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:
WikiLeaks, a non-profit whistleblower group, releases some files on about 750 prisoners held at the US-run prison in Guantanamo, Cuba. This covers all but about 15 of the prisoners who have passed through the prison since it opened in early 2002 (see January 11, 2002). Nearly all of the prisoners were accused of belonging to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or associated Islamist militant groups. The files were written by US military intelligence officials between the prison’s opening and January 2009. They contain assessments on whether each prisoner should remain in US custody, be imprisoned by another country, or be set free. Most of the prisoners have been released over the years, and no new prisoners have been sent to Guantanamo since 2007, but 172 prisoners remain at Guantanamo in April 2011. Seven news organizations—the New York Times, The Guardian, McClatchy Newspapers, the Washington Post, El Pais, Der Spiegel, and NPR (National Public Radio)—were given early access to the files by WikiLeaks in order to vet and analyze them. Their publication was sped up when the New York Times prepared to publish them after claiming to get copies of them from another unnamed source. The Obama administration immediately condemns the publication of the classified information in the files. [New York Times, 4/24/2011; New Yorker, 4/25/2011]
Files Often Contain Dubious Evidence - Journalists who analyze the files question the accuracy of their prisoner assessments. The New York Times comments that the files “show that the United States has imprisoned hundreds of men for years without trial based on a difficult and strikingly subjective evaluation of who they were, what they had done in the past, and what they might do in the future.” Furthermore, the files “reveal that the analysts sometimes ignored serious flaws in the evidence—for example, that the information came from other detainees whose mental illness made them unreliable. Some assessments quote witnesses who say they saw a detainee at a camp run by al-Qaeda but omit the witnesses’ record of falsehood or misidentification. They include detainees’ admissions without acknowledging other government documents that show the statements were later withdrawn, often attributed to abusive treatment or torture.” [New York Times, 4/24/2011] The Guardian comments that Guantanamo has been “a place that portrayed itself as the ultimate expression of a forensic and rational war run by the most sophisticated power on the planet, with the best intelligence available. The reality was an almost random collection of [prisoners who were] the bad, the accidental, and the irrelevant.” [Guardian, 4/25/2011] McClatchy Newspapers comments: “The world may have thought the US was detaining a band of international terrorists whose questioning would help the hunt for Osama Bin Laden or foil the next 9/11. But [the files] not meant to surface for another 20 years shows that the military’s efforts at Guantanamo often were much less effective than the government has acknowledged. Viewed as a whole, the secret intelligence summaries help explain why in May 2009 President Barack Obama, after ordering his own review of wartime intelligence, called America’s experiment at Guantanamo ‘quite simply a mess.’”
Files Dependant on Dubious Informants - McClatchy further claims that the files were “tremendously dependant on informants—both prison camp snitches repeating what they’d heard from fellow captives and self-described, at times self-aggrandizing, alleged al-Qaeda insiders turned government witnesses who Pentagon records show have since been released.” The information in the files is based on other sources, including intelligence documents and some confessions. [McClatchy Newspapers, 4/24/2011] The New York Times similarly comments that “Guantanamo emerges from the documents as a nest of informants, a closed world where detainees were the main source of allegations against one another and sudden recollections of having spotted a fellow prisoner at an al-Qaeda training camp could curry favor with interrogators.” [New York Times, 4/24/2011]
Files Also Based on Torture and Legally Questionable Methods - The files rarely mention the abuse and torture scandals concerning treatment of US prisoners in Guantanamo, in secret CIA prisons, in other overseas US-run prisons, and in prisons run by some US allies where the use of torture was more widespread. However, there are hints. For instance, one file on an Australian man sent to Guantanamo in 2002 mentions that he confessed while “under extreme duress” and “in the custody of the Egyptian government” to training six of the 9/11 hijackers in martial arts. But despite the apparent seriousness of this accusation, he was released in early 2005. Additionally, important prisoners such as Abu Zubaida held in secret CIA prisons were shown photos of Guantanamo prisoners and asked about them around the time they were subjected to waterboarding and other torture methods. The interrogations of Zubaida, who was waterboarded many times (see May 2003), are cited in over 100 prisoner files. However, his accusations against others have been systematically removed from government filings in court cases in recent years, which would indicate that officials are increasingly doubtful about his reliability and/or the legality of his tortured confessions. Also, many foreign officials were allowed to interrogate some prisoners in Guantanamo, including officials from China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait, Algeria, and Tajikistan. Information in some files comes from these legally questionable interrogation sessions. [McClatchy Newspapers, 4/24/2011; New York Times, 4/24/2011] One well-known case of torture involved Mohamed al-Khatani, the alleged 20th 9/11 hijacker (see December 2001). While being held in Guantanamo, he was interrogated for months with techniques that the senior Bush administration official in charge of bringing Guantanamo prisoners to trial later said legally met the definition of torture (see August 8, 2002-January 15, 2003 and January 14, 2009). His file says, “Although publicly released records allege detainee was subject to harsh interrogation techniques in the early stages of detention,” his confessions “appear to be true and are corroborated in reporting from other sources.” Claims al-Khatani made regarding 16 other Guantanamo prisoners are mentioned in their files without any caveats about the interrogation methods used on him. [New York Times, 4/24/2011]
Some Prisoners Unjustly Held - Some prisoners appear to be clearly innocent, and yet they often were held for years before being released. Some prisoners are still being held even though their files indicate that their interrogators are not even sure of their identities. In some cases, prisoners were held for years not because they were suspected of any crime, but because it was thought they knew useful information. For instance, files show one prisoner was sent to Guantanamo because of what he knew about the secret service of Uzbekistan. [McClatchy Newspapers, 4/24/2011; New York Times, 4/24/2011] In a cruel twist of fate, one man, Jamal al-Harith, appears to have been imprisoned mainly because he had been imprisoned by the Taliban. His file states, “He was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics.” [Guardian, 4/25/2011]
Prisoner Releases Based More on Luck than Evidence - The New York Times claims the determination of which prisoners were released has mostly been a “lottery” that was largely based on which country the prisoner came from. “Most European inmates were sent home, despite grave qualms on the analysts’ part. Saudis went home, even some of the most militant, to enter the rehabilitation program; some would graduate and then join al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Yemenis have generally stayed put, even those cleared for release, because of the chaos in their country. Even in clearly mistaken arrests, release could be slow.” [New York Times, 4/24/2011] In 2009, the new Obama administration put together a task force that re-evaluated the 240 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo. However, these more recent assessments remain secret. [New York Times, 4/24/2011]
Appearing on ABC’s Sunday morning talk show This Week, in an interview taped ahead of time but broadcast on Easter morning, Christian evangelist Franklin Graham gives his blessing to billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rumored presidential aspirations, saying: “When I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, ‘Well, this has got to be a joke.’ But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself: ‘You know? Maybe the guy’s right.’” Graham says he agrees with Trump’s allegations that President Obama may not be an American citizen. The Charlotte Observer notes, “There was no discussion of how Graham, a conservative Christian, could support a thrice-married owner of gambling casinos.” Graham has said in recent years that Obama was “born a Muslim” and Islam is a “wicked” religion. On This Week, he questions Obama’s Christianity (see January 6-11, 2008) and refuses to say that Obama’s birth certificate is valid (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). “The president… has some issues to deal with here,” he says. “He can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly (see July 1, 2009). I was born in a hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and I know that my records are there. You can probably even go and find out what room my mother was in when I was born. I don’t know why he can’t produce that.… It’s an issue that looks like he could answer pretty quickly.” In a subsequent interview for Christianity Today, Graham backs away from his previous claims that Obama is a Muslim, saying: “I do not believe for an instant that Obama is a Muslim. He has said he’s not a Muslim. I take him at his word. People say he’s not born in the United States. I take it on the word that they properly vetted him before they swore him into office. I’m sure somebody had to look at his credentials. I’m not saying the president is a Muslim, never said he’s a Muslim. He says he’s a Christian.… I’ve never said that Obama was born a Muslim.” However, he notes, “All throughout the Muslim world, every person whose father is a Muslim is recognized under Islamic law as a Muslim.” Obama’s father was a nonpracticing Muslim. [Charlotte Observer, 4/25/2011; Christianity Today, 4/26/2011] The Charlotte Observer publishes an op-ed in response to Graham’s claims that accuses him of “spouting… nonsense” about Obama’s birth certificate and “join[ing] Trump in fostering the bizarre and false birther allegations.” [Charlotte Observer, 4/26/2011] In 2010, Graham told a CNN reporter that Obama’s “problem” was that he was “born a Muslim” (see August 19, 2010).
Responding to recent comments by evangelist Franklin Graham that questioned President Obama’s US citizenship (see April 24-25, 2011), Fox News anchor Shepard Smith tells his viewers: “Fox News can confirm that the president of the United States is a citizen of the United States. Period.” Smith refers viewers to the validated copy of Obama’s birth certificate that has been available for years (see June 13, 2008) before making the assertion that Fox confirms Obama’s US citizenship. [Media Matters, 4/25/2011; Business Insider, 4/26/2011]
Billionaire television host Donald Trump says that “somebody” informed him that President Obama’s birth certificate is “missing.” During his April 7 interview on NBC’s Today Show, Trump told interviewer Meredith Vieira that he had sent a team of researchers to Hawaii to investigate President Obama’s birth status (see April 7, 2011 and April 7, 2011). “[T]hey cannot believe what they are finding,” he told her. In later interviews, Trump was coy about revealing what, if anything, his investigators have found, telling one reporter, “I’ll let you know that at a future date” and another, “[T]hat’s none of your business.” In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Cooper presses Trump to divulge what his investigators have actually unearthed. Trump claims that he has learned Obama’s birth certificate is “not there and it doesn’t exist.” He says: “Well, I’ve been told very recently, Anderson, that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there and it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, that’s a big problem.” Cooper asks, “Who told you that?” and Trump answers, “I just heard that two days ago from somebody.” Cooper asks, “From your investigators?” and Trump replies: “I don’t want to say who. But I’ve been told that the birth certificate is not there, it’s missing.” Cooper presses Trump, asking, “Can you name even one person who your investigators have talked to?” Trump refuses, saying: “I don’t want to do that right now. It’s not appropriate right now.” CNN researchers working for Cooper’s broadcast have contacted Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the former Hawaii Department of Health director and a Republican, who has repeatedly validated the authenticity of Obama’s original birth certificate (see October 30, 2008, July 28, 2009, and April 11, 2011). She calls Obama’s certificate “absolutely authentic,” and debunks Trump’s suggestion that Obama wants to keep the certificate hidden to cloak his status as a Muslim, because, Fukino says, no birth certificate from that time mentions faith. CNN finds three people who remember Obama as an infant in Honolulu, including Governor Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Obama’s mother’s college advisor, and another mother who gave birth at the same time Obama was born. The other mother says she remembers Obama in the hospital because “in those days, there were hardly any other black babies.” Reportedly, the exchange between Trump and Cooper becomes heated at times. [New York Magazine, 4/7/2011; Fox Nation, 4/19/2011; Think Progress, 4/26/2011; CNN, 4/26/2011]
Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan excoriates billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump for attacking President Obama’s college career (see April 26, 2011). Sullivan writes: “Like a junkie huffing his own glue, Donald Trump throws in the affirmative action card to pump up the GOP base even more. This one really stretches credulity: the man who edited the Harvard Law Review was not qualified to get into Columbia or Harvard. And then a totally fabricated notion that the president’s long-form birth certificate is missing” (see February 10, 2011). Sullivan calls Trump’s allegations “racist smears, based on fear of the cultural ‘other.’” Sullivan concludes: “I don’t think Trump will last very long. I do think he makes other shameless candidates more acceptable.” [Daily Beast, 4/26/2011]
On Sean Hannity’s Fox News talk show, guest Tamara Holder, a Fox legal analyst, speculates why President Obama has not “released” his “real” birth certificate (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 29, 2009, April 11, 2011, and April 25, 2011). “I would say that maybe there’s something on there that he doesn’t want people to know,” she says. When Hannity asks her what that might be, she responds: “Like who his father is. Maybe that the father isn’t listed on the birth certificate. That is my only idea.” The progressive media watchdog Media Matters equates Holder’s speculation with radical-right eccentric Andy Martin’s announcement that Obama was “fathered” by a black Muslim activist with Communist ties (see Before October 27, 2008), or blogger Pamela Geller’s speculation that Obama’s father might be civil rights activist Malcolm X (see October 24, 2008). The Media Matters analysis concludes with the observation, “Meanwhile, in the real world, the certification of live birth issued by the state of Hawaii does list a father: Barack Obama Sr.” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011]
Fox News anchor Monica Crowley, a guest on Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor, explains why so many people give credence to the “birther” theory that President Obama is not an American citizen, saying: “Listen, if the president is sitting in the White House wondering why the birth certificate issue still has traction, why some of these other issues about his origins and his background have traction, it’s not about those issues per se, though. It’s about the fact that he continues to do things… that are not ‘anti-American,’ they’re ‘un-American.’ His policies—” O’Reilly interjects, “I wouldn’t go that far.” Guest Alan Colmes calls her characterization “really disgusting. It’s really reprehensible that you would go there.… It’s really reprehensible that you would say ‘un-American,’ really reprehensible.” Crowley insists that “her distinction” between “anti-American” and “un-American” has meaning. Obama’s policies on what she calls “wealth redistribution,” on “Obamacare,” and on “expanding the welfare state” are what she says “all feeds into this idea that somehow, fair or not, Obama is not one of us.” O’Reilly concludes the segment by accusing Obama of exhibiting “poor judgment.” Colmes invites Republicans to keep pushing the idea that Obama is “not one of us,” saying that to do so will have them “lose every election.” [Media Matters, 4/26/2011]
Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson tells a reporter that the “birther” conspiracy theory, which for three years has questioned President Obama’s US citizenship, is at its heart fundamentally racist, and is part of a larger pattern of opposition to civil rights. “Any discussion of [Obama’s] birthplace is a code word,” Jackson says. “It calls upon ancient racial fears.” Jackson says of billionaire Donald Trump, who has in recent months leveled a spate of “birther” attacks against Obama (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, and April 26, 2011): “Trump has trumpeted this cause. For him to go down this low is a bit surprising. He is now tapping into code-word fears that go far beyond a rational discourse.” Jackson cites a broadening pattern of hostility towards civil rights issues, including the battle over public sector unions, a transportation policy that he says disadvantages poor minority city dwellers, and a renewed interest in policies like voter ID. “I’m saying there’s a pattern here. It’s not just name calling of Barack. We’ll win that battle. There is a retreat—a pronounced, documented retreat on civil rights enforcement.” Jackson adds: “This is the most personal attacks on any president ever. Whose personal religion has ever been challenged before (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008)? That has strong racial overtones.” [Politico, 4/26/2010]
The Bible Nation Society logo. [Source: Bible Nation Society / Vimeo (.com)]A group that successfully pushed for a House resolution commemmorating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible is revealed to be led by a pastor who claims President Obama may be the Antichrist. House Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) introduced a resolution expressing the House’s “gratitude” for the “influence” the King James Bible (KJV) has had on “countless families, individuals, and institutions in the United States.” The two were lobbied by the small, non-profit Bible Nation Society (BNS) of Corunna, Michigan. The BNS is led by Douglas Levesque, the pastor of Corunna’s Immanuel Baptist Church. At the organization’s 2010 Bible in Culture Conference, Levesque preached on the “Antichrist Quotient,” in which he laid out a detailed theory that stated Obama might be the Antichrist. Levesque told conference members that “God has given us a purposeful ambiguity around” the Antichrist, then proceeded to offer what he apparently believes is evidence that Obama might be the Antichrist, or is at least anti-Christian. Levesque accused Obama of “twist[ing] the word of God” and said, “the Antichrist Quotient goes up above and beyond for someone who would so blatantly attack the word of God.” He added, “This man offends me, this man offends my God.” Levesque offered a number of parallels to material from the Book of Revelation: Obama’s motorcade vehicle is jokingly nicknamed “The Beast,” the name Barack “means thunder and lightning,” and the name of Obama’s then-chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, means “lightning, God with us.” Levesque concluded: “Why doesn’t Obama answer the questions about his citizenship? Why doesn’t he answer questions about his faith? Why doesn’t he answer the questions about his bisexuality, his homosexuality, his drug use?… Because he has a mouth speaking great lying things.” Neither Aderholt nor Rahall have said if they publicly support, or repudiate, Levesque’s statements. [Religion Dispatches (.org), 4/26/2011]
Billionaire Donald Trump, the host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice and a rumored candidate for the Republican presidential nomination for 2012, makes the allegation that President Obama was a “terrible” college student who may have been admitted to the Ivy League universities of Columbia and Harvard because of his race. Trump offers no proof of the claim; it was first advanced in 2008 in a Wall Street Journal editorial that implied Obama was a “mediocre” student and demanded to see a college thesis that does not exist (see September 11, 2008). In 2009, author Jerome Corsi advanced the groundless claim that Obama was “placed” in Harvard Law School through the auspices of an African-American Muslim radical and a Saudi prince (see July 21, 2009). “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible,” Trump says. “How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.” Obama, like most politicians, has declined to release his college transcripts. Obama graduated from Columbia and then from Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Trump says Obama’s refusal to release his college transcripts is part of a pattern of concealing information about himself. “I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can’t get into Harvard,” Trump says. “We don’t know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president.” Trump takes credit for “reinvigorat[ing]” the birther controversy, and boasts, “[T]he last guy [Obama] wants to run against is Donald Trump.” In his turn, Trump refuses to disclose his net worth. [NBC New York, 4/26/2011] Conservative pundit Pat Buchanan agrees, claiming on MSNBC’s Hardball that Obama only got into Harvard Law School because of “affirmative action.” Buchanan has made claims of blacks and Hispanics receiving “special treatment” because of “affirmative action” many times in the past (see May 28, 2009, May 31, 2009, June 12, 2009, June 20, 2009, July 16, 2009, and October 13, 2009). “I think the way was very probably greased, and I think he’s probably affirmative action all the way,” Buchanan says, and adds: “[L]ook… you know how the system works. You apply. He’s an African-American kid at a time where everybody’s saying: ‘Let’s bring those guys in. Give ‘em an advantage, move ‘em ahead.’” [Media Matters, 4/26/2011] Liberal pundit Keith Olbermann, writing on his personal blog, ridicules Trump’s demand to see Obama’s college transcripts, writing: “If that doesn’t work, it’ll be his list of movie rentals back in the days of VHS, or his Chicago White Sox ticket stubs to prove he really is a fan, or his laundry delivery records to make sure William Ayers or Jeremiah Wright or Karl Marx hasn’t been slipping him notes inside the suit pockets like they did in that John LeCarre spy novel.… Translated to this sorry chapter of sorry American politics, that means the Radical Right will keep the conspiracy theory going and simply change the focus.… [T]he debate has never been about whether or not Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. The debate has been about whether the Republicans could or can do by rumor, innuendo, and Fox propaganda, what they cannot do by the ballot: find the overarching ‘scandal’ with which to beat a Democratic president.” [Keith Olbermann, 4/27/2011]
Michelle Goldberg. [Source: Guardian]Author and journalist Michelle Goldberg examines the racial prejudice behind Donald Trump’s recent spate of attacks on President Obama’s citizenship and integrity (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, and April 21, 2011). Trump has recently alleged that Obama was a “terrible student” in college who would not have made it into Ivy League universities such as Columbia and Harvard without some sort of racial bias (see April 26, 2011). Goldberg says Trump is mining the “fever swamps” of the far-right conspiratists for his allegations. Goldberg tracks claims about Obama’s educational history back to a 2008 editorial in the Wall Street Journal that challenged Obama to release his college transcripts to prove that he was not a “mediocre student who benefited from racial preference” (see September 11, 2008). The Journal overlooked the fact that Obama made the Harvard Law Review and graduated with honors from that university’s law school. In recent years, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz, who has introduced forgeries of Kenyan “birth certificates” into evidence in court as “proof” that Obama is not a US citizen (see August 1-4, 2009), has issued a number of allegations about Obama’s college years. Currently she claims he must have been a foreign exchange student in order to get into Columbia University, saying: “That might be one of the reasons why his records are not unsealed. If his records show he got into Columbia University as a foreign exchange student, then we have a serious issue with his citizenship.” She also disputes Columbia’s records of Obama’s graduation from that university, saying that Obama left school after nine months, and offers as proof a document from the National Student Clearinghouse that lists Obama’s dates of attendance as September 1982 to May 1983. However, Kathleen Dugan of the National Student Clearinghouse says Taitz’s search inputs were incorrect, and thusly yielded incorrect data. Taitz also continues to promote the debunked theory that Obama’s 1983 visit to Pakistan proves he is not a citizen (see Around June 28, 2010), and speculates that he visited Pakistan, not for a month or so, “but a year and a half.” Taitz ties the disparate threads of her conspiracy—Obama the poor student benefiting from racial bias, Obama the foreign national, Obama the closet Muslim—into a single theory: she claims that Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal engineered Obama’s acceptance into Harvard Law School, paid his way through school, and worked behind the scenes to get Obama the position of editor of the Law Review. The Saudi prince was introduced to Obama by African-American Muslim radical activist Khalid Al-Mansour, Taitz says (see July 21, 2009). She confirms that she has been in contact with Trump and has forwarded all of her information to him. Goldberg writes: “It’s easy enough to see why this particular narrative has endured. Not only does it position the president as a Muslim Manchurian candidate with longtime ties to agents of the caliphate, but it also assures resentful whites that this seemingly brilliant black man isn’t so smart after all. In that sense, it’s of a piece with the right-wing obsession with Obama’s use of a teleprompter, and with the widespread suspicion that he didn’t really write the eloquent Dreams From My Father, a claim Trump recently made at a Tea Party rally. Obama, in this view, is both sinister and stupid, canny enough to perpetrate one of the biggest frauds in American history but still the ultimate affirmative-action baby. Trump is clearly not as intelligent as Obama, but he’s not an idiot, either. When he blows this particular dog whistle, he knows exactly what the Republican base is hearing.” [Daily Beast, 4/26/2011]
Michael Savage, a conservative radio host, tells his listeners that President Obama is “emotionally and intellectually” similar to Cambodian dictator and mass murderer Pol Pot. “Communists are murderers,” Savage says. “They’re not good people. Communism cost 100 million people in the last century. We have a Communist in the White House.” He asks if Obama will preside over a similar death toll, and says it is not so much what Obama will do as “what his minions will do.” He tells the story of Camobodian Pol Pot, “another nice, mild professor” who studied Marxism in Paris, went back to his country, and began “transform[ing] his nation” with socialist, Marxist-inspired “social reforms.” Pot felt his country’s “mild capitalism” was “unfair, and he wanted the rich to pay a little bit more.” His “reforms… ended up with a mountain of skulls,” Savage says. “Watch out where the rhetoric starts,” he says. “It always ends up with a mountain of skulls.” He implies that Obama, like Pot, is a murderer, but avoids the accusation outright (and gives no evidence to support the implication), saying: “It doesn’t matter whether Obama himself is a murderer. What matters is where his rhetoric can take this nation. When he starts in with the class warfare, when he starts in with ‘tax the rich,’ when he starts in with ‘it’s only fair,’ all you gotta do is look back in history, and don’t look for Hitler. Look back to Pol Pot and Cambodia. That is the closest fit I can find. And many people don’t understand how close Obama is, emotionally and intellectually, to Pol Pot.” Savage says that Pot used “14- and 15-year-old animals who wore red scarves” (the source of the moniker “Khmer Rouge”) to carry out his systematic brutality, and says Obama can easily use the “millions of unemployed youth who would gladly put on a red scarf and come to your neighborhood and put you into a slave labor camp. All they need is the right person in the White House to organize them. Be very careful indeed with your call for the redistribution of wealth and fairness. It always ends up with a mountain of skulls.” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011] 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) and Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini (see May 25, 2010). He has compared Obama to Pol Pot before (see December 17, 2009).
