: “I think Doug Hoffman likely would have won if he had been the Republican candidate from the get-go. It wasn’t a spike in the end zone for the Democrats. They got that seat not because Democrats were brilliant, but because Republicans were stupid.” Some conservatives attempt to frame the loss as a victory because they forced the more moderate Scozzafava out of the race. Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) says, “Our number one goal was to make clear that the Republican Party cannot take someone as liberal as Dede Scozzafava and thrust her out on the voters and expect the voters just to accept it.” The seat became vacant after Representative John M. McHugh (R-NY) was appointed by President Obama to become secretary of the Army. After facing a barrage of heavy criticism from Limbaugh, Palin, and the like, Scozzafava abruptly withdrew from the race and threw her support to Owens. Some critics questioned Hoffman’s eligibility to run for the seat, noting that his home in Lake Placid, New York, is not in the district. The conservative Club for Growth spent $1 million promoting Hoffman’s candidacy, and other conservative organizations such as the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List and NOM also supported Hoffman. The groups funneled cash into Hoffman’s campaigns, printed up literature, and sent volunteers from other areas in the country to work for Hoffman. Dick Armey, the former House majority leader who now heads the conservative lobbying group FreedomWorks (see February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, February 27, 2009, March 2, 2009, March 13, 2009 and After, April 14, 2009, and April 15, 2009), says the race proves Republicans need to stop fielding moderate candidates. “My own view right now is the myth that you have to be a moderate—a Democrat lite—to win in the Northeast probably has less standing now than in any time since I’ve been in politics,” Armey says. “The small-government candidate in the Republican Party—or running as an independent—is going to be the one to draw the energy of these voters.” Marilyn Musgrave, a former representative from Colorado who works for the Anthony List, says after the election that the conservative backing of Hoffman proves to Washington lawmakers that they should not take conservative votes for granted. “Don’t just assume we’re yours,” she says. [Christian Science Monitor, 10/29/2009; New York Times, 10/31/2009; New York Times, 11/3/2009]
Entity Tags: Dick Armey, Dede Scozzafava, Tim Pawlenty, Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard, Brian Brown, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Bill Owens, Rush Limbaugh, Susan B. Anthony List, Newt Gingrich, Glenn Beck, Fred Thompson, Douglas L. Hoffman, John M. McHugh, Republican National Committee, Nancy Pelosi, Mike Huckabee, National Organization for Marriage, Marilyn Musgrave, Club for Growth
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2010 Elections
Banner at the Capitol Hill rally depicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as an ‘Unamerican McCarthyite.’ [Source: MSNBC]Conservatives gather on Capitol Hill to protest the Obama administration’s push towards health care reform, in a rally featuring guest speaker Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN). [Media Matters, 11/6/2009] Bachmann called the rally the “Super Bowl of Freedom,” and told Fox News viewers that “socialized medicine is the crown jewel of socialism. This [health care reform] will change our country forever.” [TPM LiveWire, 11/3/2009; Mediaite, 11/11/2009] Actor Jon Voight, speaking to the crowd, says of President Obama: “His only success in one year as president is taking America apart piece by piece. Could it be 20 years of ‘subconscious programming’ from Reverend [Jeremiah] Wright [Obama’s former pastor] to damn America?” And House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) tells the crowd, “Pelosi care [referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA] is the greatest threat to freedom I’ve seen in my 19 years in Washington.”
Signs Use Racial Images; Call Obama Communist, Nazi - Signs visible in the crowd proclaim, among other sentiments:
“Get the Red Out of the White House”;
“Traitor to the US Constitution” (featuring a photo of Obama);
“Ken-Ya Trust Obama?” (referring to theories that Obama is a citizen of Kenya—see January 24, 2007, January 16, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, October 8-10, 2008, and August 11, 2009—and with autographs from Representatives Steve King, R-IA and Ron Paul, R-TX);
“Un-American McCarthyite” (featuring a photo of Pelosi);
“I’m the King of the World: Remember the Titanic?” (featuring a drawing of Obama as the “Jovial Sambo” character from the Jim Crow era);
“National Socialist Health Care” (featuring a photograph of a pile of corpses from the Holocaust, and claiming that health care reform is the next “holocaust”).
Nine rally participants are arrested for attempting to force their way into the Hart Senate Office Building. Hundreds more attempt to force themselves into nearby government office buildings while chanting, “Kill the bill!” [MSNBC, 11/5/2009]
Sponsored by GOP - MSNBC’s Domenico Montanaro writes: “It is important to know that this rally was set up by the GOP. While other groups certainly got people to show up, the folks who came here ultimately came at the invitation of the Republican Party. The GOP provided the speakers and the music, etc.” [MSNBC, 11/5/2009]
Fox Pundit Inflates Crowd Estimates - While other media sources use local police reports to estimate the crowd at around 4,000, Fox News’s Sean Hannity tells listeners that the crowd is closer to 20,000 in size. Hannity later drastically scales back this claim. Hannity, who along with other Fox News pundits and on-air anchors had heavily promoted the rally for days beforehand, predicted the crowd would be “massive” in the hours before the protest. On his radio show, aired on ABC Radio Network, Hannity tells listeners: “We announced on Hannity Friday night on the Fox News Channel, we had Congresswoman Michele Bachmann on, and she mentioned that there was going to be on Thursday, she was going to put together in less than a week a little town hall on—what do you want to call it—march on our nation’s Capitol. And anyway, 20,000 people showed up today.” Hannity echoes the claim several times on his radio show. However, with no explanation, he concludes his radio broadcast by saying, “I heard there was, like, 5,000 people plus there.” [MSNBC, 11/5/2009; Media Matters, 11/6/2009] On Hannity’s Fox News broadcast later that evening, he returns to his earlier estimates of “20,000” rally participants, and shows viewers old footage from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 rally (see September 12, 2009) to bolster his claim. [Crooks and Liars, 11/11/2009] On November 11, Hannity will admit that he “screwed up” in showing the footage, and claims it was merely “an inadvertent mistake.” [Think Progress, 11/12/2009] Hannity does not address how the mistake came to be made. [New York Times, 11/11/2009] Media critic Rachel Sklar will write, “It’s really blatant and remarkable… this sort of misrepresentation is simply not an accident.” [Mediaite, 11/11/2009] A week later, Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett will make a similar mistake (see November 18-19, 2009).
Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, John Boehner, Fox News, Gregg Jarrett, Glenn Beck, Steve King, Domenico Montanaro, Ron Paul, Sean Hannity, Michele Bachmann, Nancy Pelosi, Jon Voight, Rachel Sklar, Republican Party, Obama administration
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Portion of promotional poster for the HBO documentary ‘By the People.’ [Source: Wikimedia]Fox News falsely reports that President Obama watched, by himself, an HBO documentary about his 2008 presidential campaign instead of watching the election returns from races in Virginia and New Jersey during the evening of November 4. Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum tells viewers, “[Press secretary] Robert Gibbs said, well, he was actually watching, you know, the HBO special about his year-long campaign and how it all went.” MacCallum goes on to note: “[W]e know that Michelle [Obama] and the girls [the Obama’s two daughters] went to [a] concert last night.… So he’s all alone in that big house, right? Nothing to do but sit back and watch—reminisce about the long campaign and watch HBO and the special.” [NewsBusters, 11/4/2009; Media Matters, 11/5/2009] ABC News’s Jake Tapper writes on his Twitter account: “Gibbs did NOT say that POTUS [President Obama] watched the HBO film last night. I think someone must have misunderstood.” [Raw Story, 11/4/2009] Gibbs previously told reporters that Obama had already seen the documentary. [TPMDC, 11/1/2009] The same day as the Fox News report, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh repeats the claim, telling his listeners: “I would be embarrassed if somebody put together a documentary about me the way this has been put together. I mean it is God-like.… If a documentary could get anal poisoning, this one could. I mean, it’s just kiss butt, kiss butt, kiss butt, and here he’s watching it.” [Raw Story, 11/4/2009; Media Matters, 11/4/2009] That evening, Fox News White House correspondent Major Garrett says the report is erroneous and apologizes for what he calls his “mistake,” blaming himself for “mishear[ing]” Gibbs during the daily press gaggle. However, on November 8, panelists on Fox News Watch make the original false claim. Host Jon Scott tells viewers that instead of watching the election returns, Obama was “watching the HBO documentary.… Now, maybe that’s the one thing that could pull him away from—from election returns.” Other panelists react with what progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters calls “hysterical laughter.” One panelist, S. E. Cupp, says during the outbreak: “I’m sorry. I can’t even—I can’t even contain myself.” [Media Matters, 11/9/2009]
WBC leader Megan Phelps-Roper displays a sign outside the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. Counter-protesters can be seen behind her. [Source: Think Progress]The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a small, virulently anti-gay organization in Topeka, Kansas, led by pastor Fred Phelps (see November 27, 1955 and After), holds a protest outside the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, which is attended by President Obama’s daughter Malia. The WBC Web site (see 1997) labels Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, “satanic spawn” of a “murderous b_stard.” The WBC protesters also picket the White House, the World War II memorial, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office, along with a number of other schools. The WBC also intends to protest outside the Bethesda campus of Sidwell Friends, where Sasha Obama attends. [Huffington Post, 11/9/2009] MSNBC host David Shuster posts on Twitter after the Washington protest: “Hopefully, some of the more rational conservatives/republicans will condemn this stuff today. It was beyond the pale.” Sidwell students and faculty stage a counter-protest, holding a banner with the Quaker phrase, “There is that of God in everyone.” A school official says none of the protesters try to enter the school. [Think Progress, 11/9/2009]
Wesley Pruden, the editor emeritus of the conservative Washington Times, says that President Obama’s current trip abroad proves that he is not a “real American” in his heart, but instead lacks a “blood impulse” for what America “is about” due to his “Kenyan father” and a “mother attracted to men of the Third World.” Pruden mocks Obama for bowing respectfully to foreign heads of state such as Emperor Akhito of Japan and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and notes: “Not bowing to foreign potentates was what 1776 was all about. His predecessors learned with no difficulty that the essence of America is that all men stand equal and are entitled to look even a king, maybe particularly a king, straight in the eye. Can anyone imagine George Washington, John Adams, or Thomas Jefferson making a similar gesture of servile submission? Or Harry Truman? Or FDR, who famously served the lowly hot dog, with ballpark mustard, to the king and queen of England? John F. Kennedy, on the eve of a trip to London, sharply warned Jackie not to curtsy to the queen.… But Mr. Obama, unlike his predecessors, likely knows no better, and many of those around him, true children of the grungy ‘60s, are contemptuous of custom. Cutting America down to size is what attracts them to ‘hope’ for ‘change.’ It’s no fault of the president that he has no natural instinct or blood impulse for what [America] is about. He was sired by a Kenyan father, born to a mother attracted to men of the Third World, and reared by grandparents in Hawaii, a paradise far from the American mainstream.” [Washington Times, 11/17/2009] Pruden made similar assertions several months ago (see June 5, 2009).
Former Bush administration press secretary Dana Perino tells a Fox News audience that no terrorist attacks took place on American soil during President Bush’s two terms. Perino is forgetting, or ignoring, the 9/11 attacks, the most lethal and costly attacks in US history. On Sean Hannity’s Fox show, Hannity asks Perino if President Obama “really understand[s]” that the US has a national security concern about terrorism. Perino begins by denying that her remarks are political, then says that the US recently suffered “a terrorist attack on our country,” obviously referring to the 9/11 attacks. The Obama administration is loath to call the US’s involvement a “war on terror,” Perino says, when it should be labeled as such “because we need to face up to it so we can prevent it from happening again.” She says she does not know what thinking is going on in the Obama administration, “but we did not have an attack on our country during President Bush’s term. I hope they’re not looking at this politically. I do think we owe it to the American people to call it what it is.” Neither Hannity nor his other guest, Fox Business personality Stuart Varney, correct Perino’s statement; instead Varney begins questioning Obama’s commitment to fighting terrorism. [Media Matters, 11/24/2009] Perino had not yet joined the Bush administration in 2001, but was working as a public relations representative for a high-tech firm in San Diego. [Austin Chronicle, 9/21/2007]
Michael Savage, a conservative radio host, calls President Obama “Chairman Mao Tse-Obama” in a tirade about what Savage calls Obama’s desire to become a Communist dictator. Savage makes the reference while speaking against the “Communists” who “infest” the Obama administration. [Media Matters, 12/4/2009] Savage has called the landmark civil rights decision Brown v. Board “sickening” (see May 18, 2004), accused Obama of being educated in a radical Islamic madrassa (see January 10, 2008 and April 3, 2008) and being a potential “radical Muslim” (see February 21, 2008), called Obama’s presidential victory “the first affirmative-action election in American history” (see February 1, 2008), accused Obama of being sympathetic towards the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese of World War II (see March 13, 2008), said that homeless Americans should be put in “work camps” (see June 6, 2008), called Obama an “Afro-Leninist” (see June 6, 2008), said that welfare recipients should lose the right to vote (see October 22, 2008), accused Obama of using his grandmother’s death to conceal his “efforts” to falsify his Hawaiian birth certificate (see November 10, 2008), accused Obama of planning to fire all the “competent white men” in government once he became president (see November 18, 2008), and accused Obama of desiring his own “Hitler Youth” program (see September 2, 2009).
Reporter Lee Fang of the liberal Center for American Progress writes an op-ed for the Boston Globe comparing the current political attacks against Democratic efforts to reform health care being coordinated by the Koch brothers (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, and November 2009) with the efforts of their father, Fred Koch (see 1940 and After), to label former President John F. Kennedy a traitor and a Communist tool. David Koch recently helped coordinate, from behind the scenes, a protest that compared health care reform to the Holocaust, and other protests that have turned violent. More systematically, he and his reclusive brother Charles have funded such conservative organizations as Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004) and other front groups, none of which bear the Koch name. Fang writes: “Americans for Prosperity’s tactics are not new. Just as Koch inherited his oil business from his father, Americans for Prosperity borrows from the ultra-right group also founded in part by his dad, the John Birch Society” (see 1945 and After, March 10, 1961, 1963, August 4, 2008, and April 26, 2010). Fred Koch helped conceive the far-right, anti-Communist John Birch Society (JBS), which, Fang writes, “cloaked its pro-business, anti-civil rights agenda in the rhetoric of the Cold War.” The JBS labeled Kennedy a Communist-inspired traitor and advocated his impeachment (see November 1963), stood against taxation as another aspect of “creeping Communism” inside the federal government, and claimed that the civil rights movement was being directed by the Soviet Union (see April 13, 2009 and December 11, 2009). The JBS helped promote the 1964 presidential candidacy of Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) and helped Republicans win key Congressional seats in 1966. AFP and the JBS are alike, Fang notes, in that they rarely acknowledge their funding from wealthy corporate magnates. Both portray themselves as grassroots organizations that are dedicated to promoting freedom. For a time, the JBS succeeded in aligning the interests of the very rich with the idea of anti-Communist patriotism. Similarly, AFP promotes the interests of the extremely wealthy, including the Koch brothers, as synonymous with patriotic opposition to health care reform, financial regulation, net neutrality, and the estate tax. All are labeled as “socialist,” a favorite JBS epithet. Fang concludes that “[w]ith his millions,” David Koch will have “contributed greatly to the obstruction of universal health care, the denial of climate change, and the derailment of much of President Obama’s domestic agenda. His dad would be pleased.” [Boston Globe, 12/6/2009]
President Obama asks the Pakistani government for permission to launch raids on the ground against strongholds of militant leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, but the request is refused. Haqqani has become the de facto leader of the Haqqani network, a semi-autonomous branch of the Taliban. Although it is based in Pakistan’s tribal region, it launches attacks on US troops in Afghanistan. The US has put a $5 million bounty on Haqqani’s head, and attempts to kill him with drone strikes have been unsuccessful (see for instance September 8, 2008). Obama makes the request in a letter to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, which is hand delivered by National Security Adviser General Jim Jones. General David Petraeus, head of US forces in the region, follows up with a meeting with General Ashfaq Kayani, head of Pakistan’s military. However, Pakistan says no. A senior Pakistani official says that a fight with the Haqqani network would create too many problems for Pakistan’s over-stretched army. “We have drawn a red line and would not accept any cross-border strikes by US forces,” he says. However, US intelligence believes that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, is actually allied with the Haqqani network and has been for over 20 years. [Daily Beast, 1/6/2010] US intelligence believes that in 2008, the Haqqani network and the ISI worked together to bomb the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan (see July 7, 2008 and August 1, 2008). Later in the month, a suicide bomber will kill nine people at a CIA base in Afghanistan, and US intelligence will suspect that the Haqqani network was involved in the attack (see December 30, 2009) and the ISI may have played a role as well (see January 6, 2010).
A photo of a ‘mountain of skulls’ from one of the Khmer Rouge’s ‘killing fields.’ Michael Savage argues that this could be a scene from Obama’s America. [Source: Mormon Soprano (.com)]Michael Savage, a conservative radio host, tells his listeners that President Obama is a “baby dictator” comparable to Cambodian dictator and mass murderer Pol Pot. Savage reminisces about “Communists” in San Francisco giving out copies of “the little red book,” presumably a reference to Chinese dictator Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book,” that, Savage says, exhorted readers to kill anyone “with eyeglasses… members of the bourgeiosie… the entire middle class.” Savage tells his listeners that Pot used teenagers to carry out his orders, specifically targeting “teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, businessmen, businesswomen, you name it,” and others to either work in labor camps or for outright murder. “What does that have to do with Obama?” Savage asks rhetorically, and goes on to explain “why you should be very worried indeed.” Pot, a “mild-mannered college professor,” he says, “became radicalized” during his university studies in Paris, and brought an extremist Marxist ideology to Cambodia, which resulted, he says, in “a mountain of skulls.” Ideas, he says, “can be very, very powerful… ideas can also create horrors that are unimaginable to the average American. We can’t even imagine such a thing happening here, and we would say it can’t happen here. I would argue that it can happen here. And I would argue that only vigilance, only vigilance and resistance to this baby dictator and his band of terrorists can prevent this from occurring here. [Media Matters, 12/18/2009] According to a Yale University study, between 1975 and 1979, around 1.7 million Cambodians—a fifth of the nation’s population—died in what the study called “one of the worst human tragedies of the last century.… [T]he Khmer Rouge regime headed by Pol Pot combined extremist ideology with ethnic animosity and a diabolical disregard for human life to produce repression, misery, and murder on a massive scale.” In 2007, Pot, who died in 1998, was found to have committed “crimes against humanity, genocide, grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, homicide, torture, and religious persecution.” [Yale University, 2010] Savage has called the landmark civil rights decision Brown v. Board “sickening” (see May 18, 2004), accused Obama of being educated in a radical Islamic madrassa (see January 10, 2008 and April 3, 2008) and being a potential “radical Muslim” (see February 21, 2008), called Obama’s presidential victory “the first affirmative-action election in American history” (see February 1, 2008), accused Obama of being sympathetic towards the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese of World War II (see March 13, 2008), said that homeless Americans should be put in “work camps” (see June 6, 2008), called Obama an “Afro-Leninist” (see June 6, 2008), said that welfare recipients should lose the right to vote (see October 22, 2008), accused Obama of using his grandmother’s death to conceal his “efforts” to falsify his Hawaiian birth certificate (see November 10, 2008), accused Obama of planning to fire all the “competent white men” in government once he became president (see November 18, 2008), accused Obama of desiring his own “Hitler Youth” program (see September 2, 2009), and compared Obama to Chinese Communist dictator Mao Zedong (see December 3, 2009).
Frances Kissling. [Source: University of Pennsylvania]Frances Kissling, the former head of pro-choice organization Catholics for a Free Choice, writes that the pro-choice movement made a grievous mistake in not successfully opposing the so-called “Hyde Amendment,” which since 1976 has denied federal funding for abortions in most instances (see September 30, 1976). Kissling is spurred to write in part by President Obama’s recent characterization of the Hyde Amendment as an “American tradition.” She writes: “It seems that pro-choice legislators, following the president’s lead, now explicitly consider that throwing women who cannot afford to pay for their own abortions under the bus is a reasonable compromise between those who favor and those who oppose legal abortion and a sensible concession to those who think abortion is immoral. The compromise is the logical outcome of one of Roe’s essential weaknesses: the fact that the constitutional right to abortion was based on the principle of privacy rather than non-discrimination. A private right, even a fundamental one, did not, according to the Supreme Court, require the state to pay for its implementation.” Kissling notes that in the years when Hyde was under consideration, the nascent pro-choice movement, in a decision “[b]ased substantially on the advice of direct-mail and political consultants,” decided to let Hyde go through without serious opposition, and focused instead on the “less real” threat of an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. Kissling writes: “The advice was clear and classist. It accepted the racism that lay buried in middle class hostility to poor women, ‘welfare queens,’ and the ‘sexually promiscuous’—all those who might be expected to look to Medicaid to pay for abortions—whom the rest of us should not support.” In hindsight, Kissling writes: “[n]ot concentrating on overturning Hyde was arguably the worst decision the mainstream choice movement made.… [T]he largely unchallenged Hyde Amendment emboldened anti-abortion groups to pick off powerless constituencies one at a time.” Instead of working to restore federal funding for abortions for women unable to pay for their own procedures, the pro-choice movement has, Kissling writes, taken on far more unpopular issues such as so-called “partial-birth” abortions (see April 1996 and November 5, 2003), but has never mounted a clear and unified challenge to Hyde. Kissling calls on the pro-choice movement to mount just such a challenge, and to continue to do so until Hyde is overturned. [Women's Media Center, 1/3/2010]
Las Vegas Review-Journal publisher Sherman Frederick falsely claims that “the two cases of domestic terrorism since 9/11” have taken place “on Obama’s watch.” In recent months, two former Bush administration officials have denied that 9/11 took place during the Bush presidency (see November 24, 2009 and December 27, 2009). The progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters will write, “Frederick joins [the] list of conservatives denying existence of terrorist attacks under Bush.” Frederick writes: “If this is what it takes to wake up Obama to the evils of this world, then he learned an easy lesson. But tell that to the personnel who lost their lives to terrorism at Fort Hood [referring to the November 9, 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, perpetrated by a Muslim US Army psychiatrist with suspected ties to extremist groups]. Then, as now, the Obama administration fails to swiftly acknowledge the threat. They demur in describing our enemy as radical Muslims. They plan to close the offshore prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and transfer the prisoners to the United States. They give the enemy combatants who killed more than 3,000 people on 9/11 the privilege of a civilian federal trial in New York City when a military tribunal is more appropriate. And for three days our president failed to address his people directly on Abdulmutallab’s failed effort to blow up a commercial flight over Detroit on Christmas Day [referring to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to detonate an explosive device carried in his underwear on a Northwest Airlines flight—see December 25, 2009]. All of this on top of President Obama’s noticeable refusal to characterize our struggle as a ‘war’ on ‘terror.’ In the wake of fierce criticism, Obama now talks tough about keeping America safe. But in the two cases of domestic terrorism since 9/11—both on Obama’s watch—red flags flew aplenty.” Frederick either forgets or ignores a string of domestic terrorist attacks on US targets during the Bush presidency, including the 2001 anthrax attacks (see September 17-18, 2001, October 5-November 21, 2001, October 6-9, 2001, and October 15, 2001); the attempt to blow up a transatlantic plane by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, who has ties to al-Qaeda (see December 22, 2001); the 2002 attack on the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport, designated by the Justice Department as an official “act of international terrorism”; the 2002 sniper shootings in the Washington, DC, area, carried out by John Allen Muhammed, who was convicted of terrorism charges; and the 2006 attack on the University of North Carolina campus, where a Muslim student struck nine pedestrians in his SUV because, he said, he wanted to “avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world.” [Media Matters, 1/6/2010]
Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks writes that the tea party movement mirrors what he calls the shift in the American public “from left to right,” and the correlation that “[e]very single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year. The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.… The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should ‘go our own way’ has risen sharply.” Brooks, who calls himself “no fan” of the tea parties, says that the movement has “all the intensity” that once belonged to supporters of President Obama, and the movement has the power to shape American discourse and policy for the next decade. The tea party groups, he writes, define themselves “by what they are against.… They are against the concentrated power of the educated class. They believe big government, big business, big media, and the affluent professionals are merging to form self-serving oligarchy—with bloated government, unsustainable deficits, high taxes, and intrusive regulation.” The tea party movement is quite popular among independents, according to some polls, and more popular than either Obama or the US Congress. Brooks expects the movement to “be transformed” in the coming year, probably to be headed by one or another charismatic, populist lawmaker such as Marco Rubio (R-FL) or Gary Johnson (R-NM). “If they succeed,” he writes, “their movement is likely to outgrow its crude beginnings and become a major force in American politics. After all, it represents arguments that are deeply rooted in American history.” Brooks concludes: “In the near term, the tea party tendency will dominate the Republican Party. It could be the ruin of the party, pulling it in an angry direction that suburban voters will not tolerate. But don’t underestimate the deep reservoirs of public disgust. If there is a double-dip recession, a long period of stagnation, a fiscal crisis, a terrorist attack, or some other major scandal or event, the country could demand total change, creating a vacuum that only the tea party movement and its inheritors would be in a position to fill.” [New York Times, 1/4/2010]
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a 2008 contender for the Republican presidential nomination, tells an ABC audience that the US experienced “no domestic attacks” during the Bush administration. Giuliani is forgetting, or ignoring, the 9/11 attacks, the most lethal and costly terrorist attacks in US history, a curious omission considering Giuliani was mayor when two hijacked jetliners struck New York City’s World Trade Center buildings on September 11, 2001, eight months into the Bush administration. In recent months, two former Bush administration officials have also denied that 9/11 took place during the Bush presidency (see November 24, 2009 and December 27, 2009), as has a Nevada newspaper publisher just days ago (see January 3, 2010). Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos begins by asking Giuliani about his opposition to trying suspected terrorists in civilian courts instead of in military tribunals (see November 13, 2001 and January 29, 2009). Giuliani asks “why stop” torturing suspects instead of putting them on trial, saying that the US may continue to get “good information” from them, presumably about plans for future terrorist attacks. Giuliani says that while Bush “didn’t do everything right” in the “war on terror,” what Obama “should be doing is following the right things [Bush] did. One of the right things he did was treat this as a war on terror, we had no domestic attacks under Bush, we had one under Obama.” Stephanopoulos notes that Obama has “stepped up” actions against terrorists, but does not correct Giuliani’s claim that the US “had no domestic attacks under Bush.” [Media Matters, 1/8/2010]
The book Game Change, an “insider” account of the 2008 presidential campaign by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, features what appear to be racially questionable remarks made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. Reid, portrayed by the authors as more enthusiastic about Obama’s candidacy than he publicly admitted, said in private that he believed the country was ready to accept an African-American as president, particularly a “light-skinned” black man “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” [The Atlantic, 1/8/2010] The day after the press reveals Reid’s remarks, he publicly apologizes for making them. “I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words,” he says in a statement. “I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments. I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda. Moreover, throughout my career, from efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry to opposing radical judges and promoting diversity in the Senate, I have worked hard to advance issues important to the African-American community.” President Obama responds in a statement that he and Reid discussed the matter: “I accepted Harry’s apology without question because I’ve known him for years, I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice, and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.” [The Atlantic, 1/9/2010; Washington Post, 1/9/2010] Conservatives have accused Reid of racism before (see December 5-8, 2004).
A protester holds a Confederate battle flag during a tea party rally in Olympia, Washington. [Source: credit Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights]Some 300 tea party members and supporters from throughout Washington State gather in Olympia for the “Sovereignty Winter Fest.” The rally features state legislators, candidates for state and federal seats, tea party leaders, and activists from a number of far-right and white supremacist groups. The rally is to support a number of “state’s rights” 10th Amendment “sovereignty” resolutions in the Washington legislature (see March 23, 2011). Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights later writes, “This turn away from anti-tax and anti-healthcare rhetoric towards state sovereignty language points to a possible radicalization of the [tea party] movement.” Many slogans and symbols associated with white supremacists are prominently displayed during the proceedings, including the Confederate battle flag and the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Some signs read: “Kick _ss America. Remember 9-11”; “Armed and Dangerous with my Vote”; “Had enough? Reclaim State Sovereignty”; “The 10th Amend. States Rights. Yes We Can”; “FOX News for the truth”; and “Kill Government Take Over NOT our Freedom.” The first speaker is State Representative Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley), who sponsored the so-called “State Sovereignty Resolution” that was recently defeated in the Washington legislature. The bill reads in part, “the State of Washington hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.” The bill also claims to “serve as a Notice and Demand to the federal government to maintain the balance of powers where the Constitution of the United States established it and to cease and desist, effective immediately, any and all mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers.” The language of Shea’s bill mirrors almost exactly language used by far-right militias of the 1990s who agitated for “state sovereignty,” according to Burghart. State Senator Val Stevens (R-Arlington) confirms the link by telling ralliers: “When I first introduced the 10th Amendment [legislation] back in 1997, it was met with ‘oh gee wiz, what is she doing now.’ It was a national movement at that time of a few of us who recognized that we were being stepped on by our federal government. That much of what took place here in the state of Washington was the result of what our federal government was passing on us. And we wanted to maintain that we are sovereign, and that we do have rights. And we wanted to re-establish that 10th Amendment.” Stevens has long boasted of her links to state and regional militias. One prominent participant is Darin Stevens, head of the Spokane 9/12 project (see March 13, 2009 and After). With a pistol strapped to his hip, he reads a portion of the Declaration of Independence, then introduces Martin “Red” Beckman, a well-known anti-Semite, anti-tax protester, and militia supporter. Stevens introduces Beckman with a boast that Beckman is a veteran militia defender. Robertson also endorses the positions of the Reverend John Weaver, a Christian Identity (see 1960s and After) supporter and ardent neo-Confederate. A number of area tea party activists address the crowd, including attorney Stephen Pidgeon, who uses his time to accuse President Obama of not being an American citizen. And tea party leader Doug Parris tells the crowd how tea parties can take over Washington’s Republican Party precinct by precinct, saying that such a takeover is necessary because of the Republicans’ “Star of David” strategy (apparently referring to the Republican Party’s support for Israel). [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 1/19/2010]
Ian Millhiser, a constitutional policy analyst and lawyer for the liberal Center for American Progress, writes of what he considers the disastrous effect that the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010) will have on American politics. Millhiser says the majority ruling in the Citizens United decision is plainly wrong, and that the case presented to the Court had nothing to do with the First Amendment right to free speech. “Prior to Citizens United, no law prohibited anyone from saying anything they wanted,” he writes. “Corporate CEOs and other wealthy individuals could spend their own massive salaries to run political ads on TV. People who are less rich than corporate CEOs could pool their money together via organizations. The only thing that wasn’t permitted before Citizens United is that the CEO of Bank of America could not tap into Bank of America’s massive, multi-billion dollar treasury to defeat” a candidate he or she does not support. The decision not only “provide[s] Fortune 500 companies with a massive megaphone to blast their political views to the masses,” but “it also empowers them to drown out any voices that disagree with them.” Millhiser notes that the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns spent a combined total of $1.1 billion in 2008, a record-breaking sum. However, he goes on to note that because of the Citizens United decision, corporate donors could easily spend 100 times that amount if they wanted. ”$1.1 billion is nothing, however, compared to the billions of dollars in tax subsidies given to the oil industry every year, or the $117 billion fee President Obama wants to impose on the Wall Street bankers who created the Great Recession. Indeed, with hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate profits at stake every time Congress begins a session, wealthy corporations would be foolish not to spend tens of billions of dollars every election cycle to make sure that their interests are protected. No one, including the candidates themselves, have the ability to compete with such giant expenditures.” Until Congress can rein in what Millhiser views as the excesses of the Citizens United decision, “many extremely well-moneyed corporations will still succeed in unleashing their treasuries on the electorate, and drowning out opposing voices.” [Think Progress, 1/21/2010]
President Obama sharply criticizes the controversial Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010), which allows corporations and labor unions to spend unrestricted amounts of money in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. Obama says: “With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington—while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.” [Palm Beach Post, 1/21/2010; Think Progress, 1/22/2010]
Three of the Supreme Court justices in the majority decision: Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, and Anthony Kennedy. [Source: Associated Press / Politico]The Supreme Court rules 5-4 that corporate spending in political elections may not be banned by the federal government. The case is Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205. The Court is divided among ideological lines, with the five conservatives voting against the four moderates and liberals on the bench. The decision overrules two precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, and rules that corporate financial support for a party or candidate qualifies as “freedom of speech” (see March 11, 1957, January 30, 1976, May 11, 1976, April 26, 1978, January 8, 1980, November 28, 1984, December 15, 1986, June 26, 1996, June 25, 2007, and June 26, 2008). The majority rules that the government may not regulate “political speech,” while the dissenters hold that allowing corporate money to, in the New York Times’s words, “flood the political marketplace,” would corrupt the democratic process. The ramifications of the decision will be vast, say election specialists. [Legal Information Institute, 2010; CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, 1/21/2010 ; New York Times, 1/21/2010] In essence, the ruling overturns much of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold law (BCRA—see March 27, 2002). The ruling leaves the 1907 ban on direct corporate contributions to federal candidates and national party committees intact (see 1907). The ban on corporate and union donors coordinating their efforts directly with political parties or candidates’ campaigns remains in place; they must maintain “independence.” Any corporation spending more than $10,000 a year on electioneering efforts must publicly disclose the names of individual contributors. And the ruling retains some disclosure and disclaimer requirements, particularly for ads airing within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. The Los Angeles Times writes: “The decision is probably the most sweeping and consequential handed down under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. And the outcome may well have an immediate impact on this year’s mid-term elections to Congress.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2010; OMB Watch, 1/27/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 2/2/2010; National Public Radio, 2012]
Unregulated Money Impacts Midterm Elections - The decision’s effects will be felt first on a national level in the 2010 midterm elections, when unregulated corporate spending will funnel millions of dollars from corporate donors into Congressional and other races. President Obama calls the decision “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.” Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising, says the Court “took what had been a revolving door and took the door away altogether. There was something there that slowed the money down. Now it’s gone.” [Legal Information Institute, 2010; CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, 1/21/2010 ; New York Times, 1/21/2010; Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2010; Think Progress, 1/21/2010]
Broadening in Scope - According to reporter and author Jeffrey Toobin, CU lawyer Theodore Olson had originally wanted to present the case as narrowly as possible, to ensure a relatively painless victory that would not ask the Court to drastically revise campaign finance law. But according to Toobin, the conservative justices, and particularly Chief Justice Roberts, want to use the case as a means of overturning much if not all of McCain-Feingold (see May 14, 2012). In the original argument of the case in March 2009 (see March 15, 2009), Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart unwittingly changed the scope of the case in favor of a broader interpretation, and gave Roberts and the other conservative justices the opportunity they may have been seeking. [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Majority Opinion Grants Corporations Rights of Citizens - The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, reads in part: “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.… The First Amendment does not permit Congress to make these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech.” In essence, Kennedy’s ruling finds, corporations are citizens. The ruling overturns two precedents: 1990’s Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates (see March 27, 1990) in its entirety, and large portions of 2003’s McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (see December 10, 2003), which upheld a portion of the BCRA that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions. Before today’s ruling, the BCRA banned the broadcast, cable, or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations or labor unions from their general funds in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general elections. The law was restricted in 2007 by a Court decision to apply only to communications “susceptible to no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate” (see June 25, 2007).