California lawyer Orly Taitz, who has long questioned President Obama’s citizenship (see November 12, 2008 and After, March 13, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, September 16-21, 2009, September 17, 2009, October 29, 2009, March 15, 2010, April 16, 2010, July 7 - August 16, 2010, August 9, 2010 - January 11, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), now says Obama once used a different Social Security number to the one he uses now. She also says that Obama graduated from Columbia University in nine months instead of two years, as school records show. [Wall Street Journal, 4/27/2011] Taitz’s “evidence” is a claim that Obama’s Selective Service document shows “his social security… listed as a Connecticut Social Security number.” Politico’s Ben Smith reminds readers that “Taitz… has tried to have forgeries introduced into court filings before.” [Politico, 4/27/2011]
California lawyer Orly Taitz, who has long questioned President Obama’s citizenship (see November 12, 2008 and After, March 13, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, September 16-21, 2009, September 17, 2009, October 29, 2009, March 15, 2010, April 16, 2010, July 7 - August 16, 2010, August 9, 2010 - January 11, 2011, and April 27, 2011) to the point where a Georgia judge has called her “delusional” (see October 13-16, 2009), says that she has doubts about the authenticity of Obama’s long-form birth certificate. Specifically, she says that a real birth certificate from 1961 would have listed Obama’s race as “Negro” and not “African.” She says: “Look, I applaud this release. I think it’s a step in the right direction. I credit Donald Trump in pushing this issue.” However, she adds: “In those years… when they wrote race, they were writing ‘Negro’ not ‘African.’ In those days nobody wrote African as a race, it just wasn’t one of the options. It sounds like it would be written today, in the age of political correctness, and not in 1961 when they wrote white or Asian or ‘Negro.‘… It looks like terminology that would be used today, not 1961.” She continues to insist that because Obama’s father is Kenyan, Obama is ineligible for the presidency because he is not a “natural born citizen,” in spite of being contradicted by the Fourteenth Amendment. [TPM Muckraker, 4/27/2011; Wall Street Journal, 4/27/2011] She also wants to know why the certificate lists the address of Obama’s grandparents, 6085 Kalanianaole Highway in Honolulu, and not his parents’ address. Still, she says the birth certificate is an improvement over the previous “short form” certificate released by Obama in 2008 (see June 13, 2008). “I have to say that this is a step in the right direction,” she says, “just as the release of the Watergate tapes was a step in right direction [sic] by Richard Nixon (see July 13-16, 1973). And like Richard Nixon, there’s a good chance this will cost him his presidency (see August 8, 1974). It is a much better document than we had before.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/27/2011]
Chiyome Fukino, the former head of Hawaii’s Department of Health, who has verified that President Obama’s “short form” birth certificate is valid time and again (see October 30, 2008, July 28, 2009, and April 11, 2011), tells the press that months ago, Obama’s “long form” birth certificate was moved to a more secure location within a dual combination-key lock safe inside the state’s health department vault. The “long form” certificate is, by Hawaiian law, kept on file and not released to anyone, even the person whose certificate it is (see July 1, 2009); the Hawaiian government recently made an exception for Obama, who released the “long form” certificate to the public hours before Fukino’s announcement (see April 27, 2011). The certificate was moved to the vault in February 2011 by State Registrar Alvin Onaka in response to an overwhelming number of requests by media outlets and others to see it. “It is my understanding that the book has been placed in a smaller locked container in the same secure safe,” Fukino says. “The safe is still in the department.” She says that the additional security measure reduces the number of people with access to the much-sought-after document from a handful to just one: Onaka himself. Health Director Loretta J. Fuddy granted Obama permission to have two official copies of the “long form” certificate, an action Attorney General David Louie says “was done according to the letter of the law.” Until the Obama certificate release, Hawaii had not given anyone a copy of the “long form” certificate since converting to electronic records, a process that began in 1989 and ended in 2001. Fukino says that during her term as health director, Obama’s birth certificate was moved from a file vault, where bound books containing vital records line the shelves in handwritten, leather-bound ledgers, in colors chosen over the course of decades, and placed inside the vault’s five-foot-tall, grey, metal combination and key lock safe that holds money and other valuables. “After the 2008 elections, the Department of Health received a significant number of requests for a copy of President Obama’s original birth registration by individuals who believe that the president is not a US citizen,” Fukino says. “To assure the safety of the record, the bound volume was removed from the file vault and placed into a fireproof safe with limited access.” Fukino is one of the very few people to have viewed the “long form” certificate before it was released to public view. There are 35 volumes of 1961 birth certificates, each containing 500 certificates. Governor Neil Abercrombie says in a statement: “Considering all of the investigations that have been done and the information that has been provided, no rational person can question the president’s citizenship. We have found a way—once again—to confirm what we already knew: the president was born here in Hawaii. State officials of both parties have verified that President Obama’s birth records show that he was born in Honolulu. President Obama’s mother and father were dear friends of mine (see December 24, 2010), and we must respect their memory. It is an insult to the president, his parents, and to the Office to suggest that he was not born in Hawaii. The State of Hawaii has done everything within our legal ability to disabuse these conspiracy theorists. We granted the president’s request for certified copies of his birth certificate so we can all move on from this unfortunate distraction and focus on the real issues affecting people today.” [Fox News, 4/27/2011]
A screenshot of Fox News (.com)‘s headline announcing the release of Obama’s birth certificate. [Source: Think Progress]Responses to President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) are mixed. Fox News places a banner headline on its Web site saying, “White House Releases What It Says is President Obama’s Long-Form Birth Certificate.” [Think Progress, 4/27/2011] Fox News later replaces the original headline with the more conventional, “White House Releases Obama Birth Certificate.” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011] Influential conservative blogger and political pundit Erick Erickson, echoing billionaire television host and rumored 2012 presidential candidate Donald Trump, demands that Obama release his college transcripts, saying, “That’s the issue for me.” Erickson concludes: “When the birth certificate is reviewed and we can see what most of us have always known—that he was born in Hawaii—we can move on. For some, moving on will be to wonder what religion the man is” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008). Commenters on Erickson’s blog immediately begin calling the newly released certificate a “fake,” and one says, “I just wish he’d release the actual real certificate.” Another demands the release of all of Obama’s college and medical transcripts, and another recommends, “We need someone to start looking into recent purchases of printing apparatuses from the 60s.” Comments posted on the conservative news and gossip site Drudge Report are heavily skewed towards calling the certificate a fake. [Erick Erickson, 4/27/2011] Conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND), which has trumpeted much of the “birther” controversy, headlines its article, “Born in the USA?” Its article includes a caveat, “If the document proves valid…” and goes on to claim: “[I]t also could prove his ineligibility because of its references to his father. Some of the cases challenging Obama have explained that he was a dual citizen through his father at his birth, and they contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born citizens.” WND is referring to a host of lawsuits challenging Obama’s status as a “natural born citizen” that have been thrown out of court and debunked as contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. WND publisher Joseph Farah says: “But it is important to remember there are still dozens of other questions concerning this question of eligibility that need to be resolved to assure what has become a very skeptical public concerning Barack Obama’s parentage, his adoption, his citizenship status throughout his life, and why he continues to cultivate a culture of secrecy around his life.” Farah says the document “raises as many questions as it answers.” Bloggers at Free Republic echo WND’s claims, saying that the new document proves Obama is “not a natural born citizen.” Some say that since Obama “renounced his [US] citizenship” for Kenyan citizenship, the new document proves nothing. Another commenter posts a picture of a debunked, faked “birth certificate” showing Obama as being born in Kenya. [WorldNetDaily, 4/27/2011; Free Republic (.com), 4/27/2011; Washington Independent, 4/27/2011] Farah is joined in his doubts about the veracity of the certificate by Paul Joseph Watson, a writer and editor for Alex Jones’s Web site Prison Planet. Watson again raises the issue of Obama being a “natural born citizen,” because of his father’s Kenyan ancestry and citizenship, and writes, “Since the American people have been habitually lied to about everything under the sun, with trust in government at an all time low, a PDF file put out directly by the Obama administration itself isn’t going to make the furore die down at all, and will only lead to claims that the document is a carefully crafted fake.” [Paul Joseph Watson, 4/27/2011] Blogger Karl Denninger of Market-Ticker says the doctor’s signature on the certificate is false, and alleges that information on the certificate was “tampered with.” [Karl Denninger, 4/27/2011; Karl Denninger, 4/27/2011] Two lawyers who filed rejected suits challenging Obama’s citizenship, Philip Berg (see August 21-24, 2008) and Orly Taitz (see August 1-4, 2009), weigh in on the issue. Berg says that Obama was adopted by his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, and thus lost his US citizenship: “I think the issue is that he’s not any more natural born. I don’t care if he releases his birth certificate or whatever. Let’s see his records coming back through immigration.” Taitz says her “analysis” of the document shows that Obama is using a fake Social Security number: “In Obama’s Selective Service [document], his social security is listed as a Connecticut Social Security number” (see April 27, 2011). Politico’s Ben Smith reminds readers that “Taitz… has tried to have forgeries introduced into court filings before.” [Politico, 4/27/2011] Author Jerome Corsi has made similar allegations about Obama’s Social Security number (see September 21, 2010). Barbara Morrill, writing for the progressive blog Daily Kos, says flatly, “Birthers aren’t satisfied because no matter how many documents Barack Obama releases it will never be enough, because there isn’t a document in the world that will turn him white.” [Barbara Morrill, 4/27/2011]
Entity Tags: Drudge Report, Barack Obama, WorldNetDaily, Barbara Morrill, Ben Smith, Donald Trump, Erick Erickson, Prison Planet (.com), Fox News, Paul Joseph Watson, Philip J. Berg, Jerome Corsi, Free Republic, Karl Denninger, Joseph Farah, Orly Taitz, Obama administration
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Conservative author and pundit Ann Coulter, in an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, says that the entire “birther” controversy is the fault of President Obama and MSNBC. Obama released his “long form” birth certificate earlier in the day, in an attempt to settle the “controversy” once and for all (see April 27, 2011). Some right-wing opponents have fueled the idea that Obama is not a “true” American citizen since the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign (see July 20, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, Around June 28, 2010, January 18, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 28, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 27, 2011). “[W]e were right, they were wrong,” Coulter says, meaning that the conservative establishment has, in her view, consistently denounced “birtherism” as a distraction and a non-issue. She correctly notes that the controversy began among a small cadre of angry Hillary Clinton supporters during the 2008 Democratic primary, and goes on to say: “And then I think it was a lot of liberals who were pretending to be conservatives or, on MSNBC.… But MSNBC, there’s nothing secret about MSNBC. They cover it approximately 55 minutes of every hour. And, yeah, you didn’t hear anything about it at all on Fox News, so they were the ones promoting it, because it made conservatives look crazy.” Fox News has often promoted “birther” viewpoints on a variety of its news and opinion shows (see April 27, 2011). O’Reilly, who has kept his distance from the “birther” controversy (see July 29, 2009 and April 26, 2011), says that many people hate Obama so intensely that they simply become blinded. Coulter responds that many uninformed, apolitical Americans may well believe that Obama “seems foreign” in the way “all liberals do.” [Mediaite, 4/27/2011]
Officials of the Terry Lakin Action Fund, a group that funded and supported former Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin when he refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan because of his doubts about President Obama’s citizenship (see Before April 13, 2010), now say that had Obama released his “long form” birth certificate before Lakin’s refusal to follow deployment orders (see April 27, 2011), Lakin would have obeyed those orders and thusly never would have been court-martialed and dishonorably discharged from service (see December 16, 2010). The Action Fund demands that Obama issue Lakin a “full and complete presidential pardon” for his conviction of six months, “including restoration of pay, benefits, and service.” The Action Fund statement reads in part: “This document which was so casually dropped on the news corps could just have easily been provided 12 months ago or two years ago. Even six months ago, it would have prevented LTC Lakin being manacled and hauled away to Fort Leavenworth prison for standing up for the Constitution, consistent with the oath he took as an officer, and the rule of law.” The statement continues: “Had the Obama administration agreed to allow the document unveiled today and other related documents as requested for discovery in Terry Lakin’s first pre-trial hearing, the matter would have been resolved and soldiers assured their military orders were lawful, given by a lawful commander in chief. A good soldier, having played his part in this issue, would have returned enthusiastically to the service for which he is so ably trained.” The statement also questions the authenticity of the “long form” certificate, demanding that it be “submitted for forensics testing to determine its authenticity.” It continues, “[S]imilarly, the Kenyan birth certificate that has been widely circulating on the Internet and on Capitol Hill—should be tested” (see August 4, 2009). [TPM Muckraker, 4/27/2011; Terry Lakin Action Fund, 4/27/2011] The Action Fund, on its Web site, calls itself “[t]he only site designated by Terry Lakin and his family to assist with direct support of Terry’s legal defense and his family’s needs. Terry is standing up for the nation. He needs the nation’s help.” The site features a statement by Lakin’s wife that reads: “My husband is going to prison because of Barack Obama’s birth certificate. I’m sure you agree that’s a heavy price to pay for standing up for what is right.” [Terry Lakin Action Fund, 4/27/2011]
Less than two hours after President Obama releases his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) and posts a PDF (Portable Data File) copy on the Internet, Bryan Michael Nixon, an art director with an Atlanta advertising firm, makes a blog post about his initial examination of the PDF copy. Nixon says that after opening the file in the Adobe graphics program Illustrator, it is clear that the document is composed of “multiple elements.” He writes, “This in no way proves that anything on it is fake… [h]ow to interpret that is up to the viewer.” He opens his blog post with a capitalized declaration, “I AM NOT A BIRTHER!” [Bryan Keith Nixon, 4/27/2011] By the afternoon, Nixon’s post is a front-page headline on the conservative news and gossip Web site Drudge Report, sparks a storm of claims and counterclaims about the document’s authenticity, and is quickly picked up by radio host Alex Jones and a plethora of Web sites. The claims that the certificate is “fake” are based in part on Nixon’s observation that the PDF file contains “multiple elements,” or “layers,” particularly two separate “layers” of background image and foreground text. Within minutes of the Nixon post, a forum participant at the Free Republic, a conservative blog and message board, writes: “No, I am analyzing an eloctronice [sic] document and saying that there is no way that this was a scanned image [sic] It was made of LAYERS in software [sic]” Another poster writes: “I opened it in Photoshop Elements and saw those white areas behind the text. YES! That image was built up, not scanned from a document.” The claim that the “layers” “prove” the certificate is fake is based on what experts call a fundamental lack of understanding of how PDF files work. Many PDFs, including the Obama certificate image, use optical character recognition (OCR) to recognize and reproduce lettering, and place those letters into a separate image. Reporter Benjy Sarlin will write, “This explains why you’re able to highlight and copy raw text from some PDF files even though it’s actually not a word processing document.” Shortly after Drudge headlines Nixon’s blog post, the National Review, inundated with emails about the “layer” theory, issues a comprehensive debunking of the “fraud” claim. “We looked into it and dismissed it,” reporter Nathan Goulding writes. Goulding uses a scanned copy of his magazine’s cover to make a PDF file, and, opening the file in Adobe Illustrator, shows that the PDF scan contains multiple layers. He writes of the layers: “Quite simply, they look like they were created programmatically, not by a human. What’s plausible is that somewhere along the way—from the scanning device to the PDF-creation software, both of which can perform OCR (optical character recognition)—these partial/pseudo-text images were created and saved. What’s not plausible is that the government spent all this time manufacturing Obama’s birth certificate only to commit the laughably rookie mistake of exporting the layers from Photoshop, or whatever photo editing software they are meant to have used. It’s likely that whoever scanned the birth certificate in Hawaii forgot to turn off the OCR setting on the scanner. Let’s leave it at that.” Sarlin writes: “The fringe theory’s rapid spread within hours of the certificate’s release presents almost a perfect example of one of the White House’s justifications for taking on the birther issue—namely, that thanks to the Internet, conspiracy theories can migrate quickly from the fringe and into the mainstream if left unchecked. In this case, it took only hours.” He concludes, “[B]irthers have wasted no time in promoting alternate theories undermining the president’s legitimacy since the release of the long form birth certificate.” [Free Republic (.com), 4/27/2011; National Review, 4/27/2011; TPM Muckraker, 4/29/2011] Two days later, an Adobe Illustrator expert proclaims the certificate genuine (see April 29, 2011).
The logo of ‘The View.’ [Source: ABC / Chocomize (.com)]On the ABC morning talk show The View, hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Joy Behar, and Sherri Shepherd take turns attacking the “birther” controversy and its chief proponent, billionaire television host Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, and April 27, 2011). The four variously accuse him of open racism, vilifying President Obama, and hurting the nation’s reputation. Goldberg, an African-American actress and comedian with a progressive bent, says: “I’m getting tired to trying not to find things slightly racist. It is very difficult, on a daily basis, to see this stuff and not say, you know, this is what it is. I have been raised to think: ‘Well, maybe that’s not what they mean. Let me figure it out.’ But, being black, when you say, ‘Y’know, this is racist,’ 9,000 people say, ‘Oh, you’re just playing the race card.’ Well, you know, I’m playing the damn card now.” Later in the broadcast, Goldberg slams Trump directly, saying: “You know how Donald always says, ‘People are laughing at us, thinking we don’t have it?’ Here’s one of the reasons they’re laughing at us, Donald. When you show such insane disrespect to the president of your country, other countries think we’re idiots.” [Mediaite, 4/27/2011]
In what some critics say is a veiled racial allusion (see March 2011 and April 27, 2011), billionaire television host and rumored Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) by advising Obama to “get off the basketball court” and address the nation’s issues. Trump has attacked Obama’s citizenship for weeks (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 26, 2011, and April 26, 2011) and has recently implied that the only way Obama got into Ivy League universities was through affirmative action (see April 26, 2011). Trump says he is “claiming victory” over the “long form” release, and then says: “If you look at what he’s doing in Libya, which is a total disaster. Nobody even knows what’s going on in Libya. If you look at what’s happening with gasoline prices where he said he has no control over prices, which he does if he gets on the phone or gets off his basketball court or whatever he is doing at the time.” Lee Fang of the progressive news Web site Think Progress writes: “Many have alleged that Trump’s nonstop, unsubstantiated smears about Obama’s birth and legitimacy are coded racial language designed to inspire hatred against Obama’s identity.… After Trump’s claims about Obama’s birth certificate were further discredited, he is moving on to even more transparent racist language.” [Think Progress, 4/27/2011]
Journalist Michael Tomasky, in a column for The Guardian, says the entire “birther” conspiracy theory, which for three years has questioned President Obama’s US citizenship, “is madness, and that the madness comes down to the fact that the president is, for a certain depressingly high percentage of Americans, an Other with a capital O—the kind of person who, to their way of thinking, could not possibly have been legitimately elected the president of any United States they know.” An entire array of “alternate” explanations has been advanced—ACORN, a voter registration and poverty-advocacy group, “stole the election for him,” perhaps, or a “cabal of shifty liberal journalists, many of whom merely happen to be Jewish (and—full disclosure—of which your correspondent was a member), allegedly conspired to vault him into our land’s highest office.” Americans could not have actually voted Obama into office. Ultimately, Tomasky writes, the central question of Obama’s presidency is not about his citizenship, which has time and again been proven legitimate (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008), and is further bolstered by the long-demanded release of his “long form” certificate (see April 27, 2011). “A conspiracy of immense proportions, concocted all the way back in 1961, had to be the only explanation for how this black man got to the White House,” Tomasky writes. “And if you think race isn’t what this is about at its core, ask yourself if there would even be a birther conspiracy if Barack Obama were white and named Bart Oberstar. If you think there would be, you are delusional.” Birther advocate Donald Trump, Tomasky writes, will crow about “forcing” the release of the ‘long form” certificate, and hardcore “birthers” will refuse to accept its validity, instead concocting another mare’s nest of conspiracy theories to “prove” its falsity (see April 27, 2011). While this may make the “birthers,” and the Republicans who continue to support them, “look sillier to a larger percentage of people,” Tomasky concludes, “the problems here are racial paranoia and the bald willingness of politicians to lie in order to stoke it.” [Guardian, 4/27/2011]
The Arizona Independent publishes a document obtained from the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services through a Freedom of Information Act request. The document offers further proof that President Obama was born in Hawaii. The document is a memo from August 31, 1961, some three weeks after Obama’s birth (see June 13, 2008 and April 27, 2011), written by William Wood of Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). Wood’s memo says that Barack Obama Sr. was attending the University of Hawaii on a student visa and that a son, Barack Obama II, was born in Honolulu on August 4, 1961. The memo refers to the elder Obama’s plans to continue at the University of Hawaii, and the plans of his spouse, Stanley Ann Dunham, to work at the university. The memo reads in part, “They have one child born Honolulu on 8/4/1961—Barack Obama II, child living with mother (she lives with her parents & subject resides at 1482 Alisteastre St.).” The document also shows that Obama Sr. entered the country in 1959, and had received several extensions to his visa. Obama Sr. left the country in 1964 after being denied another visa extension and remaning for a brief period illegally. [Arizona Independent, 4/27/2011; Arizona Independent, 4/27/2011]
Since billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump has garnered so much media coverage for his challenges to President Obama’s citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), Fox News has tremendously increased its coverage of the “birther” controversy, according to a research analysis by progressive media watchdog Media Matters. “[S]everal Fox News figures have embraced the birther conspiracy theory, while others have repeatedly failed to debunk false claims about Obama’s birth,” the report finds. “So widespread was Fox’s coverage of Trump’s embrace of birtherism that some Fox News hosts reported on and joked about the birther conspiracy theory in segments not relating to Trump.” Since March 5, Fox News has shown 52 segments on the “birther” conspiracy theory, with few exceptions (see April 25, 2011), promoting and expanding on the allegations that Obama is not a legitimate US citizen (see April 26, 2011). According to Media Matters’s analysis, 44 of 52 segments—84 percent—made false claims about Obama’s birth that went unchallenged by hosts or guests, including claims that Obama has never produced a legitimate birth certificate (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008), his grandmother claimed he was born in Kenya (see October 16, 2008 and After), and that Obama has spent $2 million blocking the release of his “real” birth certificate (see April 7-10, 2011). In contrast, when Fox News host and presumed 2012 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee claimed Obama grew up “in Kenya” and then backtracked that claim (see February 28, 2011), Fox spent very little time covering Huckabee’s repudiation of his misstatement. Media Matters only covered Fox News “opinion” shows for its study, including Fox & Friends, Fox & Friends Saturday, Fox & Friends Sunday, Justice with Judge Jeanine, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta van Susteren, Glenn Beck, Huckabee, and Your World with Neil Cavuto. Author and columnist Eric Boehlert notes that before Trump’s media splash, Fox had spent far less time, percentage-wise, on the “birther” controversy, and prominent opinion show hosts such as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly had criticized “birther” allegations (see July 29, 2009, August 4, 2009, and February 17, 2010). Boehlert writes: “I mean, what are the odds that Fox News would suddenly take a sharp turn towards birtherism at the exact moment Trump started raising questions about Obama’s birth certificate while busy promoting his kinda/maybe candidacy for president? Fox News’s about-face was especially odd considering that when the exact same bogus birther story was raised during the 2008 campaign Fox News virtually boycotted the story. Fox News refused to touch it. As Obama was running for the White House and questions from the far right were raised about Obama’s eligibility and his birthplace, Fox News paid the story no mind. Then in 2009, when Fox News personalities did address the birther issue, it was usually to belittle the story and mock its followers.… But then, just as Trump stepped forward for his Republican star turn, Fox News decided to alter years of editorial judgment and to fully embrace—to celebrate—the birther story, simultaneously aiding Trump’s (right-wing) political fortunes. It’s almost like the two events were coordinated, no? Either way, it’s now obvious Trump and Fox News formed a mutually beneficial political, and media, alliance: Trump used the Fox News platform to rise his profile, while Fox News used Trump’s birther attacks as cover to wallow in the non-story.” Boehlert quotes Fox News analyst Andrea Tantaros on a recent O’Reilly broadcast, explaining why she encouraged the media to cover Trump: “Let the man speak. He’s got a bigger megaphone than [GOP presidential candidates Mitt] Romney, [Tim] Pawlenty, [Newt] Gingrich, than all of them combined. And you know what; he can drive up Obama’s negatives more than any of the other of those GOP candidates.” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011; Media Matters, 4/27/2011]
David Frum, a New York Times columnist who once wrote speeches for the Bush administration, writes on his personal blog “Frum Forum” that today’s release of President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) should bring to an end “the phony controversy” of “birtherism.” He calls the controversy “poisonous and not very subtly racist” (see January 24, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, November 10, 2008, September 14, 2009, March 2011, April 1, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), and asks how the controversy acquired “such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party?” To deny that “birtherism” ever existed as a serious component of Republican rhetoric, Frum writes, is “just wrong.” He cites the recent surge in popularity of billionaire television host Donald Trump as a “serious” presidential contender among far-right and tea party voters, and adds: “[N]ot only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers—but so also did every Republican candidate who said, ‘I take the president at his word.’ Birthers did not doubt the president’s ‘word.’ They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answering a 9/11 conspiracist by saying, ‘I take the 9/11 families at their word that they lost their loved ones.’” Still, Frum writes, the racially fueled allegations persist (see April 27, 2011). Trump is now questioning Obama’s acceptance into Harvard Law School (see April 26, 2011), recycling debunked allegations from 2009 that claimed Obama was “placed” in Harvard through the auspices of a black Islamist radical and a Saudi prince (see July 21, 2009). “The too-faint repudiation of birtherism by regular Republicans has shaped not only the Obama brand, but also the Republican brand,” Frum laments. “It was not only white people who heard the implied message about who counts and who does not count as a ‘real American.’” Frum restates his opposition to virtually every policy and initiative advanced by the Obama administration, and writes: “Republicans should be fighting this president on policy, not winking at those who use race as a weapon.… [T]hose who imagine that they somehow enhance the value of [their] citizenship by belittling the American-ness of their president (see March 2011)—they not only disgrace the politics they uphold, but they do damage that will not soon be forgotten by the voters a revived Republicanism must win.” [David Frum, 4/27/2011]
Fox News’s morning talk show Fox and Friends hosts the Reverend Robert Jeffress, who repeatedly suggests that President Obama is a “secret Muslim” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, April 18, 2008, and April 26, 2011). Jeffress, the senior pastor of Dallas’s First Baptist Church, tells interviewer Steve Doocy: “Steve, let’s look at what’s really going on here. On the one hand, we have a president who never met a Muslim holiday he didn’t like, or at least wasn’t willing to issue a proclamation for; and on the other hand, here he is refusing to acknowledge publically the most important event in Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Jeffress is referring to Obama’s supposed refusal to acknowledge Easter. “And yet the White House is wondering, why do 20 percent of Americans believe the president is a Muslim? Well, as my kids would say, ‘Duh.’ You know, I mean, it’s actions like these that really make people wonder what it is the president really believes.… I really think, Steve, there’s only one of two explanations. Either he has advisers who are telling him that it’s politically expedient to ignore Christianity and elevate other world religions like Islam. And if that’s the case, Republicans need to pray that those advisers stay in place through the 2012 election cycle. The only other explanation is that there’s something deep within the president himself that will not allow him to issue these public proclamations about Christianity, when he on Easter will issue a proclamation about Earth Day, or he will recognize Muslim holidays. I think either explanation is deeply troubling for Christians.” [Media Matters, 4/26/2011; Media Matters, 4/27/2011] On the same day, pundits at Fox News and the Washington Times attack Obama’s April 24 attendance of Easter services at Washington’s Shiloh Baptist Church, claiming his choice to attend that church is evidence that he is a “black nationalist” (see April 27, 2011).
The Washington Times illustrates its column asking if Obama is a ‘black nationalist’ with this graphic of the Presidential Seal using the Black Panther raised fist and color scheme. [Source: Washington Times]The Washington Post reports that Shiloh Baptist Church, a well-known house of worship in Washington, DC, has received over 100 death threats after President Obama and his family visited it for Easter on April 24, and after Fox News host Sean Hannity, reporting on Obama’s Easter visit to the church, aired a video clip of Shiloh’s Reverend Wallace Charles Smith giving a speech in January 2010 in which he said some people espousing racial prejudice do so “under the protective cover of talk radio.” Smith tells a Post reporter: “We received a fax that had the image of a monkey with a target across i[t]s face. My secretary has received telephone calls that have been so vulgar until she has had to hang up.” Smith shares some of the emails he has received with the reporter, and says that he has not yet notified authorities. He is consulting with church leaders about what steps to take. The church was founded in the 1860s by former slaves. Hannity aired the clip on April 25, one day after Obama’s Easter visit. In the videotape, Smith said: “It may not be Jim Crow anymore. Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school, and carries fancy briefs in cases. And now, Jim Crow has become James Crow, esquire. And he doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore [a reference to the Ku Klux Klan] because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.” Smith tells the Post reporter that he had been asked to give a speech on racism and that he “was giving some background on what I thought were some of the issues regarding race in this country.” Hannity compared Smith’s speech to remarks by Obama’s former Chicago pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (see January 6-11, 2008), whom Obama repudiated after learning that Wright had said the 9/11 attacks were “America’s chickens… coming home to roost.” Hannity told listeners: “Wright’s contentious sermons hit the airwaves and forced Obama eventually to denounce his spiritual leader of more than 20 years. Now, here’s the twist: Dr. Wallace Charles Smith doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with what Jeremiah Wright preached. I don’t believe that it is a coincidence out of all the churches in the country that Obama finds himself sitting in, why is he always in pews listening to such controversial spiritual leaders?” Hannity says he asked Smith to comment on his broadcast and offered Smith a slot on his show, but Smith refused. “We played his own words in full context but now it’s time for him to explain,” Hannity says. [Washington Post, 4/27/2011] The day after Easter, Fox Nation, the blog of Fox News, falsely claimed that Obama was the first president to attend services at Shiloh Baptist and extended the attack on Smith’s “shocking” sermons. [Fox Nation, 4/25/2011] Days before Easter, the Post, announcing Obama’s choice to attend Shiloh for the morning’s service, noted, “The church has hosted other presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.” An April 27 article adds that President George H.W. Bush also attended services there. [Washington Post, 4/22/2011; Washington Post, 4/27/2011] Washington Times columnist Jeffrey T. Kuhner echoes the same questions that Hannity raises, asking if Obama is “a black nationalist” and calling Smith “a race-baiting black nationalist” who is “a more polished version” of Wright. “Mr. Smith lacks the bombast of Mr. Wright but peddles the same philosophy of racialism, grievance-mongering, and black victimology,” Kuhner claims, and cites a recent sermon by Smith decrying institutionalized racism as “evidence” before claiming that segregation and racism no longer exist to any real extent in the nation. Kuhner says that Smith, and by extension Obama, equate conservatives with racists who want to “perpetuate a watered-down form of apartheid.” Kuhner then claims that conservatives, not progressives and liberals, are historical champions of civil rights (see March 12, 1956 and After), and attacks affirmative action programs as perpetuating racism. [Washington Times, 4/27/2011]
Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, speaking on his daily radio program, claims that President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) to distract the press from a press conference being given by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. Beck says: “The president of the United States is about to speak shortly [about his birth certificate]. Stations, we will carry it live, live, live on this program. Gas prices, sure, out of control. Middle East, sure, on fire. Ben Bernanke going to give the first press conference for the Fed for the first time in 97 years today, but today is the day the birth certificate is released. You have got to be kidding me. Are we really down to this? We’re really down to this? The birth certificate? I mean, it was bad when we were down to the, you know, Final Four in the brackets, but now we’ve got the birth certificate talk and the president is going to hold a press conference.… [T]his is because Bernanke is speaking today. Watch the markets move today. Why is the Fed—this is what I’ve been trying to figure out—why is the Fed holding a press conference for the first time in 97 years? Why? Something is coming gang, something is coming. Now at the same day, the same time, why is the president of the United States choosing today to release the birth certificate?… There is no way this is being released today for no reason. There’s no way. They’ve had this for two years—three years this has been going on. This rumor was started by Hillary Clinton. This was a Clinton tactic.… So now they’ve had it since Clinton. They could have done this since Clinton. So why?” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011; Media Matters, 4/27/2011] Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) makes the same claim. In a post on her Twitter account, Palin writes: “Media, admit it. Trump forced the issue. Now, don’t let the WH distract you w/the birth crt from what Bernanke says today. Stay focused, eh?” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011]
Lawrence O’Donnell and Orly Taitz on O’Donnell’s MSNBC show ‘The Last Word.’ [Source: Mediaite (.com)]MSNBC talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell has an angry exchange with “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz (see November 12, 2008 and After, March 13, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, September 16-21, 2009, September 17, 2009, October 29, 2009, March 15, 2010, April 16, 2010, July 7 - August 16, 2010, August 9, 2010 - January 11, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), who for years has insisted that President Obama’s “short form” birth certificate (see June 13, 2008) does not prove his citizenship. In light of Obama’s recent release of the “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), O’Donnell tells viewers that he has invited Taitz onto the show to see if she will apologize for her years of insistence that Obama is not a citizen. Taitz refuses to address the issue of the certificate, and instead attempts to tout her latest conspiracy theory, involving Obama’s Selective Service records that she says prove he has used a different Social Security number in the past (see April 27, 2011 and April 27, 2011). A clearly incensed O’Donnell repeatedly refuses to listen to her charges, and asks her repeatedly, “Will you talk about Barack Obama’s birth certificate?” After she continues to push her charge, even demanding that he give a close-up to the document she is attempting to show the camera, O’Donnell says: “All right, that’s it. Get her off this show. Get out. You’re not going to talk about the birth certificate so roll the tapes. Go home, you’re fired. Go play with Donald Trump.” [MSNBC, 4/27/2011; Raw Story, 4/28/2011] “Look, she’s crazy,” he says. “I invited a crazy person on this show to see if the crazy person… could say something responsive, something human, to the document that was released today… and she wants to play with all of her other kid’s toys.” [Huffington Post, 4/27/2011; MSNBC, 4/27/2011] After ending the interview and having Taitz taken off screen, O’Donnell tells viewers that he had not anticipated Taitz’s attempt to dodge any discussion of the birth certificate and instead talk about a new and different conspiracy theory. Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher writes: “I doubt that. He has clearly studied Orly’s modus operandi, and was ready for the barrage of patter. O’Donnell was a tad merciless, but it’s hard to cry any crocodile tears for Taitz, who has been given far too much attention so far.” [Mediaite (.com), 4/27/2011] The Huffington Post calls the segment “a wild, high-decibel, nearly incomprehensible interview.” [Huffington Post, 4/27/2011]
Progressive columnist Ari Melber, writing for The Nation, states that billionaire television host, rumored presidential candidate, and “birther” enthusiast Donald Trump is using coded racist messages to attack President Obama. Melber cites recent Trump claims that Obama, whom he called a “terrible student,” could not have gotten into Ivy League universities unless it was somehow due to race (see April 26, 2011), and writes: “By charging that Obama was not admitted based on merit, Trump is suggesting that Obama was admitted because he is black.… He is blatantly attacking Obama’s teenage qualifications for college—a topic so obscure, it was a non-issue in Obama’s exhaustive, two-year-long presidential campaign.” Melber cites the underlying racism of the entire “birther” controversy (see January 24, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, November 10, 2008, September 14, 2009, March 2011, April 1, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), and calls Trump’s attacks on Obama’s citizenship and college performance “a coded attack—aimed at the racists but clinging to deniability—[that] curdles into public, blatant racism.” “Birtherism,” Melber writes, “is a putatively non-racial, vaguely constitutional way to challenge the legitimacy of the first black president and appeal to racists without sounding officially racist. [Birther proponents] won’t go away. They are an audience-in-waiting for any amplified race-baiter.” [Nation, 4/27/2011] Melber is echoing sentiments expressed days before by CNN analyst Fareed Zakaria (see April 22, 2011).
Author Jim Kennedy writes that the recent release of President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) will do nothing to “put an end to the antics of the bizarro-Quixotic birthers… because the birther movement is the Arkansas Project of 2011.” Kennedy is referring to the so-called “Arkansas Project,” a loosely organized effort to bring down the Clinton presidency that resulted in years of groundless allegations and investigations surrounding the Whitewater land deal, and other related allegations, that resulted in the unsuccessful impeachment of President Clinton. Kennedy writes: “The intent of both is the same: paint a false portrait of a Democratic president on a canvas of lies. Birthers claim that Barack Obama was not born in America and is therefore not legitimately serving as president. A simple, however faulty, assertion. But it is merely a gateway to a larger, misleading construct about President Obama—that he is not ‘one of us’ (see April 27, 2011). His values are alien to ours. He’s not fully American. He might be a Muslim, not a Christian. He has a radical agenda that will take our country down a path of socialism. The birthers don’t have to prove their point to make a point. In their scheme, the mere repetition of the question about where the president is from serves to raise questions about where the president is taking us.” Of the Arkansas Project’s claims of million-dollar boondoggles, sex orgies, drug deals, murders, and more, “[n]one of those charges proved true,” he writes, “but the Arkansas Project was never intended to be a search for the truth. It was a shiny, metal object designed to lead the media on a wild goose chase and mislead the public about the values of the Clintons. Like the birther movement, the Arkansas Project represented the marriage of lies and right-wing political agendas.” Significant differences between the two exist, Kennedy writes, most notably the reluctance of many in the mainstream media to pursue the “birther” claims, as opposed to the Arkansas Project allegations, which Kennedy writes, led “many journalists and nearly all Republicans [to] simply [take] the bait and [go] off and running in search of misdeeds that did not exist.” He concludes: “There are fewer media allies for the birthers, and even some noteworthy Republicans are distancing themselves from their cause. Yet their mission will continue, abetted by the likes of Donald Trump. No doubt they will create some excuse to question the new birth certificate, just as some continue to claim [former White House aide] Vince Foster was murdered. [Foster committed suicide, but the Arkansas Project alleged Hillary Clinton had him murdered.] A long form won’t dissuade those who are in it for the long haul. For the goal of the birthers is not to reach a conclusion about the birthplace of a president based on facts. The goal is to encourage the public to reach a conclusion about the values of a president based on lies.” [Huffington Post, 4/27/2011]
National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg writes that while he has not studied the newly-released “long form” birth certificate released today by President Obama (see April 27, 2011), he assumes it is legitimate, barring any information about Obama having “a birthmark that resembles the numbers ‘666’” or information about his father “work[ing] for the KGB and—of course—assuming that the font in question matches typewriters of the time… I figure this puts the birther thing to bed once and for all. Good.” However, Goldberg poses what he calls a “perplexing question: If this was possible all along, why did the WH take such sweet time releasing it? Could it be that this White House, continuing a tactic used by Democrats for years, actually liked being able to cast their opponents—often through guilt by association—as paranoid nuts? No, that couldn’t possibly be it.” [National Review, 4/27/2011] In a post on his Twitter account, Fox News talk show host Brian Kilmeade asks a similar question: “[W]hy did the president wait so long to put the birther issue to rest?” [Media Matters, 4/27/2011] Jonathan Strong of the conservative news blog The Daily Caller notes that Obama waited to release his form “after years of speculation about the issue metastasized into a major political phenomenon he could no longer ignore,” and asks, “Why did Obama, who has proudly vowed his administration would be the ‘most open and transparent in history,’ wait so long?” Strong theorizes that Obama was responding to a recent spate of publicity generated by billionaire television host Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), along with a “media push” from Web news blogger Matt Drudge and an upcoming book by author and conspiracist Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, September 21, 2010, January 18, 2011, and March 27-28, 2011). Strong writes: “Certainly, conspiracy theorists who peddled lies and half-truths on the issue—and there were many—are at fault for the explosion of the issue. But did Obama provide them cover in failing to fully address a simple document request for over two years? The political world in Washington was rife with speculation from Democrats and Republicans about whether Obama was using the ‘birther’ issue for political advantage, as a way to make his conservative critics appear fringe.” [Jonathan Strong, 4/27/2011] Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, whose work has provided much of what Strong calls the “lies and half-truths” that have continued to churn the story (see July 20, 2008, October 24, 2008, and August 4, 2009), writes: “Today Obama announced he would finally release the long form of his birth certificate. As Obama continues to toy with and taunt the American people, you have to scratch your head and say, what took so long? And why?” [Pamela Geller, 4/27/2011]
New Yorker columnist David Remnick joins a number of media figures and others in proclaiming the “birther” controversy, now presumably settled by President Obama’s issuance of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), to be rooted in racism (see April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Remnick writes: “There is the birther fantasy; the fantasy that Bill Ayers wrote Dreams from My Father (see August 1, 2008 and After and May 7, 2010); the fantasy that the president has some other father, and not Barack Obama Sr. (see October 24, 2008 and Before October 27, 2008); the fantasy that Obama got into Harvard Law School with the help of a Saudi prince and the Nation of Islam (see July 21, 2009). There is a veritable fantasy industry at work online and in the book-publishing industry; there are dollars to be made. The cynicism of the purveyors of these fantasies is that they know very well what they are playing at, the prejudices they are fanning: that Obama is foreign, a fake, incapable of writing a book, incapable of intellectual achievement. Let’s say what is plainly true (and what the president himself is reluctant to say): these rumors, this industry of fantasy, are designed to arouse a fear of the Other, of an African-American man with a white American mother and a black Kenyan father.” The only “radical” things about Barack Hussein Obama, Remnick writes, are his race and his name. “[E]ven now, more than two years after the fact, this is deeply disturbing to many people, and, at the same time, the easiest way to arouse visceral opposition to him.” Opposition to Obama based on these qualities is, Remnick writes, “a conscious form of race-baiting, of fear-mongering.” Remnick accuses billionaire television host and birther enthusiast Donald Trump of directly and deliberately involving himself in such race-bating, but, he concludes, “[t]he shame is that there are still many more around who, in the name of truth-telling, are prepared to pump the atmosphere full of poison.” [New Yorker, 4/27/2011]
Journalist and author David Corn examines the media’s reaction to President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), writing that Washington reporters were, from the time just before Obama’s press briefing to the period of intensive coverage and analysis immediately following, alternating between expressing incredulity that Obama would spend time on such a “minor” issue and, in Corn’s words, “jumping up and down in anticipation.” Obama made the decision in large part to put an end to the endless media coverage going to the “birther” controversy that he feels would be better spent on analyzing and covering the discussions about the nation’s budget woes. In his brief address regarding the release of the document, Obama says: “[T]wo weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.” The entire controversy is a “distraction,” he says, that needs to stop soaking up huge amounts of media coverage. In the moments before the press briefing, Obama commented on a “break-in” by NBC political reporter Chuck Todd to that network’s normal broadcast schedule: “I was just back there listening to Chuck—he was saying, it’s amazing that he’s not going to be talking about national security. I would not have the networks breaking in if I was talking about that, Chuck, and you know it.” Corn writes, “Ending the birther conspiracy allowed him to nudge the political media and demonstrate he’s the mature leader in town.” Obama wanted to deliver the message himself, Corn writes: “He wanted to come to the podium and take point on the birther rebuttal, using the occasion to address that larger problem and to demonstrate his own desire to rise above political pettiness in order to make Washington work for the citizenry. So rather than just release the records and allow the cable chatterers to chew up the material (and bash [billionaire ‘birther’ enthusiast Donald] Trump), the White House deployed the president to throw the knock-out punch, realizing that it had a much better chance to cut through the clutter if he was the messenger.” Corn concludes with a rhetorical question: “[C]an [Obama] turn the end of birtherism into a teachable moment? That may well depend on how the media covers it.” [Mother Jones, 4/27/2011]
Conservative blogger Melissa Clouther, writing for the influential RedState (.com), says that President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) because the “birther” issue had “turned bad” for him “some time before the latest round in the press brought the issue to a head.” Clouther echoes statements by Republican political operative Karl Rove, who says Obama used the “birther” controversy for his own ends until it began to “spin out of control” (see April 28, 2011). She writes: “Americans, even people who would normally not fall for a rumor that President Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii, started asking: ‘Yeah, why won’t the president just release the stupid birth certificate? I have a birth certificate. This is no big deal. Why is he making a big deal?’ It is easier to ask outrageous questions about the president than it is to admit making a mistake about electing him to begin with. It’s easier to believe you’re deceived than to make a stupid decision.” The decision to release the certificate was purely political, Clouthier writes: “He knows, and has known, for a while now, that the birth certificate issue is not fun for him anymore. When he was wink winking away at his buddies in the media (winky wink Jounolist!), it was delicious making people look like fools. Aren’t those right wing crazies crazy? Tee hee!! President Obama was treating the issue like a juvenile. Unsurprising. He presides as a child. The last two months, though, have been less fun. With his poll numbers diving and people wanting to be mad at him, President Obama decided to come out today.… He could have stopped the nonsense at any time. He didn’t because it served his purposes.… The birth certificate rumors no longer help President Obama.” [Melissa Clouther, 4/27/2011] Clouther fails to note that the Obama campaign released Obama’s birth certificate almost three years ago (see June 13, 2008). Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will note that for weeks, conservatives have demanded that Obama release the certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011]
Conservative radio pundit Rush Limbaugh tells listeners that President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) because of polling data. “[E]verybody’s asking: ‘Why now? Why now?’” he says. “I think I’ve got the answer. I think it’s all about polling data. I think up ‘til now the polling data showed that it was a winning issue for Obama. The birthers were considered crackpots and the polling data showed as long as it continued that way, that there was hay to be made by Obama by not releasing the birth certificate and stoking these people. But then [billionaire television host and ‘birther’ enthusiast Donald] Trump comes along, and I really believe that the polling data, the internal polling data, the White House shows that the issue was starting to take place. You saw that poll yesterday, USA Today, 38 percent, 40 percent, whatever it was of the American people don’t think he’s born in this country. I think the polling data shifted, and it wasn’t all Republicans in that poll that showed that shockingly high number.” [Rush Limbaugh, 4/27/2011] Limbaugh is referring to an April 26 poll conducted by the Gallup organization for USA Today that says 38 percent of Americans “definitely” believe Obama was born in the US, 18 percent say he “probably” was, 15 percent say he “probably” was born in another country, and 9 percent say he was “definitely” born in another country. [USA Today, 4/26/2011] Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will note that for weeks, conservatives have demanded that Obama release the certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011]
John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, writes a brief column for the conservative National Review that says President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) because he wants to “enhance” the popularity of billionaire television host and rumored 2012 presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump has, in recent weeks, revitalized the “birther” controversy (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Pitney writes that the Obama administration apparently believes Trump would be an easy candidate to beat in the 2012 presidential campaign. Pitney references the 2008 attempt by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh to convince listeners to cross party lines and vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, in the belief that “a prolonged nomination battle would weaken the Democrats.” Pitney writes: “A Trump candidacy could have a similar effect [on Republicans]. He has little chance of winning the nomination, but if he put a lot of resources into his campaign, he could prevent anyone else from clinching the race until very late in the season. The eventual nominee would be bloodied and… broke.” [National Review, 4/27/2011] Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will note that for weeks, conservatives have demanded that Obama release the certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011]
Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, who for years has stirred the “birther” controversy surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate (see July 20, 2008, October 24, 2008, and August 4, 2009), appears on Fox Business Channel to discuss the release of President Obama’s “long form” certificate (see April 27, 2011). Using a poster-size reproduction of the certificate as a prop, Geller says the certificate is “actually not a birth certificate,” calling it a “certificate of live birth.” Host Eric Bolling insists that the certificate has been “Photoshopped” (i.e. altered using the graphics program Photoshop) because of a “green border” surrounding the certificate. Geller agrees that the border is “suspect.” Bolling says the certificate “opens up the can of worms that there are at least questions for it.” Both Bolling and Geller appear to be basing their “analysis” on the quickly-debunked claim that the “layering” of the PDF image of the certificate “proves” it is a fake (see April 27, 2011). Fox contributor Monica Crowley says billionaire real estage mogul and television host Donald Trump “forced the president’s hand to the point where he actually produced this document that we’re talking about.” She says Obama took a “direct slam at Donald Trump” by calling those who continue to question the legitimacy of his birth “sideshows and carnival barkers.” However, Crowley says, “we’ve got this document produced today, which means President Obama zero, carnival barker one.” Guest Keith Ablow agrees with Crowley that Trump deserves the credit for “forcing” Obama to release the certificate. Bolling says that Obama’s timing in releasing the certificate—on the same day that Trump appears in New Hampshire as part of what some consider to be his preparations to enter the 2012 presidential campaign—is obviously an attempt to upstage Trump. Ablow says there is some as-yet unknown reason why Obama has not released this “long form” certificate until now (Ablow does not inform viewers that Hawaiian state law prohibits the “long form” certificate from being given to anyone, and that Obama needed to get a special dispensation from the Hawaiian State Department to be given a copy—see July 1, 2009). Crowley cites the theory of author and conspiracist Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, July 21, 2009, September 21, 2010, January 18, 2011, and March 27-28, 2011), who is about to release a book that will purport to prove Obama is not a citizen; “I think what Obama was trying to do today,” she says, “is preempt that, try to steal the thunder away from this book that’s coming out, so that nobody will pay attention to the Corsi book.” Bolling informs viewers that the wife and son of the doctor who signed the birth certificate in 1961, who has since passed away, “had no idea” that he signed the certificate. “If you gave birth to the president of the United States,” Bolling says, “don’t you think your family would know about it?” Geller concludes the segment by citing an array of Obama’s “life documents” that she says have been kept out of the public eye (see September 11, 2008, Around June 28, 2010, and April 26, 2011), and accuses the media of “protecting this man” from scrutiny. [Media Matters, 4/27/2011; Media Matters, 4/27/2011] A day later, the progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that the doctor that signed the birth certificate died in 2003. Reporter Ben Dimiero will write: “Let that sink in for a second. At the time, Barack Obama was a little-known state senator in Illinois. If the doctor had told his family before he died that he delivered the future president, that would have spawned a much more interesting conspiracy theory (he’s a wizard!). Apparently Eric Bolling thinks obstetricians give their families a list of the most interesting people they delivered—with a special section for ‘potential future presidents’—before they die.” [Media Matters, 4/28/2011] Two days later, Geller will label Obama “a b_stard, literally and figuratively” (see April 29, 2011).
A portion of President Obama’s ‘long form’ birth certificate. [Source: White House / WorldNetDaily (.com)]President Obama releases his “long form” birth certificate for public view, in an attempt to put questions about his citizenship to rest. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer says in a statement: “The president believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country. It may have been good politics and good TV, but it was bad for the American people and distracting from the many challenges we face as a country.” In 2008, Obama released an official copy of his birth certificate (see June 13, 2008), but many so-called “birthers” have said that “short form” certificate did not fully prove his Hawaiian birth. In his statement, Pfeiffer notes that the “short form” certificate is “the same legal documentation provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state, and the campaign immediately posted it on the Internet.… When any citizen born in Hawaii requests their birth certificate, they receive exactly what the president received. In fact, the document posted on the campaign Web site is what Hawaiians use to get a driver’s license from the state and the document recognized by the federal government and the courts for all legal purposes. That’s because it is the birth certificate. This is not and should not be an open question.” Pfeiffer says: “At a time of great consequence for this country—when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue. The president’s hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of the country.… Therefore, the president directed his counsel to review the legal authority for seeking access to the long form certificate and to request on that basis that the Hawaii State Department of Health make an exception to release a copy of his long form birth certificate. They granted that exception in part because of the tremendous volume of requests they had been getting.” [Hawaii Department of Health, 8/4/1961 ; Associated Press, 4/27/2011; White House, 4/27/2011]
Signed, Certified as True and Valid - The certificate is signed by the delivery doctor, Obama’s mother, and the local registrar. It certifies that Barack Hussein Obama II was born at 7:24 p.m. on August 4, 1961, to Stanley Ann Dunham Obama at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu. It does not mention religion. Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama, is noted as being born in Kenya, and his mother as being born in Wichita, Kansas. The Hawaiian registrar certifies the new photocopy of the document provided to the White House on April 25 as being a true and valid copy. The White House also releases a letter from Obama on April 22 requesting two certified copies of his original certificate of live birth. The Hawaii Department of Health does not, by law, release the actual birth certificate, but the department makes an exception for Obama given his “status as president of the United States.” Also released is a letter from Loretta Fuddy, Hawaii’s director of health, approving the request. In her approval letter, Fuddy wrote that she hopes the release “will end the numerous inquiries” received by her office. “Such inquiries have been disruptive to staff operations and have strained state resources,” Fuddy wrote. Obama’s personal lawyer, Judith Corley, flew to Hawaii to pick up the documents and brought them back to Washington. She returned with the documents around 5 p.m. April 26.