Encroachment on Protected Free Speech - Eight of the nine justices agree that Congress can require corporations to disclose their spending and to run disclaimers with their advertisements; Justice Clarence Thomas is the only dissenter on this point. Kennedy writes, “Disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way.” Kennedy’s opinion states that if the restrictions remain in place, Congress could construe them to suppress political speech in newspapers, on television news programs, in books, and on the Internet. Kennedy writes: “When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”
Fiery Dissent - Justice John Paul Stevens, the oldest member of the court, submits a fiery 90-page dissent that is joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor. Kennedy is joined by Roberts and fellow Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Thomas, though Roberts and Alito submit a concurring opinion instead of signing on with Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas. “The difference between selling a vote and selling access is a matter of degree, not kind,” Stevens writes in his dissent. “And selling access is not qualitatively different from giving special preference to those who spent money on one’s behalf.” Stevens writes that the Court has long recognized the First Amendment rights of corporations, but the restrictions struck down by the decision are moderate and fair. “At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” Speaking from the bench, Stevens calls the ruling “a radical change in the law… that dramatically enhances the role of corporations and unions—and the narrow interests they represent—in determining who will hold public office.… Corporations are not human beings. They can’t vote and can’t run for office,” and should be restricted under election law. “Essentially, five justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”
Case Originated with 2008 Political Documentary - The case originated in a 2008 documentary by the right-wing advocacy group Citizens United (CU), called Hillary: The Movie (see January 10-16, 2008). The film, a caustic attack on then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Democrats in general, was released for public viewing during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. When the Federal Election Commission (FEC) won a lawsuit against CU, based on the FEC’s contention that broadcasting the film violated McCain-Feingold, the group abandoned plans to release the film on a cable video-on-demand service and to broadcast television advertisements for it. CU appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, and most observers believed the Court would decide the case on narrow grounds, not use the case to rewrite election law and First Amendment coverage. [Legal Information Institute, 2010; CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, 1/21/2010 ; New York Times, 1/21/2010; Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2010; Think Progress, 1/21/2010; Associated Press, 1/21/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 2/2/2010]
Case Brought in Order to Attack Campaign Finance Law - Critics have said that CU created the movie in order for it to fall afoul of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, and give the conservatives on the Court the opportunity to reverse or narrow the law. Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, an opponent of the decision, says: “The movie was created with the idea of establishing a vehicle to chip away at the decision. It was part of a very clear strategy to undo McCain-Feingold.” CU head David Bossie confirms this contention, saying after the decision: “We have been trying to defend our First Amendment rights for many, many years. We brought the case hoping that this would happen… to defeat McCain-Feingold.” [Washington Post, 1/22/2010]
Entity Tags: US Supreme Court, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Citizens United, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Barack Obama, Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, New York Times, Nick Nyhart, Evan Tracey, David Bossie, Hillary Clinton, Jeffrey Toobin, Federal Election Commission, John Paul Stevens, Malcolm Stewart, John G. Roberts, Jr, Los Angeles Times
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The press reports that the US Chamber of Commerce and other lobbying organizations are the biggest winners in the controversial Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010), which allows corporations and labor unions to spend unrestricted amounts of money in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. The Chamber of Commerce spends more on promoting Republican and conservative candidates than almost any other organization outside of the Republican Party itself. Other trade organizations, which tend to support Republicans, will almost certainly up their spending on behalf of their candidates, or in opposition to Democrats, according to experts interviewed by reporters, as will most corporations.
Unrestrained Spending to Favor Republicans - Democratic lawyer Marc Elias says: “It is a sweeping decision. In one opinion, the Court struck down all bans on corporate independent spending.” GOP lawyer Robert Kelner says that the ruling “will reflect a huge sea-change in campaign finance law. The Court went all the way. It really relieves any restrictions on corporate spending on independent advertising.” Another GOP lawyer, Ben Ginsberg, says: “It’s going to be the Wild Wild West. If corporations and unions can give unlimited amounts… it means that the public debate is significantly changed with a lot more voices, and it means that the loudest voices are going to be corporations and unions.” Former Federal Elections Commission member Brad Smith says, “This case will lead to more spending, I think, in political elections.” Lawrence M. Noble, the former general counsel for the FEC, says a lobbyist can tell a candidate, “We have got a million we can spend advertising for you or against you—whichever one you want.” Political science professor Robert Watson, who has consulted with Democratic campaigns, says: “It’s a game changer. And the last thing we need is for major corporations and nonprofits to have unlimited access to buy their members of Congress.” The New York Times writes: “It is expected to unleash a torrent of attack advertisements from outside groups aiming to sway voters, without any candidate having to take the criticism for dirty campaigning. The biggest beneficiaries might be well-placed incumbents whose favor companies and interests groups are eager to court. It could also have a big impact on state and local governments, where a few million dollars can have more influence on elections.” The National Journal states: “Over the long run, the ruling is likely to favor GOPers more than it does Dems. While it does apply to unions and corporations equally, Elias said the presumption is that corporations have more money to spend.” Major corporations will not openly run their own advertising, Kelner says, but they will funnel millions into trade associations such as the Chamber of Commerce. “If people think that individual companies are going to go out and buy ads, there may be some of that, but for the most part companies are going to flow this money through trade groups and other outside groups,” Kelner says. “This will open the floodgates for money flowing through groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and other associations [that] spend money on political advertising.… There was always a cloud of doubt around outside groups and trade associations, and this lifts those clouds of doubt and leaves behind clear skies.” Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) general counsel Joe Sandler says the ruling may open the door for more attacks on incumbents by corporate and other entities eager to spend money to ease them out. “You will see more sharp-edged, candidate-specific ads on the air closer to the election,” Sandler says. “That could make it more difficult for incumbents to take tough votes in an election year.” [Palm Beach Post, 1/21/2010; National Journal, 1/21/2010; New York Times, 1/21/2010] Think Progress, the liberal news Web site affiliated with the Center for American Progress, writes, “The ruling is a giant win for the US Chamber of Commerce and the big corporations, which tend to donate heavily to Republicans.” [Think Progress, 1/22/2010]
Citizens the Real Losers? - Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center calls the ruling a complete loss for citizens, saying: “[T]he Supreme Court majority declared that corporate speech trumps the rights of American voters to government free of corporate corruption. The Court has nominally upheld campaign finance disclosure requirements applicable to corporations, but I think time will prove that those disclosure requirements are largely ineffective when dealing with contributions.” Brad Ashwell of the Florida Public Interest Research Group calls the ruling a “shocking burst of judicial activism.” Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) calls the ruling “a terrible mistake,” and says the Court “chose to roll back laws that have limited the role of corporate money in federal elections since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns.” Feingold and other Congressional Democrats want to pass legislation that would curb the decision as soon as feasible. [Palm Beach Post, 1/21/2010; National Journal, 1/21/2010; New York Times, 1/21/2010]
Republicans Celebrate Victory for Free Speech, Say Decision Will 'Level Out' Spending - But Marco Rubio (R-FL), running for Florida’s open Senate seat, says, “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for those who truly value the freedoms outlined in our First Amendment.” And Republican consultant Ed Brookover, who represents Republican House candidate Allen West (R-FL), says he believes spending from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org will equal spending by corporations, and “level out” spending for the two parties. [Palm Beach Post, 1/21/2010; National Journal, 1/21/2010]
President Critical of Decision - President Obama speaks out against the decision (see January 21, 2010).
Entity Tags: Joseph Sandler, Bradley A. (“Brad”) Smith, US Supreme Court, Ed Brookover, Brad Ashwell, Ben Ginsberg, Barack Obama, Think Progress (.org), Russell D. Feingold, US Chamber of Commerce, Robert Kelner, Robert Watson, New York Times, Marc Elias, Lawrence M. Noble, Republican Party, Marco Rubio, National Journal, Paul S. Ryan
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The Wall Street Journal celebrates the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see January 21, 2010) as a victory for “free speech” (see January 21, 2010). In an unsigned editorial, the Journal celebrates the decision by stating that the Court used the Constitution to “rescue” the political system from “marauding government” elements, particularly a “reckless Congress.” The Journal claims that the Citizens United case rested on the Federal Election Commission (FEC)‘s refusal to allow the airing of a 90-minute political attack documentary on presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) because the film was “less than complimentary” of her. In reality, the FEC considered the film “electioneering” by the organization that released the film, Citizens United, and prohibited it from being shown on pay-per-view cable access (see January 10-16, 2008). The Court rejected campaign finance law’s limitation on corporate spending, prompting the Journal to state, “Corporations are entitled to the same right that individuals have to spend money on political speech for or against a candidate.” Any other state of affairs, the Journal writes, constitutes censorship. The Journal criticizes President Obama for speaking out against the decision (see January 21, 2010), saying that Obama put “on his new populist facade to call it ‘a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies,’ and other ‘special interests.’ Mr. Obama didn’t mention his union friends as one of those interests, but their political spending will also be protected by the logic of this ruling. The reality is that free speech is no one’s special interest.” The Journal dismisses promises by Congressional Democrats to pass legislation or even bring forth a constitutional amendment limiting corporate donations by stating, “Liberalism’s bullying tendencies are never more on display than when its denizens are at war with the speech rights of its opponents.” The Journal concludes by advocating that the Court overturn its 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision (see January 30, 1976) that placed modest limits on corporate spending, in essence advocating the complete deregulation of campaign financing. “The Court did yesterday uphold disclosure rules, so a sensible step now would be for Congress to remove all campaign-finance limits subject only to immediate disclosure on the Internet,” the Journal states. “Citizens United is in any event a bracing declaration that Congress’s long and misbegotten campaign-finance crusade has reached a constitutional dead end.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/22/2010]
In his weekly radio and Internet address, President Obama denounces the recent Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that lets corporations and labor unions spend unlimited amounts on political campaign activities (see January 21, 2010). “This ruling strikes at our democracy itself,” he says. “I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.… This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way—or to punish those who don’t.… The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.” The decision, Obama says, will make it harder to enact financial reform, close tax loopholes, promote energy independence, and protect patients from health insurance abuses. “We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans,” Obama says. “And we don’t intend to.” He says he is asking Congress to work with the White House to “fight for the American people” and develop a “forceful bipartisan response” to the decision. “It will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done.” Norm Eisen, Obama’s special counsel for ethics and government reform, has already met with Democratic Congressional leaders Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to begin talks on how Congress might respond. [New York Times, 1/24/2010; Associated Press, 1/25/2010]
James Bopp Jr. [Source: Associated Press / Politico]A former lawyer for Citizens United (CU), James Bopp Jr., confirms that the organization had a “10-year plan” that culminated in the recent Citizens United ruling that overturned most of US campaign finance law (see January 21, 2010). Bopp has been battling government restrictions on abortion (see November 1980 and After) and campaign finance (see Mid-2004 and After, January 10-16, 2008, and March 24, 2008) for much of his 35-year career. He calls his opponents, including President Obama, “socialists,” and justifies his views by citing the First Amendment. Bopp did not argue the case before the Supreme Court; Citizens United replaced him with what the New York Times calls “a less ideological and more experienced Washington lawyer” (see March 15, 2009). But Bopp is the lawyer who advised CU to use its documentary about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY—see January 10-16, 2008) as a test case to push the limits of corporate spending. He says his strategy continues, with the ultimate goal of deregulating campaign finance completely. “We had a 10-year plan to take all this down,” Bopp says. “And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.… We have been awfully successful, and we are not done yet.” Law professor and campaign finance law expert Richard Hasen says the CU case “was really Jim’s brainchild.” Hasen explains: “He has manufactured these cases to present certain questions to the Supreme Court in a certain order and achieve a certain result. He is a litigation machine.” Bopp has other cases on appeal with various courts, all designed to do what the Times says “chip away at some of the disclosure laws left intact by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case.” One of Bopp’s main goals is to end the ban on direct donations by corporations to candidates, a goal law professor Nathaniel Persily says is logical in light of Bopp’s earlier efforts: “If you cannot ban corporate spending on ads, how is it that you are allowed to ban corporate contributions to candidates? That is the next shoe to drop.” He also wants to end all disclosure requirements, explaining, “Groups have to be relieved of reporting their donors if lifting the prohibition on their political speech is going to have any meaning.” Forcing groups who buy political commercials to disclose their donors is nearly as punitive, he says, “as an outright criminal go-to-jail-time prohibition.” Bopp says he harbors no ill will towards CU from replacing him with another lawyer to argue the case before the Court. “I understand that law is art,” he says. “Picasso, Van Gogh, Michelangelo—they are all very different, but all create masterpieces.” [New York Times, 1/25/2010]
Jan Witold Baran. [Source: Metropolitan Corporate Counsel]Author and law professor Jan Witold Baran cheers the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that allows virtually unlimited spending by corporations and labor unions in political campaigns (see January 21, 2010). Baran, who alerts readers that he filed an amicus curiae brief with the Court in favor of plaintiff Citizens United, characterizes the ruling as allowing “corporations and unions [to] spend money on political advertising that urges the election or defeat of a candidate for public office.” He cites President Obama’s warning that the decision will unleash a “stampede of special-interest money in our politics” (see January 24, 2010), and derides that warning. He reminds readers that the decision retains the ban on direct contributions by corporations and unions, and that corporations and unions may not “spend money in cahoots with political parties,” but must remain “independent” and not coordinate with candidates or their campaigns. He also tells readers that the decision mandates disclosure, saying that the ruling “upheld the laws that require any corporate or union spender to file reports with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours of spending the first dime.” Because of these retentions, Baran writes, there will be no “stampede of special-interest money.” The ruling will put an end to so-called “issue ads,” Baran predicts (see March 27, 1990 and June 25, 2007), the ads that either support or attack an issue and then urge the viewer to contact their congressperson. Because of the new ruling, the ads can now exhort viewers to vote for one candidate or against another because of the issues. Baran goes on to write, “There is also no factual basis to predict that there will be a ‘stampede’ of additional spending.” Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia already have laws permitting some corporate and union spending, he says, and notes: “There have been no stampedes in those states’ elections. Having a constitutional right is not the same as requiring one to exercise it, and there are many reasons businesses and unions may not spend much more on politics than they already do. As such, the effect of Citizens United on the 2010 campaigns is debatable.” He says that the ruling is primarily a blowback against Congress’s meddlesome penchant to restrict “campaign speech.… Congress interpreted its power to regulate campaigns as a license to limit, restrict, burden, and confuse anyone who wished to engage in political campaigns.” Now, he says, the Court has reminded Congress that the First Amendment trumps its ability to regulate (see January 21, 2010 and January 22, 2010). The ruling is “a breath of fresh air” for everyone except Washington lawyers, Baran says, and concludes: “The history of campaign finance reform is the history of incumbent politicians seeking to muzzle speakers, any speakers, particularly those who might publicly criticize them and their legislation. It is a lot easier to legislate against unions, gun owners, ‘fat cat’ bankers, health insurance companies, and any other industry or ‘special interest’ group when they can’t talk back.” [New York Times, 1/25/2010; Wiley Rein LLP, 2012] Many observers besides Obama predict dire consequences as a result of the Court ruling (see January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21, 2010, January 21-22, 2010, January 21, 2010, and January 26, 2010). And unfortunately for Baran’s predictions, a March 2010 appeals court verdict (see March 26, 2010) will join with the Citizens United ruling, particularly a loophole in the ruling (see February 27, 2010), to unleash just the kind of corporate spending that Baran says would never happen.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito listens to President Obama’s State of the Union address. [Source: Renovo Media]President Obama sharply criticizes the recent Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, giving corporations and unions the right to give unlimited and anonymous donations to organizations supporting or opposing political candidates (see January 21, 2010), during the annual State of the Union address. Obama gives the address to a joint session of Congress, with three Supreme Court members in attendance. “With all due deference to the separation of powers,” Obama says, “last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.” Democrats in the chamber applaud Obama’s remarks, while Republicans do not. In his response, Justice Samuel Alito, one of the five conservatives on the Court who joined in the majority decision, shakes his head and mouths, “Not true, not true” (some lip readers will later claim that Alito says, “That’s not true”). It is highly unusual for a president to so directly criticize a Supreme Court ruling, especially in a State of the Union address. The next day, Vice President Joe Biden defends Obama’s remarks in an appearance on Good Morning America. Biden says: “The president didn’t question the integrity of the court. He questioned the judgment of it. I think [the ruling] was dead wrong and we have to correct it.” Supreme Court expert Lucas A. Powe says, “I can’t ever recall a president taking a swipe at the Supreme Court like that.” Experts say that the closest precedent they can find is President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 criticism of the Court in his address to Congress. Yale law professor Jack Balkin says, “The important thing to me is that the president thinks the Citizens United decision is important enough that he would include it.” Reactions are split along ideological lines. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) calls Obama “rude” to criticize the Court’s verdict. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) calls Alito’s reaction “inappropriate.” Legal expert Barbara A. Perry of Sweet Briar College says both Obama and Alito were in the wrong, calling the interaction “an unfortunate display for both branches.” White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton says: “One of the great things about our democracy is that powerful members of the government at high levels can disagree in public and in private. This is one of those cases.” Alito refuses to comment. Alito and Obama have a contentious history. As a senator, Obama was one of the most outspoken voices against Alito’s confirmation as a Supreme Court justice (see October 31, 2005 - February 1, 2006), saying then of Alito, “[W]hen you look at his record—when it comes to his understanding of the Constitution, I have found that in almost every case, he consistently sides on behalf of the powerful against the powerless; on behalf of a strong government or corporation against upholding American’s individual rights.” For his part, Alito snubbed the formal visit paid by Obama and Biden to the Court. [New York Daily News, 1/28/2010; Washington Post, 1/28/2010] Months later, Obama’s warning will be proven to be correct, as a media investigation will show the US Chamber of Commerce using foreign monies to fund attack ads and other political activities under the cloak of the Citizens United decision (see October 2010).
Entity Tags: Jack Balkin, Barbara A. Perry, Barack Obama, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, US Congress, US Supreme Court, Samuel Alito, Orrin Hatch, Lucas A. (“Scot”) Powe, Joseph Biden, US Chamber of Commerce, Russell D. Feingold, Bill Burton
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
A number of conservative media outlets accuse President Obama of engaging in “demagoguery” in his recent comments that warned the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) could open the door for foreign corporations to contribute money for use in American elections (see January 27-29, 2010). [Media Matters, 1/28/2010] National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru writes, “The most demagogic moment (so far!) came when the president claimed, falsely, that the Supreme Court had given a green light to foreign corporations to run political ads.” [National Review, 1/27/2010] Law professor and former Federal Elections Commission member Bradley A. Smith echoes Ponnuru’s accusation, writing that Obama “engaged in demagoguery of the worst kind.… The president’s statement is false.… This is either blithering ignorance of the law or demagoguery of the worst kind.” [National Review, 1/27/2010] Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the vice-presidential candidate on the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008, says on Fox News that Obama’s criticism “may not be true,” and accuses Obama of “embarrassing our Supreme Court.” She says: “This is why people are disenchanted and are becoming more and more disengaged really from what their government is doing, because when we see an issue like this—words spoken that may not be true coming from our president and embarrassing our Supreme Court and not respecting the separation of powers—we have a problem. And that’s illustrated there by that justice mouthing those words, ‘not true.’ Now, one or the other is being disingenuous here—either our president in what he just claimed, or the Supreme Court justice.” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough calls Obama’s warning “just not the truth,” saying that Obama’s statements were “not based in fact [or] the law.… So the president was not served well last night; he went out and said something that just wasn’t the truth. And I’m sure that that was very difficult for the Supreme Court to sit there and have the president tell America and the world these jokers on the front row just opened up American campaigns to foreign entities when that in fact is just not the truth.” [Media Matters, 1/28/2010] Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners, “It’s clear the president didn’t know what he was talking about or he was just out-and-out lying because he knows he’s not going to be fact-checked on matters like that by most in the state-controlled media.” [Media Matters, 1/28/2010] Prominent conservative blogger “Allahpundit” accuses Obama of “demagoguing the First Amendment” [HotAir (.com), 1/27/2010] , an accusation echoed by conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds, who responds to Allahpundit’s post by writing that Obama’s “demagoguery [will turn] into a negative for him.” [Glenn Reynolds, 1/27/2010] The next day, the Wall Street Journal will demand that Obama “get his facts straight” about the issue (see January 29, 2010). The liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Obama’s concerns were echoed by the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices in the Citizens United decision, as noted in the dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. The majority decision, Stevens wrote, “would appear to afford the same protection to multinational corporations controlled by foreigners as to individual Americans.” Cornell law professor Michael Dorf agreed with Stevens, telling a reporter that “[i]t is a plausible inference from the court’s opinion that [foreign] money can’t be restricted.” Dorf’s position is echoed by campaign finance reform advocate Fred Wertheimer and the leaders of the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, Media Matters notes. [Media Matters, 1/28/2010] And the day after the decision was rendered, Smith, who accused Obama of either “blithering ignorance… or demagoguery,” told a reporter that though the law prohibits foreign nationals from contributing money to groups involved in election politics, “To the extent that there may be some foreign corporations that don’t fall under the category of foreign nationals [and could contribute to election organizations], that might be something Congress can deal with.” [Washington Independent, 1/22/2010]
Entity Tags: Fred Wertheimer, “Allahpundit”, John Paul Stevens, Barack Obama, Campaign Legal Center, Glenn Reynolds, Bradley A. (“Brad”) Smith, US Supreme Court, Wall Street Journal, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Media Matters, Joseph Scarborough, Ramesh Ponnuru, Michael Dorf, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
President Obama meets with House Republicans in a meeting designed to bridge something of the gap between the two sides. During the meeting, Obama advises the House Republicans to put an end to the bitter partisan attacks they routinely launch at him and his administration if they are serious about wanting to work with the White House on health care reform. “If you were to listen to the debate, and frankly how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this was some Bolshevik plot,” he says. He continues: “If the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me. I mean, the fact of the matter is that many of you—if you voted with the administration on something—are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party. You’ve given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion. Because, what you’ve been telling your constituents is: this guy’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff that is going to destroy America.” Obama calls the legislation to reform American health care “pretty centrist” and notes that it incorporates many aspects of Republican proposals (see April 21-May 12, 2009, August 20, 2009, September 12, 2009 and After, and September 16-17, 2009). He reminds the Republicans that they will need to negotiate with Democrats to incorporate some of what they want into the final legislation. “Most independent observers would say” it is “similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton,” Obama adds; many of the ideas in the legislation were first suggested in 1994 by then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS). Obama tells the assemblage that their proposals on health care are largely comprised of “political assertions that aren’t substantiated”; he reads from a summary GOP ideas booklet, and says that most of the claims of how Republican health care reforms would work are “not true.” Mike Pence (R-IN) counters that the ideas in the booklet are “backed up precisely by the kind of detailed legislation that Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-CA] and your administration have been busy ignoring for 12 months.” Obama says several times that he has read Republican proposals, but cannot find evidence supporting their efficacy. Citing a GOP counter-proposal for the economic stimulus bill passed in 2009, he says, “I couldn’t find credible economists who could back up the claims.” Tom Price (R-GA) later tells a Daily Caller reporter that Obama is only listening to “leftist” economists. Amid the accusations, several Republicans, such as Peter Roskam (R-IL), complain that the Republicans have “really been stiff-armed by Speaker Pelosi… there really is this dynamic of frankly being shut out.” Obama concludes the meeting by saying: “What I can do maybe to help is to try to bring Republican and Democratic leadership together on a more regular basis with me. That’s, I think, a failure on my part, is to try to foster better communications even if there’s disagreement. And I will try to see if we can do more of that this year.” The meeting is described as “contentious” by the conservative news blog Daily Caller, with Republicans flinging accusations at Obama, and Obama answering them and returning accusations and admonishments of his own. After the meeting, Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) says, “I give the president an enormous amount of credit, because I’m sure that there wasn’t a person in the room that’s been elected that hasn’t had to go in to an adversarial setting, and be heavily outnumbered and yet stay that long and take those questions.” Price says that many of his colleagues laughed when Obama told them he was not an ideologue, “because I don’t think the American people believe that.” [Think Progress, 1/29/2010; Daily Caller, 1/29/2010]
In an unsigned editorial, the Wall Street Journal lambasts President Obama for his recent comments that warned the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) could open the door for foreign corporations to contribute money for use in American elections (see January 27-29, 2010). “[C]ould a graduate of Harvard Law School at least get his facts right?” the editorial asks. The Journal accuses Obama of reciting a number of falsehoods in his comments on the decision, and accuses him of using the term “foreign” in “a conscious attempt to inflame public and Congressional opinion against the Court. Coming from a president who fancies himself a citizen of the world, and who has gone so far as [to] foreswear American exceptionalism, this leap into talk-show nativism is certainly illuminating. What will they think of that one in the cafes of Berlin?” [Wall Street Journal, 1/29/2010] The day before the editorial, the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters noted that Obama’s concerns were echoed by the four dissenting Supreme Court Justices in the decision, as well as by a number of legal experts (see January 27-28, 2010).