Obama: 'We Do Not Have Time for This Kind of Silliness' - Obama says during a morning press conference that he has been both amused and puzzled by the degree to which his place of birth has become an issue. “We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” he says. “This issue has been going on for two, two and a half years now. I think it started during the campaign. I have watched with bemusement, I’ve been puzzled at the degree at which this thing just kept on going.” The country needs to come together to work on critical issues, he says, but “we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”
Trump Takes Credit, RNC Blames Obama for Controversy - Billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump has reignited the controversy in recent weeks (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 26, 2011, and April 26, 2011) as part of his apparent 2012 presidential campaign bid. Though neither Obama nor Pfeiffer mention Trump by name, he takes full credit for the release. “He should have done it a long time ago. I am really honored to play such a big role in hopefully, hopefully getting rid of this issue,” Trump says during a visit to New Hampshire. Trump says he is not yet convinced of the certificate’s authenticity, saying that he and his people are “going to look at it. We have to see if it’s real, if it’s proper.… It’s amazing that all of a sudden it materializes. Why he didn’t do it when the Clintons asked for it. Why he didn’t do it when everyone else was asking about it, I don’t know.” However, Trump says he is “sure it’s the right deal” and is looking forward to moving on to more important issues such as OPEC and China. Trump and other “birthers” have alleged that the long form birth certificate contains information Obama wanted to hide from public view, when in fact the two different versions of the certificate contain virtually the same information. The long form includes the signatures of Obama’s mother and the attending physician. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus calls the issue a distraction, but blames Obama for playing “campaign politics” by addressing it. “The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy,” he says. “Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority—our economy.” [Associated Press, 4/27/2011; Associated Press, 4/27/2011; USA Today, 4/27/2011; WorldNetDaily, 4/27/2011] Trump also demands that Obama release his complete college transcripts. [Real Clear Politics, 4/27/2011]
Questions from CNN - Some observers feel the White House may have been spurred to release the certificate in part because of questions about the controversy from mainstream media reporters. On April 26, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked a question about Obama’s birth status by CNN’s Ed Henry, at the same time CNN’s Anderson Cooper was airing a “definitive investigation” into the controversy that debunked the “birther” conspiracy theory and attacked Trump for feeding the controversy. Carney called the question “preposterous” and the controversy “a distraction” that had been “settled,” but Henry continued to pursue the issue. [Huffington Post, 4/26/2011]
Entity Tags: Judith Corley, Loretta Fuddy, Jay Carney, Reince Priebus, Hawaii Department of Health, Barack Obama, Sr, Donald Trump, Ann Dunham, Barack Obama, Dan Pfeiffer, Ed Henry
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections
An Associated Press report examines the issues surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate in the wake of Obama releasing his “long form” certificate for public scrutiny (see April 27, 2011) and finds racial overtones to the controversy. Writer Rachel Rose Hartman observes that while the controversy surrounding Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s birth status was short-lived and resolved by a single announcement from a set of lawyers (see March 14 - July 24, 2008), the controversy surrounding Obama’s birth status has carried on for nearly three years (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, Around June 28, 2010, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 28, 2011, and April 5, 2011). Hartman writes that Obama “has faced a relentless campaign questioning his US citizenship—and thereby the legitimacy of his presidency—that has disregarded the facts” (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). After Obama released his “long form” certificate, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz quickly announced her disbelief in the form, saying that the listing of Obama’s father as “African” cast doubt on the veracity of the document; she said that in 1961, the term that would have been used was “Negro” (see April 27, 2011). Hartman notes that many “birther” critics believe the movement’s “core tenets—and its stubborn resistance to evidence disproving those beliefs—can be traced to racial hostilities. The fundamental birtherist conviction, these critics say, is that an African-American can’t have legitimately won the presidency—and that his elevation to power therefore has to be the result of an elaborate subterfuge.” History professor Peniel Joseph says: “There is a real deep-seated and vicious racism at work here in terms of trying to de-legitimate the president.… This is more than just a conspiracy. I think this is fundamentally connected to white supremacism in this country.” Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. has called “this birther nonsense” “profoundly racist claptrap” (see April 1, 2011), Michael Tomasky has written in the British newspaper The Guardian that the birther conspiracy “had to be the only explanation for how this black man got to the White House.… And if you think race isn’t what this is about at its core… you are delusional” (see April 27, 2011). The Reverend Jesse Jackson noted yesterday that billionaire Donald Trump’s “birther” campaign is rooted in race, saying: “Any discussion of [Obama’s] birthplace is a code word. It calls upon ancient racial fears.” Trump, he said, “is now tapping into code-word fears that go far beyond a rational discourse” (see April 26, 2011). Trump has recently leveled allegations that Obama was only accepted into Columbia and Harvard Universities because of his race (see April 26, 2011). Hartman notes that while “[b]irthers emphatically deny such criticism… it’s difficult to apprehend the ongoing resistance to proof of Obama’s citizenship without crediting racial fear as a significant factor.” For years, the “birther” movement has insisted that the release of the “long form” certificate would settle the issue, but now that the document has been released, the same “birthers” either refuse to accept its validity or are insisting that Obama release a spate of other documents to prove his identity and citizenship, “a level of scrutiny that neither McCain nor Obama’s 43 predecessors in the Oval Office were expected to face” (see April 27, 2011). Trump and others are calling for Obama to release his college transcripts (see April 26, 2011), have alleged that Obama did not write his own memoirs, and, despite all evidence, continue to insist that he is a “closet Muslim” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008). Jackson and Peniel both note that never before has a sitting president’s nationality been questioned. A recent study found that racially biased whites are far more likely to view Obama as “less American” than Vice President Joe Biden, a white man. That assessment correlates with a profoundly lower view of Obama’s performance as president (see March 2011). National polls continue to find that almost half of Republican voters do not believe Obama was born in the US, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has blamed Obama for the “birther” controversy, says the issue is irrelevant. [Associated Press, 4/27/2011]
Entity Tags: Reince Priebus, Peniel Joseph, Rachel Rose Hartman, Michael Tomasky, Jesse Jackson, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Orly Taitz, John McCain, Leonard Pitts, Jr, Joseph Biden
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Obama meets with his national security team again as preparations to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, near their final stages. The main concern remains contingency plans in case things go horribly wrong. It is decided to use four helicopters instead of two in the raid. (The two extra helicopters will be nearby in case of emergency.) US intelligence allegedly is still not 100 percent certain that bin Laden is at the compound, and Obama’s advisers have varying opinions:
Navy Vice Admiral William McRaven, commander of Joint Special Operations Command, who has been leading the raid preparations (see March 30-April 19, 2011), tells Obama that he thinks the raid will be successful. [New York Times, 5/2/2011; ABC News, 6/9/2011] (McRaven participates remotely, because he is already in Afghanistan making last minute arrangements with the raid team.)
According to one account, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is skeptical, but finally comes out in favor of the raid. [Wall Street Journal, 5/23/2011] Another account says Gates still thinks the intelligence isn’t strong enough. [ABC News, 6/9/2011]
Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, says he thinks the odds are less than 50 percent that bin Laden is there.
Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan is in favor of going ahead with the raid.
CIA Director Leon Panetta also is in favor. He says the odds of bin Laden being there are between about 60 and 80 percent. He also says that the “red team”—analysts only recently brought in on the intelligence on the compound to get an outside opinion—agree that bin Laden is probably in the compound.
Obama reportedly puts the odds at about 55 percent. At the end of the meeting, he reportedly says, “I’m not going to tell you what my decision is now—I’m going to go back and think about it some more.” But he adds, “I’m going to make a decision soon.” [New York Times, 5/2/2011; ABC News, 6/9/2011]
A 1971 photograph of Barack Obama Sr. and Barack Obama Jr. [Source: Apex Newspix / London Daily Mail]The London Daily Mail uses information obtained by the Arizona Independent to attack President Obama’s father as a “serial womanizer” and “polygamist” whose eye for “white women” led to his expulsion from the United States. The article leads with the line, “With a father like this, it is little wonder President Obama did not want to release his full birth certificate” (see April 27, 2011). The Arizona Independent obtained files from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that imply US government and Harvard University officials, disapproving of Barack Obama Sr.‘s “licentious” ways, forced him to leave the United States. Obama Sr. married a white woman, Stanley Ann Dunham, who became Obama Jr.‘s mother, during a time when interracial marriages were still illegal in many parts of the US; moreover, Obama Sr. apparently had a wife in Kenya, making him in the eyes of some US officials a “polygamist.” Obama Sr., a student at Harvard University, “had an eye for the ladies,” according to the documents, and was warned by Harvard officials to “stay away from girls at the university.” Obama Sr.‘s application to extend his visa to remain in the US was eventually denied, in part because of his “polygamy” and, apparently, because of his predilection for dating white women. The file quotes an unnamed government official as calling Obama Sr. a “slippery character” who dated “several women.” Another immigration memo, from June 1964, records that Harvard officials were trying “to get rid of him” and “couldn’t seem to figure out how many wives he had.” The memo, which notes that Obama Sr. and Dunham had a child, Barack Obama Jr., on August 4, 1961, goes on to say that Obama Sr. should be “closely questioned before another extension is granted—and denial be considered.” The INS officials also apparently requested that Harvard withdraw his scholarship to attend college there. The memo says: “Obama has passed his general exams, which indicates that on academic grounds he is entitled to stay around here and write his thesis; however [Harvard] are going to try to cook something up to ease him out.… They are planning on telling him that they will not give him any money, and that he had better return to Kenya and prepare his thesis at home.” Obama Sr. took classes at Harvard and at the University of Hawaii in 1960, where he met Dunham in a Russian language course. Dunham apparently knew nothing of Obama Sr.‘s wife and child in Kenya, and their divorce in 1963, when their child Barack Obama Jr. was just two, may have been triggered in part because of Obama Sr.‘s previous marriage as well as his reported philandering. Obama Jr. saw his father once after the divorce, in 1971; 11 years later, Obama Sr. was killed in a car accident. [Daily Mail, 4/28/2011] Hours after the story is published online, Fox Nation, the blog for Fox News, prints a summation of it and directs readers to it. [Fox Nation, 4/28/2011]
Washington Post managing editor Bob Woodward says that billionaire television host and real estate mogul Donald Trump “is aspiring to be the new Joe McCarthy.” Woodward, appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe talk show hosted by former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, is comparing Trump, who has for months attacked President Obama’s supposed lack of US citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011), with former Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who used false allegations of Communist sympathies to ruin the careers and reputations of dozens of lawmakers and other public figures. Woodward calls the “birther” controversy “manufactured,” and says “the news media has got to get a handle on itself on this.” As for Trump, Woodward says: “Let’s call things what they are. Donald Trump, I think, was or maybe still is aspiring to be the new Joe McCarthy. No evidence, but you make an assertion and you look at these things Trump said… people interviewing him at that moment should have said, ‘What’s your evidence?’ Trump has no evidence, and when you have no evidence you have nothing and the discussion of the subject should end.” [Mediaite, 4/28/2011]
Chris Matthews, hosting MSNBC’s Hardball, interviews columnists Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune and Eric Boehlert of the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters about the conservative reaction to the recent release of President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011). Matthews focuses on a recent segment from Fox Business Channel featuring host Eric Bolling and his guest, conservative blogger Pamela Geller, where the two insisted that the newly released form is a fraud that has been “Photoshopped” (see April 27, 2011). Matthews calls their conspiracy theory “absolute garbage,” and Boehlert says Bolling “wants to prove he’s got the crazy niche” to replace the outgoing Glenn Beck on Fox News. Boehlert also notes that for weeks, Fox News hosts and guests have demanded that Obama release the “long form” certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011), “and yesterday he does, and you turn on Fox News: ‘How dare he release his long form birth certificate!‘… This is a game that’s being played, a very dishonest, hateful, and very disturbing game that the right-wing media is playing with American politics.” Matthews then plays a brief clip from a recent MSNBC broadcast where “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz tried, and failed, to raise new questions about Obama’s Social Security number (see April 27, 2011); Boehlert says: “She’s moving the goalposts, obviously. Man, that’s what conspiracists do, I mean, this is the textbook example of what we saw yesterday. As you said, it wasn’t just the hard-core professionals like her. It was the right-wing media, it was AM talk radio, it was a lot of the Internet, and obviously it was Fox News. Nobody apologized, nobody conceded the fact, they just kept spinning and spinning.” Matthews plays a clip of Donald Trump questioning Obama’s acceptance into Columbia University and Harvard Law School (see April 26, 2011). Page says in response: “I’ll tell you how black folks feel about it, it sounds like he’s saying [Obama is] an affirmative action baby (see April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011).… You haven’t gotta be a black American just to be proud of the fact that this fellow was able to work his way up and make it through Harvard and make it to the White House, and… Trump is just pouring cold water on that whole thing, and I think now he’s just embarrassing the whole [Republican] Party.” Matthews says the crux of Trump’s argument about Obama’s college acceptance hinges on the fact that Obama is African-American, and says Trump would never use such an argument against a white political opponent. Boehlert says Trump is another cog in the organized effort to delegitimize Obama as a president (see April 27, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011] Bolling will indeed replace Beck on Fox News, as the co-host of a roundtable discussion show entitled The Five. [Real Clear Politics, 6/30/2011]
Johann Hari, a commentator for the London Independent, pens a caustic column about the American “birther” conspiracy theory and Donald Trump, the billionaire entrepeneur and television host who has used the controversy to vault himself to the forefront of the Republican Party’s group of 2012 presidential contenders (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Hari says that Trump’s meteoric ascendancy within the Republican Party proves “that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. They have long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals—and it turns out they were onto something. Every six months, the Republican Party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.” Hari cites former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and current US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) as previous “stops” on the Republicans’ backwards slide, until the party got to Trump as its current representative. “A survey suggests he is the most popular candidate among Republican voters,” Hari writes. “It’s not hard to see why. Trump is every trend in Republican politics over the past 35 years taken to its logical conclusion. He is the Republican id, finally entirely unleashed from all restraint and all reality.” Hari lists four major trends that he says the modern Republican Party reflects, and that Trump epitomizes.
'Naked Imperialism' - Hari says Trump advocates what he calls the first trend of modern Republican ideology, “naked imperialism,” and cites Trump’s promise to, as president, simply “go in” to Libya “and take the oil.… I would take the oil and stop this baby stuff.” On Iraq, he has said: “We stay there, and we take the oil.… In the old days, when you have a war and you win, that nation’s yours.” Hari says that in Trump’s view, a view held by many Republicans, “the world is essentially America’s property, inconveniently inhabited by foreigners squatting over oil fields. Trump says America needs to ‘stop what’s going on in the world. The world is just destroying our country. These other countries are sapping our strength.’ The US must have full spectrum dominance.”
'Dog-Whistle Prejudice' - Along with his imperialism, Hari says, Trump has a penchant for what he calls “dog-whistle prejudice—pitched just high enough for frightened white Republicans to hear it.” Citing Trump’s support for the “birther” theory, Hari writes: “The Republican primary voters heard the message right—the black guy [President Obama] is foreign. He’s not one of us.”
'Raw Worship of Wealth' - The third trend that Hari says endears Trump to Republicans is his “raw worship of wealth as an end in itself—and [the exemption of the wealthy] from all social responsibility.” Republicans seem not to care that Trump, born into wealth, has bankrupted four businesses, repeatedly failed to pay his taxes, and, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Clay Johnson, has made the bulk of his fortune from “stiffing his creditors” and “from government subsidies and favours for his projects—which followed large donations to the campaigns of both parties, sometimes in the very same contest. Trump denies these charges and presents himself as an entrepreneur ‘of genius.’” However, Hari says Republicans seem to believe that “the accumulation of money is proof in itself of virtue, however it was acquired. The richest 1 percent pay for the party’s campaigns, and the party in turn serves their interests entirely.… In America today, a janitor can pay more income tax than Donald Trump—and the Republicans regard that not as a source of shame, but of pride.”
Imposing America's Will on Reality - The fourth trend, Hari writes, “is to insist that any fact inconvenient to your world-view either doesn’t exist, or can be overcome by pure willpower.” He cites the example of the US’s imminent need to extend its debt ceiling in order to avoid default. While almost every economist in the world says the US going into default will trigger “another global economic crash,” Trump “snaps back: ‘What do economists know? Most of them aren’t very smart.’” Trump says “it’s so easy” to deal with the upward spiral of oil prices merely by calling a meeting of the leaders of the OPEC nations and, as he has said: “I’m going to look them in the eye and say: ‘Fellows, you’ve had your fun. Your fun is over.‘… It’s so easy. It’s all about the messenger.” He will stop China from manipulating its currency merely by ordering it to do so, and derides any mention of how much American debt China owns. Hari writes: “This is what the Republican core vote wants to be told. The writer Matthew Yglesias calls it ‘the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics.’ It’s named after the DC comics superhero the Green Lantern, who can only use his superpowers when he ‘overcomes fear’ and shows confidence—and then he can do anything. This is Trump’s view. The whiny world simply needs to be bullied into submission by a more assertive America—or the world can be fired and he’ll find a better one.”
Expressing the Underlying Core Beliefs of the GOP - Trump will not get the Republican nomination, Hari believes, not because Republicans reject his premises, but “because he states these arguments too crudely for mass public consumption. He takes the underlying whispered dogmas of the Reagan, Bush, and Tea Party years and shrieks them through a megaphone. The nominee will share similar ideas, but express them more subtly.” Hari points to the budget proposal by US Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), one supported by every House Republican and most Senate Republicans, which would, among other things, halve taxes on America’s most wealthy, end corporate taxation, end taxation on dividends and inheritance, and pass that tax burden onto the middle class and poor by gutting spending on food stamps, healthcare for the poor and the elderly, and basic services. The Ryan budget would send the US deficit soaring, though Ryan, embracing the tenet of imposing his beliefs on reality, insists it would cut the deficit. Hari concludes: “The Republican Party today isn’t even dominated by market fundamentalism. This is a crude Nietzcheanism, dedicating to exalting the rich as an overclass and dismissing the rest.” [Independent, 4/28/2011]
Brian Kilmeade of the Fox News morning talk show Fox and Friends suggests that President Obama released his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) to “play the victim card.” Kilmeade says Obama released the certificate to “build sympathy and empathy from the base and from some independents and say, ‘Well, listen, I’ve really been the subject of a vile campaign against me.’” Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson agrees, claiming, “I think the president’s premise for coming out is wrong, and I think it was done… as a distraction.” Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that for weeks, conservatives have demanded that Obama release the certificate (see March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, April 5, 2011, and April 24-25, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011]
Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly denies there were ever any racial connotations to the “birther” controversy surrounding President Obama’s US citizenship. On his show The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly notes that many “defenders of Obama labeled the whole thing racist,” and plays clips from MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, CBS’s Bob Schieffer, The View’s Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg (see April 27, 2011), MSNBC analyst Jonathan Alter, and BET host Tavis Smiley, many of them focusing on billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump and his pronouncements (see April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). O’Reilly’s guests, Fox analyst Alicia Menendez and Republican strategist Margaret Hoover, join in denouncing what Hoover calls “the most predictable” reactions imaginable from “the entire left.” Hoover says that liberals always cry “racist” when they want to criticize conservatives. Hoover does admit that Trump’s claims that Obama got into Ivy League schools due to affirmative action, and the “widespread movement to delegitimize the president to say he’s not American enough (see April 27, 2011), I think it’s not unrelated to race.” O’Reilly disagrees, saying that questions about Obama’s college career are different from “calling him out because of his skin color.” Trump may be “stoking the discomfort that some people have with [Obama’s] skin color,” Hoover says, a remark that draws a snort of derision from O’Reilly, who says he knows Trump well and does not believe he is a racist. Menendez, described by an on-screen chyron as a member of a “center-left think tank,” agrees with Hoover that some of the comments and charges leveled by “birthers” may aggravate the racial tensions that exist in America today. O’Reilly cuts her off and says he does not see “any of these racial confrontations in this country, and I do this every day.” He demands proof of her contention. “I’m not saying it’s just about Barack Obama,” Menendez says, “I’m saying it’s generally about people trying to figure out what to do with this change in America.” Menendez says that there is “some intertwining” between the birther controversy and racist attitudes, but calls the comments by Schulz and others “very radical and obscure the conversation we should be having.” O’Reilly calls the charges of racism “vicious,” and presses for agreement from both Hoover and Menendez. Menendez attempts to qualify, calling the charges a response to “a vicious and hateful thing coming out of the right. And there were very few people like you who were being honest and calling it what it was.” O’Reilly says that the “bad behavior” from the right does not justify “bad behavior” from the left. He says the charges that “the birth certificate was phony” had no connection to racism at all, and continues to lambast “the left” for trying to tie racism into the controversy. Menendez asks if O’Reilly believes that “it was just coincidental” that Obama, the first African-American president, was targeted as not “being a real American” by right-wing opponents. “That’s just a weird coincidence,” she says. O’Reilly says the entire controversy was “borne out of hatred for the man.… The people who hate Barack Obama will latch on to anything. It’s not because of his skin color.” O’Reilly concludes that the “far left” did not act “in a responsible way” in challenging the controversy “as we did [presumably referring to his show]. We just took it apart” (see July 29, 2009). [Media Matters, 4/28/2011] An Associated Press analysis has found that the “birther” controversy was fueled in large part by racism (see April 27, 2011), and liberals (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 28, 2011), moderates (see April 27, 2011), and conservatives (see April 27, 2011) alike have decried the racism at the heart of “birtherism.” Author John Avlon has said that “birthers” will never give up their conspiracy theories because even Republicans who disbelieve the claims and do not themselves harbor racist beliefs will not denounce the claims and the racism behind them (see April 28, 2011). Some conservative media outlets, including Fox News, are launching a new series of attacks on Obama through his father, vilifying the senior Obama because of his alleged “penchant” for “white women” (see April 28, 2011, April 29, 2011, and April 29, 2011). And conservative radio host Laura Ingraham says the release of the “long form” certificate “proves” Obama intends to make his re-election bid about race (see April 28, 2011).
Entity Tags: Edward Andrew (“Ed”) Schultz, Bill O’Reilly, Barack Obama, Associated Press, Alicia Menendez, Donald Trump, Whoopi Goldberg, Fox News, Margaret Hoover, Bob Schieffer, John Avlon, Jonathan Alter, Joy Behar, Laura Ingraham, Tavis Smiley
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Author and columnist John Avlon says the “birther conspiracy theory should now be placed on the ash heap of presidential derangement syndromes that date back to at least the John Birch Society’s founder declaring President Dwight David Eisenhower a ‘dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy’—or, a Soviet spy.” However, this will not happen, he predicts, because in part no respected Republican lawmaker or pundit will denounce it. “Today, because the fringe is blurring with the base, conservative leaders seem afraid to confront the unhinged extremists in their midst,” he writes. Avlon writes that the swirl of conspiracies and allegations contained in the “birther” controversy include a number of related conspiracies—Obama is a “Marxist Manchurian Candidate” (see May 7, 2010] and April 27, 2011), he is a “closet Muslim” (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, April 18, 2008, and April 26, 2011), and others. However, he continues, “[i]t’s worth noting… that the birther equivalent of the Bush years—the 9/11 ‘Truthers’—would never have been allowed to make such inroads into national debates or presidential politics in 2004 or 2008, by Republicans or Democrats.” The recent “bump in the polls” earned by billionaire television host and rumored presidential candidate Donald Trump for his aggressive promotion of the “birther” conspiracy theory (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 21, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 24-25, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011) worried some Republicans, including former Bush administration political chief Karl Rove. The polls reflected what Avlon calls “evidence of the real costs that came with encouraging Obama Derangement Syndrome for political gain—the inmates start to run the asylum.” However, the birther controversy will continue unabated, he writes, no matter what documents or proof Obama releases (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 29, 2009, April 11, 2011, April 25, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 27, 2011). Now the birthers are moving towards Trump’s insistence that Obama is hiding something suspicious in his college records (see April 26, 2011), “an affirmative action dig that tries to deepen the narrative of Obama as a monstrous fraud.” Avlon concludes: “History will be more unforgiving and see the birther conspiracy more clearly than we have in our contemporary debates. It will be hard to miss the fact that so much time and energy was spent trying to prove the illegitimacy and un-American-ness of our first black president. It will seem shameful. And it is.” [Daily Beast, 4/28/2011]
Jonathan Martin and John F. Harris, writing for the online news outlet Politico, say that President Obama’s decision to present his “long form” birth certificate as proof of his US citizenship (see April 27, 2011) is a “decisive new turn in the centuries-long American history of political accusation and innuendo. By directly and coolly engaging a debate with his most fevered critics, Obama offered the most unmistakable validation ever to the idea that we are living in an era of public life with no referee—and no common understandings between fair and unfair, between relevant and trivial, or even between facts and fantasy.” The authors note that presidents have been pursued by “[l]urid conspiracy theories” for centuries. However, until now, those presidents have “benefited from a widespread consensus that some types of personal allegations had no place in public debate unless or until they received some imprimatur of legitimacy—from an official investigation, for instance, or from a detailed report by a major news organization.” That is no longer the case, they say (see April 27, 2011). Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says: “There are no more arbiters of truth. So whatever you can prove factually, somebody else can find something else and point to it with enough ferocity to get people to believe it. We’ve crossed some Rubicon into the unknown.” The writers note their difficulty in envisioning former President Clinton “coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster—never mind official rulings of suicide—were wrong” (see April 27, 2011), or former President George W. Bush giving a press conference denying allegations that “he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.” Obama’s choice to release the documentation and even to make a personal appearance to announce it are a powerful indication that the political dynamic has changed. Obama advisers explain that he made the decision to do so “because of the radical reordering of the political-media universe over the past 15 years, or so. The decline of traditional media and the rise of viral emails and partisan Web and cable TV platforms has meant the near-collapse of common facts, believed across the political spectrum.” Debunking the myth of Obama’s “foreign birth” means nothing to a large percentage of Americans who still remain unconvinced, or firmly believe the myth, the authors write. After trying to ignore it and mock it into irrelevance, they write, Obama “finally gave in and affirmed a new truth of politics in the Internet era: Nothing can be dismissed and anything that poses a political threat must be confronted directly.” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer says: “We’re dealing with a lot of the same things Clinton and frankly Bush dealt with, but we’re dealing with them at 1,000 times the speed and with fewer referees. That is the downside of the disaggregation of the media. If you don’t want to believe what someone is telling you, you can go somewhere else. If you believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the president is not American, you can go somewhere to find somebody to validate that.” Another Obama adviser, who remains anonymous, adds: “Clinton never had to deal with a fully formed Internet. [Conservative Web gossip Matt] Drudge’s power was born out of the revelations of 1998. A fully automated cable TV universe with the Internet is something that [Clinton] never had to deal with.” Clinton’s press secretary Joe Lockhart says: “You’ve lost the ability to starve a story to death. So what you have to do is raise the price of those who are making the charges. If Donald Trump is out there saying this, you’ve got to make him pay a price for throwing a bomb before too much collateral damage is done.… You literally can’t laugh anything off. There’s nothing neutral in politics. It’s either helping you or hurting you. You’ve got to make sure it’s helping you or you’re going to lose.” The authors note that politicians are learning to use this phenomenon to their own advantage. While Washington Republicans often bemoan the ascendancy of “fringe” pundits like Fox News’s Glenn Beck, the authors write, “they relish the way Beck and ideological confederates excite the GOP base, a contributing factor in the party’s strong performance in 2010.” The authors also point to Democrats’ willingness to allow “liberal commentators” to push for the truth behind George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the National Guard. The authors claim that the Obama team “enjoys giving the stage to the GOP’s most divisive voices,” noting that Gibbs and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel often called conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh “the de facto leader of the Republican Party.” Obama, and his successors, will have to do things previous presidents have never considered, from appearing on less “serious” talk shows such as those hosted by Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman, or making appearances on networks such as the sports broadcaster ESPN. “It’s hard to see a president doing those things 10 or 20 years ago, but it’s become almost a requirement now,” Gibbs says. It is hard to know where to draw the line, Gibbs continues. “Does it become incumbent to prove everything wrong? You have to be very careful to not fall into that trap because you’ll spend all of your time and energy chasing your own tail.” Pfeiffer says most open-minded Americans will take the “long form” certificate as the evidence required to settle the issue: “There will be some segment of the population who will believe what they’re going to believe, regardless of anything else. But for the majority of the country, we have the capacity to correct the record and convince people of the truth. It’s not as easy as it used to be, but it’s possible.” Pfeiffer notes the “huge amount of time and energy” spent on dealing with the “birther” issue, time better spent, he says, on issues confronting the country. Former Bush administration political adviser Karl Rove says the Obama administration has attempted to use the “birther” controversy against Republicans: “The president himself has hoped Republicans would continue to talk about it, thereby damaging their own credibility. It was a useful diversion (see April 27, 2011). But take a look at recent polls. The problem was the view was taking hold among independents. He got worried it was about to spin out of control” (see April 27, 2011). Rove says Obama was attempting to “play rope-a-dope with Republicans,” a charge Pfeiffer denies (see April 28, 2011). “Up until a month ago, nobody really asked for the long form. It was fringe. It was a settled issue for 99 percent of the country.” Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer says: “It’s a terrible problem for the body politic. People like me who have been or are in the arena have an obligation to speak out against people in both parties who push untruths” (see January 25, 2001, January 25-27, 2001, and April 18, 2001). “The political discourse is much worse now, but that’s not always to the detriment of the so-called victim. In this case, President Obama came out looking better.” Lockhart agrees, saying: “Look at the rogue’s gallery of Clinton accusers. Most of them blew themselves up.” Lockhart acknowledges that for some, the issue will never be settled (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 29, 2011). “They’ll probably ask for the first diaper. They’ll want to see the DNA.” [Politico, 4/28/2011]
Entity Tags: Joe Lockhart, Donald Trump, Dan Pfeiffer, Barack Obama, Ari Fleischer, Glenn Beck, Vince Foster, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Robert Gibbs, John F. Harris, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Matt Drudge, Rahm Emanuel, Rush Limbaugh, Jonathan Martin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham tells her listeners that President Obama’s decision to present his “long form” birth certificate as proof of his US citizenship (see April 27, 2011) proves his 2012 re-election campaign will hinge on race. After playing a montage of audio clips from commentators accusing Obama of racism, or saying that his campaign will focus on race, she tells her audience: “It’s official. The Obama campaign is going to run on race. No? They might not say that, but let there be no misunderstanding of where this is going. This is going right to the heart of liberalism. Liberals see people, not as individuals who are capable of anything if given the opportunity, and freed up and loosened from the bonds of government regulation and bureaucratic restraints. No. They see people as a certain color, or a certain gender, or a certain sexual orientation. They have to be put in these boxes. The favorites boxes of the bean counters. Liberals have always looked at people that way. The truth about race, and this president, is not a pretty truth.… The truth about this administration and race goes right to the core of what liberalism has done to the black family, to minorities in general. The great diversion of liberalists has always been to drop the charges of racism, the spurious and the negative and the perjorative charges of racism [against conservatives], every time they are proven to be incorrect and the way they approach a problem” (see September 4, 1949, and After, March 12, 1956 and After, 1969-1971, 1978-1996, 1980, 1981, March 15, 1982, 1983, June-September 1988, 1990, September 1995, August 16, 1998, March 1-2, 2001, August 29, 2001, March 15, 2002, July 15, 2002, August 2002, September 26, 2002 and After, August 5, 2003, September 28 - October 2, 2003, May 17, 2004, May 18, 2004, October 9-13, 2004, November 15, 2004, November 26, 2004, December 5-8, 2004, December 8, 2004, May 10, 2005, September 28-October 1, 2005, September 30 - October 1, 2005, September 30, 2005, 2006, March 29, 2006, December 2006, January 19, 2007 and After, January 24, 2007, April 2007, April 2, 2007, July 22, 2007, August 21, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 24, 2008, January 6-11, 2008, November 10, 2008, January 25, 2008, January 31, 2008, February 1, 2008, February 28, 2008, May 19, 2008, June 2, 2008, June 6, 2008, June 26, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, August 4, 2008, August 4, 2008, August 19, 2008, August 25, 2008, October 7, 2008, October 20, 2008, October 22, 2008, October 28, 2008, November 18, 2008, January 18, 2009, February 24-26, 2009, March 3, 2009, April 7-8, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27, 2009, May 27-29, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 29, 2009, May 31, 2009, June 2, 2009, June 5, 2009, June 7, 2009, June 12, 2009, June 20, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 8, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 19, 2009, September 2009, September 14, 2009, October 13, 2009, February 25, 2010, March 20, 2010, July 14, 2010, July 15, 2010, September 11, 2010, September 12, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After, September 15, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 21, 2010, September 24, 2010, October 22-23, 2010, November 9, 2010, November 12, 2010, December 22, 2010, January 14, 2011, February 20, 2011, March 2011, March 19-24, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 5, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011). Liberals, Ingraham says, rely on racial politics, divisiveness, and “class warfare” to succeed in the political arena. “[I]n the end,” she says, “it’s kind of all they have, that and abortion.” She derides people “on the left” for attacking billionaire television host and enthusiastic “birther” Donald Trump for being racist (see April 14-15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011). Any such charges, she says, are ridiculous. But those charges will be used by anyone who criticizes Trump for his challenge to Obama’s citizenship, she predicts, and cites Trump’s recent exhortation for Obama to “get off the basketball court” and focus on national issues as an example of an unfair charge of racism (see April 27, 2011). “And the very thing the left always starts to accuse the right of is what they are most guilty of,” she says. [Media Matters, 4/28/2011] Ingraham has had her own issues with racism and gender (see 1984, April 1997, and July 17, 2009).
In the aftermath of President Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), the number of people who say they believe that Obama was born in another country has dropped by half. The poll is conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) of Princeton, New Jersey, on behalf of the Washington Post, between April 28 and May 1, 2011. Now, 70 percent of respondants say that Obama was born in Hawaii, up from 48 percent in April 2010. Eighty-six percent say he was born in the US, or call this their best guess. Only 10 percent say he was born in another country, down from 20 percent a year ago. Almost all of that 10 percent say it is only their “suspicion” that he was born elsewhere; only 1 percent claim “solid evidence” that he was born abroad, down from 9 percent a year ago. (In both the 2010 and 2011 surveys, 19 percent say they have “no opinion.”) Now, 14 percent of Republicans say Obama was born elsewhere, down from 31 percent in April 2010. Among the most conservative Republicans, the number drops from 35 percent last year to 16 percent this year. [Washington Post, 5/1/2011; Washington Post, 5/5/2011]
In the evening, President Obama meets with his national security team to make final preparations for the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan (see March 30-April 19, 2011). Obama meets with four advisers: National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, and chief of staff Bill Daley. As the meeting begins, Obama tells them he has finally given approval for the raid. He says, “It’s a go.” The raid is planned to take place the next day. However, officials warn that because of cloudy weather, the raid probably will be delayed one day to May 1 (which is May 2 in Pakistan). That will turn out to be the case (see May 2, 2011). [New York Times, 5/2/2011; ABC News, 6/9/2011]
Software expert Jean-Claude Tremblay says there is no doubt President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) is genuine. Tremblay is responding to recent claims that the “layers” found in the electronic version of the certificate “prove” it is fake (see April 27, 2011 and April 27, 2011). Many of the claimants have used a graphics program, Adobe Illustrator, to reveal the layers. Tremblay is a certified Adobe expert who teaches Illustrator. He tells Fox News, “You should not be so suspicious about this.” The layers are evidence of the use of ordinary scanning software, not evidence of forgery: “I have seen a lot of Illustrator documents that come from photos and contain those kind of clippings—and it looks exactly like this.” Whoever scanned the birth certificate into a PDF file did so using commonly used OCR (optical character recognition) software, which translates characters or words into text, and creates “layers” of text in the process. “When you open it in Illustrator it looks like layers, but it doesn’t look like someone built it from scratch,” Tremblay says. “If someone made a fake it wouldn’t look like this. Some scanning software is trying to separate the background and the text and splitting element into layers and parts of layers.… I know that you can scan a document from a scanner most of the time it will appear as one piece, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no software that’s doing this kind of stuff.… I’d be more afraid it’d be fake if it was one in piece. It would be harder to check if it’s a good one if it’s a fake.” [Fox News, 4/29/2011]
Pamela Geller, the conservative blogger who has for years attacked President Obama’s parentage and his citizenship (see July 20, 2008, October 24, 2008,August 4, 2009, and April 27, 2011), now calls Obama “a b_stard, literally and figuratively.” Geller’s characterization is part of a long tirade about Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., based on information about the elder Obama cited by the Arizona Independent, which obtained the Immigration and Naturalization Service file on Obama Sr. (see April 28, 2011). Geller accuses Obama’s father of “impossible philandering, multiple wives, and bad behavior,” says the elder Obama was forced to leave Harvard University and the United States itself, and blames his “polygamy” on his Muslim faith. She also says the portrait Obama has painted of his father in his first memoir, Dreams of My Father, is completely false, though Obama never knew his father and depicted his father in an unflattering light. Geller writes: “He was a terrible man—immoral and irresponsible. His treatment of women was incredibly callous and cruel—not to mention the abandoment of his children and his multiple wives. President Obama is indeed a bastard, literally and figuratively. What a horrible man. Dreams of My Father. Indeed. Perhaps this explains President Obama’s animus towards the United States” (see November 8, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 16, 2008, April 9, 2009, June 5, 2009, June 25, 2009, June 29, 2009, September 14, 2009, November 17, 2009, February 2, 2010, June 11, 2010, September 12, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After, September 12, 2010 and After, September 16, 2010, September 17, 2010, September 23, 2010, September 23-24, 2010, March 2011, April 15, 2011, and April 27, 2011). A New York Times analysis of the same information concludes that Obama Sr. had a tribal wife in Kenya at the time he married Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and explains: “We call this ‘polygamy’; they see it as moving on with life. First marriages fizzle out in Africa, as they do everywhere else. The difference is that culturally, legal divorce is very frowned upon: It’s viewed as shirking financial and familial responsibilities. Epidemiologists, who have studied this cultural pattern because of its impact on the spread of HIV, often say that Africans tend to have ‘concurrent’ relationships, while Americans have ‘consecutive’ ones. That’s a wild generalization, but the point is that Obama Sr. would not have viewed his first marriage back in Kenya as something disreputable. It clearly became worthy of investigation to school and immigration officials, though, after he started fooling around with white women.” Geller calls the hints of racism towards Obama Sr. ridiculous, and cites fellow conservative blogger Jack Cahill as providing “proof” that Obama Sr.‘s marriage to Dunham was possibly invalid, making Obama the “b_stard” that she accuses him of being. [Pamela Geller, 4/29/2011] The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Geller’s attack on Obama and his father is part of a new initiative by “birthers” to besmirch Obama by attacking his father (see April 29, 2011). [Media Matters, 4/29/2011]
The progressive news and opinion magazine Mother Jones examines what columnist Adam Weinstein calls an attempt by Fox News and conservative bloggers to besmirch President Obama by attacking his father, Barack Obama Sr. Since the “birther” controversy has been conclusively proven to be groundless, he writes (see April 27, 2011), “the anger stage has kicked in: Birtherism has given way to fear-of-a-virile-black-man-ism.” Weinstein cites a lead story on Fox Nation, the blog of Fox News, titled “‘A Slippery Character’: New Details Emerge About Obama’s Father” (see April 28, 2011). The story is a “hatchet job” based on a British tabloid report that uses a newly released Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) file to slander and besmirch Obama Sr. The article “confirm[s] what President Obama had already stated in his memoir: His dad wasn’t the greatest of guys,” Weinstein writes. “But it’s all in how the article conveys that message: ‘With a father like this, it is little wonder President Obama did not want to release his full birth certificate.’” Weinstein says the way the Fox Nation article paints Obama Sr. “has it all: polygamy, the suggestion of illicit interracial sex, and the predatory sexual appetites of a dark-skinned African man. In fact, this theme’s got a name, or a couple of names, in popular Western culture: ‘Black beast,’ ‘black buck,’ ‘Mandingo.’ It’s the theory that black males are more animal than human, with an insatiable predilection for defiling white (read: virtuous) women.” Weinstein quotes Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint as writing in 1972: “There is little doubt that our white countrymen have been in a chronic state of paranoid fear over black male sexual power. ‘N***er’ jokes and pornographic literature abound with stories testifying to the black male’s sexual appetites and attributes. The preoccupation is evident in much white folklore.” Fox and conservative bloggers piggybacking on the story (see April 29, 2011) are attempting to say that “we, the people, elected the offspring of an unholy union between a bestial sexual predator and an innocent Kansas girl… a union that’s proven by the existence of the birth certificate!” [Mother Jones, 4/29/2011]
A joke image displayed during President Obama’s address at the White House Correspondents Dinner, envisioning what the White House might look like if Donald Trump were to become president. The subheading on the photo reads ‘Hotel - Casino - Golf Course - Presidential Suite.’ [Source: C-SPAN]The annual White House Correspondents Dinner is the scene of a “roast” of birther advocate Donald Trump, who has for months called President Obama’s US citizenship into question, by Obama. The dinner is traditionally a venue where politicians, journalists, and pundits have fun at one another’s expense. [Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] After the dinner, the New York Times reports that Obama “zings” Trump during his presentation. [New York Times, 4/30/2011]
Obama Zings Trump, 'Birther' Controversy - Obama begins his presentation by noting that he has recently released the “long form” version of his birth certificate (see April 27, 2011), which has quieted some (but not all) critics. Obama presents what he calls his “official birth video” to “put all doubts to rest,” and shows a clip from the Disney animated film The Lion King depicting the triumphant birth of the lion Simba. He then says, to repeated bursts of laughter: “I want to make clear to the Fox News table: That was a joke. That was not my real birth video. That was a children’s cartoon. Call Disney if you don’t believe me. They have the original long-form version.” He mentions US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), another “birther” (see April 20, 2011) who is “thinking about running for president, which is weird because I hear she was born in Canada.” After the laughter subsides, he says: “Yes, Michele, this is how it starts. Just letting you know.” [White House, 5/1/2011; Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] (Bachmann, as Obama and others in the room are well aware, was born in Iowa.) [Des Moines Register, 10/20/2009] Obama then turns his attention to Trump, who like Bachmann is in attendance. “Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately,” Obama says, “but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter—like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?” Obama is referring to a triad of popular conspiracy theories that assert the various Apollo moon landings were faked in California sound studios; Roswell, New Mexico, was the site of an alien landing in the 1950s; and rap stars “Biggie” Smalls and Tupac Shakur were not murdered, but are alive and in hiding. Obama continues to address Trump, citing the NBC show Celebrity Apprentice, which Trump hosts: “But all kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. For example—no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’—at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil’ Jon or Meatloaf [two celebrity contestants on the show]. You fired [contestant] Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir. Well handled.” The audience roars with laughter, while Trump attempts to smile, but glowers and looks uncomfortable. Obama finishes his joshing at Trump’s expense with displaying an image of what the White House might look like if Trump were to become president, drawing a huge round of laughter. He concludes the lighter portion of his presentation by showing a video of him being forced to give speeches without a teleprompter, which includes a number of presidential “bloopers” from earlier speeches.
Praises Soldiers, Storm Survivors, Journalists - Obama closes his presentation on a serious note, lauding the American servicemen and servicewomen “who are serving in uniform overseas in the most extraordinary of circumstances,” noting the terrible devastation suffered by people in Alabama and other Southern states who were hit by multiple tornadoes and powerful storms, and praising the journalists who cover such difficult stories: “You know, in the last months, we’ve seen journalists threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed simply for doing their best to bring us the story, to give people a voice, and to hold leaders accountable. And through it all, we’ve seen daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced, and everyone deserves to know the truth. That’s what you do. At your best that’s what journalism is. That’s the principle that you uphold. It is always important, but it’s especially important in times of challenge, like the moment that America and the world is facing now. So I thank you for your service and the contributions that you make. And I want to close by recognizing not only your service, but also to remember those that have been lost as a consequence of the extraordinary reporting that they’ve done over recent weeks. They help, too, to defend our freedoms and allow democracy to flourish. God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.” [New York Times, 4/30/2011; White House, 5/1/2011; Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] The other featured presenter is Saturday Night Live head writer Seth Meyers, who spends some time mocking Obama, other White House members, and some of the journalists in attendance, but spends most of his time making fun of Trump. “Donald Trump has been saying that he’ll run for president as a Republican—which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke,” he opens, drawing a wave of laughter. One of his most popular laugh lines is: “Donald Trump said recently he has ‘a great relationship with the blacks’ (see April 14-15, 2011. But unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken.” Even Obama dissolves in laughter at this line. [Daily Beast, 5/1/2011; Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] By the time the presentation is over, Trump is, in the words of the New York Times, sitting “grimly unsmiling” and “grimacing” through the mockery. Trump is so visibly upset that the others at his table stop smiling and laughing; a reporter from New York magazine, citing guests sitting near Trump’s table, writes that his “mood shifted from playing along to unvarnished anger.” [New York Times, 4/30/2011; TPM Muckraker, 5/1/2011]
Former Democratic Governor: Trump's 'Bubble Has Burst' - Veteran correspondent Lloyd Grove, writing for the online news outlet The Daily Beast, writes that Obama, “in a manner of speaking, deftly slit [Trump’s] throat, cut out his entrails, set him ablaze, and scraped what was left off the presidential shoe.” Before Obama’s presentation, Trump seemed to be enjoying himself at the dinner, “[b]ut after Obama finished with him—and the evening’s paid entertainer, [Meyers], stomped on the remains—a scowling Trump and his frowning model-wife bolted out of their chairs in the basement ballroom, pushed their way toward the exit with their security team, and disappeared into the cruel Washington night.” CNN host and former Governor Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) says, apparently referring to Trump’s presidential aspirations: “That was very serious. I think that bubble has burst.” [Daily Beast, 5/1/2011] Trump says of Obama’s presentation, “It was very good,” but calls Meyers “a stutterer.” [TPM Muckraker, 5/1/2011]
Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in flames. Apparently, the fires are mainly due to a crashed US helicopter. The picture comes from a neighbor’s cell phone. [Source: Reuters] (click image to enlarge)Osama bin Laden is shot and killed inside a secured private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, according to US government sources. The operation is carried out by US Navy SEAL Team Six, the “Naval Special Warfare Development Group.” The covert operation takes place at 1:00 a.m. local time (+4:30GMT). Two US helicopters from bases in Afghanistan fly low over the compound in Abbottabad, and 30 to 40 SEALs disembark and storm the compound. According to White House sources, bin Laden and at least four others are killed. The team is on the ground for only 40 minutes; most of that time is spent searching the compound for information about al-Qaeda and its plans. The helicopters are part of the 160th Special Ops Air Regiment, itself a detachment from the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). The CIA oversees the operation, but the operation is tasked to, and carried out by, Special Forces. When President Obama announces bin Laden’s death, he says: “His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity. Justice has been done.” Of the soldiers that eliminated bin Laden, and the other military personnel deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere, Obama says: “We are reminded that we are fortunate to have Americans who dedicate their lives to protecting ours. We may not always know their names, we may not always know their stories, but they are there every day on the front lines of freedom and we are truly blessed.” The members of Team Six are never identified, and it is unlikely their names will ever be made public. [CNN News, 5/1/2011; ABC News, 5/2/2011] Bin Laden is said to have ordered the 9/11 attacks, among other al-Qaeda strikes against American and Western targets. In a 1997 CNN interview, he declared “jihad,” or “holy war,” against the US. He had been number one on American military and law enforcement “Most Wanted” lists well before the 9/11 attacks. [CNN News, 5/1/2011]
Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, US Department of the Navy, Obama administration, Al-Qaeda, Leon Panetta, Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), US Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Joint Special Operations Command, Central Intelligence Agency
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
Osama bin Laden’s killing by US forces on May 2, 2011 (see May 2, 2011) reignites the debate about the usefulness of the torture techniques used by US intelligence. The debate centers on how US intelligence learned about bin Laden’s location and whether the torture of prisoners helped find him.
Courier Provides the Key Lead - According to Obama administration officials, bin Laden was located through US intelligence agencies’ “patient and detailed intelligence analysis” of “a mosaic of sources,” including evidence garnered from detained inmates at Guantanamo Bay. The first clue to bin Laden’s whereabouts came when US intelligence learned of an al-Qaeda courier that worked with bin Laden, Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, who used the pseudonym “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.” Ahmed is one of those killed during the Abbottabad raid. US intelligence had known of Ahmed since 2002, after a Kuwaiti detainee told interrogators about him, and it has taken this long for CIA and other intelligence officers to identify him, locate him, track his communications, and then follow him to the large and well fortified compound in Abbottabad.
Do Bush Administration Techniques Deserve Credit? - Some former Bush administration officials, such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Justice Department legal adviser John Yoo, claim that the Bush administration and not the Obama administration deserves the credit for finding bin Laden. According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, “the former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, said the first important leads about Kuwaiti came from alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the third-ranking al-Qaeda leader at the time of his capture.” KSM was repeatedly waterboarded (see March 7 - Mid-April, 2003). [Christian Science Monitor, 5/5/2011] Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey states that the path to bin Laden “began with a disclosure from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information—including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/2/2011]
Rebuttal from CIA Director Panetta - However, according to information in a letter CIA Director Leon Panetta sends to Senator John McCain, these assertions are false or misleading. In the letter, Panetta says: “Nearly 10 years of intensive intelligence work led the CIA to conclude that bin Laden was likely hiding at the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There was no one ‘essential and indispensible’ key piece of information that led us to this conclusion. Rather, the intelligence picture was developed via painstaking collection and analysis. Multiple streams of intelligence—including from detainees, but also from multiple other sources—led CIA analysts to conclude that bin Laden was at this compound. Some of the detainees who provided useful information about the facilitator/courier’s role had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. Whether those techniques were the ‘only timely and effective way’ to obtain such information is a matter of debate and cannot be established definitively. What is definitive is that that information was only a part of multiple streams of intelligence that led us to bin Laden. Let me further point out that we first learned about the facilitator/courier’s nom de guerre from a detainee not in CIA custody in 2002. It is also important to note that some detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques attempted to provide false or misleading information about the facilitator/courier. These attempts to falsify the facilitator/courier’s role were alerting. In the end, no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts. This information was discovered through other intelligence means.” [Washington Post, 5/16/2011]
Officials Says Torture Techinques Played No Role - Also, nine US military interrogators and intelligence officials state in an open letter: “The use of waterboarding and other so-called ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques almost certainly prolonged the hunt for bin Laden and complicated the jobs of professional US interrogators who were trying to develop useful information from unwilling sources like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Reports say that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Faraq al-Libi did not divulge the nom de guerre of a courier during torture, but rather several months later, when they were questioned by interrogators who did not use abusive techniques.” [Human Rights First, 5/4/2011]
Entity Tags: Jose Rodriguez, Jr., Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Obama administration, Osama bin Laden, Leon Panetta, John C. Yoo, Michael Mukasey, Central Intelligence Agency, Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Donald Rumsfeld, Barack Obama, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43)
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
Three days after Osama bin Laden was allegedly killed by US special forces in Pakistan, President Obama is interviewed by CBS’s 60 Minutes. He is asked if he thinks anyone in the Pakistani government knew where bin Laden was hiding. He replies: “We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don’t know who or what that support network was. We don’t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that’s something that we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.” He adds: “[T]hese are questions that we’re not gonna be able to answer three or four days after the event. It’s going to take some time for us to be able to exploit the intelligence that we were able to gather on site.” [60 Minutes, 5/8/2011; Daily Telegraph, 5/9/2011]
The Missouri House of Representatives passes a bill requiring anyone who wishes to run for president in Missouri to provide evidence of his or her citizenship. The bill reads in part, “When certifying presidential and vice presidential nominees and requesting that such nominees be placed on the ballot, the state committees of each political party shall provide verifiable evidence of identity and proof of natural born citizenship.” The bill does not require “long form” certificates; apparently, the birth certificate provided by President Obama in 2008 (see June 13, 2008) would satisfy the requirements of the bill. The sponsor of the bill, House Republican Lyle Rowland, has denied being a “birther,” telling a reporter: “You know when I first started, reporters and other people were getting after me because I did this because of President Obama. And as I told all the other reporters, it’s not about President Obama. I believe the man is president of the United States and has met the qualifications for the presidency.” Rowland told another reporter: “We have problems with illegal immigrants. And if something were to happen where one of them became popular with the people, we need documents proving if they are a citizen.” The bill, part of a larger package that includes a restrictive voter identification requirement, still must pass the Missouri Senate and be signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon (R-MO); observers believe its chance of passage is slim. [Mother Jones, 5/5/2010; Politico, 4/26/2011]
Eric Bolling, the host of the Fox Business Channel talk show Follow The Money, reads a list of people his viewers say they want waterboarded. The list includes President Obama. Bolling is doing a segment on his viewers’ reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden (see May 2, 2011), and insists, despite claims from Obama administration members and informed outsiders, that bin Laden was located “through waterboarding, simple as that” (see Autumn 2003, August 6, 2007, December 2-4, 2008, December 11, 2008, and March 29, 2009). (Later in the segment, some of his guests dispute that claim.) Bolling says he asked viewers who they wanted to see waterboarded. The respondents, through Facebook, named, among others: “Senate Dems… and then Obama… then the kooks on [the ABC morning talk show] ‘The View,’ starting with Joy” Behar; “Alan Colmes… [t]he secrets of the left-wing cabal will come pouring out of that boy”; “[m]y ex-wife!”; progressive talk show hosts Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow; and the far-right, virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. Bolling concludes the segment with some jocularity with his guests, and jokingly offers to be waterboarded himself. [Media Matters, 5/5/2011]
Entity Tags: Keith Olbermann, Barack Obama, Alan Colmes, Eric Bolling, Obama administration, Fox Business Channel, Westboro Baptist Church, Rachel Maddow, Osama bin Laden, Joy Behar
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Domestic Propaganda
The John Birch Society booth displays a banner at the ‘Freedom Rally’ before the debate. [Source: Think Progress]Several prospective contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 participate in a debate in Greenville, South Carolina. The debate is presaged by a “Freedom Rally,” co-sponsored by local tea party groups, the local chapter of the far-right, implicitly racist John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), and a far-right militia organization, the Oath Keepers (see March 9, 2009). The rally features speakers such as Judge Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who lost his job after refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, and Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC). “The change we’ve done in South Carolina can be done across the country,” Haley tells a crowd of some 200 members. “We need to change the person in the White House.” Other speakers talk about issues such as defending traditional marriage and making gold and silver legal tender in South Carolina. The JBS has been considered so extreme that until 2010, mainstream Republicans refused to countenance its involvement in their political events and campaigns (see April 19, 2010). Former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), former Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM), and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain take part in the debate. Paul and Johnson are libertarians; during the debate, Paul argues for the legalization of heroin, Johnson calls for the legalization of marijuana, and both call for the US to end its military involvement in Afghanistan. [Fox News, 5/5/2011; Think Progress, 5/5/2011; Washington Post, 5/5/2011] Many credit Paul with bringing the JBS back into “favor” with the Republican Party (see July 22, 2007 and August 4, 2008). Fox News host Glenn Beck has also praised the JBS in his broadcasts (see November 9-11, 2010 and After).