Tea party activists Dale Robertson and Laurie Roth, co-hosts of a radio talk show in Spokane, Washington, welcome Martin “Red” Beckman as their guest. Robertson is known for actively denying that tea party organizations condone racism, though he himself displayed a sign with a crude racial slur at a recent tea party event (see February 27, 2009). Roth has called President Obama a “socialist Communist,” a closet Muslim, and a traitor who wants to overthrow the US government in favor of an Islamist “caliphate.” According to the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights’s Devin Burghart, Roth and Robertson routinely invite “birthers and other bigots” on their show. Beckman is a well-known anti-Semite and militia supporter, who in 1994 was evicted from his property in Montana for refusing to pay taxes on the property. Robertson introduces Beckman by saying: “Red’s a great guy. He’s been actually leading this fight long before I probably was even born. Red has written many books, one is Walls in Our Minds, another is Why the Militia. And so you’ll find that he agrees with you, Laurie, wholeheartedly that owning a gun is a constitutional right. And he is an authority on the Constitution and what the government has done to undermine our authority as citizens.” Robertson concludes the interview by recommending that his listeners read Beckman’s books, saying, “Once you read them you’ll realize that we’ve definitely been deceived by our government and we need to do everything in our powers to take our nation back.” [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 10/19/2010; CDAPress (.com), 4/19/2011] Another anti-Semite invited onto Roth and Robertson’s show is John Weaver, a Christian Identity preacher (see 1960s and After) who has written numerous articles calling Jews the “spawn of Satan.” [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 10/19/2010]
Conservative radio host Glenn Beck suggests to his listeners that President Obama chooses to use his given name of “Barack” to identify with his “Kenyan… heritage” and anti-American “radicals.” Beck, talking with his co-host Pat Gray, says that Obama deliberately switched from his childhood nickname of “Barry” in order to “make a statement” and “fit in” with his “anti-American,” “radical” friends in college. “You know what?” Beck says. “This sounds ridiculous. But I don’t believe it is. Maybe it is.… He chose to use his name Barack for a reason—to identify, not with America—you don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical? Is—really? Searching for something to give him any kind of meaning, just as he was searching later in life for religion.” [Media Matters, 2/4/2010]
In a highly unusual action for a sitting Supreme Court Justice, Justice Clarence Thomas strongly defends the Court’s recent Citizens United ruling that allows unlimited corporate and union funding of campaign activities (see January 21, 2010). He makes his remarks at the Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida. Thomas was part of the 5-4 majority that ruled on the case. He also says that he refused to attend the recent State of the Union address by President Obama, where fellow Justice Samuel Alito apparently contradicted Obama’s critical characterization of the ruling (see January 27-29, 2010), because under Obama, these addresses have become “partisan,” stating: “I don’t go because it has become so partisan and it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there… there’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV—the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments (see September 9, 2009). One of the consequences is now the Court becomes part of the conversation, if you want to call it that, in the speeches. It’s just an example of why I don’t go.” Thomas mocks media criticisms of the ruling, saying: “I found it fascinating that the people who were editorializing against it were The New York Times Company and The Washington Post Company. These are corporations.” It is a mistake, Thomas says, to consider regulation of corporations’ campaign activities as “some sort of beatific action,” and he cites the 1907 Tillman Act, the first federal legislation banning corporate contributions to federal candidates (see 1907), as being sparked by racism, saying: “Go back and read why [Senator Benjamin] Tillman introduced that legislation. Tillman was from South Carolina, and as I hear the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there was a need to regulate them.” Thomas says the underpinning of the decision was the First Amendment’s protection of speech regardless of how people choose to assemble to participate in the political process. “If 10 of you got together and decided to speak, just as a group, you’d say you have First Amendment rights to speak and the First Amendment right of association,” he says. “If you all then formed a partnership to speak, you’d say we still have that First Amendment right to speak and of association. But what if you put yourself in a corporate form?” The answer would be the same, Thomas says. [New York Times, 2/3/2010]
The retired director of the ACLU, Ira Glasser, writes a detailed editorial in support of the recent Citizens United ruling that opened the way for corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited money in campaign activities (see January 21, 2010). The ACLU supported the case throughout its progression (see January 10-16, 2008, March 24, 2008, March 15, 2009, June 29, 2009, and September 9, 2009), and filed briefs in support of the plaintiff, the conservative advocacy group Citizens United. Glasser says that the “screaming dismay” that “most liberals” evinced on hearing of the decision was unwarranted. Corporations are still banned from directly contributing to political campaigns, and President Obama’s assertion that the decision “reversed a century of law” is incorrect; the 1907 Tillman Act that banned corporations from contributing to campaigns or candidates is still in effect (see 1907). Instead, Glasser writes, the decision is “a huge victory… for freedom of speech and against government censorship” (see January 21, 2010, January 22, 2010, and February 2, 2010). Corporations, he writes, have the same right to speech as individuals, and they exercise that speech by spending money promoting issues and candidates, or criticizing those issues and candidates. He cites two instances in which the ACLU was stopped by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from engaging in “political free speech,” one in 1972 when the FEC stopped the ACLU from taking out an ad in the New York Times criticizing President Nixon’s opposition to school busing to implement integration, and in 1984, when the FEC barred the ACLU from making public statements critical of President Reagan. Both instances took place inside the “window” of time before an election (30 days before a primary, 60 days before a general election) in which such utterances were considered supporting a candidate. Nonprofit groups such as Citizens United have been victimized for decades by campaign finance restrictions, Glasser writes. Later in the article, he derides the idea that restricting or controlling speech creates equality between rich and poor in elections, curbing the propensity for the rich to wield more influence and be heard more broadly than less wealthy citizens or organizations. “Money isn’t speech, but how much money one has always determines how much speech one has,” Glasser writes. “Most if not all of you reading this have never had as much speech as, say, the New York Times or George Soros or Nelson Rockefeller or George Bush or, as we recently discovered in my city, Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg. The inequities of speech that flow from the inequities of wealth are certainly a big and distorting problem for a democracy, and have always been so, and not just during elections. No one knows how to remedy that, short of fundamental re-distributions of wealth. But I’ll tell you what isn’t a remedy: granting the government the power to decide who should speak, and how much speech is enough. Nothing but disaster flows from that approach, and that was what was at stake in this case.” He concludes by advocating public financing of elections entirely, writing: “Liberals and Democrats have been the chief offenders… favoring equity in the abstract but never seeing how the particular reforms they advocated made the problems they wished to remedy worse, and never seeing that giving the government the authority to regulate speech was not a good thing. Maybe now this result, which has steamed up liberals and Democrats, may at last shift their attention to the kind of public financing that equitably provides money for more speech instead of pretending to create equity by granting the government the authority to restrict speech. We shall see.” [Huffington Post, 2/3/2010]
Conservative author Jonathan Kay covers the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee (see February 4-6, 2010), and publishes a column that states: “[I]t has become clear to me that the movement is dominated by people whose vision of the government is conspiratorial and dangerously detached from reality. It’s more John Birch than John Adams.” Kay, who is writing a book on alternative theories about the 9/11 attacks, is astonished at the breadth and depth of the conspiracy theories that many tea parties, and tea party organizations, seem to embrace. The “villain list,” as Kay calls it, includes banks; bailed-out corporations; Republican Party leaders such as RNC chairman Michael Steele, whom they feel ignore the tea parties; colleges and universities; CNN’s Anderson Cooper; Fox News pundits like Bill O’Reilly who scorn them; “big media” outlets such as the Washington Post; and even moviemakers like James Cameron, who make movies that they feel contain “hidden messages” to fool Americans into supporting gay rights, cuts in military spending, and the like. The central figure in their net of conspiracy theories, Kay writes, is Barack Obama (see May 7, 2010). The convention is opened by anti-environmentalist Steve Malloy, who accuses Obama and his administration of working to control every aspect of Americans’ lives, from the colors of their cars to the temperatures to which they set their home heating units, all to comply with what Malloy says is the United Nations’s greenhouse gas-reduction program. According to Malloy: “Obama isn’t a US socialist. He’s an international socialist. He envisions a one-world government.” Kay is particularly concerned that, based on what he hears at the convention, the tea parties are affiliating themselves with far-right, white supremacist ideology such as that espoused by the John Birch Society (see March 10, 1961 and December 2011). They seem particularly enamored of the “New World Order” conspiracy (see September 11, 1990, November 5, 2008, March 17, 2009, March 18, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 24, 2009, and April 6, 2009). A convention speaker, former judge Roy Moore, tells his listeners that Obama intends to station “a UN guard in every house[hold].” Radio host Alex Jones is a favorite among tea partiers, Kay writes; Jones claims that Obama’s presidency is a plot by the leaders of the New World Order to “con the Amercican people into accepting global slavery.” One conventioneer tells Kay that Washington liberals “engineered the financial crash so they could destroy the value of the US dollar, pay off America’s debts with worthless paper, and then create a new currency called the Amero that would be used in a newly created ‘North American Currency Union’ with Canada and Mexico.” Shortly thereafter, the convention shows a “documentary” entitled Generation Zero that makes similar claims. The claims that Obama is a Kenyan who is ineligible to be president is a favorite theory, Kay writes; WorldNetDaily publisher Joseph Farah (see August 1, 2008 and After, December 5, 2008, May 28, 2009, July 21, 2009, and August 1-4, 2009) tells the crowd that the circumstances of Obama’s birth are more mysterious than the birth of Jesus Christ, and says, “My dream is that if Barack Obama seeks reelection in 2012 that he won’t be able to go to any city, any city, any town in America without seeing signs that ask, ‘Where’s the birth certificate?’” (see May 18, 2009). Kay concludes: “Perhaps the most distressing part of all is that few media observers bothered to catalog these bizarre, conspiracist outbursts, and instead fixated on Sarah Palin’s Saturday night keynote address. It is as if, in the current overheated political atmosphere, we all simply have come to expect that radicalized conservatives will behave like unhinged paranoiacs when they collect in the same room. That doesn’t say much for the state of the right in America. The tea partiers’ tricornered hat is supposed to be a symbol of patriotism and constitutional first principles. But when you take a closer look, all you find is a helmet made of tin foil.” [National Tea Party Convention, 2/2010; Newsweek, 2/8/2010]
Entity Tags: Steve Malloy, Sarah Palin, Washington Post, United Nations, Roy Stewart Moore, Joseph Farah, Alex Jones, Michael Steele, Anderson Cooper, Bill O’Reilly, Barack Obama, John Birch Society, Jonathan Kay, James Cameron
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Former Governor Sarah Palin speaks at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville. [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer]Tea Party Nation (TPN), one of the national “umbrella” organizations that coordinate and promote local tea party events and groups (see August 24, 2010), holds a two-day Tea Party Convention in Nashvillle, Tennessee. Around 600 people attend, with another 500 or so attending only the speech given by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who ran for vice president in 2008. “America is ready for another revolution,” she tells the crowd. In a statement addressed at President Obama, she says the tea party movement is “about the people, and it’s bigger than any one king or queen of a tea party, and it’s a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter.” A Harvard Crimson report describes TPN as an “eclectic mix of Ron Paul libertarians” and “George W. Bush social conservatives” who are “predominantly white and above age 50” and have a common “dislike of President Obama, the debt, future tax increases, and the bank bailout.” Some critics accuse TPN of profiteering from the convention; tickets cost $549 ($349 to just hear Palin’s speech), and Palin receives a $100,000 speaker’s fee, which she claims “will go right back to the cause.” Some prominent lawmakers, including Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), canceled their planned appearances at the event, saying that their appearance at such an event would conflict with House rules. [National Tea Party Convention, 2/2010; The Week, 2/4/2010; Beth Rowen, 2/9/2010]
Incendiary Rhetoric Opens Event - Speakers include Fox News contributor Angela McGlowan, WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah, and Rick Scarborough, an author who writes of the impending tyranny of “activist” judges. Some of the topics discussed during the convention include: “Correlations between the current Administration and Marxist Dictators of Latin America”; “5 Easy Fixes to the High Cost of Mass Immigration”; “Defeating Liberalism via the Primary Process”; and “Why Christians Must Engage.” The first speaker is former Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who insults minority citizens and rails against the Obama administration. Tancredo says “illiterate” minority voters are responsible for putting Obama, “a committed socialist,” into office, and he goes on to say that perhaps literacy tests (see 1896 and June 8, 1959) and poll taxes (see February 4, 1964) should be reintroduced to ensure that candidates such as Obama never be elected again (see August 6, 1965). Tancredo says that the voters who put Obama into the White House “could not even spell the word ‘vote,’ or say it in English.” Tancredo goes on to say: “The president and his left-wing allies in Congress are going to look at every opportunity to destroy the Constitution before we have a chance to save it. So put your running shoes on. Because I’ll tell you, I’ve heard we need a revolution. My friends, we already had it. We lost. I mean, what happened to us in that last election was a revolution.… This is our country. Let’s take it back.” Hilary Shelton of the NAACP later calls Tancredo’s remarks “the politics of denigration.” [National Tea Party Convention, 2/2010; The Week, 2/4/2010; Chattahbox, 2/5/2010]
Rival Tea Parties Boycott Event - A number of rival tea party organizations and leaders asked tea party members to boycott the convention. One of those, organizer Shane Brooks, recently left TPN after deciding that the organization was too cozy with the national Republican Party. In a YouTube video, Brooks asked tea partiers to “boycott the National Tea Party Convention” and said: “[W]e will not allow Tea Party Nation or any group to achieve national leadership of this historic grassroots revolution by the people!… We must not allow the tea parties and other patriotic grassroots movement to be hijacked by the GOP.” Prominent Seattle tea party leader Keli Carender (see February 16-17, 2009) also decided not to attend after being listed as a convention speaker, telling an NPR reporter that she did not want the tea party movement to become too centralized. Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots said that the $549 convention attendance fee was far too high: “Most people in our movement can’t afford anything like that. So it’s really not aimed at the average grassroots person.” TPN founder Judson Phillips told a reporter that the high fees would allow TPN to make a profit and “funnel money back into conservative causes” through a 527 group it plans to set up. TPN leaders refused to discuss Palin’s speaking fee. A local tea party member said skeptically, “The tea party movement is a grass-roots movement; it’s not a business.” Another accused Phillips of being “someone who is trying to make a grab.” Others echo Brooks’s concerns that Phillips and TPN are attempting to “co-opt” the movement and become power brokers within the GOP. The Tea Party Express, an organization run by a small group of well-financed Republican consultants, is part of the convention, dismaying some more independent tea party leaders. One activist wrote in an online comment: “The tea party movement is about to be hijacked. TeaPartyNation.com organizers are hard lined GOP who use the proverbial veil of ‘conservatism’ to attract supporters.” RedState blogger Erick Erickson called the convention “scammy.” [TPM Muckraker, 1/11/2010; TPM Muckraker, 1/18/2010; Publicola, 2/3/2010]
Entity Tags: Rick Scarborough, Michele Bachmann, Shane Brooks, Sarah Palin, Marsha Blackburn, Tea Party Express, Tom Tancredo, Tea Party Nation, Mark Meckler, Republican Party, Judson Phillips, Angela McGlowan, Barack Obama, Keli Carender, Joseph Farah, Hilary Shelton, Erick Erickson
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Richard Mack speaks to a tea party rally in Post Falls, Idaho, in November 2009. [Source: Rajah Bose / New York Times]The New York Times publishes a large front-page story on America’s “tea party” movement. The report is written by staff reporter David Barstow, who researched the story for five months, first joining a bus tour by the Tea Party Express (see August 28, 2009) and then staying for the month of October in and around Spokane, Washington, to interview tea party members and others, such as white supremacist militia members, who have some affiliation with tea party organizations. The first person he mentions is a retiree named Pam Stout, who once worked for federal housing programs and is now aghast at the government’s handling of the economic crisis. She told Barstow that one day “she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated—even manufactured—by both parties to grab power.” She went to a tea party rally, then a meeting of the Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots, where she surprised herself by nominating herself for president. Under her leadership, the Sandpoint group joined a coalition, Friends for Liberty, that includes representatives from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project (see March 13, 2009 and After), the extremist, anti-Communist John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), and the Oath Keepers (see March 9, 2009 and March 2010), a far-right militia organization. Stout told Barstow that her family worries that she has become enmeshed in a group of conspiracy theorists and ad hoc revolutionaries, but she said she has never felt more engaged. [New York Times, 2/15/2010; Columbia Journalism Review, 2/18/2010]
Increasing Tilt towards Anti-Government Militia Ideology - Barstow writes that many tea party members are like Stout, with an inclination to conservative anti-government politics, but also with a fear of eventual government tyranny that has driven them to join the movement. “These people are part of a significant undercurrent within the tea party movement that has less in common with the Republican Party than with the Patriot movement,” he writes, “a brand of politics historically associated with libertarians, militia groups, anti-immigration advocates, and those who argue for the abolition of the Federal Reserve. Urged on by conservative commentators, waves of newly minted activists are turning to once-obscure books and Web sites and discovering a set of ideas long dismissed as the preserve of conspiracy theorists, interviews conducted across the country over several months show.” Many tea partiers hold former President Bush and President Obama in equal contempt, holding them jointly responsible for deliberately undermining the Constitution and the free market system “for the benefit of a shadowy international network of wealthy elites” (see February 4-8, 2010). Coalition groups like Friends of Liberty are “forming hybrid entities of tea parties and groups rooted in the Patriot ethos. A fear of government tyranny is one of the most common ideological threads running through virtually all tea party organizations.”
Targeting Republicans as Well as Democrats - Barstow continues: “These coalitions are not content with simply making the Republican Party more conservative. They have a larger goal—a political reordering that would drastically shrink the federal government and sweep away not just Mr. Obama, but much of the Republican establishment, starting with Senator John McCain” and other Republicans whom they consider part of the “government conspiracy” to destroy democracy. While tea parties routinely target Democrats in elections, they are also targeting more moderate Republicans, especially those who support ideas or legislation that they feel is part of the “conspiracy.” Republicans who supported the government bailouts of large corporations are being targeted, as are those who support global warming legislation or who have shown any impetus to work with the White House or with Congressional Democrats (see January 29, 2010). Barstow notes that the tea party movement is anything but homogenous and rigidly organized: “It is an amorphous, factionalized uprising with no clear leadership and no centralized structure.” Some groups are “essentially appendages of the local Republican Party,” but many are not. However, many of the beliefs espoused by individual tea partiers tend to be reflected in most groups. Not all believe that Obama wants to impose a dictatorship, with or without McCain’s help, but many do. The frustration expressed by Stout in the economy and the government’s response to it is echoed throughout tea party groups in every state.
Turning to Radical Ideologies and Conspiracy Theorists - One of the tea partiers’ favorite thinkers is Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck (see March 29, 2009). Beck’s often-revisionist, often-inaccurate opinions led many tea partiers to read the Federalist Papers (or, more often, right-wing blogs about the Federalist Papers), conspiracist “exposes” of the Federal Reserve, and the novels of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. Online resources tailored for tea party organizations provide a wealth of what Barstow calls “radical critiques of Washington.” Two of the primary sites are ResistNet.com and InfoWars, both of which combine far-right ideology with a plethora of conspiracy theories covering everything from 9/11 and the Federal Reserve to the New World Order (see September 11, 1990). Some tea partiers are joining with militia groups, or forming their own, and making stockpiles of food, gold, and weaponry to prepare for the end of civilization. Many tea party leaders say they believe that a return to a strict adherence to constitutional law would solve most of the nation’s problems, but many of them espouse a radical view of the Constitution, such as that delineated by radical Constitutional revisionist W. Cleon Skousen (first popularized among the tea party community by Beck—see 1963). Many want to completely do away with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the federal income tax, and most government agencies, all of which they say violate the Constitution. Some go even farther, advocating secession, states “nullfying” federal laws, and the formation of citizen militias. The tea parties in the Pacific Northwest, Barstow writes, have been shaped by influences such as libertarian Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and by the sometimes-violent anti-government activism of northern Idaho (see Early 1970s, 1980-1982, 1983-1995, and February 15, 1995). The 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992), which occurred in nearby Idaho, is a touchstone for many tea partiers, just as it was for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see August 21-31, 1992). Many, but not all, tea party members and groups embrace the “birther” conspiracy theory that Obama is not a natural American citizen. A favorite news blog, WorldNetDaily, routinely electrifies the movement by warning of new White House plans to build massive internment camps and stuff them with tea party members, or of plans to send waves of United Nations troops throughout the nation to confiscate Americans’ guns. ResistNet regularly warns that Obama is trying to convert Interpol, the international police organization, into his own personal police force, and advises tea partiers to “grab their guns.” Tea partiers like Mary Johnson of New Mexico points to the Bush-era wiretapping scandal as proof that the government can, and is, preparing to bring democracy to an end. As the groups’ fear and contempt for the federal government grows, Barstow writes, they turn more frequently to “fringe” groups such as white supremacist, anti-government militias. In Indiana, a militia coalition called Defenders of Liberty is networking with tea party groups and other “Patriot” organizations throughout the state. Darin Stevens, the leader of the Spokane 9/12 project, told Barstow that before tuning in to Beck’s show, he had paid almost no attention to politics. After the recession hit and his personal financial structure started to collapse, he began watching Beck. “I had no clue that my country was being taken from me,” he explains. He began the Spokane chapter of Beck’s 9/12 project, and was astounded that 110 people attended the first meeting. Stevens now belongs to the Oath Keepers as well as the 9/12 Project. Spokane tea partier Leah Southwell became a convert after stumbling on Paul’s speeches on YouTube. Southwell turned from being a successful Mary Kay makeup sales representative to being a self-described member of “the uprising.” Southwell, through Paul, is now fully supportive of the Patriot ideology, and holds as evident truth a number of conspiracy theories involving the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations. “The more you know, the madder you are,” she told Barstow. “I mean when you finally learn what the Federal Reserve is!” Southwell is now a local official with the John Birch Society. She says that the affiliation between organizations like the JBS and the tea parties will continue to grow: “Most of these people [tea partiers] are just waking up.” Former car salesman Richard Mack, a longtime militia supporter who co-wrote Ruby Ridge survivor Randy Weaver’s memoirs, is a favorite speaker at tea party events. “People just do not trust any of this,” Mack told Barstow. “It’s not just the fringe people anymore. These are just ordinary people—teachers, bankers, housewives.”
Amorphous Structure - Local tea party groups often join, in one degree or another, one of several competing national tea party organizations such as ResistNet or the Tea Party Express, most of which are organized, staffed, and funded by conservative lobbying groups such as FreedomWorks (see February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, February 27, 2009, March 2, 2009, March 13, 2009 and After, April 14, 2009, and April 15, 2009) or Americans for Prosperity (see Late 2004, February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, and April 2009 and After). Some tea party groups have been joined by, or in some cases overrun by, other groups, from “birthers” to militias, supporters of Lyndon LaRouche, pro-gun groups, and the sovereign states movement. Many coalitions such as Friends of Liberty were formed in opposition to what leaders called the endless “hijack attempts” by state and county Republican Parties. Dann Selle of the Official Tea Party of Spokane told Barstow, “We had to stand our ground, I’ll be blunt.”
Support from Elected Politicians - Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and a possible 2012 Republican candidate for president, has joined with Texas tea parties in supporting the state’s secession from the United States. Nevada Republican Joe Heck, who ran for Congress in 2008, attacked both parties for moving the nation towards “socialist tyranny” and solicited tea party support at a rally in Las Vegas. Indiana Republican Richard Behney, running for the US Senate, told tea party supporters that if the 2010 elections did not turn out to his liking: “I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I’m serious about that, and I bet you are, too.” [New York Times, 2/15/2010]
Entity Tags: ResistNet, Richard Behney, Richard Mack, Republican Party, Ron Paul, US Federal Reserve, Tea Party Express, WorldNetDaily, Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots, W. Cleon Skousen, Timothy James McVeigh, Pam Stout, Oath Keepers, New York Times, Mary Johnson, Defenders of Liberty, 9/12 Project, Americans for Prosperity, Barack Obama, Dann Selle, Fox News, FreedomWorks, Friends for Liberty, Glenn Beck, Leah Southwell, John McCain, Darin Stevens, John Birch Society, James Richard (“Rick”) Perry, InfoWars, Joe Heck, David Barstow
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck lambasts so-called “birthers,” who argue that President Obama is not a citizen (see see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, and August 1-4, 2009), calling them “idiot[s]” and members of “the fringe elements.” Beck says “birthers” are on “the fringe” along with “9/11 truthers” and “progressives.” He calls all of them “the crazy people that don’t really like America.” He includes Philip Berg and Alan Keyes, who brought lawsuits claiming Obama was not a citizen (see August 21-24, 2008 and November 12, 2008 and After), as “birthers.” [Media Matters, 3/24/2011]
The Echelon Building in Austin, Texas, in the aftermath of Andrew Joseph Stack’s suicide crash. [Source: Jack Plunkett / Associated Press]Andrew Joseph Stack, a software engineer and pilot in Austin, Texas, burns his house down, then takes to the air in his Piper Dakota plane and crashes it into an Austin office building in an apparent attempt to destroy the large IRS office inside. Stack dies in the crash, as does IRS manager Vernon Hunter. Thirteen others are wounded, two critically. IRS revenue officer Peggy Walker, who is sitting at her desk when Stack’s plane crashes into the building, will later tell a reporter: “It felt like a bomb blew off. The ceiling caved in and windows blew in. We got up and ran.” IRS agent William Winnie says he was on the third floor of the building when he saw a light-colored, single engine plane coming toward the building. “It looked like it was coming right in my window,” Winne tells reporters. He says the plane veered down and smashed into the lower floors. “I didn’t lose my footing, but it was enough to knock people who were sitting to the floor,” he recalls. Two days before his flight, Stack, a software engineer, posted an angry rant on his personal Web site. “Nothing changes unless there is a body count,” he said, and went on to blast corporations, the Catholic Church, and bailouts for Wall Street. Stack wrote about the “storm raging in my head” and railed against taxation without representation. “Anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a ‘crackpot,’ traitor, and worse,” he wrote. He expressed his anger at the “handful of thugs and plunderers [that] can commit unthinkable atrocities,” including bailed-out General Motors executives and the drug and insurance companies who “are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple.” He hopes that “the American zombies wake up and revolt.” He concluded: “Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand.… I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well. The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.” The note was signed, “Joe Stack (1956-2010).” Before the attack is determined not to be foreign terrorism, at least two Texas Air National Guard F-16 fighter jets are scrambled in Houston, and President Obama is briefed. [New York Daily News, 2/18/2010; CBS News, 2/18/2010; CBS News, 2/18/2010; Associated Press, 2/19/2010; Your News Now, 2/25/2010] The press soon reprints the entire posting, which the Associated Press calls “a rambling anti-government manifesto.” [CBS News, 2/18/2010; Associated Press, 2/19/2010] Federal authorities find a note in Stack’s car, parked at the Georgetown Airport where he took off; the note says there is a bomb in the airport. The FBI investigates and finds no bomb. [CBS News, 2/18/2010] Stack used to play in a rock band; Pam Parker, whose husband leads the band, says Stack is usually “easy-going,” and though he “talked politics like everyone[, he] didn’t show any obsession.” The Web posting “sounded like his voice, but it was nothing I ever heard him say. Clearly there was crazy in him but it must have been way in the back of his head, it wasn’t who Joe was.” Patrick Beach, who also played in the band with Stack, tells a reporter, “I talked to a lot of people who knew him better than I did, and no one saw anything like this coming.” Beach says it is hard to comprehend how Stack, whom Beach says loved his wife and stepdaughter, could be the same person who wanted to “commit mass murder.” [CBS News, 2/18/2010; Associated Press, 2/19/2010] According to Stack’s father-in-law Jack Cook, Stack has a “hang-up” about the IRS, and his marriage to his wife Sheryl is strained; Cook says the night before Stack’s attack on the IRS building, his wife had taken her daughter to a hotel to get away from Stack. [Associated Press, 2/19/2010] The press later learns that Stack is in the middle of an audit for failing to report income, in a case centered around his “Universal Life Church,” a “home church” founded by Stack and his wife. Stack had declared the church a tax shelter in violation of federal law, and had been ordered by the court to pay over $14,000 in back taxes along with an undisclosed amount in penalties, fines, and interest. [Your News Now, 2/25/2010]
Entity Tags: Andrew Joseph Stack, Pam Parker, Internal Revenue Service, Jack Cook, Barack Obama, William Winnie, Associated Press, Universal Life Church, Peggy Walker, Vernon Hunter, Sheryl Stack, Texas Air National Guard, Patrick Beach
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Private Lee Pray, a member of the Oath Keepers. His finger tattoo spells out ‘THOR.’ [Source: Mother Jones]The progressive news magazine Mother Jones publishes a detailed examination of the Oath Keepers (see March 9, 2009), one of the fastest-growing “patriot” groups on the far right. The group was founded in April 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, a lawyer who once served as an aide to libertarian US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). According to author Justine Sharrock, it has become “a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers.” (Sharrock is referring to the burgeoning “tea party” movement, the people who believe President Obama is not an American citizen (see August 1, 2008 and After and October 8-10, 2008), and the “9/12” organization formed by lobbying organization FreedomWorks and Fox News host Glenn Beck—see March 13, 2009 and After.) Beck, MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan (see May 28, 2009, June 20, 2009, and July 16, 2009), and CNN host Lou Dobbs have publicly praised the organization. In December 2009, a grassroots summit organized by the Oath Keepers drew lawmakers such as US Representatives Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Paul Broun (R-GA). Sharrock’s profile is based on research and interviews with Rhodes, other Oath Keeper leaders, and ordinary members such as Private Lee Pray, who is stationed at Fort Drum, New York.
Group Made Up of Uniformed Citizens - What sets the group apart from others on the far-right fringe is that its membership is restricted to US citizens in uniform—soldiers, police officers, and veterans. At its ceremonies, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution, but then go a step further, vowing to disobey “unconstitutional” orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government. Pray says he knows of five fellow Oath Keepers at Fort Drum.
Preparing for Tyranny, Martial Law - He and other members are actively recruiting, arguing that under Obama, the US government is turning increasingly tyrannical and must be opposed, violently if need be. Pray says that many Oath Keepers had problems with some government policies under President Bush, but those reservations have grown with Obama’s ascension to power. Rhodes tells Sharrock: “Too many conservatives relied on Bush’s character and didn’t pay attention. Only now, with Obama, do they worry and see what has been done. Maybe you said, ‘I trusted Bush to only go after the terrorists.’ But what do you think can happen down the road when they say, ‘I think you are a threat to the nation?’” Pray, like many members, believes it will be a year at most before Obama declares martial law, perhaps under the pretext of a natural disaster or another 9/11-level terror attack, and begin detaining citizens en masse and banning interstate travel. Another Oath Keeper advises Sharrock to prepare a “bug out” bag with 39 items including gas masks, ammunition, and water purification tablets, so that she will be prepared “when the sh_t hits the fan.” Pray and his friends have a “fortified bunker” at one of their member’s parents’ home in rural Idaho, where they have stashed survival gear, generators, food, and plenty of weapons. If need be, they say, they will attack their fellow soldiers. Pray describes himself as both a “birther” and a “truther,” believing that Obama is an illegitimate president installed by a government that launched the 9/11 attacks on its own soil to drive the country further down the road towards tyranny. Pray has suffered demotion for a drinking problem, and was denied deployment to Iraq when he injured his knees in a fall. Right now his job involves operating and maintaining heavy equipment on base, and he is listed currently as “undeployable.” He and his fellow Oath Keepers on base spend their free time researching what they call the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) and conspiracies about detention camps. Pray is one of the few active-duty members who will agree to have his name made public; Rhodes encourages active-duty soldiers and police officers to hide their membership in the group, saying a group with large numbers of anonymous members can instill in its adversaries the fear of the unknown—a “great force multiplier,” he calls it. Pray worries that the CIA is monitoring his phone calls and insists that unmarked black cars follow him when he drives. A fellow Fort Drum Oath Keeper who only allows his first name of Brandon to be used, and who is also “undeployable” due to his own injuries, says that the off-limits areas of Fort Drum contain concentration camps. Sharrock notes that the soldiers’ behavior might be considered “paranoid,” but writes, “Then again, when you’re an active-duty soldier contemplating treason, some level of paranoia is probably sensible.”
Stewart Rhodes - Rhodes, a Yale graduate and constitutional lawyer, is working on a book currently titled We the Enemy: How Applying the Laws of War to the American People in the War on Terror Threatens to Destroy Our Constitutional Republic. He is an Army veteran who was honorably discharged after injuring his spine in a parachute jump, and worked for a time supervising interns in Ron Paul’s Congressional office. He briefly practiced law in Montana, has worked as a sculptor and a firearms instructor, and writes a gun-rights column for SWAT magazine. He describes himself as a libertarian, a staunch constitutionalist, and a devout Christian. He decided to abandon electoral politics in 2008 after Paul’s presidential bid failed, and turned instead to grassroots organizing. In college, he became fascinated with the idea that had German soldiers and police refused to follow orders in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler could have been stopped. In early 2008, he read a letter in SWAT magazine declaring that “the Constitution and our Bill of Rights are gravely endangered” and that service members, veterans, and police “is where they will be saved, if they are to be saved at all!” Rhodes responded with a column predicting a future President Hillary (“Hitlery”) Clinton turning the US into a despotism while dressed in her “Chairman Mao signature pantsuit.” He asked readers if they intended to follow this “dominatrix-in-chief,” hold militia members as enemy combatants, disarm citizens, and shoot all resisters. If “a police state comes to America, it will ultimately be by your hands,” he wrote. You had better “resolve to not let it happen on your watch.” Shortly thereafter, he set up a blog he called “Oath Keepers,” asking for testimonials from soldiers and veterans, and began gaining popularity. Military officers offered assistance. A Marine Corps veteran invited Rhodes to speak at a local tea party event. Paul campaigners provided strategic advice. In March 2009, Rhodes attended a rally staged by a pro-militia group, and in front of the crowd of some 400 participants, officially launched the Oath Keepers movement (see March 9, 2009). Buchanan and Beck have praised Rhodes, with Buchanan predicting that he “is headed for cable stardom.” Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars.com has repeatedly featured Rhodes and the Oath Keepers on his radio talk show.
Attracts Attention of Anti-Hate Organizations - The Oath Keepers has come to the attention of anti-hate organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which have cited the group in their reports on rising anti-government extremism. Rhodes has accused the SPLC of trying “to lump us in with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and of course make the insinuation that we’re the next McVeigh,” referring to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Author David Neiwert, an expert on right-wing groups, tells Sharrock that it would be a mistake to term them another amalgamation of “right-wing crackpots” or “extremist nimrods,” as other press outlets have done. “[T]he reality is a lot of them are fairly intelligent, well-educated people who have complex worldviews that are thoroughly thought out,” Neiwert says. Neiwert and Sharrock tie Rhodes’s message to the much earlier views expressed by members of the now-defunct Posse Comitatus (see 1969), and note that the last reemergence of this brand of rhetoric took place during the last time a Democrat, Bill Clinton, was in the White House. Today, groups like the Oath Keepers use the Internet, particularly Facebook and YouTube, and cable news networks, to connect with like-minded citizens around the world. “The underlying sentiment is an attack on government dating back to the New Deal and before,” Neiwert says. “Ron Paul has been a significant conduit in recent years, but nothing like Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann [R-MN] and Sarah Palin (see October 10, 2008)—all of whom share that innate animus.” While Rhodes and most Oath Keepers say they will only begin active disobedience under the delineated circumstances laid out by the group, some members have gone down their own paths of violence. Oath Keeper Daniel Knight Hayden set off a controversy last April 15 with a barrage of messages on Twitter stating his intention to “START THE KILLING NOW!” by engaging in a gun battle at the Oklahoma State Capitol and urging other Oath Keepers to join him (see April 14-15, 2009). Rhodes denounced Hayden, but Neiwert notes that Rhodes’s inflammatory and inciteful rhetoric can have what he calls “an unhinging effect” on people inclined toward violent action. “It puts them in a state of mind of fearfulness and paranoia, creating so much anger and hatred that eventually that stuff boils over.” In January, ex-Marine and Oath Keeper spokesman Charles Dyer, who beat a treason charge for advocating armed resistance to the government, was arrested on charges of raping a 7-year-old girl, and authorities found stolen military weaponry at his home; some militia groups have hailed Dyer as “the first POW of the second American Revolution,” but Rhodes removed information about him from the organization’s Web sites and now denies he was ever a member (see January 21, 2010). Rhodes says he and his Web staff are “overwhelmed” with the need to delete messages encouraging racism and violence from their blog, and recently he shut down one Internet forum because of members’ attempts to use it to recruit for militia organizations. Chip Berlet of the watchdog group Political Research Associates and an expert on far-right movements equates Rhodes’s rhetoric to yelling fire in a crowded theater. “Promoting these conspiracy theories is very dangerous right now because there are people who will assume that a hero will stop at nothing.” What will happen, he adds, “is not just disobeying orders but harming and killing.” Rhodes acknowledges that to follow through on his rhetoric could be risky, and reminds Sharrock that freedom “is not neat or tidy, it’s messy.”