Entity Tags: Tim Pawlenty, Roy Stewart Moore, Ron Paul, Nikki Haley, Republican Party, Herman Cain, Glenn Beck, Rick Santorum, Gary Earl Johnson, Oath Keepers, John Birch Society, Barack Obama
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism, 2012 Elections
A crane begins removing an American flag from the ‘Ground Zero’ site of the former World Trade Center. [Source: Jake Tapper / TwitPic]At 6:30 p.m., ABC News reporter Jake Tapper posts a comment on Twitter that says, “One minute to air and they decided to take the flag down from the live shot!” He attaches a photograph to his post that shows a crane removing a large American flag from where it had been hung as a backdrop for President Obama’s speech and wreath-laying ceremony earlier in the day. Several conservative bloggers take Tapper’s post to mean that Obama had the flag removed before his speech, and lambast Obama for being unpatriotic. [Media Matters, 5/6/2011] Drudge Report posts a link to Tapper’s photo with the headline: “REPORT: Team Obama takes down US flag before Ground Zero event…” [Drudge Report Archives, 5/6/2011] Doug Ross writes, “This administration and, by extension, the Democrat Party are now so thoroughly divorced from the history, traditions, and morals of America that we might as well admit the Marxist left has executed a successful coup d’etat on this Republic.” Later, Ross acknowledges that he and other bloggers were “confused” by Tapper’s initial post, but adds, “I’m sticking by my ‘Marxist coup d’etat’ comment.” He adds a second “update” calling “leftists” “idiots” and accusing Obama of “on-again/off-again flag-pin patriotism” and “well-documented failures to show respect to the flag” (see November 8, 2007) that he says “make it clear that Tapper’s tweet would be utterly believable in the original context.” [Doug Ross, 5/6/2011] Michelle Malkin initially “retweets” Tapper’s post with a “What the…?” comment. Later, she acknowledges misunderstanding Tapper’s post and writes: “Many, including me, jumped to the conclusion that the stage managers at the White House had the flag removed. It’s not true.… Tapper tweeted the photo at the end of the day yesterday after the Ground Zero event and the flag was visible during the ceremony. I stand corrected and apologize for the error.” [Michelle Malkin, 5/6/2011] Malkin had previously posted the question, “Does flying the American flag at Ground Zero now constitute ‘spiking the football???’” in reference to Obama’s statement that he would not rhetorically “spike the football” by releasing photographs of the dead Osama bin Laden (see May 2, 2011). [Fire Andrea Mitchell (.com), 5/6/2011] The blog Weasel Zippers creates a post with the following headline: “Wow: Team Obama Removes American Flag From Ground Zero Moments Before Live Shoot…” and later removes the post entirely. [Media Matters, 5/6/2011] A blogger at Fire Andrea Mitchell writes: “What an absolutely pitiful little manchild Obama is.… Now we learn that the Obama regime had an American flag removed from the live shot of his photo op at Ground Zero today.” The blogger later posts an apology of sorts: “Unlike the far left loons and progressive politicians, when I’m wrong i [sic] can admit it. Turns out that the Obama regime DIDN’T order the flag removed. Tapper tweet was sent AFTER the Ground Zero photo op/services (if I would have bothered checking the time stamp). Therefore they were taking the flag down because it was the end of the day. My mistake, I admit it. Now I’d love to see some of the left wing loons who have flooded this site to post their apologizes for all the ‘errors’ they post. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.” [Fire Andrea Mitchell (.com), 5/6/2011]
Former Army Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin is discharged from military prison after serving five months of a six-month term for refusing to obey deployment orders. Lakin refused to be deployed in April 2010 because, he said at the time, President Obama was not a true American citizen and therefore could not give him or any other member of the military any orders to deploy (see Before April 13, 2010). Lakin was court-martialed, dishonorably discharged, and sentenced to prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (see December 16, 2010). He pled guilty after a military court refused to allow what he and the “birther” organization that supported him, the American Patriot Foundation, called “evidence” of Obama’s lack of US citizenship (see September 2, 2010). [Associated Press, 5/13/2011] Some “birthers” continue to use Lakin’s case to advance their cause. One “birther” blog devoted to advocating the anti-gay “Defense of Marriage Act” writes: “Lieutenant Terry Lakin was sentenced as a result of a judicial meltdown in our courts transpiring and sweeping across America, as Mr. Lakin was not allowed the right to justly defend himself. He was denied the opportunity to call forth witnesses or to submit crucial evidence to the court involving our Head-in-Chief.” [DOMA News, 5/15/2011] A commenter on the Free Republic blog writes: “When did overlooking and ignoring fraud, deceit, identity theft, forgery, and corruption in the chain of command become part of the military code of honor? Is this how our very highest military officers fulfill their responsibilities to the brave men and women serving under them and to their oath to defend the Constitution. [sic] Do they feel shame when accepting the salutes of our dedicated and honorable troops? Are our highest military [sic] the least bit suspicious that Obama sits in the White House because of forgery, deceit, fraud, and identity theft? Where is the evidence that they peacefully and lawfully sought certifiable clarification of Obama’s status from Congress, the courts, and/or Obama himself?” [Free Republic (.com), 5/12/2011]
Lawyer James Bopp Jr. forms a super PAC, Republican Super PAC Inc., in order to make unlimited financial contributions towards “independent” expenditures in support of Republican candidates in the November 2012 elections. Bopp is joined by Roger Villere, the chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party. Bopp is known for arguing high-profile cases against abortion rights (see November 1980 and After and Mid-2004 and After) and campaign finance regulations (see December 10, 2003 and Mid-2004 and After). He was the lawyer who first worked with the lobbying and advocacy group Citizens United, whose lawsuit gave the Supreme Court the opportunity to greatly deregulate campaign finance law (see January 10-16, 2008, March 24, 2008, and January 21, 2010). According to an email from Bopp and Villere, the Republican Super PAC will coordinate with other independent groups “to bridge gaps in the independent campaigns supporting Republican candidates.… The best way to neutralize President Obama’s unprecedented $1 billion political war chest and the political spending by labor unions and wealthy Democrats is to build a super fund-raising infrastructure for independent expenditure spending.” [New York Times, 5/16/2011] The majority of the money raised and spent on behalf of candidates by super PACs has gone to support Republicans, and not President Obama or Democratic candidates (see January 21-22, 2010, March 26, 2010, August 2, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, September 21 - November 1, 2010, September 28, 2010, October 2010, Around October 27, 2010, November 1, 2010, (May 4, 2011), and May 5, 2011).
The London Times reports that the US Navy SEALS who raided Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound had a pocket guide to the building’s occupants so specific that it mentioned the types of clothes bin Laden usually wore. One copy of the guide was left behind in the raid that killed bin Laden (see May 2, 2011), and the Times was able to obtain it. The guide lists the names of ages of the people living inside the compound, as well as where they live in the compound and when some of them arrived. Photographs of some people are included. The guide is obviously based on recent information. For instance, it mentions twins born this year to bin Laden’s youngest wife. It also states that bin Laden: “Always wears light-colored shawl kameez with a dark vest. Occasionally wears light-colored prayer cap.” The Times comments that the guide raises new questions about the raid. Some experts suggest that it indicates US intelligence had a mole inside the compound, while other experts suggest it simply shows that the US’s data collection in the months before the raid was extremely thorough, and perhaps used technology “far more sophisticated than hitherto realized.” The Times also notes that after the raid, President Obama “said he had been ‘only 45 per cent to 55 per cent sure that bin Laden was even in the compound.’ [But the guide] indicates US intelligence was certain of his presence.” [London Times, 5/23/2011] Shortly after the raid, the Washington Post published a story claiming that US intelligence monitored bin Laden while he took frequent walks in the courtyard of the compound. This guide suggests that story was accurate (see Shortly After August 2010-May 2, 2011).
Fox Business Channel host Eric Bolling uses a racial smear to characterize President Obama’s visit to Ireland and other European countries. Obama left for Europe shortly after a number of tornadoes caused heavy damage in parts of Missouri. On his Twitter account, Bolling says “Obama chugging 40s in IRE while tornadoes ravage MO.” He repeats the smear on his television show Follow the Money a few hours later. [Media Matters, 5/23/2011; Media Matters, 5/24/2011; Media Matters, 2/16/2012] The progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that Missouri authorities have praised the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for their quick and effective response to the tornadoes. [Media Matters, 5/24/2011] The progressive news site Think Progress notes that Bolling’s reference to Obama “chugging 40s” is inaccurate and racially motivated. Obama was photographed drinking Guiness from a glass in an Irish pub. More importantly, Bolling’s reference is to malt liquor, usually sold in the US in 40-ounce bottles or cans. Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald writes: “Throughout the late 80s and 90s, 40 oz malt liquor was rolled out with ‘aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at minority drinkers,’ which often portrayed black actors and rappers in stereotypical or exploitative fashions. There is a fairly large body of academic literature exploring the relationship between malt liquor and African Americans.… Hip hop culture has appropriated malt liquor, with numerous songs with ‘40 oz’ in the title. ‘Rap artists have been popular images in malt liquor advertising and ‘gangsta’ rap performers portray malt liquor as a sign of masculinity,’” according to a 2005 study. Bolling is apparently trying to associate Obama with African-American street gang and rap culture. He is also apparently trying to portray Obama as having a drinking problem, a characterization with no evidence to back it. [Think Progress, 5/24/2011] After facing a barrage of criticism over his racially inflammatory remarks, Bolling attempts to clarify his remarks, saying he intended no racial connotations and merely attempted to imply that Obama is a drunkard. “I took some heat for saying Obama should have delayed his bar crawl, or whatever he’s doing over there,” he tells a Fox Business Channel audience. Media Matters observes: “That, of course, is not what he said. And Bolling did not explain why he thinks it’s OK to call Obama a binge drinker.” [Media Matters, 5/24/2011; Media Matters, 5/25/2011]
MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz calls right-wing talk show host Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut” on his radio broadcast. He issues an emotional apology shortly thereafter and is voluntarily suspended from MSNBC for a week. Schultz is discussing the recent spate of tornadoes in Missouri, and the criticisms of President Obama’s response to the tornadoes from some conservatives such as Ingraham. He says to his listeners: “President Obama is going to be visiting Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday but you know what they’re talking about, like this right-wing slut, what’s her name? Laura Ingraham? Yeah, she’s a talk slut. You see, she was, back in the day, praising President Reagan when he was drinking a beer overseas. But now that Obama’s doing it, they’re working him over.” The next day, Schultz delivers a seven-minute apology on his MSNBC show and then leaves the air, replaced by MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts. Schultz says in part: “On my radio show yesterday I used vile and inappropriate language when talking about talk show host Laura Ingraham. I am deeply sorry and I apologize. It was wrong, uncalled for, and I recognize the severity of what I said. I apologize to you, Laura, and ask for your forgiveness. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances were. It doesn’t matter that it was on radio and I was ad-libbing. None of that matters. None of that matters. What matters is what I said was terribly vile and not of the standards that I or any other person should adhere to. I want all of you to know tonight that I did call Laura Ingraham today and did not make contact with her and I will apologize to her as I did in the message that I left her today. I also met with management here at MSNBC, and understanding the severity of the situation and what I said on the radio and how it reflected terribly on this company, I have offered to take myself off the air for an indefinite period of time with no pay. I want to apologize to Laura Ingraham. I want to apologize to my family, my wife. I have embarrassed my family. I have embarrassed this company.… This is the lowest of low for me.… I stand before you tonight to take full responsibility for what I said and how I said it, and I am deeply sorry.… In this moment, I have failed. And I want you to know that I talked to my sons especially about character and about dignity and about the truth. And I tell you the truth tonight that I am deeply sorry and I tell them every day that they have to live up to standards if they want to be a successful human being in life. And I have let them down. I have never been in this position before to the point where it has affected so many people. And I know that I have let a lot of people down. To the staff here at MSNBC, I apologize for embarrassing the company and the only way that I can really make restitution for you is to give you a guarantee, and the only way that I can prove my sincerity in all of this is if I never use those words again. Tonight, you have my word that I won’t. Laura Ingraham, I am sorry. Very sorry. I’ll be back with you in the coming days.” Ingraham posts on Twitter that she accepts Schultz’s apology. Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher writes: “Schultz’s apology was as full and heartfelt as any I have ever seen from a media figure (as it should have been).… More than anything, Schultz seemed to grasp the gravity of what he had said, and his shame and embarrassment were palpable as he asked Ingraham for forgiveness.” [TPMDC, 5/25/2011; Mediaite, 5/25/2011; ABC News, 3/5/2012]
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders block Westboro Baptist Church protesters from the view of memorial proceedings in Joplin, Missouri. [Source: PoliticusUSA]A number of members of the vehemently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) protest at a memorial in Joplin, Missouri, where 125 people died in a recent outbreak of tornadoes. In a press release, the WBC said, “Thank God for 125 dead in Joplin,” and announced its plans to send protesters to the memorial service. WBC members claim Governor Jay Nixon (R-MO) has attacked them by promoting laws banning them from protesting at soldiers’ funerals (see June 2005 and After). President Obama speaks at the memorial service. According to one participant at the memorial service, some 300 members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group composed largely of veterans who work to form “human shields” between WBC protesters and funeral services, almost completely block the view of the memorial participants from the WBC protesters. One WBC member attempts to walk through the “wall” of Riders toward the memorial, but is accosted and prevented from proceeding; apparently the WBC member is repeatedly pushed and has his shirt torn off. The police succeed in separating the WBC member and the Riders, apparently using pepper spray, and tell the WBC member to “run, you stupid motherf_cker.” A reporter later writes, “No one was injured and the confrontation lasted only seconds.” Allegedly, another group of WBC members is accosted by Riders at a nearby truck stop and prevented from going to the memorial service. [KARK-TV, 5/27/2011; PoliticusUSA, 5/30/2011; Ozarks First, 5/30/2011; Truth Wins Out, 5/30/2011]
Gabon President Ali Bongo (L) and US President Barack Obama labeled as ‘hoods’ by Fox Business Channel. [Source: Media Matters]Fox Business Channel host Eric Bolling uses a number of racially charged characterizations in his report on a visit by an African head of state to the White House. Bolling, hosting a segment on President Ali Bongo of Gabon’s visit with President Obama, titles the segment “Hoods in the House,” and puts the title on screen under footage of Obama sitting with Bongo in a White House meeting room. Bolling introduces the segment by saying: “Guess who’s coming to dinner? A dictator. Mr. Obama shares a laugh with one of Africa’s kleptocrats. It’s not the first time he’s had a hoodlum in the hizzouse.” Apparently Bolling is calling both Obama and Bongo “hoods,” slang often used for African-American street criminals. “Hizzouse,” a term Bolling uses for the White House, is slang for a crack house or a house used by African-American street gangs. Bolling begins the segment by saying: “So what’s with all the hoods in the hizzy? A month after the White House hosted the rapper Common, who glorifies violence on cops, the president opened his doors to one of Africa’s most evil dictators. Here’s Ali Bongo, the Gabonese president, who’s been accused of human rights violations and plundering billions of his country’s dollars.” When Bolling says that Obama has previously hosted “a hoodlum in the hizzouse,” he shows footage of Common. Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters will explain that Fox News viewers may recognize Common as the target of a recent smear by Fox News and other conservative media outlets, which marked the instance of his visit to the White House by falsely accusing him of being a “cop killer rapper.” Later in the segment, Bolling says of Bongo: “Smile for the birdie. Our president’s sitting with one of Africa’s most wanted. It’s not the first time he’s had a hood in the big crib.” “Big crib” is more slang for houses used by street gangs. When Bolling says “Smile for the birdie,” he shows an image of Bongo with a lighting effect—a flashing tooth, an apparent reference to some African-American rappers’ preference for gold inserts in their teeth. Media Matters notes, “For the record, it is true that Gabon and Bongo have a troubling human rights record, and Obama pressured Bongo on the issue during their meeting.” During the segment, Bolling’s guest, Human Events editor Jason Mattera, says that “Barack Obama likes to defecate on American allies.” And another of Bolling’s guests, Fox Business reporter Sandra Smith, accuses Obama of preferring to “entertain” America’s enemies in the White House over the nation’s allies. “Do we really have to have them in the White Hizzy?” she asks. [Media Matters, 6/11/2011; Media Matters, 2/16/2012]
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) tells a CBS News viewing audience that the Obama administration is lying when it says the US government would default on its loans if Congress refuses to raise the US debt ceiling. Bachmann accuses the Obama administration of using “scare tactics” to push for a debt-ceiling increase. Bachmann has said previously that Congress should not raise the debt ceiling (see April 30, 2011). Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other Obama adminstration members, along with a bevy of economists and financial leaders including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Chairman Alan Greenspan, have urged Congress to raise the debt ceiling by August 2 to avoid the US defaulting on its outstanding loans and engendering what many call an economic catastrophe (see May 20, 2011). The US Treasury has used accounting steps, what it calls “extraordinary measures,” to avoid default since the nation reached its debt limit on May 16. The final deadline for the US to raise its debt limit is August 2. Bernanke and others have said that even a brief US default could cause an uproar in the global economy. But Bachmann says she has “no intention” of voting for a hike to the limit, saying instead: “It isn’t true that the government would default on its debt. Because, very simply, the Treasury secretary can pay the interest on the debt first, and then, from there, we have to just prioritize our spending.” Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer asks Bachman: “Experts inside and outside the government say that, if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we face the United States having to default on its financial obligations. Are you saying these are scare tactics? Or are you saying that’s not true? How can you say that?” Bachmann replies: “It is scare tactics. Because, Bob, the interest on the debt isn’t any more than 10 percent of what we’re taking in. In fact, it’s less than that. And so the Treasury secretary can very simply pay the interest on the debt first, then we’re not in default.… What it means is we have to seriously prioritize. It would be very tough love. But, I have been here long enough in Washington, DC, that I’ve seen smoke and mirrors time and time again.” Bachmann says if elected president, she would end the nation’s deficit problem by making extreme cuts in spending. “I would begin very seriously by cutting spending,” she says. “President Obama, again, he spent a trillion dollar stimulus program that’s been an abject failure. We need to seriously cut back on spending first and foremost, and then prioritize.” Her only recommendation to handle the job crisis is to cut corporate tax rates; she explains: “We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world; we need to drop that significantly, so that we have a pro-business, pro-job creation environment. So if we cut back the corporate tax rate, if we would zero out the capital gains rates, allow for 100 percent expensing when a job creator buys equipment for their business, that would go a long way toward job creators recognizing that this is a pro-business environment.” She says that the administration’s health care package, which she calls “Obamacare,” will cost “800,000 jobs.” Schieffer says, “That is data that other people would question,” and she retorts by saying the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), not she herself, has made that claim. A recent analysis by the St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact showed that Bachmann’s claim of “Obamacare” costing 800,000 jobs is an “exaggeration” of the CBO’s figures, and is “misleading.” Bachmann dodges questions about the elimination of the minimum wage, which she has advocated since 2005, and the elimination of farm subsidies, from which she and her family have benefited. [CBS News, 6/26/2011]
Entity Tags: CBS News, Alan Greenspan, Barack Obama, Bob Schieffer, US Department of the Treasury, PolitiFact (.org ), Congressional Budget Office, Ben Bernanke, Obama administration, Michele Bachmann, Timothy Geithner
Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises
The US Supreme Court strikes down part of an Arizona law providing public funding for political campaigns. In the case of Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom PAC v. Bennett, the Court rules 5-4 that a provision in Arizona law providing additional funds to publicly funded candidates whose opponents use private donations to outspend them is illegal. Some opponents of unfettered outside spending feared that the Court would use the case to put an end to most, if not all, programs that provide public money to candidates; Think Progress’s Ian Millhiser explains: “Candidates will only agree to accept public financing if it won’t prevent them from running a competitive race. If a state offers only a few thousand dollars in public funds to a candidate whose opponent is backed by tens of millions of corporate dollars, then the non-corporate candidate will have no choice but to raise money on their own. To defend against this problem, Arizona developed a two-tiered public financing system. Candidates receive additional funds if their opponent or corporate interest groups overwhelm them with attack ads, and thus candidates who are determined not to be tainted by the corrupting influence of major donors are not left defenseless.” The ruling will not have an impact on the presidential race, since the federal public financing system lacks such a provision, and since it seems unlikely that either President Obama or his Republican challenger Mitt Romney (R-MA) will use public financing in 2012. The case was brought by two organizations, the Institute for Justice and the Goldwater Institute, on behalf of Arizona state candidates who rejected public funds. The groups argued that the provision infringed on those candidates’ freedom of speech by compelling them to spend less money to avoid triggering the additional funds.
Majority, Minority Opinions - Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts agreed: “We hold that Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens protected political speech without serving a compelling state interest and, therefore, violates the First Amendment.” The matching funds provision “imposes an unprecedented penalty on any candidate who robustly exercises [his] First Amendment right[s],” Roberts adds. If the provision is allowed to stand, “the vigorous exercise of the right to use personal funds to finance campaign speech” leads to “advantages for opponents in the competitive context of electoral politics.” The privately funded candidate, Roberts writes, must “shoulder a special and potentially significant burden” when choosing to exercise his First Amendment right to spend funds on behalf of his candidacy. Justice Elena Kagan dissents, writing that the plaintiffs “are making a novel argument: that Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received—but chose to spurn—the same financial assistance. Some people might call that chutzpah.”
Reactions - Attorney Bill Maurer, who represented the Institute for Justice, says the ruling “makes clear that the First Amendment is not an exception to campaign finance laws; it is the rule” (see January 30, 1976 and January 21, 2010). He adds that he hopes the ruling will serve as “a clear reminder to government officials that they may not coerce speakers to limit their own speech.” Millhiser writes: “So public financing laws can technically remain, but Arizona’s attempt to protect publicly financed candidates from a wave of corporate attack ads is absolutely forbidden. Moreover, because few candidates can know in advance whether the will face an onslaught of hostile corporate ads, most candidates will hedge their bets and avoid the risk of public financing.… Without unlimited corporate money in elections, most candidates could afford to take public funds unless their opponent had unusual access to wealth or wealthy donors.” Referring to the 5-4 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010), Millhiser continues, “In the post-Citizens United America, however, no one is safe from corporate America’s nearly bottomless pool of potential campaign expenditures.” Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, an organization opposed to the unrestricted influence of outside donors, says, “The five-vote Big Money majority on the court has spoken again in favor of wealthy special interests.” Fred Wertheimer of the campaign finance group Democracy 21 calls the ruling “another seriously misguided campaign finance decision,” but adds “it does not cast any doubt on the continued viability or constitutionality of a number of other existing public financing systems that do not include ‘trigger funds’ or similar provisions.” Common Cause President Bob Edgar says, “This is not the death knell of public financing.” [Politico, 6/27/2011; Think Progress, 6/27/2011]
Plaintiffs Financed by Wealthy Conservative Interests - The next day, Think Progress’s Lee Fang will reveal that the two groups who filed the lawsuit, the Institute for Justice and the Goldwater Institute, are financed by wealthy conservative interests. The Institute for Justice, a group dedicated to bringing cases to court in order to deregulate private corporations and to increase the participation of wealthy corporate interests in elections, was created with “seed money” from oil billionaire Charles Koch (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, December 6, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, and September 24, 2010). The Walton Family Foundation, a foundation run by the billionaire family of Arkansas retailer Sam Walton (the founder of Wal-Mart), has donated $1.64 million to the group. The Foundation has written that the Citizens United decision and the Arizona case are two top priorities for the Institute. The Goldwater Institute, one of Arizona’s most prominent conservative think tanks, is focused on rolling back health care reform. The Institute is funded by several foundations, including the Walton and the Charles Koch Foundations. Fang notes that much of the funding for both groups remains undisclosed. [Think Progress, 6/28/2011]
Entity Tags: Fred Wertheimer, Elena Kagan, Bob Edgar, Bill Maurer, Barack Obama, Willard Mitt Romney, Walton Family Foundation, US Supreme Court, Nick Nyhart, Institute for Justice, John G. Roberts, Jr, Ian Millhiser, Goldwater Institute, Lee Fang, Charles Koch
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
A group of tea party-affiliated organizations, including the lobbying group Americans for Prosperity (see Late 2004), the Tea Party Patriots, the Heritage Foundation, the Buckeye Foundation, American Majority, and the far-right, extremst John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), hosts a two-day event called the “We the People Convention.” The event is designed to help raise money and awareness for Republican political candidates, in part through the auspices of the Ohio Citizens PAC. Some 88 area tea party groups in the Ohio Liberty Council are the local sponsors; the attendance is estimated at around 300 people. According to the organization’s Web site, “The purpose of the convention is to provide educational programs that will help all citizens participate in self governance as provided by the US and Ohio Constitutions by participating in the governance of their township, village, municipality, state, and country.” The convention includes “breakout sessions” that give information on “start[ing] your own Patriot group in your home town, or strengthen[ing] your existing group.” According to a report by the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights’s Devin Burghart, the workshops advocate the dismantling of public education, Social Security, and Medicaid; the banning of labor unions; and voter suppression efforts against non-white voters. Burghart writes, “A hard look at this conference provides an invaluable window on the way the tea party movement works against even the most minimal efforts to promote the common good.” Many of the workshop presenters engage in what Burghart calls overtly racist jargon, including accusations that blacks who receive government assistance “have no souls” and President Obama is “not American.” Global warming is a fraud perpetuated by socialists to obtain control over private enterprise, one workshop asserts, with global warming advocates being compared to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Another hosted by John McManus of the JBS claims that the Federal Reserve system is a Communist front group, and calls for a return to a gold- and silver-based monetary system. McManus also leads workshops that claim American Democrats are colluding with American neoconservatives to build a “one-world government,” a “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) that would oppress whites and institute “global socialism.” Matt Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation tells listeners that they are the current equivalent of the Revolutionary War-era patriots, and the enemies of America are the “elites” and “progressive liberals” who intend to subvert American democracy. Progressive liberalism, Spaulding says, is an outgrowth of German Nazism. He cites what he calls “Obamacare,” the 2009 health care legislation bitterly opposed by many tea party groups, as an example of the Obama administration’s drive to “socialize” America and undermine constitutional law. At the welcoming ceremony, tea party spokesman Tom Zawistowski, the incoming president of the Ohio Liberty Council, tells the audience that the Obama administration is a “professional army” of socialists intent on overthrowing the Constitution. Zawistowski tells the assemblage that only they, the heirs and successors to American Revolutionary War figures such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, can stop Obama and the “liberal agenda” from destroying America as it currently exists. Vendors sell anti-Obama literature and bumper stickers, along with information on how to purchase weapons engraved with “We the People Convention” and selected phrases from the US Constitution. “[W]e do not hate Obama because he is black,” he says, “we hate him because he is a socialist, fascist, and not American.” While Zawistowski claims that tea parties have no affiliation with Republican politicians, Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots hosts a luncheon where she cautions listeners to avoid voting for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and instead consider voting for another Republican, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN). [We the People Convention, 7/2011; Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 9/16/2011]
Entity Tags: Tea Party Patriots, Tom Zawistowski, Willard Mitt Romney, Ohio Liberty Council, Ohio Citizens PAC, John F. McManus, Matt Spaulding, Michele Bachmann, Barack Obama, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation, Jenny Beth Martin, Devin Burghart, American Majority, John Birch Society, Buckeye Foundation
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Obama tells CBS News interviewer Scott Pelley that he cannot guarantee Social Security recipients will get paid on August 3 if Congressional Republicans block the government from raising its debt ceiling by August 2. If the debt ceiling is not raised by that date, the US will go into default on the debt it owes to other nations. “I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue,” he says, “because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.” The Obama administration and a large number of economists and financial leaders have warned of economic catastrophe if America defaults on its debt (see May 20, 2011); many Congressional Republicans, led by the House Tea Party Caucus, have refused to consider the idea of raising the debt ceiling (see April 30, 2011 and June 26, 2011), and some even welcome the idea of a debt default. Many Republicans and Democrats are attempting to use the debt ceiling issue to work out a larger economic approach to long-term deficit reduction. Republicans want huge federal spending cuts, mostly from social safety-net programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, while Democrats want smaller spending cuts balanced by increased revenue through tax increases on the wealthy and the closing of corporate tax loopholes. Obama warns: “[T]his is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans checks, these are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) states flatly that Congressional Republicans have no intention of attempting to work with Democrats or the Obama administration to balance the budget or reduce the deficit, saying, “After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is probably unattainable.” However, McConnell says Congressional Republicans would work to avoid default. “The president has presented us with three choices: smoke and mirrors, tax hikes, or default,” McConnell says in remarks on the Senate floor. “Republicans choose none of the above. I had hoped to do good, but I refuse to do harm. So Republicans will choose a path that actually reflects the will of the people, which is to do the responsible thing and ensure that the government doesn’t default on its obligations.” Obama says he would refuse to sign a short-term debt ceiling increase, a tactic advocated by Republican strategists who want to bring the issue up again, and perhaps force another economic crisis, in the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign. “This is the United States of America and, you know, we don’t manage our affairs in three-month increments,” Obama tells reporters. “You know, we don’t risk US default on our obligations because we can’t put politics aside.” [CBS News, 7/12/2011; Daily Mail, 7/13/2011] The next day, McConnell offers an “alternative” debt ceiling plan which many see as fraught with political costs for Obama and Congressional Democrats (see July 13, 2011).
Mo Brooks. [Source: Public domain / Wikimedia]Many Congressional Republicans, particularly “tea party” freshmen, believe that not only is the Obama administration lying about the potentially catastrophic consequences of a US credit default that would follow the failure of Congress to raise the nation’s debt ceiling (see April 30, 2011, May 20, 2011, June 26, 2011, and July 11-12, 2011), but some even say that a credit default would be ultimately good for the nation. President Obama is joined by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Moody’s credit rating agency in saying that Congress’s failure to raise the debt ceiling by August 2 would be an economic disaster and must be avoided. But Representative Eric A “Rick” Crawford (R-AK) says otherwise. Crawford says all Obama would have to do to handle a default and the subsequent halt in US borrowing would be to use existing tax revenue to pay for what Crawford sees as “essential” federal services: the military, Medicare and Social Security, and interest on existing debt. If other government services, programs, and agencies such as the FBI, veterans’ benefits, and others would be interrupted, Crawford says that would be acceptable. “That wouldn’t work for just a few days. That would work for a few years,” he says, adding that he will not vote for a debt ceiling increase unless it is coupled with massive federal spending cuts. Budget deficits require “that we take some painful measures now. I’d rather swallow that bitter pill today.” Most of the cuts Crawford and fellow Republicans want would be in social safety-net programs, from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and disability benefits to funding for education and veterans programs. Crawford and a number of House Republicans simply refuse to accept statements that economic calamity would result from a missed deadline, the Washington Post reports. That opinion, the Post says, will make raising the debt ceiling far more difficult than similar ceiling raises of previous years. Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) says that not raising the debt ceiling would actually benefit the economy in the long run. Raising the debt ceiling, he says, just enables the federal government to spend itself into more debt. “A debt ceiling problem, as large as it is, is not anywhere near as a big or as bad as” more debt, he says. He adds that the government can continue paying creditors even if it is refused further credit. “There should be no default on August 2,” he says. “In fact, our credit rating should be improved by not raising the debt ceiling.” Most financial leaders in government and the private sector believe that the US credit rating will be dropped, perhaps significantly, if the US defaults on its debt, and the consequences of that drop could send the nation’s economy into a full-blown recession or even a depression. Even Boehner says the debt ceiling must be lifted. “Missing August 2nd could spook the [stock] market,” he says. “And you could have a real catastrophe. Nobody wants that to happen.” An Obama official recently said of legislators like Crawford and Brooks, “These are the kinds of people who get eaten by bears.” Washington Monthly editor Steve Benen writes: “The problem that plagues the nation is not about competing parties, ideologies, or creeds. It comes down to a dispute between those who believe empirical reality exists and deserves to be taken seriously vs. those who don’t. With Republican members of Congress and their supporters choosing the latter, it’s increasingly difficult to imagine the United States thriving in the 21st century.” [Politico, 5/13/2011; Washington Post, 7/14/2011; Washington Monthly, 7/15/2011]
Entity Tags: Morris Jackson (“Mo”) Brooks, Jr., Barack Obama, Eric A. (“Rick”) Crawford, Moody’s Investors Service, US Congress, John Boehner, Washington Post, Obama administration, US Federal Reserve, Steve Benen
Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises
Doug Lamborn. [Source: Huffington Post]Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) calls President Obama a “tar baby,” a racially explosive characterization, in an interview on a Colorado radio show. Lamborn says: “Even if some people say, ‘Well, the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that,’ they will hold the president responsible. Now, I don’t want to even have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get, you get it, you know, you get in and you are stuck and you are part of the problem now and you can’t get away. I don’t want that to happen to us, but if it does, or not, he’ll still get, properly so, the blame because his policies for four years will have failed the American people. Look at the economic numbers.” Many Lamborn supporters quickly move to defend his statement, saying he is ignorant of the term’s racial connotations, but liberal radio host and author David Sirota writes, “[T]he ignorance plea would be absurd because he explicitly used the term to describe a black person.” Moreover, Sirota writes: “Tellingly, this openly derogatory epithet comes from not just any old politician. Lamborn is a United States congressman from Colorado Springs—one of the most conservative tea party-loving districts in America. In the hard-core right-wing political circles he runs in, describing a black person as a ‘tar baby’ is probably more than acceptable—it may even be celebrated, especially when aimed at a political opponent like President Obama.… [W]hile he may insist he didn’t mean to use the term the way he did, the comment reveals how various forms of racism are still being mainstreamed by the fringe right.” After his statement begins receiving media attention, Lamborn calls the characterization a “misunderstanding,” then issues an apology to Obama. Lamborn’s office says in a press release: “Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05) today sent a personal letter to President Barack Obama apologizing for using a term some find insensitive. Lamborn was attempting to tell a radio audience last week that the president’s policies have created an economic quagmire for the nation and are responsible for the dismal economic conditions our country faces. He regrets that he chose the phrase ‘tar baby,’ rather than the word ‘quagmire.’ The congressman is confident that the president will accept his heartfelt apology.” Sirota observes, “Sadly, rather than fully apologizing for using an obviously racist term, Lamborn felt the need to try to pretend that only ‘some’ find the words he used insensitive.” Mediaite reporter Frances Martel calls Lamborn’s characterization “an unfortunate idiom” and observes that Lamborn’s wish to have used “quagmire” instead of “tar baby” “a bit of a grammatical stretch, but an improvement.” [Salon, 8/1/2011; AM760, 8/1/2011; Mediaite, 8/2/2011] “Congressman Lamborn’s ignorant comments are intolerable,” says Rick Palacio, Colorado Democratic Party chairman. Lamborn says he believes Obama will accept his apology, telling a Denver reporter, “I absolutely intended no offense, and if this is at all on his radar screen, I am sure that he will not take offense and he’ll be happy to accept my apology because he is a man of character.” The White House issues no comment on the issue. [Denver Post, 8/2/2011] In response to the protests outside his office in Colorado Springs, Lamborn implements a “no-protesting” rule for his office, posting a sign that reads: “Private Property—No Soliciting, No Protesting, No Loitering.” Sirota says of the sign: “A US congressman should not be declaring his public taxpayer-funded Congressional office ‘private property’ and shouldn’t be putting a sign out telling his constituents they have no right to peaceably assemble and protest. That’s just fundamentally un-American.” [Huffington Post, 8/15/2011]
The outside of the Standard & Poor’s office complex on Wall Street. [Source: Satellite Radio Playground (.com)]The US loses its top-rank AAA credit rating from the financial services company Standard & Poor’s; the firm drops the US credit rating one notch to AA-plus. The US has never had anything but top-tier credit ratings in its financial history, and has top credit ratings from S&P since 1941. S&P makes its decision based on the huge Congressional battle over raising the US’s debt ceiling, normally a routine procedural matter that was used by Congressional Republicans, who threatened to block the ceiling raise unless they were given dramatic spending cuts by the entire Congress and the White House. (House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) boasted that he and his Republican colleagues got “98 percent” of what they wanted in the debt ceiling deal—see August 1, 2011.) Because of the dispute, the US was hours away from an unprecedented credit default until legislation was finally signed and the default avoided. S&P also cites the government’s budget deficit and rising debt burden as reasons for the rating reduction, saying in a statement, “The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.” The drop in the US credit rating will result in a rise in US borrowing costs for American consumers, companies, and the government. US treasury bonds, once seen as the safest securities in the world, are now rated lower than bonds issued by countries such as Britain, France, Germany, and Canada. S&P says the outlook on the US’s credit rating is “negative,” implying another downgrade is possible in the next 12 to 18 months. A senior investment officer with a West Coast management company says such a downgrade was “once unthinkable,” and says the entire global economic system will be affected. After the fierce Congressional battle, President Obama signed legislation mandating $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, but S&P officials had asked for $4 trillion in savings as a “down payment” for restoring the US’s financial stability. Part of S&P’s rationale for the downgrade is its assumption that Congressional Republicans will not allow tax cuts implemented by the Bush administration in 2001 and 2003 to expire as scheduled by the end of 2012. The Obama administration immediately notes that S&P’s made a $2 trillion error in calculating the US debt, an error that the firm acknowledges but says does not affect its decision to downgrade the US credit rating. A Treasury Department spokeswoman says, “A judgment flawed by a $2 trillion error speaks for itself.” [New York Times, 8/5/2011; Reuters, 8/6/2011] Credit rating agencies such as S&P have suffered tremendous damage to their credibility in recent years; a Congressional panel called the firms “essential cogs in the wheel of financial destruction” after what the New York Times calls “their wildly optimistic models [that] led them to give top-flight reviews to complex mortgage securities that later collapsed.” [New York Times, 8/5/2011]
S&P Explains Decision: 'Political Brinksmanship' - S&P explains its decision in a press release. The firm is “pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the [Obama a]dministration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.” Fiscal policy decisions between Congress and the White House, the firm says, “will remain a contentious and fitful process.” The firm accuses Congressional Republicans in particular of “political brinksmanship” in threatening to allow a debt default if their conditions were not met, and says such tactics destabilize both the US and the global economy. “The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy,” the firm says. “[T]he majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the” legislation. “The outlook on the long-term rating is negative.” [Standard and Poor's, 8/5/2011] In an email before the debt ceiling was raised, S&P’s global head of sovereign ratings wrote: “What’s changed is the political gridlock. Even now, it’s an open question as to whether or when Congress and the administration can agree on fiscal measures that will stabilize the upward trajectory of the US government debt burden.” [New York Times, 8/5/2011]
GOP Presidential Candidates, Congressional Members Blame Obama - The day after the downgrade, Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail blame the Obama administration for the downgrade (see August 6-9, 2011).
Economist Lambasts S&P, Blames Congressional Republicans - Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman lambasts S&P and blames Congressional Republicans for the downgrade (see August 5-6, 2011).
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA) visits the Iowa State Fair. He is flanked by several campaign volunteers. [Source: Washington Post]Presidential contender Mitt Romney (R-MA) delivers a speech at the Iowa State Fair, just before a Republican presidential debate the same evening and an upcoming Iowa straw poll, and after the speech, he tells the crowd that “corporations are people.” Romney has some difficulty with members of the audience during the question-and-answer session. The first questioner asks if Romney, as president, would be willing to raise the cap on payroll taxes so that rich people would have to pay more into the system. Romney, who is worth well over $200 million, answers that such a move would be the same as “attacking people because of their success,” and adds, “You know, there was a time in this country when we didn’t celebrate attacking people based on their success and when we didn’t go after people because they were successful.” He then attacks President Obama’s fiscal policies (later saying that he believes Obama may “take… his political inspiration from the social Democrats of Europe”), and claims that “half” of Americans “pay no taxes at all.” He also claims that if the country intends to pay the same Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits to citizens in the future as it pays today, taxes for those programs would have to be raised from 15 percent of income to 44 percent. A second questioner asks Romney what he intends to do to strengthen Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare without cutting benefits. He shouts down the questioner, and answers another crowd member who says, “You came here to listen to the people,” by saying, “No, no, no, no, I came here to speak, and you’ll get to answer your question.” Some in the crowd boo him. He then says about Social Security and Medicare: “I’m not going to raise taxes. That’s my answer.” As he delivers his answer, some in the crowd begin chanting: “Wall Street greed! Wall Street greed!” He tells the crowd that in order to “save” Social Security, “completely eliminating the cap without increasing benefits actually creates a long-term surplus, and eliminating the cap while increasing benefits comes close.” During the exchange, Romney supporters, who make up the majority of the crowd, cheer the candidate on. Ian Millhiser of the liberal news Web site Think Progress writes that Romney “frequently responded belligerently to their anger.” Romney spurs further ire when he says that the US “should consider a higher retirement age” for Social Security and Medicare in order to preserve tax breaks for corporations. He says he does not support preserving Social Security by raising taxes on people, and some in the crowd shout: “Corporations! Corporations!” Romney then responds, “Corporations are people, my friend.” Some in the crowd shout back, “No they’re not!” and Romney replies: “Of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?” Someone shouts, “It goes into your pocket!” and Romney retorts: “Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.” Millhiser writes of the exchange: “Romney’s antagonists are right that corporate money flows right into Romney’s pockets. Indeed, Romney has taken more money from corporate and other lobbyists than all the other GOP candidates put together, and this will likely only be the beginning for Romney if he becomes the GOP nominee.” Millhiser writes that it is likely Romney is referring to the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) in characterizing “corporations [as] people.” [Washington Post, 8/11/2011; Think Progress, 8/11/2011; Think Progress, 8/11/2011]
'Debate Prep' - The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker calls the “testy” interactions between Romney and the audience “the best debate prep session he could have hoped for.” Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) is less impressed, saying in a statement that Romney’s characterization of corporations as people is a “shocking admission.” She adds, “Mitt Romney’s comment today that ‘corporations are people’ is one more indication that Romney and the Republicans on the campaign trail and in Washington have misplaced priorities.” [Washington Post, 8/11/2011]
Romney Campaign Defends Characterization - Later in the day, Romney spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom defends the “corporations are people” statement on Twitter, posting: “Do folks think corporations are buildings? They’re people who incorporate to conduct business. They create jobs and hire more people.” Romney’s Republican opponent Jon Huntsman (R-UT) counters through spokesperson Tim Miller, again on Twitter; Miller posts, “Was American Pad & Paper Company a person/friend?” The reference is to the firm American Pad and Paper (AMPAD), which was a thriving company before Romney’s firm Bain Capital acquired it, closed two of its US plants, laid off 385 workers, and drove the firm into bankruptcy. [TPM DC, 8/11/2011]
'Gift' to Opponents - National Public Radio’s Frank James calls the statement “a gift” to Romney’s political opponents, and says it may well follow him all the way into the November presidential elections if Romney wins the Republican nomination. “He just made their goal of pushing the narrative that he is a tool of corporate America much easier by providing them with that handy piece of video,” James writes. He also notes that Twitter is almost immediately inundated with posts mocking the comment. James’s NPR colleague Liz Halloran, who is in the crowd, later writes of the comment, “Not his best moment.” She praises Romney for being willing to engage with his critics during the exchange. [National Public Radio, 8/11/2011]
Entity Tags: Eric Fehrnstrom, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Bain Capital, American Pad and Paper, Barack Obama, Tim Miller, Willard Mitt Romney, Liz Halloran, Jon Huntsman, Ian Millhiser, Frank James, Philip Rucker, Iowa State Fair
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Liberal columnist Joan Walsh uses a recent op-ed by authors and researchers David Campbell and Robert Putnam (see August 16, 2011) to ask why the media portrays the “tea party” movement as a powerful new force of non-partisan advocates of small government, when research shows that the movement is, as Walsh and others have long argued, largely formed of right-wing social conservatives. Walsh writes: “It’s great to have data, but this is something a lot of us believed all along—the tea party was the Republican base dressed up in silly costumes. Why was the media so quick to declare them a vital new force in politics?” Walsh points to the early involvement of the billionaire Koch brothers (see July 3-4, 2010 and August 30, 2010), lobbying groups such as FreedomWorks (see April 8, 2009 and April 14, 2009) and Americans for Prosperity (see Late 2004), and Fox News, whom she says did early and “energetic publicity for… tea party rallies” (see March 23-24, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 8, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 18, 2009, Early November 2009, and May 22, 2011). Former Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck helped start one of the earliest nationwide “tea party” organizations, the “9-12 movement” (see March 13, 2009 and After). The first “tea party” rally Walsh attended, in San Francisco in April 2009, was sponsored by right-wing talk radio station KSFO and featured speakers such as Melanie Morgan, who, Walsh recalls, “whipped the crowd into an anti-government frenzy that day.” Many “birthers”—people who insist that President Obama is not the legitimate president because he is not an American citizen—were on hand. Race is a big issue for many “tea party” members, Walsh writes: while Obama’s race is a bone of contention for many “tea partiers,” “it’s worth noting that these are the same people who’ve been fighting the Democratic Party since the days of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the beginning of the War on Poverty, almost 50 years ago. They associate those long overdue social reforms with giving folks, mainly black people, something they don’t deserve. I sometimes think just calling them racist against our black president obscures the depths of their hatred for Democrats, period.” [Salon, 8/17/2011] Walsh is echoing similar claims made by Mother Jones columnist Kevin Drum almost a year ago (see September 2010).
William Gheen, the leader of the political action committee Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), tells conservative radio host Janet Mefferd that President Obama is a “dictator” who is waging war on “white America,” and recommends “illegal and violent” actions to remove him from office. Gheen has previously labeled Obama a “traitor” and accused him of “replacing many core Americans,” referring to whites. ALIPAC is considered a “nativist,” anti-immigrant organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Gheen and ALIPAC insist that Obama is leading an “invasion” of “white America” by “illegal immigrants” with the ultimate purpose of giving the nation to said immigrants. ALIPAC was instrumental in getting draconian anti-immigration laws passed in Arizona and other states.
Advocacy of Military Coup d'Etat, Calls for 'Illegal and Violent' Actions to Remove 'Dictator Barack Obama' - Gheen tells Mefford: “What Janet Napolitano [the director of homeland security] has spent most of her time doing in the last couple of months has been, one, preparing the new spy network that’s available now, the new data-collecting, see everything you do online, beyond the normal terrorist list that they’re creating, they’re creating a much larger list now of people who might be troublesome here in the country. And putting out videos and propaganda telegraphing what I believe to be a conflict with white America they’re preparing for after they get another 10 or 15 million people in the country to back them up.… We’re no longer referring to him as President Barack Obama, our national organization has made the decision and made the announcement we now refer to him as Dictator Barack Obama. That’s what he is. And basically at this point, if you’re looking for a peaceful, political recourse, there really isn’t one that we can think of, and I’m really not sure what to tell people out there than I guess they need to make decisions soon to just accept whatever comes next or some type of extra-political activities that I can’t really talk about because they’re all illegal and violent.” Gheen goes on to accuse Obama of trying to “integrate” the US economy with those of Canada and Mexico “in a way that bypasses the legislatures,” and says that the military should forcibly remove Obama from office. Later in the interview, Gheen calls on Congressional Republicans to impeach Obama, and says his organization cannot hold marches in Washington, DC, against Obama because he fears Obama has too many supporters among the city’s black and Latino residents. [Right Wing Watch, 8/22/2011; Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/23/2011; Right Wing Watch, 8/24/2011]
'Sharp Rightward Lurch' - The SPLC says that Gheen’s statements “mark a sharp rightward lurch” for him; in recent months, he has pulled ALIPAC out of anti-immigration rallies in Arizona because of the participation of neo-Nazi and skinhead groups in those rallies, and has told group members to have nothing to do with the nativist Minuteman groups after an Arizona Minuteman leader was arrested for the murder of a Latino man and his nine-year-old daughter. However, Gheen and ALIPAC have issued a number of bigoted and racist statements, mostly against Hispanics and homosexuals. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/23/2011]
'Clarification' Insists No Call for Violence, Denounces 'Left Wing' 'Attackers' - The day after his appearance on Mefferd’s show, Gheen issues a “clarification” of his statement that accuses “left wing bloggers and groups” of “attack[ing]” him over his comments, and denies making any calls for violence against Obama. “I have always been and remain dedicated to the peaceful political and civic processes to which I have dedicated my life in America,” he writes. “I would never jeopardize my reputation or my cause of securing America’s border by engaging in violent rhetoric or advocacy. I should have been more specific about my comments and indicated that I was reporting the conditions Americans face at the hands of Obama. I should have spoken more like an attorney writing fine print, as I usually have to do. I was asked what people should do now that Barack Obama has bypassed Congress and the US Constitution and instituted the Dream Act Amnesty via dictatorial decree. I mentioned that some groups were looking into lawsuits,” and, referring to his recommendation that groups use “illegal and violent” acts to “depose” the “Dictator Obama,” continues, “I meant that I cannot talk about such things because my job has been to support political campaigns, lobby Congress, do media appearances, send emails, faxes, and educate the public about illegal immigration. I have made it very clear that I disavow any form of violence on many occasions. I cannot delve into the options Barack Obama is forcing on Americans that are concerned about the illegal alien invasion of America.… The only reason I even mentioned that people in America are being forced into a decision between submission or more revolutionary means is because that is the situation that is being created by Dictator Barack Obama, not me.” He boasts that he has “never started a physical fight, but I’ve finished a few in my time and I would never engage in violence against anyone for any reason other than to protect myself and my family from physical harm,” says he has no intention of backing away from any conflicts, and makes more allegations of unfair “attacks” by a number of people and groups, including the SPLC and liberal radio host Alan Colmes. “I never said that any violence was ‘needed,’” he writes, “and I certainly never put the words about anything violent towards Obama. I know clearly that is a violation of federal law. But in the case of many of these supporters of Dictator Obama, they certainly don’t let the truth stop them from going after their enemies.” He goes on to accuse Obama and his administration of shipping thousands of Hispanic immigrants into America for the purpose of attacking white citizens, accuses “illegal aliens” of engineering the “illegitimate” takeover of the US Senate under Democratic leadership, accuses the “left” of “demonizing” the “tea party” movement, and says Obama is using “our stimulus tax dollars” and a number of federal agencies, including “the [B]ATF, DEA, DOJ, FBI, and CIA… to buy thousands of assault rifles for the invading Mexican cartels that are smuggling cocaine, methamphetamine, and illegal aliens into America!” His rhetoric, he writes, is intended to bring America together, not divide it. He concludes by saying that if there is indeed a violent revolution to overthrow the government, he is under too much “scrutiny and hatred” to be able to take part in it, and “will never advocate nor join nor support any violent actions outside of personal self defense because I am committed to the path of peace and nonviolence. I will walk right into the heart of Washington, DC, and confront this dictator unarmed and unafraid with full confidence in my Lord and I will walk as a sheep among wolves. I do not believe that the forces that at are destroying America can be vanquished with the force or arms. I believe this is a spiritual conflict. I believe that only through divine Providence will God save the United States of America.” [Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, 8/23/2011; Right Wing Watch, 8/24/2011]
Denies Using the Words 'Illegal' and 'Violent' - This evening he goes on Colmes’s radio show. Gheen claims he never used the words “illegal and violent” even after Colmes plays that segment of the interview, accuses Colmes of “exploit[ing]” his words, and says that because he advocates non-violence on his Web site, he does not need to do the same on-air: “I should’ve prepared my comments a little bit better so they wouldn’t be exploited by the opposition.” [Alan Colmes, 8/23/2011; Right Wing Watch, 8/24/2011]
Rolling Stone reporter Ari Berman writes that Republican lawmakers across the nation have launched “an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that helped elect Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots.” The initiative is ostensibly to counter the “epidemic” of “voter fraud” that Republicans insist is not only plaguing the nation, but affecting the outcome of elections. (In 2007, the Brennan Center released a report that found the instance of voter fraud vanishingly small, and concluded that more people die by lightning strikes than commit voter fraud—see 2007). Judith Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project tells Berman, “What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century.” As far back as 1980, powerful Republican operative Paul Weyrich told evangelical leaders: “I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” In 2010, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group founded by Weyrich and funded in part by the billionaire Koch brothers (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, Late 2004, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, December 6, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 24, 2010, January 5, 2011, October 4, 2011, and February 14, 2011), began working to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of legitimate voters, almost of all identified as being part of ethnic or gender groups that are more likely to vote Democratic. Thirty-eight states have submitted legislation designed to impede voting “at almost every step of the electoral process.”