Gold Standards, Muslim Rights, and Treasonous Federal Institutions - During a recent meeting at a North Las Vegas casino, Sharrock took part in discussions of whether Muslim citizens had rights under the Constitution, why the Federal Reserve was a treasonous institution, why the government should be run under Biblical law and a gold standard, and how abortion-rights advocates are part of a eugenics plan targeting Christians. The group takes no official stance on the US’s war on terror or its foreign engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, but a recent Oath Keeper member who promoted his dual membership in the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) on the Oath Keepers blog had his post removed by Rhodes, who called the IVAW a “totalitarian” and “communist” organization.
Expanding Membership - Rhodes says the group has at least one chapter in each of the 50 states, and claims the group has some 29,000 members, not counting the ones who keep their membership off the computer lists. Volunteers are preparing a large “outreach” to soldiers serving overseas. The organization has worked hard to become a staple of tea party events, and tells tea partiers that bringing guns to those events reminds participants of their constitutional rights. The organization has made strong connections with groups such as the Constitution Party and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, and national figures such as Ralph Reed, the former director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, and Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America. Elected officials such as Broun, Gingrey, Bachmann, and Steve King (R-IA) have expressed their interest in sponsoring legislation crafted by Oath Keeper leaders. [Mother Jones, 3/2010]
Entity Tags: David Neiwert, Daniel Knight Hayden, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Steve King, Stewart Rhodes, Timothy James McVeigh, Chip Berlet, Alex Jones, Ralph Reed, Anti-Defamation League, Charles Alan Dyer, Barack Obama, Posse Comitatus, Southern Poverty Law Center, Paul Broun, Justine Sharrock, Glenn Beck, George W. Bush, FreedomWorks, Eagle Forum, Larry Pratt, Phil Gingrey, Patrick Buchanan, Lee Pray, Mother Jones, Oath Keepers, Constitution Party, Michele Bachmann, Lou Dobbs
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Logo of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks the activities of so-called ‘hate groups’ around the US. [Source: GuideStar]The number of extremist militia and “patriot” groups has expanded dramatically since the election of President Obama, according to a report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit organization that tracks “hate groups” and other, similar organizations. The number has expanded from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009—a 244 percent increase. “That is a lot of change in a short period of time,” says SPLC research director Heidi Beirich. The SPLC report says the number has “exploded in 2009 as militias and other groups steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories exploited populist anger across the country and infiltrated the mainstream.” While many of these groups do not espouse violence and are not considered a direct threat to government officials, government property, or citizens, some of them do advocate violent strikes against government organizations and/or “liberal” groups or individuals. The number dwindled during the eight years of the Bush presidency, the SPLC reports, but since the election of a black, Democratic president, along with a poorly performing economy and a female speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as catalyzing factors, the number has increased, and continues to grow. “The country is becoming more diverse,” Beirich says. “Some people find it hard to handle.… These are extreme stressors for people.” Chip Berlet, an analyst for Political Research Associates, writes: “We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history. We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage.” The SPLC tracked 42 armed and potentially violent militias in 2008; that number has grown by over 300 percent, to 127, since then. The SPLC writes: “Patriot groups have been fueled by anger over the changing demographics of the country, the soaring public debt, the troubled economy, and an array of initiatives by President Obama and the Democrats that have been branded ‘socialist’ or even ‘fascist’ by his political opponents (see August 1, 2008 and After, October 10, 2008, October 27, 2008, January 2009, March 4-6, 2009, March 17, 2009, March 25, 2009, March 29, 2009, April 1-2, 2009, April 3-7, 2009, April 9-22, 2009, May 13, 2009, May 28, 2009, July 24, 2009, Late July, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 18, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 17, 2009, November 5, 2009, January 27, 2010, May 7, 2010, May 19, 2010, May 25, 2010, July 3-4, 2010, September 13, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 21, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 29, 2010, October 3, 2010, October 14, 2010, October 26, 2010, November 16, 2010, and April 27, 2011). Report editor Mark Potok says: “This extraordinary growth is a cause for grave concern. The people associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Moreover, the report finds, the “patriot” movement has made common cause with the “tea party” political movement, and the two are becoming more and more entwined. The report finds, “The ‘tea parties’ and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories, and racism.” The “patriot” movement’s central ideas are being promoted by national figures, such as Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck and lawmakers such as House member Michele Bachmann (R-MN). The number of identified “racist hate groups” has not increased significantly from 2008 from 2009, the report finds, growing from 926 to 932. However, the growth rate would have been far higher if it were not for the collapse of the American National Socialist Workers Party, a key neo-Nazi network whose founder was arrested in October 2008 (see December 18, 2009). So-called “nativist extremist” groups, vigilante organizations that go beyond advocating strict immigration policy and actually confront or harass suspected immigrants, have also grown in number, from 173 in 2008 to 309 in 2009, a rise of nearly 80 percent. The SPLC reports: “These three strands of the radical right—the hate groups, the nativist extremist groups, and the Patriot organizations—are the most volatile elements on the American political landscape. Taken together, their numbers increased by more than 40 percent, rising from 1,248 groups in 2008 to 1,753 last year.” The report warns that the number and intensity of violence from these groups, and from “lone wolf” extremists perhaps triggered by these groups’ rhetoric and actions, is increasing. Since Obama took office in January 2009, six law enforcement officers have been murdered by right-wing extremists. There are large and increasing numbers of arrests of racist “skinheads” for plotting to assassinate Obama, and an increasing number of anti-government extremists have been arrested for fomenting bomb plots. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/2/2010; Detroit Free Press, 3/31/2010] A Detroit Free Press report will directly tie the Michigan Hutaree, a radical Christian group arrested for planning the murder of local police officers (see March 27-30, 2010), to the growing trend of militant activity documented in the SPLC report. Political science professor Michael Barkun, an expert on extremist religious groups, says of the Hutaree arrests: “I don’t think this is the last we’re going to see of these groups. The number of such groups has increased fairly dramatically in the last couple of years.” Beirich will note that the Hutaree were not isolated from other militias: “They were part of the broader militia movement,” she says. However, her conclusion is disputed by Michigan militia member Michael Lackomar. “They more closely fit the definition of a cult,” Lackomar will say. “They believe the world is about to end according to how it was written in the Bible, and their job is to stand up and clear the way for Jesus and fight alongside him against the forces of darkness.” While “[a] lot of people are upset at an ever-growing government that is overreaching,” Lackomar will say, most militias do not go to the Hutaree’s extremes. He will call the Hutaree’s plans to attack police officers “despicable.” [Detroit Free Press, 3/31/2010]
Entity Tags: Michael Barkun, Glenn Beck, Chip Berlet, Bush administration (43), Barack Obama, American National Socialist Workers Party, Heidi Beirich, Hutaree, Mark Potok, Michele Bachmann, Nancy Pelosi, Southern Poverty Law Center, Michael Lackomar
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Chief Justice John Roberts tells a group of law students that President Obama and Congressional Democrats turned the recent State of the Union address into a “pep rally” targeting Court justices, and questions the need for justices to attend the event. During the speech, Obama criticized the Citizens United decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising (see January 21, 2010), and Justice Samuel Alito drew media attention by mouthing the words “Not true” in response to Obama’s remarks (see January 27-29, 2010). Roberts is referring to the fact that many Congressional Democrats cheered the president’s remarks. He calls the event “very troubling,” and says, “To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I’m not sure why we are there.” Six of the Court’s nine justices, including Alito and Roberts, were in attendance. Roberts says he is less concerned about the criticism of the Court than the expectation that the justices must sit silently: “Anybody can criticize the Supreme Court.… I have no problem with that. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the Court—according to the requirements of protocol—has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling. It does cause me to think… why are we there?” Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas did not attend, complaining that the address would be a “partisan” event (see February 2, 2010), and Justice John Paul Stevens, who strongly dissented from the Citizens United decision, did not attend due to age and health issues. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs responds strongly to Roberts’s remarks, saying, “What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections, drowning out the voices of average Americans.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/10/2010] Three weeks after Roberts makes his observations, conservative talk show host David Limbaugh will call Obama’s criticisms a “public assault” on the justices. [David Limbaugh, 4/5/2012]
Photo of a rock included on his blog post by Mike Vanderboegh. The meaning of the Roman numeral III is unclear. [Source: Mike Vanderboegh]Mike Vanderboegh, the former head of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, writes a blog post urging his readers to show their displeasure over the Democrats’ health care reform bill by breaking the windows of Democratic legislative offices. “To all modern Sons of Liberty,” he writes on his blog, “Sipsey Street Irregulars,” “THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW.” Vanderboegh, who lives on government disability payments, writes of what he calls “Nancy Pelosi’s Intolerable Act”: “So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows. Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats. But BREAK THEM.” [Mike Vanderboegh, 3/19/2010; Kansas City Star, 3/22/2010; Think Progress, 3/23/2010; Daily Beast, 3/24/2010; Washington Post, 3/25/2010; Salon, 3/26/2010]
Vandalism, Death Threats against Lawmakers and Children in Three States - In the days that follow, windows and glass door panels are shattered in Democratic Party offices and Democrats’ district legislative offices in Arizona, Kansas, and New York. At least 10 Democratic legislators report receiving death threats, harassment, and vandalism at their offices. In the Niagara Falls, New York, office of Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), a voice mail message is left threatening to send snipers to “assassinate… the children of lawmakers who voted yes” on health care reform. [Kansas City Star, 3/22/2010; Think Progress, 3/23/2010; Politico, 3/24/2010; Washington Post, 3/25/2010] Mike Troxel, an organizer for the Lynchburg, Virginia, Tea Party, publishes what he believes to be the home address of Representative Thomas Perriello (D-VA), and urges angry voters to “drop by” for a “good face-to-face chat.” (The address is that of Bo Perriello, the brother of Thomas. Troxel refuses to take it down from his blog, but says he would be happy to amend his post with Perriello’s own address. Within days of Troxel’s post, someone cuts Bo Perriello’s propane gas line, an act that could lead to a fire.) Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI), whose last-minute compromise on abortion (see March 24, 2010) guaranteed passage of the health care bill, reports receiving multiple death threats on his home and office answering machines, including one that said, “You’re dead; we know where you live; we’ll get you.” Stupak tells a reporter, “My wife still can’t answer the phone.” The messages are “full of obscenities if she leaves it plugged in. In my office, we can’t get a phone out. It’s just bombarded.” [Politico, 3/24/2010; Right Wing Watch, 3/24/2010]
Prediction of 'Civil War' over Health Care, Taxation - Though Democratic Party officials in New York call for Vanderboegh’s arrest, believing he is behind an incident of vandalism in Rochester, he has not as yet been interviewed by law enforcement authorities. Vanderboegh tells Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker that he has no regrets over his call for vandalism and violence, and says that throwing bricks through windows sends a clear message to Democrats that “the health care reform legislation they passed Sunday has caused so much unrest that it could result in a civil war.” Vanderboegh, Rucker writes, has “a complicated theory that IRS agents will go after people who refuse to buy insurance or pay the fines,” and the result of that action will be “civil war.” Vanderboegh says: “The central fact of the health care bill is this, and we find it tyrannical and unconstitutional on its face. The federal government now demands all Americans to pay and play in this system, and if we refuse, we will be fined, and if we refuse to pay the fine, they will come to arrest us, and if we resist arrest… then we will be killed. The bill certainly doesn’t say that, but that’s exactly and precisely what is behind every bill like this.” Throwing bricks through windows, he says, is “both good manners and it’s also a moral duty to try to warn people.” Vanderboegh describes himself as a “Christian libertarian” and a gun rights advocate who once belonged to two Alabama militia organizations. Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that tracks extremist and hate groups, says the SPLC has been aware of Vanderboegh “forever,” and says: “He hasn’t been involved in any kind of violence that we know of ourselves, but these causes that he’s involved in led to a lot of violence. The ideas that Vanderboegh’s militia groups were pushing were the same extreme anti-government ideas that inspired [Timothy] McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing” (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). [Washington Post, 3/25/2010; Salon, 3/26/2010] One of Vanderboegh’s blog commentators asks, “Is this our Fort Sumter?” referring to the opening battle of the Civil War. [Mike Vanderboegh, 3/19/2010] Reporter John Avlon writes that the comparison to 1938’s “Kristallnacht,” the Nazis’ “Night of Broken Glass,” are “inevitable.” He notes that Vanderboegh’s home page warns, “All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.” [Daily Beast, 3/24/2010]
Prediction of 'Race War' - Vanderboegh tells Avnel that he believes President Obama’s election will spark a “race war,” saying: “Now we have a gangster culture in the middle of the cities. We’ve imported into this country over the last 20 years a significant subculture that comes from south of the border [presumably Mexico] that also has not bought in and identified with the larger culture. Our fear is that any breakdown in this country of law and order will turn into a three-sided race war, and I can’t think of anything that’s more calculated to bring long-term tyranny and chaos than something like that.” [Daily Beast, 3/24/2010]
Republican Leadership Should 'Stop' Incendiary Rhetoric - Representative C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD) says: “The real problem is the people who are calling and talking about a revolution and overthrowing government. They can be angry. We’re all for that. But when they talk about taking over the government, the leadership has to do its part to stop that.” [Politico, 3/24/2010]
Problem for 'Tea Parties'? - Progressive columnist David Weigel predicts that Vanderboegh’s “off the rails” post “will end up making a lot of trouble for Tea Parties… calling, many times over, for violence against members of Congress. Vanderboegh basically courts controversy—his blog profile tells readers how to send him anthrax and death threats—but as Democrats make hay from attacks on Congressional offices, this blog post might become a sort of Rosetta Stone of wingnuttery.” [Washington Independent, 3/25/2010]
Entity Tags: Louise Slaughter, Mike Vanderboegh, Philip Rucker, John Avlon, Southern Poverty Law Center, Heidi Beirich, Bart Stupak, C.A. Ruppersberger, Alabama Constitutional Militia, David Weigel, Barack Obama, Thomas Perriello, Mike Troxel, Bo Perriello
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Democratic lawmaker Emanuel Cleaver, walking through the crowd of tea party protesters around the same time he is spat upon. [Source: EurWeb (.com)]Tea party and other anti-health care protesters in Washington denigrate African-American lawmakers with racial slurs, one African-American congressman is spat upon, and a gay congressman is called an anti-gay slur by another protester.
'Kill the Bill, N_gger!' - John Lewis (D-GA) and Andre Carson (D-IN), both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, after leaving a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, encounter a large and angry crowd of tea party and other protesters. According to Carson and a number of staffers accompanying the lawmakers, protesters first scream and chant, “Kill the bill!” referring to the pending health care legislation, then alter the chant to say, “Kill the bill, n_gger!” When Lewis confirms that he supports the bill, protesters shout, “Baby killer!” Police quickly escort Lewis, Carson, and their staffers into the Capitol building. Carson later tells a reporter that he heard the first slur from a single individual: “You see one or two tea party people kind of look at him, and then you hear it again as we’re walking. Then we walk across [Independence Avenue], and that’s when it starts getting deeper.… You heard it in spurts, in the midst of ‘Kill the bill. Kill the bill.’ One guy, I remember he just rattled it off several times. Then John looks at me and says, ‘You know, this reminds me of a different time.’” Lewis confirms Carson’s account of the racial slurs, and adds, “People have been just downright mean.” Heath Shuler (D-NC), a white congressman, also confirms that he heard the racial slurs.
Lawmaker Spat Upon - Another African-American congressman, Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), is spat upon by an unidentified protester; police arrest the man, but Cleaver declines to press charges and the man is later released.
Lawmaker Called 'F_ggot' - Protesters in the same rally accost Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), who is openly gay, inside the Longworth House office building; one, an elderly white man, shouts, “Barney, you f_ggot!” causing many in the group to laugh and a woman to shout, “We don’t need that.” CNN reporter Dana Bash later says that her producer personally witnessed the homophobic slur towards Frank. When Capitol police threaten to expel the protesters from the Longworth building, according to one reporter, the police are “outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed.” After tea party protesters equipped with high-end video cameras arrive to film the encounter, the police relent and allow them to continue protesting inside the building.
Rhetoric Similar to '60s Civil Rights Protests - Frank later says of the protesters: “I’m disappointed at a unwillingness to be just civil. [T]he objection to the health care bill has become a proxy for other sentiments.… Obviously there are perfectly reasonable people that are against this, but the people out there today on the whole—many of them were hateful and abusive.” Frank puts some of the blame for the incident on tea party organization leaders and Republicans who align themselves with the organizations, and notes that today’s incidents are not the first of their kind (see June 30, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, August 4, 2009, and August 11, 2009). “I do think the leaders of the movement, and this was true of some of the Republicans last year, that they think they are benefiting from this rancor,” he says. “I mean there are a couple who—you know, Michele Bachmann’s rhetoric is inflamatory as well as wholly baseless. And I think there are people there, a few that encourage it.… If this was my cause, and I saw this angry group yelling and shouting and being so abusive to people, I would ask them to please stop it. I think they do more harm than good.” Frank tells another reporter: “The Republican leadership is making a mistake not doing more to disassociate from this.… It’s a mob mentality that doesn’t work politically.” House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), an African-American, says: “It was absolutely shocking to me, last Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus Pomford University where 50 years ago, as of last Monday, March 15th, I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit-ins… quite frankly I heard some things today that I haven’t heard since that day. I heard people saying things today I’ve not heard since March 15th, 1960, when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus. This is incredible, shocking to me.” [TPM Muckraker, 3/20/2010; MSNBC, 3/20/2010; Mediaite, 3/20/2010; ABC News, 4/13/2010] Anne Caprara, the chief of staff for Betsy Markey (D-CO), says of the protesters: “I’ve been in politics for 10 years and it was like nothing I’d ever seen. To be amongst that crowd outside and to see some of the people who walked into our office, these people were very unhinged.” [KDVR-TV, 3/25/2010] The New York Times later publishes a correction to a follow-up article that notes it is impossible to prove that actual tea party members were the ones hurling the racial and homophobic epithets, nor is it clear that it was a tea party member who spat upon Cleaver. [New York Times, 7/17/2010]
Tea Party Supporters Claim False Accusations - Conservative bloggers quickly accuse Lewis, Carson, Cleaver, and the “liberal media” of lying about the incidents [Media Research Center, 3/20/2010; John Hinderaker, 7/25/2010] , and are joined by Bachmann (R-MN), who will falsely inform an audience, “No witness saw it, it’s not on camera, it’s not on audio.” [ABC News, 4/13/2010]
Videos Surface - A blogger at the liberal Daily Kos posts a video of the protests. [Daily Kos, 3/20/2010] Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart later posts a video claiming that it proves no such incidents took place; further examination proves that the video was shot over an hour past the time of the incidents. Breitbart will offer a $100,000 contribution to the United Negro College Fund if anyone can prove to his satisfaction that the incidents occurred. After stating flatly that his video proves the incidents “didn’t happen,” Breitbart later partially retracts his denial, saying, “I’m not saying the video was conclusive proof.” Other conservatives will accuse Lewis, Carson, and Cleaver of deliberately walking through the crowd of protesters in order to provoke a reaction. [ABC News, 4/13/2010] Days later, another video surfaces, showing Cleaver walking through a crowd of angry, shouting protesters, then suddenly jerking his head back and wiping his face. [EurWeb, 3/29/2010]
Entity Tags: James Clyburn, Betsy Markey, Congressional Black Caucus, Dana Bash, Barack Obama, Barney Frank, Andrew Breitbart, Anne Caprara, Michele Bachmann, John Lewis, Emanuel Cleaver, Andre Carson
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Obama signs an executive order affirming the “Hyde Amendment,” which bars federal funding for most abortions (see September 30, 1976). The White House does not hold a press conference to highlight the signing of the order, and administration officials have acknowledged that Obama agreed to sign it to keep the support of conservative Democrats in Congress for the health care reform package. William Galston of the Brookings Institution says of the order: “The executive order found a sweet spot, which I’m surprised existed. Something that didn’t send the base of the party into a tizzy but seems to have satisfied a very important minority within the party. It was the model of win-win pragmatism.” Pro-choice activists condemn the decision to sign the order, and anti-abortion organizations insist the order does little to advance the cause of making access to abortions all but impossible. The National Organization for Women (NOW) says that Obama’s commitment to abortion rights is “shaky at best,” and adds that his willingness to sign the order demonstrates that “it is acceptable to negotiate health care on the backs of women.” NOW president Terry O’Neill says: “What we need to hear our leaders say is that the Hyde Amendment is bad law. It needs to ultimately be repealed. It hurts women.” Cardinal Francis George, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, says the order does not go far enough: “We do not understand how an executive order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.” Bart Stupak (D-MI) says that the order “protects the sanctity of life.” [Washington Post, 3/24/2010; US Catholic, 3/25/2010; Los Angeles Times, 3/25/2010]
A portion of the Northern Colorado Tea Party logo. [Source: Northern Colorado Tea Party]In the wake of tea party anti-health care reform protests that resulted in protesters verbally abusing a disabled man (see March 16, 2010), hurling racial and homophobic slurs at lawmakers, spitting on a lawmaker (see March 20, 2010), and threatening Democrats with violence (see March 24-25, 2010), the leaders of some tea party organizations condemn the harassment and threats of violence their members are producing. At the same time, these leaders say that their members are responsible for the incidents they condemn. Politico reports, “There hasn’t been any hard evidence that the reported harassment is linked to the tea party movement, but Democrats have tried to draw the link between the harassment and the sometimes-inflammatory rhetoric that tea partiers and Republicans deployed in opposing the health care overhaul.” A group of Florida tea party organizers releases a letter to Congress and President Obama saying they “stand in stark opposition to any person using derogatory characterizations, threats of violence, or disparaging terms toward members of Congress or the president.” The letter calls the tea parties “a peaceful movement,” and says its leaders denounce “all forms of violence” and “support all efforts to bring [any perpetrators] to justice and have encouraged full cooperation within our movement and have asked for the same from the members of Congress who have laid such claims.” The letter is also signed by the Florida chapter of FreedomWorks, the Washington-based lobbying group that sponsors and coordinates many tea party organizations (see April 14, 2009). FreedomWorks spokesman Brendan Steinhauser, who helps organize local tea parties around the country for FreedomWorks, issues a statement saying, “Political violence is both immoral and ineffective, and will only set the movement back.” He says he is “reminding all grassroots leaders that it’s important to focus our efforts on peaceful, political efforts like protests, office visits, letters, petitions, and of course, voting.” However, Steinhauser says, there is no evidence that tea party members have engaged in any such actions: “We must remember that the folks committing these acts are small in number, extreme in their methods, and not yet proven to be members of our movement. But we must be diligent in denouncing all acts of political violence and racism, when they occur.” A Colorado tea party coalition issues a similar statement, which reads in part, “Tea party and similar groups across Colorado are saddened tonight to hear of threats made upon Democratic lawmakers in response to the passing their recent health insurance reform legislation, specifically… Rep. Betsy Markey.” Office staffers for Markey (D-CO) have reported at least one death threat from an unidentified caller. The Colorado release states, “[I]t does not appear that these threats stemmed from those within Colorado’s tea party movement.” However: “organizers and members alike are firmly denouncing any acts of intimidation or threat. Statewide, tea party leadership has encouraged disappointed members to get involved in the political process rather than dwell on the passage of the health care bill.” Lesley Hollywood, the director of the Northern Colorado Tea Party, promises: “I can assure you that myself and my colleagues will take immediate action if any of these allegations are discovered to be connected to our organizations. At this time, our internal investigations have not revealed any correlation between the threats and the Tea Party.” [Politico, 3/25/2010; Fox News, 3/26/2010] Of the threats directed towards Markey, Hollywood says: “Tea Party and similar groups across Colorado are saddened tonight to hear of threats made upon [Markey]. Although it does not appear that these threats stemmed from those within Colorado’s tea party movement, organizers and members alike are firmly denouncing any acts of intimidation or threat.… These threats are likely coming from rogue, outside sources.” [KDVR-TV, 3/25/2010] Days before, FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon said: “If the movement gets tattooed as at all sympathetic to those [racist and homophobic] views, I won’t want to be involved in it anymore. It’s very distracting not only to our side but also to the debate and the country.” [Politico, 3/22/2010] Atlanta Tea Party co-founder Debbie Dooley, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, says: “We support peaceful means.… There are so many tea party groups that are out there.… It’s like herding cats. It’s impossible.” James Clyburn (D-SC), a Democratic House member, accuses House Republicans of egging on abusive behavior from the tea partiers. “If we participate in it, either from the balcony or on the floor of the House, you are aiding and abetting this kind of terrorism, really,” he says. Steinhauser alleges that similar threats and rhetoric have come from liberal activists, and accuses the media of ignoring those actions. [Fox News, 3/26/2010]
Entity Tags: FreedomWorks, Barack Obama, Atlanta Tea Party, Adam Brandon, Betsy Markey, Debbie Dooley, Politico, US Congress, Northern Colorado Tea Party, Brendan Steinhauser, Tea Party Patriots, James Clyburn, Lesley Hollywood
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
A Hutaree logo depicted on a shoulder patch. The initials CCR stand for ‘Colonial Christian Republic.’ [Source: BBC]Nine members of the “Hutaree,” a radical-right Christian militia organization, are charged with conspiring to kill police officers and wage war against the US. The FBI has arrested the nine members—eight men and one women—from locations throughout the Midwest, and are still searching for a tenth member, and charge them with “seditious conspiracy” and other crimes. The FBI alleges that the Hutaree members planned to kill a police officer in Michigan and then stage a second attack on the funeral, using landmines and roadside bombs or IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The arrests come after an 18-month investigation and a series of FBI raids on properties in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, after concluding that the group was planning a reconnaissance exercise. Attorney General Eric Holder says: “The indictment… outlines an insidious plan by anti-government extremists to murder a law enforcement officer in order to lure police from across the nation to the funeral where they would be attacked with explosive devices. Thankfully, this alleged plot has been thwarted and a severe blow has been dealt to a dangerous organisation that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States.” [CNN, 3/28/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 3/29/2010; BBC, 3/30/2010; Newsweek, 4/12/2010] The nine arrested are David Brian Stone of Clayton, Michigan, the leader of the group; David Brian Stone Jr. of Adrian, Michigan; Joshua Matthew Stone of Clayton; Tina Mae Stone of Clayton; Joshua John Clough of Blissfield, Michigan; Michael David Meeks of Manchester, Michigan; Kristopher T. Sickles of Sandusky, Ohio; Jacob J. Ward of Huron, Ohio; and Thomas W. Piatek of Hammond, Indiana. The FBI recovers 46 guns, two .50-caliber rifles, and 13,000 rounds of ammunition from Piatek’s home. All are denied bail in federal court. [Indiana Post-Tribune, 4/4/2010]
FBI Alerted of 'Trouble' in 2009 - The indictment cites “a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent”; the Detroit News reports that one of the nine defendants, through her lawyer, says she believes a member of another militia group reported the Hutaree’s plans to the FBI. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/2010] It will later emerge that in 2009, residents of Adrian, Michigan, contacted the FBI over their concerns that Stone was planning something violent. Even local militia members were worried, and one militia member decided to infiltrate the group on behalf of the FBI. In the fall of 2009, the FBI learned that the Hutarees were building bombs, and the bureau sent its own undercover agent inside the group. The undercover agent actually offered to make the bombs; senior FBI agent Andrew Arena says that the benefit of that offer was in placing the FBI in charge of the explosives. “We were very fortunate to be able to insert an individual who was able to kind of take that role,” Arena says. “It certainly let me sleep a little better at night.” The agent went to meetings with surveillance devices to make audio recordings of the proceedings, and taped a February 2010 conversation in which Stone declared that he was sure local police “would fight right alongside some Chinese trooper. Heck, yeah. It’s all about power. It’s about the authority. They see us as the little people.” Stone and the other members of his group believe that the US government is planning on using foreign troops to impose martial law and tyranny on American citizens. During the same conversation, in which Stone read a speech he planned to give at an upcoming militia gathering in Kentucky, Stone said: “Now, we need to quit playing this game with these elitist terrorists and actually get serious, because this war will come whether we are ready or not. A war of this magnitude will not be easy. But like the rattlesnake on the Gadsden flag, we have rattled and warned the new world order (see September 11, 1990). Now it’s time to strike and take our nation back.” Arena says that while Stone has the constitutional right to say such things, “when you start taking action towards that government,” a citizen crosses the line into conspiracy to commit a crime. “In this case, we’re defining it as they started to plan how they were going to ignite the war.” When another Hutaree member asked for the help of a local militia headed by David Servino in building bombs and planning attacks, Servino says, “[w]e talked about it, and we decided as a group to go to the State Police Department—this local here—and talk to them, tell them what little information we had.” A day after Servino’s group informed the state police, the FBI began making its arrests. [National Public Radio, 4/12/2010]
Extremist, Violent Ideology - A Hutaree Web site shows video footage of military-style training exercises and describes the members as “Christian warriors.” The site tells visitors that the Hutaree are preparing to defend themselves upon the arrival of the Antichrist, “for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.… The Hutaree will one day see its enemy and meet him on the battlefield if so God wills it.” The FBI describes the Hutaree as an “anti-government extremist organization” advocating violence against the police in its indictment of the members; the group perceives the police as an arm of the US government [CNN, 3/28/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 3/29/2010; BBC, 3/30/2010] , which it calls ZOG—the “Zionist Occupied Government.” There is some dispute in the media as to the origin of the name “Hutaree.” One source believes it may originate from the word “Hutriel,” which translates to “rod of God.” Hutriel is one of the seven angels of punishment and helps in the “punishment of the 10 nations,” according to tradition. [Basil and Spice (.com), 4/6/2010] They label the police “the Brotherhood.” According to the Michigan Hutaree theology, which they call “the doctrine of the Hutaree,” former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana is the Antichrist. The Hutaree’s exalted commander is called a “radok”; deputies and lieutenants are known as “boromanders” and “zulifs.” [Newsweek, 4/12/2010] Stone’s ex-fiancee, Andrea March, recalls Stone as a “Ron Paul fanatic,” referring to Ron Paul (R-TX) the libertarian House member whom many see as an ideological “father” of many “tea party” organizations. Appearing on Fox News, March tells an interviewer that Stone is a fanatical Paul supporter who feared that President Obama intended to take away his guns. “When Obama took the presidency is when he lost it because he was a Ron Paul fanatic,” she says. Asked what Paul has to do with Stone’s thinking and actions, she replies: “To tell you the truth I don’t know. I never really understood why Ron Paul was so much different, but [Stone] thought he could get away with anything and he wanted more freedoms than what he had and he was trying to do it through the violence.… [H]e clearly believed in guns and having them and he didn’t think. He didn’t want to have a driver’s license, he didn’t want to fill out any census papers. He wanted to own guns unregistered.” [Crooks and Liars, 3/30/2010]
Leader, Group Well Known for Violent Expressions - The group leader, Stone, is called “Captain Hutaree” by his colleagues, or, cryptically, “RD.” The indictment names Stone as the “principal leader” of the organization. According to media reports, Stone has a strong affinity for the most violent of the far-right fringes of the American militia movement. His first wife, Donna Stone, tells reporters she left him because he “got carried away.” Federal authorities say that he researched how to build IEDs and roadside bombs on the Internet, and emailed diagrams of the devices to someone he believed could actually build such devices. And one neighbor, Phyllis Bruger, says she and others learned not to “mess with” Stone and his group. They liked to conduct “military exercises” and shoot guns, usually wearing camouflage outfits. “Everybody knew they were militia,” she says. Donna Stone tells reporters: “It started out as a Christian thing. You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far. He dragged a lot of people with him. When he got carried away, when he went from handguns to big guns, I was done.” Her son, Joshua Stone, who was adopted by David Stone, was arrested with David Stone after helping him gather materials necessary for making the bombs. Donna Stone adds: “He dragged a lot of innocent people down with him. It started to get worse when they were talking about the world’s gonna end in the Bible.” The indictment says, “Stone taught other Hutaree members how to make and use explosive devices intending or knowing that the information would be used to further a crime of violence.”
Too Far for Other Militia Groups - Other militia organizations in Michigan kept their distance from the local Hutaree, says Jim Gulliksen of the Lenawee Volunteer Michigan Militia (the same group that Servino founded and that informed police of the Hutaree plot). “I’ve met him,” Gulliksen says. “He’s an opinionated man who likes to share those opinions. The Hutaree is a nationwide group, but I have met a couple of the members here, and I can say they all belong to one specific church. Our concern is the protection of our nation. Religion appears to be a big part of what they are doing.” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center says the SPLC is aware of two Hutaree chapters, one in Utah and Stone’s chapter in Michigan. She notes Hutaree has more than 350 friends on its MySpace page, dozens of whom are members of other militias, and says that Stone was planning to attend a summit in Kentucky with other militias next month. “Hutaree is not an isolated crew,” she notes. Beinrich says that Stone and his colleagues see “the end of times” occurring today: “They have extreme antigovernment beliefs. They have rage and hatred for the federal government. They fear being put in FEMA concentration camps. They’re really paramilitary organizations.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/29/2010] William Flatt, a founder of the Indiana Militia, is also aware of Stone and the Hutaree. He is not surprised at the arrests. “We had a strong suspicion that groups like this would be getting some rather substantial bad press fairly quickly,” Flatt tells a reporter. Flatt says that unlike the Hutaree, his and most militia groups support and defend the US Constitution. “The whole militia movement is supposed to be a goal-line defense against tyranny,” Flatt says. “If all else fails, the people still have the means to shoehorn [the government] back into the constitutional mold.” The Michigan Hutaree’s plans to kill police officers, Flatt says, is abhorrent to his group, and he warns that it is a mistake to lump all American militias in with extremist, violent groups such as Stone’s. Flatt disliked Stone’s views, which he says focus on his interpretation of Christianity and also express bigotry against others. However, he is skeptical of the charges against some of Stone’s followers. “The charges they’re putting out there, it only ends one way,” he says. “You might as well put yourself in the Alamo; nobody wants to do that.” [Indiana Post-Tribune, 4/4/2010] Arena says that while Stone’s group might have considered itself a part of a larger, sympathetic coterie of like-minded organizations, it was mistaken. “These guys may have felt in their mind that they were a part of this brotherhood,” he says. “The reality is I don’t think they’ve got a whole lot of support.” [Associated Press, 4/2/2010]
Lawyer Insists No Crime Committed - Stone’s lawyer, William Swor, says there is no evidence the group ever took steps to implement any of the alleged plots. Instead, he says, the group is being persecuted over the exercise of constitutionally protected speech. “This is still America and people can say whatever they want,” he says. [Newsweek, 4/12/2010]
Entity Tags: Tina Mae Stone, Thomas W. Piatek, Southern Poverty Law Center, William Flatt, William Swor, Detroit News, Andrea March, David Brian Stone, Ron Paul, David Servino, Andrew Arena, Barack Obama, Phyllis Bruger, David Brian Stone, Jr, Lenawee Volunteer Michigan Militia, Heidi Beirich, Hutaree, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Donna Stone, Michael David Meeks, Indiana Militia, Eric Holder, Jacob J. Ward, Joshua John Clough, Kristopher T. Sickles, Joshua Matthew Stone, Javier Solana, Jim Gulliksen
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Christian Science Monitor reporter Mark Guarino delves into some of the reasons why Michigan has such a high concentration of militia, anti-government, and other extremist groups within its borders. The analysis comes in the aftermath of the arrest of nine members of the Hutaree, a violent Christian group whom the FBI says were planning on murdering one or more police officers (see March 27-30, 2010). Michigan has 47 known militia or “patriot” groups, second in the nation behind Texas (which contains 57 such groups). These numbers come from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights organization that tracks hate group activity. The SPLC says dozens of new militia and “patriot” groups have begun since the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president; between 2008 and 2009, the SPLC says, the number of groups throughout the country has grown from 149 to 512 (see March 2, 2010). The Michigan branch of the Hutaree is one of the most violent and far-right of these groups, the SPLC says, but Michigan and the entire Upper Midwest has become a hotbed of “patriot” activity. Chip Berlet, an analyst for Political Research Associates, says: “There are a number of regional factors that, over time and at various moments, helped the militia movement take hold in different parts of the country. It certainly has emerged strongly in the upper Midwest.” Indiana has 21 such groups, Wisconsin and Ohio 13 each, and Illnois 10, according to SPLC figures. Michigan has a long history of such activity, according to SPLC official Heidi Beirich. Many of Michigan’s most prominent militia groups, including the Michigan Militia, came into being during the term in office of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. The Michigan Militia gained notoriety when the media found ties between it and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, January 1995, 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995, and April 21, 1995). Militia activity in Michigan dwindled during the Bush presidency, but with Obama as president, has risen sharply. The Hutaree members were able to attract some members of less openly violent groups such as the Michigan Militia, though spokesmen for that group say that their organization rejects the Christian survivalist doctrine of the Hutaree. Beirich says, “The roots of militia activity are there [in Michigan], so if you want to organize something you know who to call.” Experts say a combination of factors contribute to the rise in militias: a troubled economy, changing roles within the traditional family structure, and shifts in the racial makeup of the country’s population. Berlet notes that shared anxiety among lower-to-middle-class people is often a catalyst for generating conspiracy theories, which have the potency to provoke people to take up arms and commit violence. “The candidacy of Obama—when it looked to become serious—prompted a lot of anxiety, and the anxiety continued to rise up to the inauguration,” says Berlet. “This is really getting out of hand,” Berlet says. “It’s a serious problem when people decide the solution to political problems lies in arming themselves and going underground.” He concludes: “While you can look at the Republicans and right wing and say, ‘You let things go too far,’ the Democrats use very demonizing language and aren’t interested in a policy debate, either. They’ve been interested in bashing the Republicans and right wing as crazy and ignorant. So it’s a mess.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/30/2010] Former federal prosecutor Aitan Goelman, who helped convict McVeigh of the Oklahoma City bombing, suggests that the true danger of groups like the Hutaree and other militias is not from the groups themselves, but from the risk of these groups’ inflammatory declarations and actions sparking violence from so-called “lone wolves,” who like McVeigh are not necessarily active members of any such groups, but whose actions go farther than most groups ever intend. Goelman notes that in 1995, a Democrat was president, just as today; Clinton pushed through a controversial federal assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994) and Obama has successfully implemented an equally controversial health care reform package; and, both then and now, extremists on the right are warning of an impending government takeover. “On the edges” of political discourse today, Goelman says, “you have rhetoric that carries over to extreme factions.” He continues, “Anytime you have group-think and this churning of ridiculous ideas back and forth, eventually you’ll get someone like McVeigh who’s going to say, ‘I’m going to take the mantle of leadership and fire the shot heard around the world and start the second American revolution.’” McVeigh considered the Michigan Militia “too moderate” and himself as a “man of action” who wanted to go farther than these groups. “I think [his associations with militias] put a battery in the pack,” Goelman says. “Some of this is fantasy. I think the idea that it is kind of fun to talk about a UN tank on your front lawn and the New World Order (see September 11, 1990)… but when someone blows up a building and kills 19 kids in a day-care center, it’s not so glamorous anymore,” he says, referring to the Oklahoma City incident. “The reality of murdering innocent people ends up far less glorious than striking the blow.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/31/2010]
Entity Tags: Timothy James McVeigh, Chip Berlet, Bush administration (43), Barack Obama, Aitan Goelman, Christian Science Monitor, Michigan Militia, Clinton administration, Hutaree, Heidi Beirich, Southern Poverty Law Center, Mark Guarino
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
A US District Court judge awards damages in a lawsuit, finding the NSA illegally monitored the calls of the plaintiffs. The Al Haramain Islamic Foundation and two of its lawyers, Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor, sued the US government in 2006 based on evidence that their calls had been monitored; the US Treasury Department inadvertently provided them with an NSA log in August 2004 showing their calls had been monitored in May of that year (see February 28, 2006). In defending against the suit, the Justice Department argued, first under President Bush and then under President Obama, that the case should be dismissed based on the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege (see March 9, 1953) concerning the NSA log, and that the plaintiffs could not otherwise demonstrate that surveillance had occurred, meaning the plaintiffs had no standing to bring suit. Judge Vaughn Walker rejected these arguments, noting that the plaintiffs had introduced into evidence a speech posted on FBI’s Web site by FBI Deputy Director John Pistole to the American Bankers Association (ABA), in which he said that surveillance had been used to develop a case by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) against Al-Haramain, and Congressional testimony by Bush administration officials that disclosed the manner in which electronic surveillance was conducted. In the summary of his decision, Vaughn wrote, “[The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA takes precedence over the state secrets privilege in this case,” and “defendants have failed to meet their burden to [provide] evidence that a FISA warrant was obtained, that plaintiffs were not surveilled or that the surveillance was otherwise lawful.” [Al-Haramain v. Obama, 3/31/2010; Washington Post, 4/1/2010, pp. A04]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Asim Ghafoor, Anthony J. Coppolino, Alberto R. Gonzales, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (Oregon branch), “Justice Department”, Barack Obama, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, Suliman al-Buthe, Keith Alexander, Eric Holder, US Department of the Treasury, Wendell Belew, Vaughn Walker, National Security Agency
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) sends what the Anti-Defamation League calls “a virulently anti-Semitic DVD” to Jewish organizations and individuals around the nation, in what apparently is an escalation of its recent spate of attacks on Jews (see April 2009). The DVD also attacks President Obama, calling him the “anti-Christ,” and includes vehemently anti-gay and anti-Catholic rhetoric. [Anti-Defamation League, 2012]
American Grand Jury logo. [Source: Post & Email (.com)]Walter Fitzpatrick, a Tennessee resident and leading member of a right-wing group called “American Grand Jury” (AGJ), walks into a county courthouse in Madisonville, Tennessee, and informs the foreman of a grand jury, Gary Pettway, that he is under “citizen’s arrest.” Fitzpatrick tells Pettway: “I’m charging you with official misconduct. I’m placing you under arrest. You must now come with me.” AGJ has attempted and failed to convene a grand jury to investigate President Obama for voter fraud, a charge stemming from AGJ’s belief that Obama is not a natural-born US citizen (see October 8-10, 2008). Fitzpatrick says that Pettway has violated state laws governing the length of time a grand jury foreman can serve, and this precipitated his efforts to “arrest” him. The foreman refuses to accompany Fitzpatrick; instead, local law enforcement officials arrest Fitzpatrick for disorderly conduct, inciting to riot, disrupting a meeting, and resisting arrest. Fitzpatrick is jailed for several days. Fellow AGJ member Carl Swensson posts about Fitzpatrick’s incarceration on his Web site, telling site visitors that Fitzpatrick has “put his life on the line for us in very much the same fashion that our founding fathers did.” Swensson then asks: “What do you intend to do for him, and for this country? If we don’t come to his assistance, if we don’t get to the courthouse, if we don’t call him, if we don’t walk and march on that courthouse and that sheriff’s department, we don’t deserve the freedoms we have.… Get down there, get him out of jail, and make sure that justice is served.” [Carl Swensson, 4/5/2010; TPM Muckraker, 5/6/2010; Crooks and Liars, 5/6/2010] A militia member will later be arrested as part of an abortive attempt to “take over” the Madisonville courthouse and free Fitzpatrick (see April 20, 2010 and After).
Erlyndon Lo, as shown on a Dallas TV news broadcast. [Source: Above the Law (.com)]Erlyndon Joseph Lo, a law school graduate living in Plano, Texas, is arrested and charged with threatening to use deadly force against a Dallas women’s clinic. He faces up to six years in prison if convicted. The day before, Lo went to the Plano federal courthouse and filed a document affirming that at noon that day he planned to go to the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center in Dallas and “use deadly force to defend the innocent life of another human being.” His filing reads in part (all emphases in the original): “My life is at stake. I could be MURDERED AND KILLED as early as Friday, April 2, 2010 at 12:00 p.m. NOON in Dallas, Texas (‘TX’) if you do not IMMEDIATELY GRANT MY REQUEST for in the very least a TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER!!! I plan on saving at least one human life in Dallas, Texas at 12:00 p.m. at the Southwestern late-term abortion facility, 8616 Greenville Ave. at Royal Ln. (NE corner), Dallas 75243. My religious beliefs include the beliefs that an individual is alive at the moment of conception, abortion is murder and is the worst murder of all murders possible because these babies are completely defenseless, and I am entitled under my religious beliefs to use deadly force if necessary to save the innocent life of another.… I will try to stop an abortion using oral words, and if words are not enough. I will use physical force if necessary, and if anyone tries to physically stop me, I will overcome that force, and if I must use deadly force to defend the innocent life of another human being, I will.” In essence, Lo attempted to secure a restraining order to prevent law enforcement officers from interfering with his use of violence against clinic workers. Instead of issuing the order, court officials informed the FBI and Lo is quickly arrested. Dallas FBI spokesman Mark White says: “We won’t tolerate threats to clinics. We acted swiftly to ensure that no one was injured and that no act of violence actually did take place.” FBI agents say that, sometime in mid-March, a man matching Lo’s description went to the same clinic demanding to know if his wife had had an abortion there; clinic officials refused to divulge any such information. On March 18, Lo sued Chief Justice John Roberts, in a filing written in his own handwriting and naming himself as his own lawyer, demanding that Roberts order the Supreme Court to immediately stop all abortions throughout the nation. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/5/2010; Dallas Morning News, 4/6/2010] (Lo also asks for ”$999 trillion in damages” and $1,000 an hour for his attorney’s fees.) [Kashmir Hill, 4/6/2010] The FBI notes that during his visits to the clerk of court’s office, “Lo exhibited erratic behavior, including raising his voice at members of the clerk’s office, obsessively washing his hands in the public restroom, and sitting in a court witness room in the dark without authorization to enter the room.” On his Web site, Lo is harshly critical of abortion, predicting he will win his lawsuit against the Supreme Court, and notes that he “challenged President Barack Obama to a public debate on abortion, which he lost by not responding.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/5/2010; Dallas Morning News, 4/6/2010] Author and filmmaker Roxann MtJoy, writing for the progressive Women’s Rights blog, observes: “Anti-choicers, in general, do not scare me. While I may passionately disagree with their ideology and often their tactics, they are more irritating than anything else. Lo, however, scares me. He scares me because he believes, much like Scott Roeder (see May 31, 2009), that his opinion justifies violence. He believes he has the moral authority to kill those who stand in opposition to him.” [Women's Rights, 4/13/2010]
The non-partisan FactCheck.org, an organization sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, examines a claim being promulgated in a recent series of chain emails. The emails claim that President Obama has the ability, under the newly passed health care reform legislation, to create his own “private army” of 6,000 soldiers. The email states in part: “Obama Just Got His Private Army. Were you aware of the fact that the health care bill created a civilian army? A Ready Reserve Corps for service in time of national emergency. All commissioned officers shall be citizens of the United States and shall be appointed without regard to the civil-service laws (which means they will not be sworn to uphold the Constitution) and compensated without regard to the Classification Act 2 of 1923, as amended. Remember when Obama said he wanted a ‘national security force’? Not the national guard, but a civilian one that has not sworn to uphold the Constitution?” The email references then-presidential candidate Obama’s July 2008 speech, where he advocated the creation of “a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the US military. Obama was talking about strengthening organizations such as the Peace Corps, Americorps, the USA Freedom Corps, and the State Department’s foreign service arm. (Republican lawmakers such as Michele Bachmann have accused Obama of wanting to turn Americorps into “re-education camps” designed to brainwash American children—see March 31, 2009). Since then, some have insisted that Obama wants to create a privately operated “national security force” answerable only to himself. They believe that Section 5210 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care overhaul recently signed into law, gives Obama just such power. The US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps now has the power to create and eventually deploy a “Ready Reserve Corps,” under the control of the surgeon general and designed specifically to help the Public Health Service (PHS) respond quickly and effectively to emergencies such as natural disasters. The Commissioned Corps has integrated the former, quite small reserve corps into itself, expanding its numbers to some 6,600 personnel—mostly doctors, nurses, scientists, and medical professionals. The new Ready Reserve is intended to augment the Commissioned Corp when the government sends response teams to offer assistance in areas that are stricken by natural disasters such as floods or hurricanes, or in the case of sudden pandemic outbreaks of dangerous diseases such as H1N1. The Reserve Corps is still being formulated, but PHS officials anticipate the number of Reserve Corps members as being in the neighborhood of several thousand. Most will be public health professionals. Jerry Farrell, executive director of the Commissioned Officers Association, says that the Ready Reserve can help the PHS avoid situations such as what happened after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, when so many members of the regular and reserve corps were dispatched to New Orleans and other areas hit by the hurricane that “the corps discovered, for instance, that they had deployed a whole surgical clinic of the Indian Health Service.” FactCheck concludes “there is absolutely no support for this chain email’s speculation that uniformed members of the Public Health Service would be ordered to give ‘lethal injections’ (a.k.a. vaccinations) to ‘unworthy people.’” [FactCheck (.org), 4/7/2010]
Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin, in a screenshot taken from his March 30 statement as recorded on YouTube. [Source: credit YouTube / CBS News]Army doctor Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Lee “Terry” Lakin is ordered to face a court-martial for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan. Lakin claims that because President Obama is not a US citizen, he does not recognize Obama’s authority to give orders as commander in chief. Lakin, ordered this week to report to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, refused to go to the Kentucky Army base, and instead went to the Pentagon, where he was confronted by his brigade commander, Colonel Gordon Roberts, a Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient. Roberts read Lakin his Miranda rights and told him he faces a court-martial; Lakin’s Pentagon building pass and government laptop computer were seized. Lakin faces a dishonorable discharge if convicted. On a March 30 video statement posted on YouTube, Lakin said: “I believe all servicemen and women, and the American people, deserve the truth about President Obama’s constitutional eligibility to the office of the presidency and the commander in chief.… Seeking out public office, especially the highest in our land, means you must uphold the Constitution, Mr. President, and confirm your eligibility.… The minimal invasion to any politician’s privacy from having to show an original, signed birth certificate is far less than the harms to our country by someone not qualified whose election would thus subvert the law and the truth.” In the video, he promised to “disobey” orders to deploy, and acknowledged he was “inviting” a court-martial. Lakin won a Bronze Star for meritorious service during a previous tour in Afghanistan. [MSNBC, 4/13/2010; New York Daily News, 4/14/2010; Politico, 4/14/2010; CBS News, 4/15/2010] Lakin’s legal defense fund is being coordinated by a “birther” group called the American Patriot Foundation. According to Army spokesman George Wright, Lakin will be reassigned to duty at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington pending an investigation into whether he violated two provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: missing the movement of a unit and violating an order. [Politico, 4/14/2010]
Lawyer and “birther” activist Orly Taitz (see November 12, 2008 and After, March 13, 2009, July 8-16, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, September 16-21, 2009, October 13-16, 2009, October 29, 2009, April 16, 2010, July 7 - August 16, 2010, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011) is “disinvited” to an upcoming Tax Day Tea Party rally in Pleasanton, California. Several Republican political candidates, including Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, are scheduled to speak at the rally, but after they complain about Taitz’s inclusion, she is removed from the slate of speakers. Bridget Melson, founder and president of the Pleasanton Tea Party, says the organization had been “getting calls from candidates like crazy.” She explains: “It’s not worth it. She’s too controversial. This is not what the tea party is about at this point.” Taitz herself is running for California secretary of state, a position that would presumably give her the power to block President Obama from being on the ballot in 2012 if she were to win the post. Fiorina, along with a representative of Senate candidate Chuck DeVore, and several congressional and state legislative candidates are scheduled to speak at the Pleasanton rally. Josh Trevino, a DeVore spokesperson, says, “I can say emphatically that the Chuck DeVore campaign and Chuck DeVore himself strongly disapproves of Orly Taitz and the crazy theories she continues to advance.” Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund says, “President Obama is absolutely eligible for the presidency and is a natural-born United States citizen.” She notes that Fiorina staunchly opposes most of Obama’s policies. At least one scheduled speaker, House candidate John Dennis, told organizers that if Taitz were retained on the slate, he would withdraw entirely. “The presence of a discredited publicity seeker on the same platform with patriotic Americans distorts the focus of our movement, distracts from our common message, and gives ammunition to those who continue to question our legitimacy,” Dennis told organizers. At least one rally attendee, Tom Del Beccaro of the California Republican Party, says Taitz’s questions about Obama’s citizenship may be valid: “I certainly don’t have enough information to decide that (see June 13, 2008). I’ve never seen yay or nay either way, so how could I know?” Taitz has caused controversy in her current race for secretary of state, questioning the legitimacy of her Republican primary opponent, real estate entrepreneur Damon Dunn, and accusing Republicans of supporting Dunn over her solely because he is African-American. [Los Angeles Times, 4/13/2010]
Entity Tags: Josh Trevino, Bridget Melson, Barack Obama, Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore, Julie Soderlund, Orly Taitz, John Dennis, Pleasanton Tea Party, Tom Del Beccaro, Damon Dunn
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that the 18 percent of Americans identifying themselves as tea party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public. They tend to be Republican, white, male, married, and older than 45. They tend to be more conservative than “mainstream” Republicans, and describe themselves as “very conservative” and President Obama as “very liberal.” Most Republicans term themselves as “dissatisfied” with Washington, but tea party supporters tend to classify themselves as “angry.” Most tea partiers tend to describe their individual or household tax burden as “fair,” though they tend to dislike taxation in general. Most send their children to public schools. Most support Medicare and Social Security, though they support the idea of smaller government. Where they tend to diverge from the general public is in their deep pessimism about the direction of the country, and their conviction that the Obama administration is bent on helping the poor at the expense of the middle class and the wealthy. The vast majority of tea party supporters say Obama does not share American values and knows little about the problems of people like themselves. A quarter of the responding supporters say that Obama favors blacks over whites, as opposed to 11 percent of the general public, and they are more likely than the general public to believe that “too much has been made of the problems facing black people.” Three things primarily fuel their anger at Washington: health care reform, government spending, and their feeling that Washington lawmakers ignore their concerns. Retired Florida lawyer Elwin Thrasher says in an interview: “The only way they will stop the spending is to have a revolt on their hands. I’m sick and tired of them wasting money and doing what our founders never intended to be done with the federal government.” Over 90 percent of tea party supporters believe the country is heading down the wrong path, as contrasted with some 60 percent of the general population, and almost 90 percent say Obama is doing a poor job heading the country. That same percentage say he has mishandled health care, the economy, and the federal deficit. Ninety-two percent say Obama wants to make the US a socialist state. Retired medical transcriber Kathy Mayhugh says: “I just feel he’s getting away from what America is. He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, January 11, 2008, January 22-24, 2008, April 18, 2008, June 27, 2008, October 10-11, 2008, September 24, 2010, and April 27, 2011). While most Americans blame the Bush administration or Wall Street for the current economic status, a majority of tea party supporters blame Congress, focusing much of that blame on Congressional Democrats. They vote almost unanimously Republican. Fifty-seven percent of tea party supporters say they hold a favorable opinion of former President George W. Bush, while almost the same percentage of the general public see Bush unfavorably. Most tea party supporters say they want to focus on economic issues ahead of social issues such as gay rights and abortion restrictions, and say the movement should focus first on shrinking the federal government, ahead of reducing the deficit or lowering taxes. Almost 75 percent of tea party supporters say domestic program spending should be reduced, though most do not want Medicare or Social Security cut. California tea party supporter Jodine White, 62, says of her view on federal spending: “That’s a conundrum, isn’t it? I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.… I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.” [New York Times, 4/14/2010]
Dave Schwartz, the Maryland state director for the lobbying organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004, February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, and April 2009 and After), which funds and directs many tea party organizations, writes an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun praising the tea party movement for its successes and calling for it to eschew the conspiracy theories (see February 4-8, 2010, February 15, 2010, August 24, 2010, September 2010, October 19, 2010, and August 17, 2011) that have often characterized it up to this point. “We must distance ourselves from ‘birthers,’ ‘truthers,’ and those who wish to use our enthusiasm for unrelated causes,” he writes, referring to two popular theories: that President Obama is not an American citizen, and that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by members of the Bush administration or others in the federal government. “President Barack Obama was born in the United States and was elected by a majority of voters. He is a father and a husband, and he has reached the pinnacle of his career through hard work and determination. We simply have a philosophical disagreement with him about the role of government in society. The tea party should fight the president’s and governor’s big-government policies with thoughtful solutions, not personal attacks.” He concludes by advising readers that “[f]or this movement to be a lasting political force, we must remain independent,” apparently referring to calls by Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich for the tea party movement to join the GOP (see February 16, 2010 and April 21, 2010). [Baltimore Sun, 4/15/2010]
Author Amity Shlaes is one of 13 people interviewed by the New York Times about their perceptions of the tea party movement. [Source: National Review]The New York Times, in light of a recent poll showing American tea party supporters to be whiter, wealthier, and more conservative than average Americans (see April 14, 2010), interviews a number of prominent historians, journalists, and political analysts about their views on the tea party.
Tea Party Very Similar to Anti-Liberal Organizations of Generations Past - Rick Perlstein, the biographer of former president Richard Nixon and former Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), writes of his “frustration” at “watching the rise of the tea party movement,” calling it “ugly” and in opposition to “so many of the values I hold dear.” He notes the “overwhelming historical myopia” of the news media’s coverage of the tea party, saying that the current movement is comprised of “the same angry, ill-informed, overwhelmingly white, crypto-corporate paranoiacs that accompany every ascendancy of liberalism within US government” (see February 4-8, 2010, February 15, 2010, September 2010, and August 17, 2011). Perlstein quotes conservative activist Brent Bozell asking, “When was the last time you saw such a spontaneous eruption of conservative grass-roots anger, coast to coast?” and responds: “The answer, of course, is: in 1993. And 1977. And 1961. And so on. And so yet much of the commentariat takes Bozell at his word, reading what is happening as striking and new.” Perlstein writes that the parallels between the current tea party movement and the previous movements opposing the Roosevelt, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton administrations “are uncanny.… The only thing that changes is the name of the enemy within.” In 1963, accusations flew that President Kennedy was “in bed” with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to bring socialism to America; today, the accusations are that the “Muslim terrorist” President Obama wants to bring socialism to America, perhaps with the aid of Islamist terror groups. Perlstein says that in years past, the media was far more unflinching at labeling the reactionaries as “fringe” elements. “[B]ack then, they covered the story with much more moral courage and civic wisdom.” Now, Perlstein writes, the media fawns over tea party leaders and the right-wing commentators who promote them (see August 11, 2009).
'Sullen, Defensive Mobilization' of Wealthier Americans who Fear the Poor - Author Michael Lind, the policy director of the centrist New America Foundation, advises Republicans and Democrats both to “ignore this faux populist base of the GOP and focus instead on the genuine swing voters.” Tea partiers, Lind writes, are not “[p]itchfork-wielding populists,” but are closer to “the affluent members of the Liberty League who vilified President Roosevelt in the 1930s (see August 23, 1934 and After)—a sullen, defensive mobilization of the Have-Somes who dread the Have-Nots. The tea partiers put the ‘petty’ in petty bourgeoisie. They are disgruntled conservative Fox Republicans.”
Tea Parties Focusing on Constitutional Issues - Author Steven F. Hayward, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, lauds the tea parties as primarily focused on economic and constitutional issues (see May 2010), and more supportive of gay rights, abortion rights, and limited gun restrictions than the media may admit. Hayward writes that he is surprised that most tea partiers are “more economically secure than the general population” and better-educated than the average American: “[T]he narrative that the tea partiers are a bunch of pitchfork populist rubes becomes harder to maintain.” Racism does not permeate the tea parties, Hayward argues (see February 27, 2009, April 2009, July 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 11, 2009, September 2009, September 14, 2009, October 15, 2009 and After, January 14, 2010, February 2010, March 20, 2010, March 25, 2010, March 26, 2010, May 14, 2010, July 13, 2010, July 14, 2010, July 15, 2010, July 17-18, 2010, August 6, 2010, August 24, 2010, August 24, 2010, September 11, 2010, September 12, 2010, October 10, 2010, October 19, 2010, April 15, 2011, April 16, 2011, May 5, 2011, July 29, 2011 and After, August 22-30, 2011, and December 10, 2011), “though there is some evidence of polarization that is a problem for the tea party as a movement.” Hayward opines that such racism that can be documented in tea party members “is likely an aspect of party politics today.” He also states that tea party supporters do not believe the “birther” conspiracy theory that Obama is not an American citizen any more than the average American, a statement at odds with many other analyses of tea party ideologies (see October 2008, January 8, 2009, June 4, 2009, February 4-8, 2010, February 15, 2010, September 2010, April 13-15, 2011, and July 1-2, 2011), even though the poll shows that only 41 percent of the tea party supporters believe that Obama is a “natural-born citizen.” The driving factor behind so many Americans with no previous history of political involvement is, he writes, the fact that most tea party members “are moderates who are simply shocked by Obama’s great leap forward in the size of government,” and he compares the tea parties to the third-party backers of presidential candidate H. Ross Perot in 1992. He concludes, “The real promise of the tea party movement is that it may lead to a reinvigoration of the idea of constitutional limits on government—an idea liberals may find quaint if not hopelessly obsolete.”
Long-Discredited 'Radical Right' Views Propelling Tea Parties - Author and university professor Alan Wolfe, a self-described liberal, derides the tea parties as little more than a repackaged version of the “radical right” which has long been a part of America’s body politic. The tea party movement, Wolfe writes, has given “American intellectuals whose views have been out of fashion for some time” a new platform with which to express their ideas. The same ideas that drove the McCarthyite “Red scare” of the 1950s are driving the tea parties today, Wolfe writes, and points to the increasing involvement of organizations such as the John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961) in the tea party movement (see July 22, 2007, August 4, 2008, October 10, 2008, April 13, 2009, April 19, 2010, and August 24, 2010). Like the people who support the JBS both now and in the 1950s, tea partiers are driven “not so much to their economic circumstances as to their status anxieties.” They fear the changing, increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan society around them, and dislike, or sometimes even hate, the seeming “encroachment” of minorities and lower-class Americans on their lives. Wolfe says that the idea that tea party members do not embrace racist values any more than other Americans is specious; their poll responses can be explained, he writes, by noting that “people who respond to them have learned to hide their true feelings.” He concludes: “At the risk of sounding condescending, these people have lost all perspective. They know how to kvetch. They know nothing about what makes their country great. Instead of watching Glenn Beck, I would urge them to learn more about their country’s history—or to go and see a shrink.”
Using Coded Appeals to Race - Law professor Paul Butler writes that while most tea partiers are “more uber-Republicans than Klansmen,” the organizations are very good at using racist “code words” to appeal to racist whites while maintaining plausible deniability about their inherent appeal to racist politics. “The tea party is smart enough not to frame its agenda around white supremacy, but the code words are there,” he writes “[T]he most virulent anti-Obama force in the country is smart enough not to frame its agenda around white supremacy—at least not explicitly.” While most tea partiers were clever enough not to indicate that they were bluntly racist in the poll results, the fact that a strong majority of them “believe that too much has been made of the problems that African-Americans face, and that the administration favors blacks over whites,” is quite telling, Butler writes. “Overwhelmingly they believe that Barack Obama doesn’t share the needs and problems of people like them, or the values of ‘most Americans.’ These code words have been around long enough, everybody gets them.”
Poll Does Not Support Idea that Tea Partiers Embrace Bigotry - Author and columnist Amity Shlaes writes that the poll numbers do not support the “media stereotype” that tea party supporters “are racist or intolerant. The media depicts tea partiers as bigots who look down on minorities, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.” Similarly, she argues, the poll results do not support the idea that tea party supporters believe Obama is a Muslim any more than average Americans do. As the tea party organizers claim, the movement is largely about economics, Shales writes.
Fear of Loss of Control - History professor and author Alan Brinkley calls the tea party “the party of me,” and compares its members demographically to the Americans who supported the McCarthyite “Red scare” inquisitions and the Clinton-era Whitewater investigations—predominantly white males, significantly wealthier than the average American, far more conservative than the mainstream, and fearful of the prospect that conservative white males might not continue to exert control over American society. “[W]hat seems to motivate them the most is a fear of a reduction in their own status—economically and socially,” Brinkley writes. As for their economic worries, he writes, “[T]heir concern is not the state of the economy as a whole, but their own economic conditions.” Brinkley concludes: “The real issue, I believe, is a sense among white males that they are somehow being displaced, that the country is no longer ‘theirs,’ that minorities and immigrants are becoming more and more powerful within society. And, of course, they are right about that. They just fear it more than many other Americans.”
Unrealistic Belief that Government Can Exist without Taxation - Author and former political science professor Lorenzo Morris writes that the tea party’s position on taxes is extremist: “The tea party supporters seem to think that government can exist without taxes.” The American experiment with the Articles of Confederation, which provided no real tax income at all, proves that idea to be wrong, Morris writes, but “[w]ith enough time and historical romanticism, however, bad ideas come back around.” He writes that the current appearance of the tea parties has become less “vitriolic and menacing” than their image from the summer of 2009, when their vociferous and sometimes-violent protesting of health care reform painted them as frightening and bigoted (see July 23, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, and August 11, 2009). The tea parties have begun to win the approval of right-wing Republican figures, including many of those who intend a presidential run in 2012. But, he concludes, their rigid disapproval of taxes as a concept, and taxation as a reality, means that they will inevitably “repeat the folly of those early Americans who thought there could be government with no taxes.”
Anger without Willingness to Make Real Change - Law professor Susan Estrich notes that the poll indicates a large reservoir of approval for former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), the 2008 vice-presidential nominee for the Republican Party, but a strong doubt that she is competent to lead the nation. “Tea party types may be mad,” Estrich writes, “but they aren’t buying President Palin. And if they aren’t, who would?” Estrich goes on to note that tea party supporters, “like most of us… want to have it both ways: they want their Social Security and smaller government, want major cuts but not in Medicare, which is a little like having your cake and eating it, too. If you want to really reduce the size of government, that means cutting defense and entitlements. If you’re not willing to do that, what you get is big talk and no action, which is ultimately a recipe for anger.” She concludes by calling the racial element “lurking in the polls” “troubling.”
Motivated by Racial Concerns - Author and Democratic activist Bob Moser writes of his familiarity with tea parties in Texas, “where the movement has flared up hotter than just about anywhere else,” and his lack of surprise at the demographics: white, conservative, male, and relatively affluent. The concern about the nation’s economic tribulations, and the anger directed at Obama, is understandable, he writes. However, “[w]hat strikes me is how often America’s great and terrible obsession, race, slithers around the poll numbers.” The poll numbers may not directly bear out the racism and bigotry that exists in the ranks of the tea partiers, Moser writes, “[b]ut it’s impossible to shrug off the collective impressions left by the data. Why, exactly, do 73 percent of tea partiers say that the president does not understand ‘the needs and problems of people like yourself’?” The movement works hard to marginalize Americans who disagree with them, particularly Obama, as un-American, not a member of “we the people.” Moser notes that almost three-quarters of the tea party supporters “say that black and white people have an ‘equal’ chance of ‘getting ahead in today’s society.’ If that’s not colorblindness, it’s certainly some kind of blindness.” Moser concludes by writing that the tea party movement is achieving both goals set by “its corporate Republican conjurers,” both “becoming the political expression of a white-resistance movement being spurred by anxieties over the economy, the black ‘socialist’ president, and the coming end of majority-white America… [and] leaning, at least in 2010, strongly Republican in attitude.”
Healthy Expression of Populism - Political analyst David Gergen writes that the perception of the tea parties as angry, bitter, and divisive is untrue. He describes the latest rally he attended as “festive and friendly.” While many protest higher taxes and bigger government, Gergen writes, their claims that opposing Obama does not entail a racist viewpoint are true. “[M]any feel stung by what they see as misrepresentations in the press,” he writes. Gergen compares the 2010 tea partiers to the Ross Perot voters of 1992: “Those who supported Mr. Perot were mostly white, a little better educated than the general population and much more concerned about government deficits than government peeking into bedrooms. They were also more from the West and South but had pockets of support scattered around the country.” He notes that 18 percent of Americans identify themselves as tea party supporters; in 1992, 19 percent of voters cast their votes for Perot. He calls them a healthy expression of American populism and concludes: “Many of these tea partiers are fearful of how the country is changing. Some circles look down upon them; it would be far wiser to listen, understand and find ways to heal.”
Heralding GOP Success for 2010, Problems Farther On - Andrew Kohut, the president of the Pew Research Center and a political polls expert, says the poll numbers “augur well for the Republicans in November’s midterm elections: the politically energized supra conservatives—the 1 in 5 who are universally disaffected with national conditions, and with Barack Obama and with his policies—are likely to be a strong advantage in the midterms, where typically fewer than 4 of 10 eligible citizens vote.” The Republicans’ biggest challenge is to keep the tea party supporters’ votes while simultaneously attracting independents and moderates. And a move by the GOP to the right, to further embrace the tea partiers, “may not bode well for the party in the longer run, given the new primacy of independent voters, a power that was on full display in 2008.” Moreover, the tea parties may well co-opt the GOP, going from “the tail that wags the dog” to becoming “the dog itself.” Kohut writes: “Looking ahead, our polling suggests that the Republican party needs unifying themes and leadership. A tea party-led GOP may not be the prescription for that.”
Economic Concerns Drive Tea Party Success - Political consultant Douglas Schoen says the fact that almost 1 in 5 Americans support the tea party “extraordinary, given that the movement is not active in half of America and that its name recognition is not universal.” Schoen gives no credence to “what appear to be the class-based or race-based attitudes of the tea party movement,” and writes that the movement is instead propelled by economic concerns. Schoen says that statistics aside, he believes the tea party movement to be far more diverse than the polls indicate (see September 2010). Almost half its supporters identify themselves as non-Republicans, and a quarter of them claim to have voted for Obama in 2008, he says. [New York Times, 4/15/2010]
Entity Tags: Bob Moser, Barack Obama, Amity Shlaes, Alan Wolfe, Alan Brinkley, Susan Estrich, Andrew Kohut, Steven F. Hayward, Paul Butler, Michael Lind, Douglas Schoen, Lorenzo Morris, Brent Bozell, David Gergen, Rick Perlstein, New York Times
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
California “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz, mounting a longshot candidacy for California secretary of state, has another lawsuit, Taitz v. Obama, thrown out of court. The lawsuit is another in a series of legal attempts by Taitz to challenge President Obama’s citizenship and have a court remove him from the presidency (see March 13, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, September 16-21, 2009, October 29, 2009, and October 13-16, 2009). Judge Royce C. Lamberth, in his ruling, writes, “The Court is not willing to go tilting at windmills with her.” Lamberth refuses to allow Taitz to refile a lawsuit challenging Obama’s citizenship in a Washington, DC, federal court. Lawyers for Obama had asked that the case be dismissed because, among other things, Taitz does not have standing to bring it because she has not been harmed and the courts have no authority to remove a sitting president. [Orange County Register, 4/16/2010]
Pastor Stan Craig. [Source: Choice Hills Baptist Church]A “tea party” rally in Greenville, South Carolina, features a great deal of rhetorical violence, with one speaker telling the crowd he is ready to launch an armed assault on Washington, DC. The event is hosted by the Upcountry Conservative Coalition. The keynote speaker is former Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO—see September 9, 2006), who tells the assemblage that Americans are “going to have to pray that we can hold on to this country.” Of President Obama, he says, “If his wife says Kenya is his homeland, why don’t we just send him back?” Tancredo is referring to widespread beliefs among the right that Obama is of Kenyan birth. It is unclear what Tancredo is referring to regarding Obama’s wife. Pastor Stan Craig of the Choice Hills Baptist Church, a Vietnam veteran, tells the crowd that he “was trained to defend the liberties of this nation,” and, apparently referring to his choice to participate in an armed insurrection, says he is ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” Dan Gonzales of Florida’s Constitution Party seems to agree with Craig, saying “this is the end of America right here,” and if the tea partiers “don’t get to work we’re going to be fighting in the streets.” Gonzales seems to have little love for the Republican Party either, claiming it is owned by the Rockefeller family. Speaker William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) continues his assertions that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is being blackmailed by the Obama administration because he is gay (see April 20, 2010), saying: “I’m a tolerant person. I don’t care about your private life, Lindsey, but as our US senator I need to figure out why you’re trying to sell out your own countrymen, and I need to make sure you being gay isn’t it.” Gheen later releases a statement reading: “US Senator Lindsey Graham is gay and while many people in South Carolina and Washington, DC, know that, the general public and Graham’s constituents do not. I personally do not care about Graham’s private life, but in this situation his desire to keep this a secret may explain why he is doing a lot of political dirty work for others who have the power to reveal his secrets. Senator Graham needs to come out of the closet inside that log cabin so the public can rest assured he is not being manipulated with his secret.” [The State, 4/18/2010; TPM LiveWire, 4/19/2010] Other speakers at the event include longshot Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson (R-NM) and “birther” author Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, and September 21, 2010). [The Conservatist, 4/12/2010]
William Gheen. [Source: Immigration Clearinghouse (.org)]William Gheen, the head of ALIPAC (Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee, an anti-immigration organization), sends a mass email demanding that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) admit his “homosexual lifestyle… in the interest of political integrity and national security.” Gheen’s email is based on remarks he made at an April 17 “tea party” rally in Greenville, South Carolina, where Graham has his state offices. Gheen told his listeners: “US Senator Lindsey Graham is gay and while many people in South Carolina and Washington, DC, know that, the general public and Graham’s constituents do not. I personally do not care about Graham’s private life, but in this situation his desire to keep this a secret may explain why he is doing a lot of political dirty work for others who have the power to reveal his secrets. Senator Graham needs to come out of the closet inside that log cabin so the public can rest assured he is not being manipulated with his secret.” Gheen gives no evidence of Graham’s alleged homosexuality; Graham, a lifelong bachelor, will later tell a New York Times reporter: “I know it’s really gonna upset a lot of gay men… but I ain’t available. I ain’t gay. Sorry.” In the email, Gheen accuses Graham of submitting to blackmail by the Obama administration over his alleged homosexuality and doing the administration’s bidding by “trying to lobby other Republicans to sponsor a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Amnesty bill, which would legalize millions of illegal immigrants and turn them into competitive workers and voters.… ALIPAC considers Graham’s support for Comprehensive Amnesty legislation to be against the wishes of 80 percent of his constituents and against the best interests of the American people.” Gheen goes on to explain why he considers Graham’s alleged homosexuality a security risk: “Senator Graham served in the US military, which adopted a policy of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ regarding homosexuality during the Clinton administration. Prior to the policy change, homosexuality was considered a vulnerability to our national security because those with access to classified information and strategic resources were often blackmailed by foreign powers.” In the April 17 rally, Gheen told listeners: “Barney Frank [a gay House representative] has more integrity and bravery than Senator Lindsey Graham right now. When you are a US senator, the public deserves to know what might influence your decisions. [President] Obama and [Director of Homeland Security Janet] Napolitano know about Senator Graham, now it is time for the rest of the country to know.” Gheen accuses a number of media outlets, including The Guardian, MSNBC, and Metro Weekly of reporting his comments “out of context,” though most reports included video clips of his remarks. Graham will later say that he is unpopular with tea party organizations because he believes they lack “a coherent vision for governing the country” (see July 1, 2010). [Right Wing Watch, 4/20/2010; New York Times, 7/1/2010] The same day as the email is sent, Gheen appears on liberal talk show host Alan Colmes’s radio show to discuss his position on Graham and immigration. Gheen refuses to cite any evidence that Graham is indeed gay except to say that he has experience with homosexuals because he has worked for gay politicians in the past. Gheen tells Colmes that he is trying to free Graham by “outing” him as gay, saying that to force Graham to admit his supposed homosexuality frees him from the blackmail of “corrupt, DC special interests [who will] use that information” to force him to support immigration reform. Colmes says that it seems that Gheen is the one attempting to blackmail Graham to force him to withdraw his support for immigration reform, a position Gheen rejects. Gheen also denies any knowledge of a YouTube video by ALIPAC about Graham being labeled with the tags “queer” and “fag,” saying that someone must have hacked ALIPAC’s YouTube account and placed the tags there. [Alan Colmes, 4/20/2010; Right Wing Watch, 4/22/2010]
Depiction of an Oath Keeper shoulder patch. [Source: Oath Keepers]Darren Huff, a former US Navy officer from Georgia who belongs to a far-right militia group called the “Oath Keepers” (see March 9, 2009 and March 2010), drives to Madisonville, Tennessee, as part of a group of militia members with the intention of “tak[ing] over” the Madisonville courthouse and freeing Walter Fitzpatrick, who was jailed when he tried to enforce a “citizen’s arrest” on a judicial official for failing to convene an investigation into President Obama’s citizenship (see April 1-5, 2010). The Oath Keepers are a group of former military and law enforcement officials who often advise current military and law enforcement personnel not to obey orders from higher authorities on the grounds that those orders do not satisfy constitutional mandates. Huff drives to Tennessee with a Colt .45 and an AK-47, but is intercepted by state troopers acting on an alert from the FBI. The troopers tell reporters that Huff acknowledges being armed, and states his intention to go to the Madisonville courthouse, take over the facility, and arrest county officials, whom he calls “domestic enemies of the United States engaged in treason,” and turn them over to the state police. According to a witness interviewed by the FBI, Huff is only one member of “eight or nine militia groups” whose intent is to go to Madisonville to “take over the city.” The witness, a bank manager, says Huff told him he’d see Huff’s actions on the news. Madisonville law enforcement officials report witnessing numerous individuals carrying both openly displayed and concealed firearms in the area around the courthouse. The troopers permit Huff to proceed to the courthouse, though Huff attempts no arrests and no violence ensues. The next day, Huff tells a radio audience that his encounter with the troopers was “not entirely confrontational.… We were kind of a little bit more on a friendly level, even some Christian conversation came in, which I was glad for.” He tells his listeners that he showed great restraint by not performing a citizen’s arrest on the troopers, and adds that because the first attempt to free Fitzpatrick was unsuccessful, he and other militia members intend to mount a second “rescue effort” within one to two weeks. Instead, Huff is arrested by the FBI, who listened to the broadcast and determined that he has the means and the intent to cause violence. Carl Swensson, who like Fitzpatrick is a member of the right-wing, anti-government group “American Grand Jury” (AGJ), recounts the entire series of incidents on his Web site, and demands others get involved “to help the citizen’s [sic] of the United States regain our Constitutional Republic by peaceful means.” [WBIR-TV, 5/4/2010; TPM Muckraker, 5/6/2010; Crooks and Liars, 5/6/2010]
Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin is formally court-martialed for refusing to obey orders deploying him to Afghanistan because, he says, he questions President Obama’s citizenship and therefore his right to issue orders to the military (see Before April 13, 2010). In response, Lakin issues a statement through the American Patriot Foundation, the “birther” organization raising money for his defense. Reporter Justin Elliott writes that in the statement, Lakin “waxe[s] heroic,” saying: “I invited my court martial, and today I stand ready to answer these charges. I was prepared to deploy if only the president would authorize the release of the proof of his eligibility. He refused, and now the court will determine the issue, and my fate. The Constitution matters. The truth matters.” Lakin has been interviewed by a number of right-wing radio hosts, and recently told host G. Gordon Liddy that his lawyers may try to compel Obama to produce a birth certificate. [Army, 4/22/2010; TPM Muckraker, 4/23/2010] The effort to compel “discovery” from Obama will fail (see August 2, 2010). Lakin is receiving financial and legal assistance from the American Patriot Foundation (APF), an organization headed by former Congressional staffer and Bush administration veteran Margaret Hemenway, who has previously caused a stir by publicly protesting her daughter being taught by a lesbian teacher and publicly declaring her disbelief in global warming. The APF has created a Web site called “Safeguard Our Constitution” to promote Lakin’s cause. Hemenway has worked in the offices of Representative John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), and as a policy analyst for the House Republican Study Committee, according to her bios at various conservative publications. She also spent five years at the Defense Department and NASA “as a White House appointee” during the Bush administration. Her father-in-law, attorney and World War II vet John Hemenway, was involved in a “birther” lawsuit brought by Philadelphia activist Philip Berg (see March 5, 2009). Smith, Hemenway’s former boss, founded the group in 2003 after losing the Republican primary to John Sununu (R-NH) in 2002. At the time, the group was supposedly created to support “the families of soldiers lost in war.” The group has apparently been dormant until now. Hemenway explains that Smith “was gracious enough to turn it over to be put to a good public purpose—the immediate purpose is helping a brave officer who has not been able to get anyone in officialdom to answer his question about the president’s compliance with Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution—whether Obama is ‘natural born.’” [TPM Muckraker, 4/14/2010] Lakin’s civilian lawyer, Paul Rolf Jensen, is a well-known conservative activist who also worked for two senators, including Smith, and is a former Bush administration staffer. He is often involved in anti-gay legal cases, and filed “25 charges of heresy” against a number of Presbyterians around the country in 2004. The complaints included cases in which pastors officiated over same-sex unions, ordained gay elders, or were themselves gay. “I am called to action within the Presbyterian church to fight back against those who have made war and would destroy our church,” he told CNN at the time. [TPM Muckraker, 4/26/2010]
Entity Tags: Paul Rolf Jensen, Philip J. Berg, Justin Elliott, John D. Hemenway, G. Gordon Liddy, American Patriot Foundation, Barack Obama, Robert C. (“Bob”) Smith, Margaret Hemenway, Terrence Lee (“Terry”) Lakin
Timeline Tags: US Military, Domestic Propaganda
Tim Wise. [Source: James Coreas / Wikimedia]Author and activist Tim Wise, an expert on white supremacism, writes a “thought experiment” titled “Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black.” He begins by writing, “Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure—the ones who are driving the action—we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.”
Armed 'Black Protesters' Descend on Capitol - His first example is a scenario where “hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters—the black protesters—spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters—these black protesters with guns—be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans?” Wise is referring to a recent rally of white gun rights enthusiasts that “descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.”
Congress Members Accosted by 'Thousands of Angry Black People' - His second example: what if white Congress members were accosted by “thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob?” Wise is referring to a recent tea party rally in which a white protester spat on a black lawmaker (see March 20, 2010).
Rap Artist Issues Crude Insults to President - His third scenario: “Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: ‘He’s a piece of sh_t and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Wise is referring to comments made by white conservative musician Ted Nugent about President Obama (see August 21-24, 2007).
Mainstream Black Political Commentator Employs 'Overt Bigot' as Senior Official - Fourth scenario: a prominent mainstream black political commentator employs “an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization…” This person had frequently taken part in black separatist conferences, and had once assaulted a white person while using racial slurs. What if that prominent black commentator and his sister, also an employee of the organization, “defended the bigot as as a good guy who was misunderstood and ‘going through a tough time in his life’.” Wise asks if anyone would accept the situation, and would the commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? He is referring to a recent situation involving the white conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, an MSNBC employee who until recently employed an overt racist as the executive director of his organization The American Cause (see June 20, 2009).
Black Talk Show Host Makes Variety of Racially Charged Statements - What if a black radio host told his audience that the only way to get promoted in a white president’s administration is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had endorsed a white presidential candidate due to “racial bonding,” or blamed a white president for a school-bus fight involving black and white students, or told his listeners that he does not want to kill all conservatives, but would leave a few as “living fossils… “so we will never forget what these people stood for.” These are things that white conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has said about President Obama and political liberals.
Black Pastor Threatens Armed Insurrection - What if a black pastor and former soldier said that as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” Tea party leader Stan Craig, a South Carolina pastor, said this at a recent rally (see April 17-18, 2010).
Black Radio Host Promises Revolt, Calls for Blacks to 'Hang' Conservatives - What if a black radio host told his audience that blacks would revolt if the government continues to be dominated by the rich whites who are “destroying” America, called Christians and Jews non-humans, and suggested that the best thing to do with conservatives was to “hang ‘em high?” Radio host Michael Savage has made these comments about Muslims, liberals and the Obama administration.
Black Bloggers Smear First Family with Racial Slurs - What if a black liberal Web site called the daughter of a white president “typical redneck trash” and a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds?” This is what posters at FreeRepublic.com said about President Obama’s young daughter Malia—except they called her “ghetto trash.” What if black protesters called for the lynching of their congressional enemies? White conservatives did this in recent months, Wise claims.
Conclusion - Wise concludes: “In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color? To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark ‘other’ does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic.… [This] is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the sh_t [whites] do, on a daily basis.” [San Francisco Sentinel, 4/25/2010]
The cover of Klein and Elliott’s ‘The Manchurian President.’ [Source: Borders (.com)]The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters finds a number of dubious or outright false claims in a recent book by Aaron Klein entitled The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists, and Other Anti-American Extremists. Klein is a reporter for the conservative news blog WorldNetDaily, which has taken a lead role in accusing President Obama of not being an American citizen (see December 5, 2008, May 28, 2009, and August 1-4, 2009). Among other disproven claims, Klein writes that “terrorist” William Ayers (see October 4-5, 2008) was the “ghostwriter” of Obama’s 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father; Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga is Obama’s cousin (using the false relationship to try to link Obama with Odinga, whom Klein calls a “traitor” to Kenya); Obama supports “involuntary birth-control measures,” which Klein describes as “compulsory, government-mandated ‘green abortions’ [to] control population growth and prevent ecological disasters”; and Obama sought and received support from the socialist New Party in the early stages of his political career. Klein also attempts to portray the church that Obama attended as a child, the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, as a “staging ground” for his supposed “antiwar activism” and “socialism”; claims a number of ties between Obama and Communist “black activists”; and makes other claims. Klein also attempts to argue that “Obama may not be eligible to serve as president.” After admitting that there is “no convincing evidence that Obama was born in Kenya, nor that his birthplace was any place other than Hawaii, his declared state of birth,” Klein claims that because Obama’s father was not a US citizen, there should have been “Congressional debate about whether Obama is eligible under the United States Constitution to serve as president,” focusing on the legal definition of the constitutional requirement that the president be a “natural born citizen.” Klein ignores most accepted legal opinions on the subject, instead focusing on a 1758 treatise called The Law of Nations and an obscure Supreme Court decision, Minor v. Happersett. Both the treatise and the Court decision have been routinely cited by “birther” lawyers attempting to challenge Obama’s citizenship, Media Matters notes. [Media Matters, 5/7/2010] Reviews of the book are mixed. David Horowitz’s far-right publication Front Page Magazine calls the book a “meticulously documented piece of outstanding investigative research” that “blow[s] the lid off the dome of silence surrounding the Obama administration.” Klein and co-author Brenda J. Elliot “reveal surreptitious ties to radical leftists of all stripes,” the review states. [Front Page Magazine, 6/16/2010] Terry Krepel, the progressive founder of ConWebWatch, calls Klein’s entire book an exercise in “guilt by association,” using as one of several examples Obama’s attendance at the Honolulu church: Obama was a young boy at the time; the group that Ayers was a part of, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), had splintered two years before Obama began attending church services; and Klein never shows any proof that what he calls “Ayers’s ideology” made it into the Sunday school curriculum. The book is entirely “dishonest,” Krepel concludes. [Huffington Post, 5/9/2010]
Entity Tags: WorldNetDaily, William Ayers, Terry Krepel, Students for a Democratic Society, Raila Odinga, Barack Obama, Aaron Klein, Front Page Magazine, Media Matters, New Party, First Unitarian Church of Honolulu
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Obama during his May 22, 2010 speech at West Point. [Source: Potusphere (.com)]Michael Savage, a conservative radio host, tells his listeners that President Obama does not have the right to speak to the graduating class of the Army’s United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and calls Obama “Little Mussolini,” after the Italian fascist dictator and ally of Adolf Hitler. Savage, referring to Obama’s May 22 speech to the graduating class of cadets, says Obama “slipped and gave himself away” during his speech, calls Obama “insecure” and “terrified,” and says Obama neither had the “right” nor the “honor to speak to the cadets,” and “is not qualified to speak to the cadets.” Obama, Savage says, “overcompensate[d]” during the speech by saying, “I have absolute power in some areas.” Savage then says: “That was to show the boys and the men at West Point who their boss was. It was ‘Little Mussolini,’ ‘Junior Doc’ Obama [referring to Haitian dictators ‘Papa Doc’ and ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier], who told them in no uncertain terms: ‘Don’t you dare think that I am not in charge. I’ll show you.’” Savage goes on to say Obama has “a woman problem” that has something to do with “the peripatic nature of his mother during his upbringing,” and questions Obama’s loyalty to the United States, asking if his loyalities “lie here [in the US] or somewhere else.… We suspect [they do] not lie here in Washington, DC.” [Media Matters, 5/25/2010] The reference to “absolute power” is a joke Obama made at the beginning of his speech. He told the cadets: “As your superintendent indicated, under our constitutional system my power as president is wisely limited. But there are some areas where my power is absolute. And so, as your commander in chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses. I will leave the definition of ‘minor’ to those who know better.” Obama received applause and laughter from the cadets for the wisecrack. [CBS News, 5/22/2010] Savage has called the landmark civil rights decision Brown v. Board “sickening” (see May 18, 2004), accused Obama of being educated in a radical Islamic madrassa (see January 10, 2008 and April 3, 2008) and being a potential “radical Muslim” (see February 21, 2008), called Obama’s presidential victory “the first affirmative-action election in American history” (see February 1, 2008), accused Obama of being sympathetic towards the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese of World War II (see March 13, 2008), said that homeless Americans should be put in “work camps” (see June 6, 2008), called Obama an “Afro-Leninist” (see June 6, 2008), said that welfare recipients should lose the right to vote (see October 22, 2008), accused Obama of using his grandmother’s death to conceal his “efforts” to falsify his Hawaiian birth certificate (see November 10, 2008), accused Obama of planning to fire all the “competent white men” in government once he became president (see November 18, 2008), accused Obama of desiring his own “Hitler Youth” program (see September 2, 2009), compared Obama to Chinese Communist dictator Mao Zedong (see December 3, 2009), and compared Obama to mass murderer Pol Pot (see December 17, 2009).
Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck tells his viewers that in order to stop Democratic leaders from imposing a communist regime on America, they are going to have to “shoot them in the head.” He specifically cites Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as one of those leaders. He says that while Democratic leaders such as Pelosi and President Obama are not themselves communists, they use “avowed communists” such as former union leader Andy Stern to force America towards a communist system. “These people are politicians and they knew—they’re progressive politicians,” Beck says. “They’re not—they’re not total government. They’re not communists. They do not want to be communists. They don’t. But they would like it here. And they would like all the control they have, so dollars—so money could go into their—money could go in their pockets. That’s right.… So, this is what you have to understand. These people saw these people as fuel. If we can just unite, then it becomes a united front. This is your strong arm. This will do all the bad things for you. Okay?” He says that the Democratic Party is infested with “communist revolutionaries” who are driving the party, and thereby the nation, towards a Stalinist state. “The radicals have infected the party. They have been brought in by politicians who don’t really care about anything. They just want to win. They’ve been tolerating the revolutionaries—the Democrats have.” Beck says that “tea partiers” and other right-wing elements must oppose the “radicals” in the Democratic Party at all costs. He says: “Tea parties believe in small government. We believe in returning to the principles of our Founding Fathers. We respect them. We revere them. Shoot me in the head before I stop talking about the founders. Shoot me in the head if you try to change our government. I will stand against you and so will millions of others. We believe in something. You in the media and most in Washington don’t. The radicals that you and Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep’s clothing—change the pose. You will get the ends. You’ve been using them? They believe in communism. They believe and have called for a revolution. You’re going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you. They are dangerous because they believe. Karl Marx is their George Washington. You will never change their mind. And if they feel you have lied to them—they’re revolutionaries. Nancy Pelosi, those are the people you should be worried about.… They want to overthrow our entire system of government, and their words say it. Why won’t you believe it?… The revolution of 1776 was a picnic compared to what the revolutionaries of today would like to do. It’s not a lot of fun. Usually, millions of people die.” [Fox News, 6/10/2010; Raw Story, 1/20/2011] Months later, Beck will claim that he was actually warning Democratic leaders about the prospects of being shot by “radical leftists” (see January 21, 2011).
Conservative radio host Jim Quinn, of the syndicated Quinn and Rose broadcast, tells his listeners that President Obama “is an African colonial” who “hates” Britain. Discussing the Obama administration’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Quinn says that BP (formerly British Petroleum), the company responsible for the spill, “stands for the two things that Obama hates the most in his life… the Brits and petroleum.” Quinn continues, “Let us not forget, he is… an African colonial,” and adds that “this guy’s got a hard on for the Brits in particular, and Western civilization in general.” [Media Matters, 6/11/2010] Quinn is echoing previous claims of Obama’s “African colonial” and “Afrocentric” sympathies (see December 26, 2007, January 16, 2008, June 25, 2009, June 29, 2009, November 17, 2009, and February 2, 2010). Quinn and his partner, Rose Tennent, have previously made racist allegations against Obama and his African-American supporters (see October 20, 2008), and Quinn has said that only American landowners should be allowed to vote (see October 21, 2008).
A chain email makes the rounds of the Internet containing a purported Associated Press (AP) article that claims to hold evidence that President Obama is not an American citizen (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, and July 29, 2009). The story claims that transcripts from Obama’s first university, Occidental College, show that Obama attended the school under the name “Barry Soetoro” and received financial aid as a native of Indonesia. The alleged AP story reads in part: “The group ‘Americans for Freedom of Information’ has released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College. Released today, the transcript school [sic] indicates that Obama, under the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate. The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California. The transcript shows that Obama (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, investigates the claim. AP spokesman Jack Stokes tells PolitiFact the story is not valid: “It is not an AP story,” he says. PolitiFact then performs Google and Lexis-Nexis searches, and finds no information on any such group named “Americans for Freedom of Information.” The story, PolitiFact notes, is dated April 1, 2009, April Fool’s Day. Occidental College official Jim Tranquada confirms that the school has not released Obama’s transcripts, because it has never received a request from Obama to do so, and unless it receives such a request, it cannot, under federal law, release the transcripts to anyone. Obama called himself “Barry” when he entered Occidental, but according to the recollections of friends and acquaintances, began calling himself “Barack” by the time he left. “Soetoro” is the name of Obama’s stepfather, with whom he lived in Indonesia while a small child. Tranquada confirms that Obama registered under the name “Obama” and not “Soetoro.” The email’s claim that Obama applied for a Fulbright scholarship cannot be verified by any records. [St. Petersburg Times, 6/28/2010]
The non-partisan PolitiFact, an organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, responds to a recent claim that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has approved a case challenging President Obama’s US citizenship (see October 31, 2008 and After). The claim comes from a chain email circulating around the Internet that purports to feature an Associated Press (AP) article titled, “Very Quietly Obama’s Citizenship Case Reaches the Supreme Court.” The article is not a legitimate AP creation, according to AP spokesperson Jack Stokes, and in fact is an April Fool’s Day joke. The email quotes the article as saying, “Under growing pressure from several groups, Justice Antonin Scalia announced that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments concerning Obama’s legal eligibility to serve as president in a case brought by Leo Donofrio of New Jersey.” Donofrio has indeed sued New Jersey Secretary of State Nina Wells in an attempt to block New Jersey’s certification of Obama’s presidential victory there in November 2008; Donofrio claimed that Obama has dual US-British citizenship and therefore is ineligible to be president. The case was turned down by the Supreme Court. PolitiFact notes that it takes four Justices, not one, to have the Court hear a case. In such an instance, the Court issues a “writ of certiorari,” sometimes referred to as “cert.” No individual justice ever makes such an announcement. Donofrio’s case first went to Justice David Souter, who denied the request. It then went to Justice Clarence Thomas, who submitted it to committee. The Court denied “cert” for the case. PolitiFact calls the claim “ridiculous and misleading.” [St. Petersburg Times, 6/28/2010]
A chain email circulating on the Internet claims that because Barack Obama went to Pakistan in 1981, he cannot be a US citizen. The argument, according to the email, is: “Pakistan was on the US State Department’s ‘no travel’ list in 1981. [Therefore,] when Obama went to Pakistan in 1981 he was traveling either with a British passport or an Indonesian passport.” Had Pakistan actually been on the “no travel” list in 1981, Obama would have had to either travel there illegally, or use the passport of a foreign national. PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, investigates the claim. It is true that Obama went to Pakistan in 1981, during a summer vacation; he went to Indonesia to visit his mother and then to Pakistan with a college friend. But in 1981, according to the State Department, Pakistan was perfectly accessible to US citizens. State Department public affairs officer Ivna Giauque says, “According to our Pakistan experts, there was no travel ban to Pakistan in 1981.” PolitiFact notes that in August 1981, the State Department issued a “travel advisory” for Pakistan, but that would not have precluded any American from visiting Pakistan had he or she chosen to do so. In August 1981, the US consul general in Lahore wrote a letter to the New York Times encouraging Americans to visit the country. And a March 1981 New York Times featured an advertisement listing Karachi and Lahore as two destinations in their travel package. PolitiFact concludes that in the case of the email, “[s]omebody was just looking for an excuse to promote the birther conspiracy.” [St. Petersburg Times, 6/28/2010] The “travel ban” was advanced as an argument against Obama’s citizenship in a 2008 lawsuit which was summarily thrown out of court (see August 21-24, 2008).
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) explains his lack of affection for the far-right “tea party” movement that currently wields great influence in the Republican Party. The tea party organizations, he says, deride him for being willing to work with Democrats on selected issues. Some accuse him of being a closet homosexual, with at least one organization accusing him of submitting to “blackmail” by the Obama administration and doing the White House’s legislative bidding in return for Obama administration members keeping quiet about his alleged homosexuality (see April 20, 2010). Tea party organizations such as Resist.net have lambasted Graham for indulging in what it calls “his old reach-across-the-aisle tricks again,” and South Carolina gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley (R-SC), a tea party favorite, considers Graham a traitor to the Republican Party. Graham says, “Everything I’m doing now in terms of talking about climate, talking about immigration, talking about Gitmo [the Guantanamo Bay detention facility] is completely opposite of where the tea party movement’s at.” He recalls earlier contentious meetings with tea party leaders and says that during one meeting, he challenged the leaders by asking: “What do you want to do? You take back your country—and do what with it?” The response, Graham says: “Everybody went from being kind of hostile to just dead silent.” Of the tea party movement itself, Graham has said that “[i]t will die out” because “it’s just unsustainable… they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country.” Now, Graham adds: “We don’t have a lot of Reagan-type leaders in our party. Remember Ronald Reagan Democrats? I want a Republican that can attract Democrats.… Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel says of Graham: “He’s willing to work on more things than the others. Lindsey, to his credit, has a small-government vision that’s out of fashion with his party, which stands for no government.… He’s one of the last big voices to give that vision intellectual energy.” Graham has earned a rating of 90 (out of a possible 100) from the American Conservative Union for his conservative views and legislative votes, though the anti-tax Club for Growth calls him the “worst” Republican in the Senate. New York Times reporter Robert Draper believes that Graham has brought much of the derision from the tea party onto himself by saying good things about President Obama, including characterizing him as “a good role model” and “an American just as much as anybody else.” His worst sin, Draper writes, may be his “willingness—even eagerness—to seek common ground with Democrats.” Conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck routinely mock and vilify Graham, while conservative bloggers routinely vow that his alleged homosexuality drives his willingness to work with Democrats. (On that subject, Graham tells Draper with a “smirk”: “Like maybe I’m having a clandestine affair with [openly gay singer] Ricky Martin. I know it’s really gonna upset a lot of gay men—I’m sure hundreds of ‘em are gonna be jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge—but I ain’t available. I ain’t gay. Sorry.”) Unlike most tea partiers, Graham wants to save Social Security instead of transforming it into a private, voucher-driven entity; prosecute terrorists under civil as well as military law; implement immigration law reform that would allow “illegal immigrants” a pathway towards citizenship; and other positions that they do not support. His admiration for slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the recently deceased Senate Democrat Ted Kennedy are other positions Graham holds that sets him apart from most tea party members, as does the occasional complement bestowed upon him by Emanuel or other White House members. [New York Times, 7/1/2010]
Entity Tags: Glenn Beck, Barack Obama, American Conservative Union, Rush Limbaugh, Democratic Party, Ronald Reagan, Republican Party, Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley, Robert Draper, Club for Growth, Rahm Emanuel, Obama administration
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
The advocacy wing of the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation, founded by right-wing billionaire David Koch in 2004 (see Late 2004 and August 30, 2010), holds a weekend summit called “Texas Defending the American Dream” in Austin, Texas.
Koch-Funded, Koch Brand Not in Evidence - Neither David Koch nor his brother, Charles, attend the affair, and the name Koch is not in evidence. An advertisement for the event portrays it as a populist uprising against vested corporate power, stating: “Today, the voices of average Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists and special interests. But you can do something about it.” The ad makes no mention that the event is funded by Koch Industries, the second-largest private corporation in the US. Of Americans for Prosperity, Obama adviser David Axelrod says, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”
Funding and Training the Tea Parties - Koch Industries has long denied that it has any connection to tea party organizations, and has denied that either the firm or the Koch brothers have funded any tea party groups (see February 27, 2009 and April 15, 2009). David Koch has denied ever being approached by tea party representatives. But at the Austin event, event organizer Peggy Venable—an AFP employee who has worked for Koch-funded political groups since 1994—tells the crowd, “We love what the tea parties are doing, because that’s how we’re going to take back America!” She calls herself one of the earliest members of the tea party movement, telling a reporter, “I was part of the tea party before it was cool!” AFP, she says, is in business to help “educate” tea party activists on policy details and to train them for further activism so that their political energy can be channelled “more effectively.” AFP has provided tea party organizers with lists of elected Democrats to target. Of the Kochs, she says: “They’re certainly our people. David’s the chairman of our board. I’ve certainly met with them, and I’m very appreciative of what they do.”
'Victory or Death!' - Some 500 people attend the event, which features training seminars for “tea party” activists around the state and a series of speakers launching blunt attacks against President Obama and his administration. Venable warns the attendees that the Obama administration has “a socialist vision for this country.” She gives the Texas AFP “Blogger of the Year” award to a woman named Sibyl West, who recently called Obama the nation’s “cokehead in chief.” Featured speaker Janine Turner, an actress best known for her role in the TV series Northern Exposure, tells the audience: “They [Obama and the Democratic Party] don’t want our children to know about their rights. They don’t want our children to know about a God!” Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz tells the crowd that Obama is “the most radical president ever to occupy the Oval Office,” and has a hidden agenda: “the government taking over our economy and our lives.” Defeating Obama and his “secret agenda” is, Cruz says, “the epic fight of our generation!” As the crowd gives him a standing ovation, Cruz shouts the words said by a Texan at the Alamo: “Victory or death!” [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
Entity Tags: Janine Turner, Barack Obama, Americans for Prosperity, Charles Koch, David Koch, Obama administration, Sibyl West, David Axelrod, Koch Industries, Ted Cruz, Peggy Venable
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
A sign outside Terry Jones’s Florida church. [Source: Gainesville Sun]Pastor Terry Jones of a small Gainesville, Florida, church called the Dove World Outreach Center sends a barrage of posts on Twitter, called “tweets,” that call Islam a “fascist” religion and lambast President Obama’s support for a new Kenyan constitution that could permit abortion and codify Islamic law. His final one reads, “9/11/2010 Int Burn a Koran Day.” [Washington Post, 9/10/2010] In the hours that follow, Jones begins a Facebook campaign he calls “International Burn a Koran Day.” Jones says that on September 11, 2010, he and his congregation intend to burn “a few hundred Korans” in a massive bonfire on his church’s grounds, and he expects a crowd of “several hundred” to join him. He also says that others will undoubtedly join him by burning Korans on their own. Jones says that he intends to burn the Korans because Islam is an “evil” religion and a sponsor of worldwide terrorism, and it is time for Christians to “stand up” to Muslims. He says Islam promotes violence and that Muslims want to impose Shari’a law in the United States. He has acknowledged that he and his wife Sylvia learned what they know of Islam by watching YouTube videos, and has admitted never actually meeting a Muslim. He has said publicly that other religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism, are all “of the devil.” He says he has refused to take part in any interfaith discussions, explaining: “Because I’m not interested in interfaith discussions. That’s part of our problem.” [ABC News, 9/7/2010; Gainesville Sun, 9/11/2010; Daily Mail, 4/2/2011] He claims to have over 700 “friends” on Facebook by July 23, only two days after the “tweet” barrage, though most of the comments on the page are quite negative. [Washington Post, 9/10/2010; The Age, 9/12/2010] The Dove Center is a nondenominational church that practices charismatic, evangelical Christianity, and supplies free food and clothing to indigent citizens through its Lisa Jones House, an organization named after Jones’s first wife, who died in 1999. [Gainesville Sun, 7/8/2009] Within days of the Facebook campaign launch, EuroIslam (.info), a Web site that collects news and analysis headed by a Harvard professor of divinity, picks up the Dove World mission statement—“To bring to awareness to the dangers of Islam and that the Koran is leading people to hell”—and posts it on its “Islamaphobia Observatory” section. Jones begins posting videos on YouTube promoting his intentions to burn Korans. By July 21, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling for Koran education sessions to refute the burnings. Jones soon appears on CNN, and on July 30, is asked by the National Association of Evangelicals to call off the planned Koran-burning. In August, a Sunni scholars’ center at al-Azhar University in Cairo issues a statement condemning the plan to burn Korans and warning that doing so could have “dangerous consequences.” By early September, protesters in Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are taking to the streets in opposition to Jones. [Washington Post, 9/10/2010]
History of Controversy in Germany and Florida - Jones calls himself a doctor and claims he was awarded an honorary doctorate of theology degree from the unaccredited California Graduate School of Theology in Rosemead in 1983, but the university has never confirmed this, and later says the degree it awarded to Jones is strictly honorary. Jones, a native of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a high-school classmate of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, is a former hotel manager and Christian missionary. He and his wife Sylvia were asked to leave Germany in 2008, where he and Lisa Jones had established a small church in Cologne, the Christliche Gemeinde Koln. One of his three children accused them of “financial and labor abuses,” and told authorities that “the workforce was comprised of the Jones’s disciples, who work for no wages and live cost-free in tatty properties owned by the couple.” People who listened to some of Jones’s sermons in the Cologne church later recall them as “hate-filled.” Jones became involved in the Dove Center in 2003, when it was led by Dennis Watson, and for five years shuttled between the US and Germany to work at both sites. In 2008, after being forced to leave Germany, he took over the leadership of the Dove Center fulltime. When Jones took over the leadership, the church had about 100 members; that number has dwindled to between 30 and 50 now. A former employee expelled from the Dove Center later tells reporters that punishments for disobedience in the church include carrying a life-size wooden cross, writing out all of Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, or cleaning the barnacles off Jones’s boat in Tampa. Jones’s daughter Emma, a child from his first marriage, still lives in Germany and has no contact with her father, but reportedly contacts him and asks him not to carry out his threats to burn Korans. She told a German reporter that her father’s church was little more than “a cult.” Andrew Schafer, a Protestant Church official responsible for monitoring sects in the region where Cologne is located, will say that Jones has a “delusional personality.” [Der Spiegel, 9/8/2010; Gainesville Sun, 9/11/2010; Daily Mail, 4/2/2011]
For-Profit Activities - Jones also runs an antique and used furniture store, TS and Company, on the grounds of the church; the company had its tax-exempt status revoked in 2009 when Alachua County tax officials determined that it was a for-profit organization masquerading as a non-profit religious entity; his bank will soon demand he repay the church’s $140,000 mortgage. Former members who were brought to the United States on religious visas have said they were made to work as many as 12 hours a day packing furniture (religious visas do not allow work at for-profit companies). He also runs the “Dove World Academy,” a six-month-long boot camp-esque regiment of discipline and working without pay. Those who are enrolled are not allowed contact with family members for six months and are required to wear khaki uniforms and address church leaders as sir or ma’am. The tuition costs $500. [ABC News, 9/7/2010; Gainesville Sun, 9/11/2010; Daily Mail, 4/2/2011]
'Islam Is the Devil - Jones is the author of a book, Islam is the Devil, a phrase often used on church property. In August 2009, two children who are members of the church were sent home from school after coming to class wearing T-shirts reading “Islam is the Devil.” Jones is often seen on the 20-acre church compound with a pistol strapped to his hip. Of the phrase, Jones says: “It’s an act of saying there is only one way, and that is actually what Christianity is about. It is about pointing the people in the right direction, and that right direction is Jesus and only Jesus. We feel the sign is an act of giving the people a chance.… I think every pastor, every Christian pastor in this city, must be in agreement with the message. They might find the message a little bit too direct, but they must be in agreement with the message because the only way is the Bible and Jesus.” The sign is regularly vandalized, Jones says, and is repaired and replaced when it is damaged. Neighbor Aubrey Davies tells a reporter: “When we originally saw it, we were initially very offended.… We’re sad it is up. It is such a divisive message when it could be used to put out a statement of unity.” Saeed Khan, a University of Florida professor and a practicing Muslim, says it is important not to overreact to the sign. “There are a couple of things on this that come to mind, and first there is freedom of speech,” he says. “People are free to say, but then society has to think about it. When it becomes inflamed, the reaction on both sides can be detrimental to the people that live there. You have to make some kind of balance.” Jones says future signs may express his opposition to same-sex marriage or abortion. [Gainesville Sun, 7/8/2009; ABC News, 9/7/2010; Gainesville Sun, 9/11/2010; Daily Mail, 4/2/2011]
'The Braveheart Show' - Jones spends much of his time in his office, which is adorned with a poster from the movie Braveheart and a photograph of former US President George W. Bush. He has launched a series of YouTube videos he calls the “Braveheart Show,” which feature anti-Islamic diatribes. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/7/2010; ABC News, 9/7/2010]
False Rumor of Child Porn Conviction - Rumors circulating on the Internet and repeated by some media outlets that Jones was convicted on child pornography charges have proven to be false. [ABC News, 9/7/2010]
Entity Tags: Dennis Watson, TS and Company, Andrew Schafer, Barack Obama, Aubrey Davies, Sylvia Jones, Terry Jones (pastor), National Association of Evangelicals, Dove World Academy, Saeed Khan, Dove World Outreach Center, Christliche Gemeinde Koln, EuroIslam (.info), George W. Bush, Emma Jones
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
Conservative columnist and radio talk show host Mark Williams, the spokesman for the Tea Party Express, posts a fictitious letter on his blog purportedly written by “Colored People” to former President Abraham Lincoln. The post, which Williams quickly removes after it causes a massive outcry, reads: “We Colored People have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop! In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week [referring to the recent NAACP convention that condemned tea party racism—see July 13, 2010]. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the ‘tea party movement.’ The tea party position to ‘end the bailouts’ for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds. And the ridiculous idea of ‘reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.’ What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves, and make decisions! The racist tea parties also demand that the government ‘stop the out of control spending.’ Again, they directly target Colored People. That means we Colored People would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right. Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government ‘stop raising our taxes.’ That is outrageous! How will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society? Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room, and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.” Williams signs the post “Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Head Colored Person,” referring to NAACP president Benjamin Jealous. Williams also labels the NAACP “racist” because the 101-year-old organization continues to use the old-fashioned term “colored” in its name. Williams’s post is quickly denounced as inflammatory and blatantly racist; though Williams calls it “satire” and removes it, he is soon expelled from the National Tea Party Federation for the post (see July 17-18, 2010). [Gawker, 7/16/2010; CNN, 7/18/2010; Huffington Post, 7/18/2010] In the past, Williams has called President Obama the “racist in chief” (see September 14, 2009) and “our half white, racist president” (see September 2009). He has called Muslims “animals” who worship a “monkey god” (see May 14, 2010), and labeled the NAACP “racists” who are like “slave trader[s]” (see July 14, 2010).
Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin, who has refused to obey orders deploying him to Afghanistan because, he says, he questions President Obama’s citizenship and therefore his right to issue orders to the military (see Before April 13, 2010 and April 22-23, 2010), releases a video on WorldNetDaily accusing the Army of convicting him “without a trial” over his refusal to obey orders from his superior officers. Lakin is facing a court-martial. He cites a “rewritten” Officer Evaluation Report on him that, he says, was revised to include “derogatory remarks” from the charges, though he has not been “arraigned or found guilty.” The latest officer evaluation says Lakin lacks “the sound judgment required of a senior officer.” Earlier evaluations were more favorable. Lakin says that since the Army refuses to allow him to question Obama’s citizenship or present “evidence” of Obama’s lack of citizenship during his trial, he has no real defense. He intends to renew his request to bring in such evidence (see September 2, 2010). In the video, Lakin accuses the Obama administration of orchestrating a “coverup” of Obama’s “real” birth status. Lakin had sought the documentation on Obama’s birth as well as the testimony of Dr. Chiyome Fukino of the Hawaii Department of Health and that agency’s records on Obama (see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). Lakin also wanted the records and testimony from custodians of records of Obama’s college financial aid and attendance at Punahou High School, Occidental College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School. [WorldNetDaily, 7/17/2010]
Mark Williams, a conservative talk radio host in Sacramento and a prominent spokesman for the nationally based Tea Party Express (TPE), announces he is stepping down as the head of the TPE. Williams says his decision is impelled by his interest in stopping the construction of Cordoba House (later renamed Park51), a Muslim community center to be built near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center, and his attempt to secure a position on the Sacramento City Council and to lead a recall effort of some council members. “What I’m doing is thinking globally and acting locally,” he says. He says he will continue to function as TPE’s spokesman and a featured speaker, but will no longer be involved in day-to-day managerial duties. “I’ll still be shooting my mouth off and appearing on TV,” Williams says. “I just won’t be as critical in strategy which is fine by me.” Williams denies that he is stepping down because of the controversy generated by recent statements he has made about the NAACP which many have decried as racist (see July 14, 2010 and July 15, 2010), and his recent expulsion from the National Tea Party Federation (see July 17-18, 2010). [CNN, 7/19/2010] Shortly thereafter, Williams sends a letter to TPE officials that announces he is resigning from the group entirely. In the letter, he says he needs to part ways with the group so “the media and our domestic enemies” will move past the racist controversy. “We are in a war for the future of this country and the left and their allies in the news media have decided to use my personal comments and views as a weapon to injure the tea party movement and conservative activists. I will simply not allow them to do this.… I am going to continue to fight on the side of liberty but it is clear that doing so with any affiliation with the Tea Party Express is not the best way to do so.” [Associated Press, 7/23/2010; CNN, 7/23/2010] In the past, Williams has called President Obama the “racist in chief” (see September 14, 2009) and “our half white, racist president” (see September 2009). He has called Muslims “animals” who worship a “monkey god” (see May 14, 2010).
Two right-wing Christian leaders, David Barton and Rick Green of WallBuilders, join William Gheen of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) in accusing the Obama administration of attempting to replace “real” Americans with huge numbers of illegal immigrants who will presumably do President Obama’s bidding. [Right Wing Watch, 7/26/2010; WallBuilders, 2012] Barton, a prominent member of the Texas Republican Party, founded WallBuilders in 1989 to, in his words, “educat[e] the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country.” Barton and his organization assert that the US was founded by Christians on explicitly Christian principles, and in recent years the Christian “foundation” of America “has been seriously attacked and undermined.” Barton has appeared at numerous events sponsored by the Republican National Committee (RNC) to “educate” Republican lawmakers and candidates as to the “real history” of the United States. [Right Wing Watch, 9/2006; WallBuilders, 2012] Gheen has recently accused the Obama administration of blackmailing an allegedly homosexual Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), into doing the administration’s bidding on immigration reform (see July 1, 2010). Barton and Green, on their regular WallBuilders Live! radio broadcast, say that God set America’s national borders, and thusly violating the nation’s borders is an act against God. “National boundaries are set by God,” Barton says. “If God didn’t want boundaries, he would have put everyone in the same world and there would have been no nations; we would have all been living together as one group and one people. That didn’t happen.… And so, from a Christian standpoint, you cannot do that. God’s the one who establishes the boundaries of nations.” The hosts and Gheen then discuss how the Obama administration intends to use illegal immigrants to “replac[e] us in our own country, [which is a] much smarter thing to do than fighting us in a war.” Gheen says of the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security: “[W]hen you look closer at who is up there and who’s around them, you find power groups that actually advocate for this kind of stuff—they are protecting illegal aliens, they facilitated their importation into the United States, and they seem to have some broader political/economic agenda of replacing many core Americans and American values and our jobs and our schools and everything else. That’s what they’re doing. They don’t like Americans so they’re replacing us in our own country. It’s a much smarter thing to do if you’re our enemies than fighting us in a war.” [Right Wing Watch, 7/26/2010; WallBuilders, 2012]
US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donahue blasts Senate Democrats for attempting to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which, if approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, would force the disclosure of the identities of corporate political donors. The DISCLOSE Act was proposed by Congressional Democrats in response to the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision that allows virtually unlimited and anonymous political spending by corporations and other entities (see January 21, 2010). The USCOC, a trade organization that spends heavily on Republican causes, is one of the “independent” organizations that would be most affected by the DISCLOSE Act (see January 21-22, 2010). Donahue, whose organization is lobbying members of Congress against the bill, says that the bill would infringe upon constitutional guarantees of free speech (see January 21, 2010) because it requires donors to state publicly their political positions, which not every organization or individual wishes to do. “The fact that this assault to the First Amendment is being considered as millions are desperately looking for work is a complete outrage,” Donahue says in a statement. “Despite their best efforts, there is no back room dark enough, no partisan motive strong enough, and no cynicism profound enough to barter away Americans’ freedom of speech.” [The Hill, 7/26/2010] Senate Republicans will successfully block the bill from coming to a vote (see July 26-27, 2010).
Senate Democrats are unable to break a filibuster by Senate Republicans that is blocking passage of the DISCLOSE Act.
Act Would Mandate Disclosure of Donors - The DISCLOSE Act—formally the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act—would overturn many elements of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision that allows virtually unlimited and anonymous political spending by corporations and other entities (see January 21, 2010). If passed, it would have created new campaign finance disclosure requirements and made public the names of “super PAC” contributors (see March 26, 2010). Individuals, corporations, labor unions, and tax-exempt charitable organizations would, under the act, report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) each time they spend $10,000 or more on campaign-related expenditures. Additionally, all outside groups, including “super PACs,” would have to report the names of donors. Moreover, the legislation would provide for so-called “Stand By Your Ad” requirements mandating that super PACs and other outside campaign groups producing political advertisements disclose the top funders in the ad. The CEO or highest-ranking official of an organization would, under the act, have to appear in the ad and officially “approve” the message. [Open Congress, 6/29/2010; OMB Watch, 7/24/2012]
Unbreakable Filibuster - Even public support from President Obama fails to sway enough Republican senators to vote against the filibuster, as did changes made to the bill by sponsor Charles Schumer (D-NY) designed to assuage some of Republicans’ concerns about the bill. The bill has already passed the House, shepherded through under Democratic leadership against Republican opposition. Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate also, but Senate rules allow the minority to mount filibusters that require 60 votes to overcome, and a number of Republicans would need to break from the Republican pack to vote down the filibuster. Additionally, some conservative senators such as Ben Nelson (D-NE) have not publicly stated their support for the bill. One Republican who had previously indicated she might vote for cloture (against the filibuster), Susan Collins (R-ME), dashed Democrats’ final hopes by saying she would not vote for cloture after all. “The bill would provide a clear and unfair advantage to unions while either shutting other organizations out of the election process or subjecting them to onerous reporting requirements that would not apply to unions,” says Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley. “Senator Collins believes that it is ironic that a bill aimed at curtailing special interests in the election process provides so many carve-outs and exemptions that favor some grass-roots organizations over others. This, too, is simply unfair.” Other so-called Republican moderates such as Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) have previously indicated they would not vote for cloture. Ironically, one of the “carve-outs” in the bill Schumer added was on behalf of the far-right National Rifle Association (NRA), an addition that Schumer says was made to placate Republicans. Schumer says that even if the bill does not pass now, attempts to reintroduce it will be made. The DISCLOSE Act “is one of the most important for the future of our democracy, not just for the next six months but for the next six decades,” he says. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says: “I don’t know what the final vote will be tomorrow, but I know that you—if you had a sliver of Republicans that thought special-interest giving and corporate influence in elections was… part of the problem, then this bill would pass. Now we get to see who in the Senate thinks there’s too much corporate influence and too much special-interest money that dominate our elections and who doesn’t. I don’t know how it could be any clearer than that.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) retorts: “The DISCLOSE Act seeks to protect unpopular Democrat politicians by silencing their critics and exempting their campaign supporters from an all-out attack on the First Amendment (see January 21, 2010). In the process, the authors of the bill have decided to trade our constitutional rights away in a backroom deal that makes the Cornhusker Kickback look like a model of legislative transparency.” [Politico, 7/26/2010] The “Cornhusker Kickback” McConnell is referencing is a deal struck in late 2009 by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to win Nelson’s support for the Democrats’ health care reform package, in which Nebraska, Nelson’s state, would receive 100 percent government financing for an expansion of Medicare. [Las Vegas Sun, 12/20/2009]
Entity Tags: Harry Reid, Federal Election Commission, Charles Schumer, Ben Nelson, Barack Obama, US Supreme Court, US Senate, Susan Collins, Scott Brown, DISCLOSE Act of 2010, Olympia Snowe, Mitch McConnell, National Rifle Association, Robert Gibbs, Kevin Kelley
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
An illustration of the Abbottabad compound. [Source: CIA]US intelligence officials come to believe more strongly that they have found Osama bin Laden. US intelligence officials have tracked al-Qaeda courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed (a.k.a. Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti) to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in August 2010 (see July 2010), and by September they are so convinced that bin Laden is hiding there that they inform President Obama about this (see September 1, 2010). Bin Laden is not directly seen by surveillance, but there are many clues suggesting he could be there:
Most importantly, Ahmed fits the profile of an ideal courier for bin Laden, and Ahmed lives at the compound.
The compound is surrounded by 12- to 18-foot high walls topped with barbed wire.
However, there is no telephone or Internet in the compound. This would seem to be an unusual security precaution, but it also makes the compound hard to monitor.
The compound sits on a large plot of land and is about eight times larger than the other homes in the neighborhood.
The people in the compound burn their trash instead of leaving it out for collection, like the other neighbors.
The main three-story building in the compound has few outside windows.
Ahmed and the others known to live in the compound have no known source of wealth that could explain how they pay the expenses of running the compound. [CNN, 5/2/2011]
There are no balconies, except for those covered with more high walls. Balconies are a standard feature for wealthy houses like this one in Pakistan. One neighbor will later comment: “It’s not a proper house. It’s more like a warehouse. It’s not like a home where anyone would want to live.” [Daily Telegraph, 5/3/2011]
A senior Obama administration official will later say, “When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw—an extraordinarily unique compound.” He adds that intelligence analysts conclude the compound was “custom-built to hide someone of significance.… Everything we saw… was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden’s hideout to look like.” [CNN, 5/2/2011] However, according to the Associated Press, US intelligence has known about the compound “for years,” but it did not think bin Laden would live there because there were no security guards. [Associated Press, 5/2/2011] Months later, a US strike force will assault the compound and kill bin Laden (see May 2, 2011).
Retired Major General Jerry Curry, who served in the Defense Department during the Carter and Reagan administrations, comes out in support of Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin. Lakin has refused to obey orders deploying him to Afghanistan because, he says, he questions President Obama’s citizenship and therefore his right to issue orders to the military. Lakin faces a court-martial for disobeying orders (see Before April 13, 2010 and April 22-23, 2010). “It shouldn’t be the lieutenant colonels, sergeants, and generals in the Army” asking questions about Obama’s citizenship, Curry says. “[I]t should be the congressman and senators on both sides of the issue asking this man to step up to the plate” and provide the proof to the American people. Curry is concerned that Lakin’s recent prediction that the Obama “administration will do its best to destroy him personally” is probably accurate. Curry says Obama should “look the American people in the eye” and say: “I am under a cloud because there are some folks that think I am illegitimate. If you will tell me what you think I need to provide to cause you to throw this mess out the window, and to understand that I am legitimate, then I will provide what you folks want because the most important thing is this country and carrying out the Constitution.” Curry joins retired Major General Paul Vallely, a frequent Fox News analyst (see Late September 2003), in questioning Obama’s citizenship. Curry agrees with Vallely that the birth certificate produced during the 2008 presidential campaign (see June 13, 2008) is insufficient evidence of Obama’s citizenship (see August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, and July 28, 2009). Curry says people need to understand that the purpose of pushing for the information is for the good of the country, not for personal reasons, saying he does not want “to hurt Obama, we want the truth out so we don’t hurt the country.” [Greeley Gazette, 8/9/2010] Three weeks later, Vallely’s fellow Fox News analyst, retired Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, joins Vallely and Curry in publicly supporting Lakin (see August 31, 2010).
Shortly after US intelligence begins monitoring the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound where it suspects Osama bin Laden is hiding out (see August 1, 2010 and August 2010-May 2, 2011), a man who fits bin Laden’s description is seen walking around outside almost every day, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward will later report. The man leaves the main compound building but stays within the compound walls to walk around a courtyard for an hour or two. Analysts eventually start calling him “the pacer.” Satellite imagery suggests the pacer has the height and gait of a tall man (and bin Laden is at least six foot four inches tall). However, the satellite imagery is reportedly not clear enough to get a good view of his face. This tall person is never seen leaving the compound. An analysis of the daily routine of this person suggests he is living there almost like a prisoner. Allegedly, CIA Director Leon Panetta tells President Obama and other top US officials that it is too risky to send in a human spy or move electronic equipment closer to confirm if the pacer is bin Laden or not. As a result, US intelligence will still not be 100 percent that bin Laden is living in the compound when US Special Forces raid it in May 2011 (see May 2, 2011). [Washington Post, 5/6/2011] The London Times will publish a later story claiming that US intelligence was aware of the type of clothes bin Laden wore before the raid (see May 23, 2011). That would support these claims about bin Laden’s walks.
PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, reports on a recent addition to YouTube, the publicly accessible Internet video channel. The YouTube video in question purports to show a videotape of President Obama admitting that he is not an American citizen. An email containing the YouTube link reads in part: “Obama admits he is not a citizen—read before this is pulled. Unbelievable!!!!!… Why has he not been impeached?… The amazing part of this travesty is Americans continue allowing themselves to be ruled by an illegal alien.” The 11-minute video, online since May 2 (and still available as of April 2011), is titled, “Not Natural Born—TRUTH MATTERS.” The video begins with a 30-second clip showing Obama speaking before an audience. In the clip, which begins in mid-sentence, Obama is heard saying: “… that maybe I’m not an American citizen. Some people said he has a forged birth certificate. Well, first of all, it’s true I’m not an American. I was not born in Hawaii. I wasn’t born in the United States of America. I come from Kenya.” PolitiFact quickly determines that Obama’s voice has been badly edited, writing: “The volume and sound quality of his voice change at key points, such as between ‘it’s true I’m not’ and ‘an American.’ The video never shows his lips where he makes his key admissions, so you can’t see if his lips are in sync with what he’s saying. And his audience offers no reaction to what should be a stunning admission.” The video comes from a Web site called “obamasnippets.com,” which advertises itself as a source for YouTube humor videos that contain videos of Obama edited and altered for satirical purposes. The “obamasnippets” channel notes: “This is not ‘political.’ This is just for fun. This is not an ‘anti-Obama’ site. This is not a ‘pro-Obama’ site. This is an ‘Obama humor’ site.… All snippets made with 100 percent Obama’s voice. No imitations! (That would be too easy.)” The video as posted on “obamasnippets” is called “Birthers’ Delight—Part 1” and includes a disclaimer indicating that it is a spoof. However, the “Truth Matters” video has stripped off the disclaimer and added background music, “perhaps in an attempt to disguise the telltale signs of editing,” PolitiFact observes. The video receives over a million viewings on YouTube by August 4. PolitiFact dismisses it as a clumsy fraud. [St. Petersburg Times, 8/3/2010]
Citizens Reclaiming Constitutional Liberties PAC logo. [Source: Citizens Reclaiming Constitutional Liberties PAC]Mark Williams, a conservative talk radio host in Sacramento, announces his return to tea party activism. He recently resigned as the chairman and spokesman for the Tea Party Express after facing withering criticism for a spate of racist, inflammatory comments (see July 14, 2010, July 15, 2010), July 17-18, 2010, and July 19-23, 2010). Williams also criticizes many in the tea party movement for being, he says, unwilling to move beyond “the cheerleading stage.” Williams tells a CNN reporter that he is forming a political action committee (PAC) called the “Citizens Reclaiming Constitutional Liberties PAC” (TPM Muckraker calls it the “Citizens for Constitutional Liberty PAC”) that, he says, will channel “tea party passion” into electing conservative candidates. “We’ll be looking for… conservative young people who have something to offer, something to say and don’t identify, in some cases, with either party,” he says. “You don’t elect anybody to the White House in [the year] 2030 unless you elect… a dog catcher in 2010. We’re fielding conservative candidates outside of the Republican Party structure because the Republican Party can’t be trusted.… Both parties, frankly, have just become so corrupt with special interests that we need new blood.” Of the current tea party status, he says: “What we’re looking to do is channel all of this into something more constructive than standing around at rallies and yelling and just cheerleading. You know the tea party thing… the feeling a lot of us had was that the thing had stalled at the cheerleading stage. And we were being bombarded with people asking us, ‘Ok, we’re worked up, we believe you, we’re informed—now what do we do?’” TPE official Levi Russell says he is not surprised that Williams is restarting his political activities. “We didn’t really feel that he ever left the tea party movement,” Russell says. “I think there is plenty of room, ample room in the conservative movement for new groups to form.” A colleague of Williams’s in the new PAC, Mandy Morello, says in a statement: “While I find many of his comments distasteful and do not condone those sorts of messages, it is not my right to take away his free speech guaranteed by our First Amendment. After all, the tea party is not to pick and choose one’s interpretation of these amendments to suit one’s personal opinion.” Morello writes that Williams is “not a racist,” but is aware of the potential ramifications of working with Williams. She writes that whatever Williams may say or do in the future, she does not have “the right to apologize for his actions or have the authority to ‘kick him out’ for any other reason than something that is illegal.… I am not under the illusion that Mark will stop being Mark just because we are partners in this fight.” Another group founder, who is not named in press reports, calls the allegations of racism against Williams “garbage” and says: “They want to throw the word racism out there these days. It’s overused.” [CNN, 8/6/2010; TPM Muckraker, 8/6/2010] In the past, Williams has called President Obama the “racist in chief” (see September 14, 2009) and “our half white, racist president” (see September 2009). He has called Muslims “animals” who worship a “monkey god” (see May 14, 2010).
Dr. Laura Schlessinger. [Source: Wall Street Journal]Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a conservative radio host whose Dr. Laura show combines political commentary with medical and personal “life” advice, claims she will leave the airwaves after engaging in a lengthy on-air “rant” where she uses a racial slur multiple times. Schlessinger begins by welcoming an African-American woman, “Jade,” as a caller. Jade says she is resentful of her husband, who is white, using racial slurs and derogatory language with his family members, “who start making racist comments as if I’m not there or if I’m not black.” Schlessinger says that Jade may be “hypersensitive,” and after a brief exchange, says: “I think that’s—well, listen, without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for [President] Obama simply ‘cause he was half-black. Didn’t matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that. That’s not a surprise. Not everything that somebody says [is racist].” Jade asks, “How about the n-word?” Schlessinger responds: “Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is ‘n_gger, n_gger, n_gger.‘… I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.” Schlessinger takes a commercial break after asking Jade to stay on the line, and upon her return, Jade says: “I was a little caught back by the n-word that you spewed out, I have to be honest with you. But my point is, race relations—” Schlessinger interjects, “Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians.” Jade replies: “But that doesn’t make it right.… [R]acism has come to another level that’s unacceptable.” Schlessinger again overrides Jade’s comments, saying: “Yeah. We’ve got a black man as president and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that’s hilarious.” Jade says, “But I think, honestly, because there’s more white people afraid of a black man taking over the nation.” Schlessinger notes that those people are “afraid,” and after another exchange concerning Obama’s election, she accuses Jade of having a “[c]hip on your shoulder. I can’t do much about that.… Yeah. I think you have too much sensitivity… and not enough sense of humor.” It is all right to use racial slurs, Schlessinger says: “It’s—it depends how it’s said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s okay.… So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can’t do much about that.” Jade, by this point clearly offended by the conversation, says, “I can’t believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the ‘n_gger’ word, and I hope everybody heard it.” Schlessinger retorts, “I didn’t spew out the ‘n_gger’ word.” Jade responds, “You said, ‘N_gger, n_gger, n_gger.’” Schlessinger responds: “Right, I said that’s what you hear.… I’ll say it again… n_gger, n_gger, n_gger is what you hear on” black comedy broadcasts, and accuses Jade of trying to take her words “out of context. Don’t double N—NAACP me.… Leave them in context.” After concluding the call, Schlessinger tells her listeners: “Can’t have this argument. You know what? If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race. If you’re going to marry out of your race, people are going to say: ‘Okay, what do blacks think? What do whites think? What do Jews think? What do Catholics think?’ Of course there isn’t a one-think per se. But in general there’s ‘think.’ And what I just heard from Jade is a lot of what I hear from black-think—and it’s really distressting [sic] and disturbing. And to put it in its context, she said the n-word, and I said, on HBO, listening to black comics, you hear ‘n_gger, n_gger, n_gger.’ I didn’t call anybody a n_gger. Nice try, Jade. Actually, sucky try.… Ah—hypersensitivity, okay, which is being bred by black activists. I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don’t get it. Yes, I do. It’s all about power. I do get it. It’s all about power and that’s sad because what should be in power is not power or righteousness to do good—that should be the greatest power.” [Media Matters, 8/12/2010; RTT News, 8/18/2010] The audio of the exchange between Schlessinger and Jade, and Schlessinger’s concluding remarks, is apparently deleted from the audio recording which is later posted on Schlessinger’s Web site. [Media Matters, 8/12/2010]
Apology - The next day, Schlessinger begins her show with an apology, saying in part: “I talk every day about doing the right thing. And yesterday, I did the wrong thing. I didn’t intend to hurt people, but I did. And that makes it the wrong thing to have done. I was attempting to make a philosophical point, and I articulated the n-word all the way out—more than one time. And that was wrong. I’ll say it again—that was wrong. I ended up, I’m sure, with many of you losing the point I was trying to make, because you were shocked by the fact that I said the word. I, myself, realized I had made a horrible mistake, and was so upset I could not finish the show. I pulled myself off the air at the end of the hour. I had to finish the hour, because 20 minutes of dead air doesn’t work. I am very sorry. And it just won’t happen again.… The caller in question… called for help from me, and didn’t get it, because we got embroiled in the n-word, and I’m really sorry about that, because I’m here for only one reason and that’s to be helpful, so I hope Jade or somebody who knows her is listening, and hope she will call me back and I will try my best to be helpful, which is what she wanted from me in the first place and what she did not get.” [Media Matters, 8/12/2010] “Jade,” the nickname of Nita Hanson, tells a CNN interviewer that she never intends to speak with Schlessinger again, saying, “There’s nothing she can do for me.” She says the entire episode was “still very hurtful,” and says she was confused by Schlessinger’s rant. “I thought I had said something wrong.” She has her own ideas as to why Schlessinger apologized: “I think she apologized because she got caught.” The racial epithet Schlessinger is “never okay” to use, Hanson says. “It’s a very hateful word.” [Orlando Sentinel, 8/19/2010] Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton refuses to accept Schlessinger’s apology. During a CNN interview about the incident, Sharpton says that Schlessinger’s comment that people should consider not marrying outside of their race “despicable,” and adds, “She said the word over and over, and in a very animated way, I might add, but that she actually, if you listen carefully to the logic of what she was saying was that the n-word was not offensive.” [CNN, 8/13/2010]
Calls for Resignation - On August 13, the National Urban League, a politically moderate civil rights organization, issues a statement asking Talk Radio Network to drop Schlessinger from its syndicated broadcast schedule, and asks her to educate herself about racism. NUL president Marc H. Morial says: “The problem is not simply that Dr. Schlessinger used the n-word repeatedly, though that is offensive enough. Her comments to the caller showed a breathtaking insensitivity and ignorance about racial dynamics in the United States.” Morial notes that in her rant, an African-American caller complained that her white husband’s friends use racial slurs and racially demeaning comments, to which Schlessinger responded that the caller was “hypersensitive”; Morial says that Schlessinger’s most revealing comment was: “I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing, but when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.” Morial says: “As she said, she doesn’t get it, and she is very confused about what constitutes racism. It’s beyond comprehension that Dr. Schlessinger would consider [the caller] ‘hypersensitive’ for being offended by the use of the n-word. We should be long past the point in this country where anyone should be advised to laugh off or ignore racist comments. I hope the Talk Radio Network agrees that we’ve had enough of negative racial attitudes, and drops the Dr. Laura show from syndication.” [National Urban League, 8/13/2010]
Defending Schlessinger - One of the few public figures to openly defend Schlessinger is former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), who issues a number of Facebook and Twitter posts in Schlessinger’s defense. “Does anyone seriously believe that Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a racist?” she asks on Facebook. “Anyone, I mean, who isn’t already accusing all conservatives, Republicans, tea party Americans, etc., etc., etc. of being racists?” A Twitter post reads, “Dr. Laura: don’t retreat… reload!” and says the “activists” seeking Schlessinger’s resignation are not “American” and “not fair.” [Jason Easley, 8/18/2010; The Grio, 8/20/2011]
Resignation, Claim that Her First Amendment Rights are under Attack by 'Special Interest Groups' - Eight days after her on-air rant, Schlessinger announces that she will conclude her radio show at the end of 2010. She explains: “I was attempting to make a philosophical point, and I articulated the n-word all the way out—more than one time. And that was wrong. I’ll say it again—that was wrong.” She tells CNN talk show host Larry King: “I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry or some special-interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent.… I decided it was time to move on to other venues where I could say my piece and not have to live in fear anymore.” Schlessinger claims that her First Amendment right to free speech is being constrained: “My contract is up at the end of the year, and I have made the decision not to do radio anymore. The reason is, I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.” [Washington Post, 8/17/2010; RTT News, 8/18/2010; New York Times, 8/27/2010] Political commentator John Ridley calls Schlessinger’s claims that her “First Amendment” rights are being “trampled” “absurd.” On CNN, Ridley says: “The First Amendment, and a lot of people say this all the time, it pertains to the government impeding freedom of religion, freedom of speech.… No one’s impeding her First Amendment rights. If she wants to retire, that’s fine, but to say that for some reason someone disagrees with her, that she’s being maligned or in some way shoved off the airwaves, to me is absurd. You know, that’s her idea of an apology, to victimize herself.” [Media Matters, 8/17/2010] The president of Media Matters for America, the progressive media watchdog organization, Eric Burns, applauds Schlessinger’s decision. Burns says: “Dr. Laura’s radio career ended in disgrace tonight because of the bigoted, ugly, and hateful remarks made on her show. Americans have had enough. Listeners are now holding hosts, affiliates, and sponsors accountable for the offensive and inexcusable content on the airwaves.” The New York Times notes that Schlessinger has repeatedly weathered criticism for her anti-homosexual comments and false claims that “huge” numbers of male homosexuals are “predatory on young boys.” [New York Times, 8/27/2010]
No Departure - Instead of leaving the airwaves as she claims she will do, Schlessinger will move her show from broadcast radio to satellite radio’s Sirius XM (see November 26, 2010).
Entity Tags: National Urban League, Larry King, Laura Schlessinger, Marc H. Morial, John Ridley, Eric Burns, Nita Hanson, Barack Obama, CNN, Talk Radio Network, Al Sharpton, New York Times, Sarah Palin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Conservative Christian evangelist Franklin Graham says that the “problem” with President Obama is that he was born a Muslim. Graham acknowledges that Obama has long since converted to Christianity. CNN interviewer John King asks Graham if he has doubts about Obama’s Christian faith. Graham replies that much of the “birther” controversy about Obama’s heritage (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, April 18, 2008, and April 29, 2009) comes from Obama’s supposed birth into the Muslim faith. Graham says that Obama was born a Muslim because his father was a Muslim. “I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim,” he says. “The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name.” Obama’s father named him after himself; Obama has written that while his father was raised Muslim, he was a practicing atheist. “The confusion is, is because his father was a Muslim, he was born a Muslim. The Islamic world sees the president as one of theirs. That’s why [Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi] calls him ‘my son.’ They see him as a Muslim. But of course the president says he is a Christian, and we just have to accept it as that.… Now it’s obvious that the president has renounced the prophet Mohammed and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That is what he says he has done, I cannot say that he hasn’t. So I just have to believe that the president is what he has said.… [Y]ou can be born a Muslim, you can be born a Jew, but you can’t be born a Christian. The only way you can become a Christian is by confessing your sins to God, asking his forgiveness, and by receiving Jesus Christ by faith into your heart, that Christ died for your sins, shed his blood on Calvary’s Cross, and that God raised him to life. If you’re willing to accept that and believe that, and let Jesus Christ be the lord of your life, God will forgive your sins, he will heal your heart, and that’s the only way you can become a Christian. And so if the president has done that, then I would say he’s a Christian, if that’s what he has done.” Graham has issued denunciations and criticisms of Islam before, many of which have drawn sharp responses. Obama has prayed with Graham and his father, the noted evangelist Billy Graham, at the Grahams’ mountain home in North Carolina. [CNN, 8/19/2010; TPM LiveWire, 8/20/2010]
Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights logo. [Source: IREHR / Facebook]The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights (IREHR) issues a comprehensive, multi-part report on the American “tea party” movement. The report is written by IREHR vice president Devin Burghart and IREHR president Leonard Zeskind, both accomplished authors and researchers. The report examines six national organizational networks which Burghart and Zeskind say are “at the core of the tea party movement.” These six include: the FreedomWorks Tea Party; the 1776 Tea Party (“TeaParty.org”); Tea Party Nation; Tea Party Patriots; ResistNet; and the Tea Party Express. The report examines their origins, structures, leadership, policies, funding, membership, and relations with one another. [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 8/24/2010]
Data Collection Methodology - The authors provide details of their data collection methodology in a separate section of the report. [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 10/19/2010]
Racism, Anti-Semitism Rampant in Many (Not All) Tea Party Organizations - The report explicitly notes that “[i]t would be a mistake to claim that all tea partiers are nativist vigilantes or racists of one stripe or another.” It shows that while tea party organizations, and many media outlets, paint tea partiers as concentrated primarily on “budget deficits, taxes, and the power of the federal government,” in reality many tea party organizations are very focused on racial, nationalist, and other social issues (see January 14, 2010). The report finds: “In these ranks, an abiding obsession with Barack Obama’s birth certificate (see June 13, 2008) is often a stand-in for the belief that the first black president of the United States is not a ‘real American.’ Rather than strict adherence to the Constitution, many tea partiers are challenging the provision for birthright citizenship found in the 14th Amendment.” Many (not all) tea party organizations open their ranks “to anti-Semites, racists, and bigots,” the report finds, and in many of those organizations, the racists and bigots have leadership positions. And, it finds, white supremacist organizations routinely attend and even present at tea party rallies, “looking for potential recruits and hoping to push these (white) protesters towards a more self-conscious and ideological white supremacy.” The report notes that former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is trying to find money and support among tea party organizations to launch a 2012 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. The leaders of the 1776 Tea Party organization “were imported directly from the anti-immigrant vigilante organization, the Minuteman Project,” the report notes. Tea Party Nation has attracted a large contingent of so-called “birthers,” Christian nationalists, and nativists, many of whom display openly racist sentiments; some other tea party organizations have now distanced themselves from that particular group. ResistNet and Tea Party Patriots, the two largest “umbrella” organizations or networks, are also rife with anti-immigrant nativists and racists; the Tea Party Patriots have openly embraced the idea of the repeal of the 17th Amendment (see April 8, 2010). At least one group, the Washington DC-based FreedomWorks Tea Party, has made some efforts to focus its actions solely on economic issues and eschew social or religious issues; those efforts have largely failed. There is a large and disparate “schema” of racist organizations and belief systems in America, the report notes, from Nazi sympathizers to “America-first isolationists,” “scientific” racists, nativists, “paleoconservatives,” and others. Generally, the more mainstream and less extremist racist movements and persons gravitate to tea party organizations. “[T]he white nationalist movement is divided between two strategic orientations: the go-it-alone vanguardists and the mainstreamers who seek to win a majority following among white people. It is decidedly the mainstreamers, such as the Council of Conservative Citizens… who seek to influence and recruit among the tea partiers.” The same can be said of militia groups: the more mainstream of these organizations are the ones taking part in, and recruiting at, tea party events. The two—racist and militia groups—have, of course, a heavy overlap in membership and belief structures. Tea party leaders and members tend to strongly dispute evidence that their fellows espouse racist beliefs. [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 8/24/2010; Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 10/19/2010]
Economic Beliefs Tied to Anger at Immigrants, 'Undeserving Poor' - The tea parties are most often characterized as anti-tax economic conservatives who oppose government spending; however, the report finds, “there is no observable statistical link between tea party membership and unemployment levels.… And their storied opposition to political and social elites turns out to be predicated on an antagonism to federal assistance to those deemed the ‘undeserving poor.’” Many tea party members and organizations, including some of the movement’s most visible political leaders, are openly anti-immigrant. The House’s Tea Party Caucus, led by Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), has a significant overlap with the members of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, led by tea party supporter Brian Bilbray (R-CA). The Immigration Reform Caucus has introduced legislation that would end the Constitution’s principle of “birthright citizenship.” The racist and anti-immigrant themes at play in many tea party organizations have dovetailed in these organizations’ attacks on President Obama as being a “non-American.” The report observes: “The permutations go on from there: Islamic terrorist, socialist, African witch doctor, lying African, etc. If he is not properly American, then he becomes the ‘other’ that is not ‘us.’ Five of the six national factions have these ‘birthers’ in their leadership; the only exception being FreedomWorks.”
'Nationalism' of Tea Parties - Most tea party organizations hark back to the Revolutionary War era and the Founding Fathers as their forebears, sometimes even dressing in 18th-century costumes, waving the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, and claiming that the US Constitution as written should be the touchstone of all legislative policies. However, the report notes that their “American nationalism” is hardly inclusive: “[T]heirs is an American nationalism that does not always include all Americans. It is a nationalism that excludes those deemed not to be ‘real Americans’; including the native-born children of undocumented immigrants (often despised as ‘anchor babies’), socialists, Moslems, and those not deemed to fit within a ‘Christian nation.’” The report connects the tea parties’ concept of nationalism (see October 19, 2010) back to the “America First” ideology of Father Charles Coughlin, a vocal anti-Semite and supporter of Nazism (see October 3, 1926 - 1942). The report notes: “As the Confederate battle flags, witch doctor caricatures, and demeaning discourse suggest, a bright white line of racism threads through this nationalism. Yet, it is not a full-fledged variety of white nationalism. It is as inchoate as it is super-patriotic. It is possibly an embryo of what it might yet become.”
Multi-Million Dollar Complex Heavily Funded by Right-Wing Foundations - The tea party movement presents itself as a loose confederation of ground-up, grassroots groups and organizations put together by principled citizens driven by their political and social concerns. However, the reality is that many tea party organizations are for-profit corporations and/or political action committees, with some equally well-funded non-profit corporations included in the mix. Collectively, they have succeeded at trumping the Democrats’ advantage in Web-based mobilization and fundraising.
Resurrection of 'Ultra-Conservative Wing of American Political Life' - The report finds that the tea party organizations “have resuscitated the ultra-conservative wing of American political life, created a stiff pole of opinion within Republican Party ranks, and they have had a devastating impact on thoughtful policy making for the common good, both at the local and state as well as at the federal levels.” The report finds: “The tea party movement has unleashed a still inchoate political movement by angry middle class (overwhelmingly) white people who believe their country, their nation, has been taken from them. And they want it back.” Whom they apparently “want it back” from is from non-white Americans. The report notes that the tea party slogan, “Take It Back, Take Your Country Back” is “an explicitly nationalist refrain. It is sometimes coupled with the assertion that there are ‘real Americans,’ as opposed to others who they believe are driving the country into a socialist ditch.”
Three Levels of Structure - As with most entities of this nature, there are three fundamental levels to the “tea party structure.” Some 16 to 18 percent of Americans say they have some sympathy with tea party ideals—these citizens, numbering in the tens of millions, form the outer ring of the structure. The next ring as an ill-defined group of perhaps two million activists who go to meetings and rallies, and buy literature. The core is composed of some 250,000 heavily involved members who take part in the Web-directed activities of the tea party organizations. The report focuses on this group as the hub of what it calls “tea party nationalists.” As time goes on, the tea parties continue to add members to their ranks. The Tea Party Patriots and ResistNet are, at this time, experiencing the fastest rate of growth; the report notes, “This would tend to indicate a larger movement less susceptible to central control, and more likely to attract racist and nativist elements at the local level.” The tea parties as a whole will continue to wield their influence on American political and social debates, though the tea parties may begin to splinter as some members move into the more structured Republican Party apparatus and others move towards the more extremist white nationalist organizations. The report does not include local groups not affiliated with one or the other of the national networks, and the ancillary organizations that have worked alongside the tea parties since their inception. The report notes some of these ancillary organizations as Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty (see August 4, 2008), Americans for Prosperity (see Late 2004), the National Precinct Alliance, and the John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011). The report also notes the existence of the “9-12 movement” (see March 13, 2009 and After), but does not count that as a separate network, and goes on to note that after the 2009 9-12 rally in Washington (see September 12, 2009), many 9-12 groups joined a tea party organization. [Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 8/24/2010]
Response - Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, responds to the release of the IREHR report by saying: “Here we go again. This is typical of this liberal group’s smear tactics.” Phillips does not cite examples of the report’s “smear tactics.” [Kansas City Star, 10/19/2010]
Entity Tags: National Precinct Alliance, ResistNet, Tea Party Express, US House of Representatives Immigration Reform Caucus, Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Nation, Minuteman Project, US House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus, Michele Bachmann, Leonard Zeskind, Judson Phillips, 1776 Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, Barack Obama, Brian Bilbray, Council of Conservative Citizens, Charles Edward Coughlin, Devin Burghart, John Birch Society, Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, FreedomWorks Tea Party, Campaign for Liberty, David Duke
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Liberal New York Times columnist Frank Rich writes an op-ed focusing on the billionaire Koch brothers (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, 1997, Late 2004, August 5, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 30, 2010, and October 4, 2011), the oil magnates who are the driving force behind the tea party movement. Rich writes that “even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.” Rich, using information from historian Kim Phillips-Fein’s book Invisible Hands, notes that the Kochs are the latest in a long line of behind-the-scenes corporate manipulators “who have financed the far right (see September 2010 and August 17, 2011) ever since the du Pont brothers spawned the American Liberty League in 1934 to bring down” the Roosevelt administration (see August 23, 1934 and After). “You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal ‘socialism’ of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on [the Kennedy administration] and Medicare (see 1962 and November 1963) to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our ‘socialist’ president,” Rich writes. “Only the fat cats change—not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government ‘handouts’ to the poor, unemployed, ill, and elderly). Even the sources of their fortunes remain fairly constant. Koch Industries began with oil in the 1930s and now also spews an array of industrial products, from Dixie cups to Lycra, not unlike DuPont’s portfolio of paint and plastics. Sometimes the biological DNA persists as well. The Koch brothers’ father, Fred (see 1940 and After), was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of ‘a takeover’ of America in which Communists would ‘infiltrate the highest offices of government in the US until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.’ That rant could be delivered as is at any tea party rally today.” Rich also focuses on FreedomWorks (see 1984 and After, May 16, 2008, February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, February 27, 2009, March 13, 2009 and After, April 2009 and After, April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, June 26, 2009, Late July, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 14, 2009, August 19, 2009, August 24, 2010, September 2010, September 12, 2010 and August 17, 2011), one of the two “major sponsor[s]” of the tea party movement, along with Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004, October 2008, January 2009 and After, February 16, 2009, February 16-17, 2009, February 17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, April 2009 and After, April 8, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 14, 2009, October 2, 2009, November 2009, February 15, 2010, April 15, 2010, July 3-4, 2010, August 24, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 20, 2010 and August 17, 2011). Both FreedomWorks and AFP are heavily funded by the Koch brothers. Rich writes: “Tea partiers may share the Kochs’ detestation of taxes, big government, and [President] Obama. But there’s a difference between mainstream conservatism and a fringe agenda that tilts completely toward big business, whether on Wall Street or in the Gulf of Mexico, while dismantling fundamental government safety nets designed to protect the unemployed, public health, workplace safety, and the subsistence of the elderly.” Rich writes that the Koch brothers’ agenda is “inexorably… morphing into the GOP agenda,” and points to Republican luminaries such as incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-MO) and tea party candidates such as Rand Paul (see March 27, 2010, May 17, 2010, October 25, 2010 and After, October 26, 2010 and November 10, 2010), Sharron Angle (see January 2010, Mid-May, 2010, Mid-June 2010, June 16, 2010 and September 18, 2010), and Joe Miller (see July 19, 2010, July 23, 2010, October 17, 2010, October 17, 2010 and October 18, 2010). “The Koch brothers must be laughing all the way to the bank knowing that working Americans are aiding and abetting their selfish interests,” Rich concludes. [New York Times, 8/28/2010]
Entity Tags: Rand Paul, Koch Industries, Sharron Angle, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller, Kim Phillips-Fein, John Birch Society, Barack Obama, Americans for Prosperity, American Liberty League, Charles Koch, John Boehner, David Koch, Fred Koch, FreedomWorks, Frank Rich
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Charles and David Koch. [Source: PRWatch (.org)]The New Yorker publishes a lengthy analysis of the Koch (pronounced “coke”) financial empire, and its long-time financial support for right-wing causes (see 1981-2010). The article, written by investigative reporter Jane Mayer, shows that Koch Industries, led by brothers David and Charles Koch, has donated over $250 million to Republican and conservative politicians and organizations since the mid-1990s. The Koch brothers are also well-known philanthropists, having given millions to New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, $100 million to the Lincoln Center’s New York State Theatre building, $40 million to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, $20 million to the American Museum of Natural History, and $10 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Second-Largest Private Industry in US - Koch Industries, a $100 billion conglomerate, garners most of its profits from oil refineries and associated interests; it owns the firms that manufacture Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber and paper products, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra fabric. Koch Industries is the second largest private company in the US after Cargill, and taken together, the Koch brothers’ fortune of some $35 billion places them just behind Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Wall Street financier Warren Buffett as the nation’s richest people.
Longtime Libertarians - Personally, the Koch brothers espouse a libertarian philosophy—drastic reductions in corporate and personal taxes, huge cuts in government expenditures on social services, and widespread deregulation of industry, particularly environmental. Koch Industries was recently listed in the top 10 of US air polluters, and has for years funded organizations that oppose climate change, giving even more than ExxonMobil to organizations, foundations, and think tanks that work to derail or overturn climate change legislation. Koch funds so many different organizations that oppose various initiatives of the Obama administration that Washington insiders call the Koch ideological network the “Kochtopus.” While the Koch brothers have protested being characterized as major supporters of the right-wing agenda—David Koch has complained that the “radical press” is intent on making him and his brother into “whipping boys”—Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, says: “The Kochs are on a whole different level. There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation. I’ve been in Washington since Watergate, and I’ve never seen anything like it. They are the Standard Oil of our times.” The Kochs have embraced the pure free-market ideology of economist Friedrich von Hayek, who argued that any form of centralized government would lead to totalitarianism and that only complete, unregulated capitalism could ensure freedom. Many “tea party” supporters, such as Fox News host Glenn Beck, have openly embraced von Hayek’s ideals.
Inculcated Ideals of Anti-Communist Father - Both brothers are steeped in the anti-Communist, anti-government, minority-disparaging views of their father, Koch Industries co-founder Fred Koch (see 1940 and After).
Using the 'Tea Parties' - Conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who has worked at a Koch-funded think tank, says that the Kochs are playing on the anti-government fervor of the “tea parties” to further their pro-business, libertarian agenda. “The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians,” Bartlett says. “There haven’t been any actual people, like voters, who give a crap about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.” With the emergence of the “tea parties,” Bartlett says, “everyone suddenly sees that for the first time there are Indians out there—people who can provide real ideological power. [The Kochs are] trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.” A Republican campaign consultant who has worked for the Kochs says of the tea party movement: “The Koch brothers gave the money that founded it. It’s like they put the seeds in the ground. Then the rainstorm comes, and the frogs come out of the mud—and they’re our candidates!” The consultant says that the Kochs keep an extremely low profile, in part to avoid accusations that they are funding an “astroturf” movement (see April 15, 2009). A former Koch adviser says: “They’re smart. This right-wing, redneck stuff works for them. They see this as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves.” Democratic political strategist Rob Stein, who has studied the conservative movement’s finances, says the Kochs are “at the epicenter of the anti-Obama movement. But it’s not just about Obama. They would have done the same to Hillary Clinton. They did the same with Bill Clinton. They are out to destroy progressivism.” Since a 2009 rally attended by David Koch (see November 2009), the brothers have all but explicitly endorsed the tea party movement, with David Koch praising it for demonstrating the “powerful visceral hostility in the body politic against the massive increase in government power, the massive efforts to socialize this country.” Echoing the sentiments of many tea party leaders, Charles Koch said in a newsletter sent out to Koch Industry employees that President Obama is comparable to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
Strategy - Charles Koch told a reporter that “[t]o bring about social change” requires “a strategy” that is “vertically and horizontally integrated,” spanning “from idea creation to policy development to education to grassroots organizations to lobbying to litigation to political action.… We have a radical philosophy.” The Kochs launched their first “think tank,” the libertarian Cato Institute, in 1977 (see 1977-Present), which has been effective in promoting corporate tax cuts, deregulation, cuts in social spending, and in opposing governmental initiatives to combat climate change. Other Koch-funded institutes such as the Heritage Foundation and the Independent Women’s Forum have also publicly opposed efforts to combat climate change. History professor Naomi Oreskes, the author of a book, Merchants of Doubt, that chronicles attempts by American industries to manipulate public opinion on science, says that the Kochs have a vested interest in keeping the government from addressing climate change. “If the answer is to phase out fossil fuels,” she says, “a different group of people are going to be making money, so we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re fighting tooth and nail.” David Koch has said that though he doesn’t believe that any global warming effects have been caused by human activities, if indeed the globe is warming, it will benefit society by lengthening growing seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. Several years after founding Cato, the Kochs provided millions in funding to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, which Stein describes as “ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.” Mercatus is headed by Richard Fink, a Koch Industries lobbyist and president of several Koch-funded foundations. Mayer describes Fink as the chief political lieutenant of the Koch brothers. Mercatus was quite successful at having the Bush administration adopt a number of its deregulatory strategies, particularly environmental deregulation. Like Cato, critics of Mercatus accuse it of serving the brothers’ corporate needs while hiding behind the facade of a nonpartisan academic organization. “Ideas don’t happen on their own,” says Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a tea party advocacy group heavily funded by the Kochs (see April 14, 2009). “Throughout history, ideas need patrons.” FreedomWorks is one of many citizen activism groups founded and/or funded by the Kochs, usually masquerading as “grassroots” organizations started by “ordinary citizens” (see 1984 and After, 1997, and Late 2004).
Disrupting the Obama Administration - Since well before the 2008 presidential election, the Koch brothers have been involved in full-throated efforts to derail any policies or initiatives that would be launched by a Democratic president. In January 2008, Charles Koch wrote in the industry newsletter that America was on the verge of “the greatest loss of liberty and prosperity since the 1930s.” The Kochs have used their “astroturf” advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), to great effect against the Obama administration, launching its efforts even before the November 2008 election (see October 2008 and January 2009 and After). Conservative activist Grover Norquist says that AFP’s August 2009 anti-health care rallies were instrumental in undermining Obama’s policy initiatives. Norquist says the rallies “discouraged deal-makers,” Republicans who otherwise might have considered cooperating with Obama and Congressional Democrats, and affected corporate donors to Washington lobbyists, steering millions into the hands of Republican lobbyists. [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
Entity Tags: Matt Kibbe, Koch Industries, Naomi Oreskes, Richard Fink, Obama administration, New Yorker, Rob Stein, Jane Mayer, Independent Women’s Forum, Mercatus Center, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Center for Public Integrity, Bruce Bartlett, Americans for Prosperity, Barack Obama, Charles Koch, Hillary Clinton, David Koch, FreedomWorks, Friedrich von Hayek, Charles Lewis, Glenn Beck, Grover Norquist, Fred Koch
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
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