Requiring Proof of Citizenship - Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to show proof of US citizenship before being allowed to vote.
Impeding Voter Registration - Florida and Texas have passed legislation making it more difficult for groups like the League of Women Voters, an organization widely considered to lean Democratic, to register new voters. Maine repealed same-day registration, which had been in effect since 1973 and had worked to significantly increase voter participation. The Florida legislature passed a law requiring groups to hand in voter registration forms within 48 hours of collection, and imposed what Berman calls “a barrage of onerous, bureaucratic requirements” and serious criminal penalties for those who fail to comply. As a result, many people who once volunteered to help register voters are afraid to do so again. The League of Women Voters says it will no longer operate in Florida, and called Florida’s efforts “good old-fashioned voter suppression.” The Florida statute took effect one day after its passage, under an emergency statute designed for “an immediate danger to the public health, safety or welfare.” Since 2009, Florida has arrested a total of three people for suspected voter fraud. Republican state senator Mike Fasano, one of the few in his party to oppose the restrictions on registrations, says, “No one could give me an example of all this fraud they speak about.”
Curbing Early Voting - Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia have cut short early-voting periods. Six states have moved to impose new restrictions on voter registration drives. In 2004, then-Florida governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) said he thought early voting was “great.… It’s another reform we added that has helped provide access to the polls and provide a convenience. And we’re going to have a high voter turnout here, and I think that’s wonderful.” However, his successor Rick Scott (R-FL) does not agree, and neither do most Republicans. After analysis showed what a benefit early voting was for Obama’s numbers, early voting became a key target. Florida has cut early voting days from 14 to 8 days. Ohio, where early voting numbers gave Obama a narrow victory in 2008, has cut its early voting days from 35 to 11, with only limited hours on weekends. Both states have banned voting on the Sunday before elections, when many black churches historically mobilize their constituents. The Early Voting Information Center at Reed College states, “There is no evidence that any form of convenience voting has led to higher levels of fraud.”
Denying Convicted Felons the Right to Vote - Florida and Iowa have passed laws denying convicted felons the right to vote, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters even if they have already served their sentences and have returned to society. Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist (R-FL) restored the voting rights of 154,000 felons convicted of non-violent crimes. In March 2011, after 30 minutes of public debate, Governor Scott overturned that decision, instantly disenfranchising almost 98,000 citizens and prohibiting another 1.1 million convicts from being allowed to vote after they are released from prison. Former President Bill Clinton asked in July: “Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they’ve paid their price? Because most of them in Florida were African-Americans and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats—that’s why.” Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R-IA) recently took a similar action, overturning his predecessor’s decision to restore voting rights to some 100,000 ex-felons. Until recent years, Iowa saw up to five percent of its residents ineligible to vote, including 33 percent of its African-American residents. Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia require former felons to apply for the right to vote to be restored.
Voter Identification - Six states—Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin, all controlled by Republican governors and legislatures—have passed laws requiring an official government ID to cast a ballot. Berman notes that some 10 percent of US citizens lack such identification, and the number of young and black voters, groups that traditionally lean Democratic, are much higher. The turn towards voter ID requirements began in 2008, when the US Supreme Court upheld an Indiana photo-ID requirement even though state lawyers could not produce a single instance of the kind of voter fraud that photo ID laws are designed to prevent. After the ruling, ALEC orchestrated a nationwide move towards photo ID requirements. ALEC wrote draft legislation for Republican legislators based on Indiana’s ID requirement. Five of the states that passed those laws had their legislation submitted by legislators who belong to ALEC. Heather Smith, president of the voter-registration group Rock the Vote, says: “We’re seeing the same legislation being proposed state by state by state. And they’re not being shy in any of these places about clearly and blatantly targeting specific demographic groups, including students.” In Texas, the Republican-dominated legislature passed “emergency” legislation that was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry saying that a concealed-weapons permit is acceptable ID, but a college ID is not. Republicans in Wisconsin effectively disenfranchised every college student by requiring that acceptable IDs contain information that no colleges put on their IDs. Dane County board supervisor Analiese Eicher says, “It’s like creating a second class of citizens in terms of who gets to vote.” In Wisconsin, for example, about half of African- and Hispanic-American citizens do not have a driver’s license, and the state has an extremely small number of Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices—some of which are only open one day a month. Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) attempted to close 16 DMV offices, all in heavily Democratic-voting areas. Berman notes, “Walker planned to close a DMV in Fort Atkinson, a liberal stronghold, while opening a new office 30 minutes away in the conservative district of Watertown.” Democratic governors in five states—Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina—have all vetoed ID laws. Voters in Mississippi and Montana are considering ballot initiatives requiring voter IDs. Legislation is currently pending in Pennsylvania. Perhaps the most restrictive law was signed into effect by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC). Voters must have a free state ID to vote—but they must pay for a passport or birth certificate. Brown-Dianis says, “It’s the stepsister of the poll tax.” Many elderly black residents who were born at home in the segregated South and were never issued birth certificates can no longer vote unless they go to family court to prove their identity.
Significant Impact on 2012 Voting - Berman writes that when these measures are taken in the aggregate, the turnout of Democrats to the 2012 votes will be significantly smaller, perhaps enough to throw races to Republican candidates. In July, Clinton told a group of student activists: “One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time. Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.” Clinton was referring to the 2010 elections, widely considered a Republican “wave” election in part because of far smaller turnouts among young and minority voters than in 2008, and because of a large number of “tea party” voters. Clinton added, “There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.”
Cracking Down on Voter Fraud? - Republicans insist that voter fraud is rampant in America. Since George W. Bush took office in 2001 after losing the popular vote (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000), his administration made “voter fraud” a top priority for Justice Department prosecutors. In 2006, the DOJ fired two US Attorneys who refused to prosecute patently fraudulent voter fraud allegations. Bush advisor Karl Rove called voter fraud “an enormous and growing problem.” He told the Republican National Lawyers Association that America is “beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are colonels in mirrored sunglasses.” The Republicans successfully destroyed the community activism group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) after false allegations were made that it was, as Berman writes, “actively recruiting armies of fake voters to misrepresent themselves at the polls and cast illegal ballots for the Democrats.” A massive DOJ probe in 2006 and 2007 failed to prosecute a single person for intentionally impersonating another person at the polls, an action that the DOJ claimed was at the heart of the voter fraud investigation. Eighty-six cases of voter fraud did win convictions, but most of those were immigrants and former felons who did not intentionally cast illegal votes. An enormous investigation in Wisconsin resulted in 0.0007 percent of the electorate being prosecuted for voter fraud. And the Brennan Center report found the instance of voter fraud in America extraordinarily small (see 2007).
Voter Fraud Allegations Dog Obama Victory - Republican lawmakers and activists made a raft of allegations after the November 2008 elections that placed the White House in the hands of Barack Obama (D-IL). The 29 states that register voter affiliation showed a roughly 2-1 increase in new Democratic voters over Republicans for 2008, and Obama won almost 70 percent of those votes. Election reform expert Tova Wang says flatly, “This latest flood of attacks on voting rights is a direct shot at the communities that came out in historic numbers for the first time in 2008 and put Obama over the top.” Berman cites Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as emblematic of the Republican pushback against the Obama victory. Kobach is a former Bush-era Justice Department advisor who helped push through his state’s requirement that every voter prove his or her citizenship, ignoring the fact that Kansas has prosecuted exactly one case of voter fraud since 2006. Kobach used fear of illegal immigrants to help push his requirement through, stating without evidence, “In Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive.” He also stated that many people were casting ballots in the name of dead voters, and cited the example of Alfred K. Brewer as a dead voter who mysteriously voted in 2008. However, as the Wichita Eagle showed, Brewer is very much alive. “I don’t think this is heaven,” Brewer told the Eagle, “[n]ot when I’m raking leaves.” Representative John Lewis (D-AL), a civil rights crusader who was brutally beaten during the 1960s effort to win voting rights for African-Americans, says bluntly, “Voting rights are under attack in America.” On the House floor in July, Lewis told the assemblage, “There’s a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process.”
Fighting Voter Disenfranchisement - Voting-rights organizations are fighting back as best they can. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging several of the new voter-restriction laws in court. Congressional Democrats are pushing the Department of Justice to block or weaken laws that impede minority voters from exercising their rights. Lewis says, “The Justice Department should be much more aggressive in areas covered by the Voting Rights Act.” Meanwhile, many voting-rights experts predict chaos at the polls in November 2012, as voters react with confusion, frustration, and anger at being barred from voting. “Our democracy is supposed to be a government by, of, and for the people,” says Browne-Dianis. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what race you are, or where you live in the country—we all get to have the same amount of power by going into the voting booth on Election Day. But those who passed these laws believe that only some people should participate. The restrictions undermine democracy by cutting off the voices of the people.” [Rolling Stone, 8/30/2011]
Entity Tags: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Scott Kevin Walker, Rick Scott, Republican Party, Ari Berman, Tova Wang, US Department of Justice, US Supreme Court, Alfred K. Brewer, Paul Weyrich, American Civil Liberties Union, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, American Legislative Exchange Council, Analiese Eicher, Terry Branstad, League of Women Voters, Mike Fasano, Charles Koch, Charles Joseph (“Charlie”) Crist, Jr, Brennan Center for Justice, Barack Obama, David Koch, Early Voting Information Center, Nikki Haley, Heather Smith, John Lewis, Judith Browne-Dianis, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, George W. Bush, Kris Kobach, Karl C. Rove
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Matthew Vadum. [Source: YouTube / TPM Muckraker]Author and columnist Matthew Vadum writes that it is un-American to register poor citizens to vote. Writing a column for the far-right Web site American Thinker, Vadum, the author of a book accusing the defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) of being a Communist organization colluding with President Obama to bring down American democracy, asserts that “left-wing activist groups” are “keen on registering the poor to vote” because poor citizens “can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery. Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country—which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.” Vadum says Obama, along with civil rights organizations such as the NAACP, are “zealously” working to register poor citizens to ensure that “leftists” are voted en masse into public office. Vadum writes: “Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn’t about helping the poor. It’s about helping the poor to help themselves to others’ money. It’s about raw so-called social justice. It’s about moving America ever farther away from the small-government ideals of the Founding Fathers.” The proof of his claims, he writes, is an obscure 1966 article in The Nation written by two academics, Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, whom he labels “small-c communists” and “Marxists,” and accuses of using strategies advanced by Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky to “use the poor as a battering ram against the systems they sought to overthrow… to use the ‘weight’ of the poor to bring down American capitalism and democracy.” He cites another Piven-Cloward article from 1983, published by ACORN, to bolster his argument. Obama, he concludes, is following in Piven and Cloward’s footsteps to “bring vast numbers of unproductive people into the political process,” engender “massive voter fraud,” and destroy democracy. [Nation, 5/2/1966; Matthew Vadum, 9/1/2011] A day after Vadum’s article appears, TPM Muckraker reporter Ryan J. Reilly writes: “Most conservative criticism of voter registration drives aimed at poor and minority communities has been under the guise of worries about voter fraud. Vadum’s column is notable because he isn’t just pretending to be worried about the nearly non-existent threat of in-person voter fraud—he just doesn’t think poor people should be voting.” [TPM Muckraker, 9/2/2011]
After President Obama exhorts Congress to pass his jobs legislation package, which he calls the “American Jobs Act of 2011,” during his address to a joint session on September 8, some Republican lawmakers note that no legislator has officially submitted the bill and thusly there is no legislation to pass. Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX) submits his own quickly written “American Jobs Act of 2011” hours before a Democratic House member can submit Obama’s 155-page, $447 billion legislative package. Gohmert’s bill is two pages long and would “amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to repeal the corporate income tax.” Gohmert issues a press release that reads: “We have heard a lot of rhetoric about job creation from President Obama over the last several days. After waiting to see what the president would actually put into legislative language, and then waiting to see if anybody would actually introduce the president’s bill in the House, today I took the initiative and introduced the ‘American Jobs Act of 2011.’ It is a very simple bill, which will eliminate the corporate tax which serves as a tariff that our American companies pay on goods they produce here in America. This bill will actually create jobs in America. Right now, American manufacturing jobs are shipped overseas. What is really insidious about this tax is that corporate taxes are paid by the consumer—built in to the cost of the good or service. Corporate taxes are paid for by people in the form of lower wages to American workers and less money paid out in dividends in everything from 401K retirement accounts and to those who would risk their capital in business ventures. This type of capital investment is where jobs come from. Unlike President Obama’s bill, which clocks in at 155 pages, the ‘American Jobs Act’ is only two pages. The American people want to see jobs and economic growth and this bill guarantees that outcome. America would instantly become a safe haven for businesses resulting in an explosion in revenue increases. If we really want to create jobs and grow the economy, we must pass ‘The American Jobs Act’ now.” [Daily Caller, 9/14/2011; Louis Gohmert, 9/14/2011; Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2011] Gohmert objects to a provision in the Obama legislative package which would forbid employers from discriminating against unemployed workers, accusing Obama of trying to create a “new protected class” of Americans and saying that the point of the anti-discrimination language would be to give “trial lawyers… 14 million new clients.” The National Employment Law Project (NELP) says that Gohmert is wrong in his accusations, and that the legislation “would not make employment status a protected class like race or sex,” but “simply bans hiring discrimination against the jobless.” Employer discrimination against unemployed job applicants is well-documented and on the rise, according to NELP. [Huffington Post, 8/11/2011; Huffington Post, 9/14/2011] Kirsten Boyd Johnson of the satirical political news Web site Wonkette calls Gohmert’s legislation “childish,” and says that, according to recent polls, Americans largely blame Congressional Republicans for, as she writes, “destroying America with their petulant refusal to govern like a dignified body of elected lawmakers in favor of running around like naughty children stealing other peoples’ homework.” Bloomberg News, which reports on the polling, quotes retired New York citizen Ray DiPietro as saying: “I’ve been a registered Republican for 50 years or more, but I don’t like what they are doing. [Republicans] are more concerned about getting Obama out of office than with making things right.” DiPietro says he receives emails on a daily basis from Republicans who denigrate Obama and “tear him apart, and that’s no way for grownups to talk.” Indianapolis Republican Nicole Olin agrees, saying: “I do put the majority of the blame on the Republicans, because they seem to be the least willing to give up anything. Just because a majority votes you in doesn’t mean you don’t have to compromise in one way, shape, or form to make sure you do what’s good for everyone.” Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) warns of the dangers of taking any set of polls in “isolation,” and says the poll result “highlights a broad dissatisfaction among the American people with the way their government has been operating.” [Wonkette, 9/15/2011; Bloomberg, 9/15/2011] David Weigel of Slate writes that Gohmert “prank[ed]” the White House in submitting his legislation, which has no real chance of ever being enacted. Although House Democrats have not yet formally submitted the actual American Jobs Act, it has been posted online by the Obama administration. [Slate, 9/12/2011; Slate, 9/15/2011] Democrats can submit the bill under its original title, as House rules do not forbid two separate pieces of legislation having the same name, though as Los Angeles Times reporter James Oliphant notes, “[I]t could result in a lot of Democrats and Republicans shouting on the floor about two different bills.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2011] In the past, Gohmert has accused the Obama administration of orchestrating the deaths of “one in five” Americans through its health care legislation (see July 16, 2009), of implementing “eugenics” and creating Nazi-like “youth brigades” (see July 24, 2009), and of lying about the likelihood that failing to raise the debt ceiling would lower the nation’s credit rating (see July 13, 2011).
Entity Tags: Kirsten Boyd Johnson, Obama administration, Nicole Olin, Louis Gohmert, Michael Shumway (“Mike”) Lee, James Oliphant, National Employment Law Project, David Weigel, US House of Representatives, Barack Obama, Bloomberg News, Ray DiPietro, US Congress
Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises, Domestic Propaganda
President Obama presents Marine Sergeant Dakota Meyer with the Medal of Honor. [Source: Reuters]President Obama presents Sergeant Dakota Meyer with the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions in combat against Pakistani insurgents (in some media accounts they are labelled simply as “Taliban”) in Ganjigal, Afghanistan (see September 8, 2009 and November 8, 2010). [New York Times, 9/15/2011]
Fox News chief Roger Ailes acknowledges that Fox News has undergone what he calls a “course correction” over the last year, dialing back some of the most inflammatory and partisan rhetoric that is its brand. The release of talk show host Glenn Beck (see March 28 - April 6, 2011) is one of the actions Ailes has taken to “moderate” Fox News’s stance, as is the lower profile given former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a prominent Fox personality—once aggressively promoted by the network as the savior of the Republican Party, Palin is much less visible on the network now. Fox executives admit that after Barack Obama’s election in 2008 (see January 2009), “the entire network took a hard right turn (see February 2, 2009, February 9-10, 2009, February 10, 2009, February 20, 2009, March 16-17, 2009, March 17, 2009, March 17-24, 2009, March 18, 2009, March 23-24, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 31, 2009, April 1, 2009, April 1, 2009, April 1-2, 2009, April 3, 2009, April 3-7, 2009, April 6, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, April 22, 2009, April 23, 2009, April 28, 2009, April 29, 2009, May 5-6, 2009, May 6, 2009, May 8-15, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27, 2009, June 2, 2009, July 8, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, July 30, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 14, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 18, 2009, September 29, 2009, October 11, 2009, October 16, 2009, November 3, 2009, November 5-8, 2009, November 18-19, 2009, November 24, 2009, January 27, 2010, May 20-22, 2010, June 11, 2010, June 24, 2010 and After, July 2, 2010, July 24, 2010, September 1, 2010, September 4, 2010, September 4, 2010, September 15-16, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 27, 2010, September 28, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 30, 2010, October 1, 2010, October 3, 2010, October 26, 2010, November 9-11, 2010 and After, and November 9-11, 2010 and After)… but, as the tea party’s popularity fades (see August 25, 2011), is edging back toward the mainstream” (see November 16, 2010, November 17-18, 2010, February 23, 2011, February 28, 2011, March 19-24, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, May 22, 2011, May 23-24, 2011, June 10, 2011, July 13-14, 2011, January 14, 2012, January 17-18, 2012, February 11-16, 2012, and February 12-13, 2012). Ailes has ordered the opinion show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly to tone down the rhetoric, in part in response to the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and the resultant debate about the aggressive, violent rhetoric being promulgated on the right (see March 24, 2010). Moreover, as media pundit Howard Kurtz writes, “[i]t was, in his view, a chance to boost profits by grabbing a more moderate audience.” Ailes’s contract is up in 2013, and some expect the 71-year-old media magnate not to renew his contract thereafter. Ailes continues to insist that his news network is the only “fair and balanced” (see 1995) news outlet on television, with the other broadcast and cable news providers being relentlessly liberal in their presentations, but on the other hand implicitly admits that he routinely pushes right-wing memes and talking points on his network. Today, for example, he is touting Fox News’s new “Regulation Nation” series, pushing the idea that government regulations have a stranglehold on American business. “[N]o other network will cover that subject,” he says. “I think regulations are totally out of control.” Government bureaucrats hire Ph.D.s to “sit in the basement and draw up regulations to try to ruin your life,” he says. Under Ailes’s direction, Fox News will feature stories on “over-regulation” in many of its straight-news and opinion shows. Some non-Fox News conservative pundits, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh, wonder if Ailes hasn’t given up on his commitment to conservative principles in return for ratings, saying, “Fox wants these people [Republican primary candidates] to tear each other up, ‘cause they want approval from the mainstream media.” Kurtz says that Ailes has turned the Republican primary into his own “reality show” for ratings and profits, essentially agreeing with Limbaugh. Overall, others are registering that Ailes is attempting to dial back the hyperpartisan posturing, even former Obama administration aide Anita Dunn, who says, “You have the sense that they’re trying to at least appear less of the hyperpartisan political network they had been.” [Newsweek, 9/25/2011]
Entity Tags: Gabrielle Giffords, Anita Dunn, Barack Obama, Fox News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Howard Kurtz, Sarah Palin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
The New York Times reports that labor unions are attempting to change the way they engage in political activities in light of the 2010 Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010), so as to counter enormous corporate donating and influence nonunion households for the 2012 elections. Labor unions had opposed the ruling, but that opposition has borne little fruit. Now the unions are beginning to use an element of the ruling that for the first time allows unions to reach out to nonunion households. Unions can also form their own super PACs, and some are doing just that. Richard L. Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, says organized labor will function independently of the Democratic Party, refusing to support Democratic candidates who are not union-friendly and perhaps even opposing individual Democrats in some elections. Trumka says the time for Democrats to take union support for granted has ended. Some labor leaders have been critical of Democrats after unions spent more than $200 million to help elect President Obama and Congressional Democrats in 2008, but did not get some of the legislative attention the unions desired from the newly elected Democrats. The Times writes, “In distancing themselves, at least a bit, from the Democrats, unions are becoming part of a trend in which newly empowered outside groups build what are essentially party structures of their own—in this case, to somewhat offset the money flowing into conservative groups that are doing the same thing.” Trumka says the AFL-CIO will infuse $10 million into a new, as-yet-unnamed super PAC in order to begin building a permanent political structure for labor. “The way we used to do politics is we’d set up a structure six months before the election, and after Election Day we’d dismantle it,” he says. “Now we’re going to have a full-time campaign, and that campaign will be able to move, hopefully, from electoral politics to issue advocacy and accountability.” The AFL-CIO’s political director, Michael A. Podhorzer, says that the unions learned a lesson in 2010, when labor-backed Democrats such as former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH) lost to Republican challengers. “It became apparent that even in races where union members voted overwhelmingly in support of a pro-worker candidate, we could still lose,” says Podhorzer. “President Trumka asked, ‘How do we get programs that win elections and not just put up a good fight?’” [New York Times, 9/25/2011]
The cover of ‘Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?’ [Source: Occidental Dissident (.com)]Conservative commentator and author Pat Buchanan publishes his latest book, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? Kirkus Reviews, reviewing an advance copy, wrote before its public release that Buchanan “laments the fading of the Christian religion from American life because he sees it as an indispensable underpinning of our common culture.” Buchanan, the review notes, “fears the nation has abandoned its historic commitment to liberty and equality of opportunity to pursue a chimerical utopia of diversity and equality of result.” Buchanan does not actually predict the dissolution or destruction of America, but predicts “culture wars without end and a continuing self-segregation of Americans by ethnic group.” The review concludes: “Liberals may rightly dismiss this sprawling, often rambling book as nativist claptrap. Readers willing to excuse the nods to predictable right-wing shibboleths and bogeymen will find it a troubling analysis of how America has changed for the worse in the last half century, and how difficult it will be to pull it back from the loss of freedom and prosperity Buchanan sees not far ahead.” [Kirkus Reviews, 9/15/2011]
Heavy Criticism for 'Racist' Content' - Jillian Rayfield of the progressive news Web site TPM Muckraker reprints what she calls twelve “pretty racist or just crazy quotes” from the book. One accuses Barack Obama of engaging in a “long and successful campaign to expel Christianity from the public square, diminish its presence in our public life, and reduce its role to that of just another religion.” Many focus on Buchanan’s prediction that white Americans will soon become a minority, and as a result, American culture will collapse. Another accuses black Americans of benefiting from “Jim Crow in reverse,” where whites are systematically and legally disenfranchised and oppressed by minorities. “Back then, black and white lived apart, went to different schools and churches, played on different playgrounds, and went to different restaurants, bars, theaters, and soda fountains. But we shared a country and a culture. We were one nation. We were Americans.” Liberal whites, Buchanan writes, “may discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.” The 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act took away key rights from white Americans, Buchanan asserts, instead of mandating equality for all Americans. Only before those laws took effect was America a nation of equality. Buchanan says that his desire to “expel” minorities is not racially motivated, merely an attempt to rescue American civilization and its “European majority.” He says that “49 of 50 muggings in New York City” are perpetrated by blacks. And he says that the Republican Party must become “the white party” if it is to retain its identity, arguing, “[W]hy should Republicans be ashamed to represent the progeny of the men who founded, built, and defended America since her birth as a nation?” [TPM Muckraker, 10/24/2011] Jeneba Ghatt of the Washington Times accuses Buchanan of repackaging long-disproven stereotypes of non-whites’ genetic and intellectual inferiority. “Anyone can attempt to sell books delivering doomsday-like message based on racist pseudo-Eugenics-based theories as Buchanan,” she writes. “Organizing, galvanizing, and trying to make a colossal effort to effectuate real change is a genuine challenge.” Instead of trying to change society for the better, she writes, Buchanan is “playing that old tired game of scapegoat.” Many Times commenters post scathing rebuttals to Ghatt’s article, citing “scientific” evidence of whites’ and Asians’ intellectual superiority over blacks and Hispanics, with one post calling Ghatt, an African-American, “still a slave” because she advocates equality for blacks. Others attack her given name as un-American and question why the Times would print her material. [Washington Times, 10/23/2011] Janet Shan of The Moderate Voice notes the bluntly racial and racist material in a chapter entitled “The End of White America,” where Buchanan cites statistics showing that within a few generations, whites in America will be a minority, largely because of the increasing number of non-white immigrants and whites being “outbred” by minority citizens. Buchanan focuses strongly on Hispanic-Americans, writing: “Mexico is moving north.… Will this Mexican nation within a nation advance the goals of the Constitution—to ‘insure domestic tranquility’ and ‘make us a more perfect union’? Or have we imperiled our union?” Shan responds: “In other words, America is heading for disaster since whites won’t be a majority. Really? Only Pat Buchanan could make a black or Latino feel dirty, just because of the color of their skin.” In a later chapter, “Equality vs. Freedom,” Buchanan claims that “the end to segregation and the legislated equality of rights for African Americans” have led to a “socialist utopia” and the collapse of everything he values about American society. Shan writes: “Is he condoning Jim Crow, segregation, and racial injustice in this country? Gee, I can’t seem to remember hearing Pat Buchanan’s name being mentioned in the struggle for racial justice and equality. Every time he is embroiled in controversy it is because of racially motivated comments emanating from his lips on national television. So, I guess, in other words, inequality is just fine for Pat Buchanan and his posse. Just as long as the white right-wing evangelicals are calling the shots.” She concludes: “Pat Buchanan is of the viewpoint that we can never create a nation in which all the races, tribes, cultures, and creeds of Earth are all equal. That utopia can never exist.… We can’t all be equal but that doesn’t mean we lose sight of the Biblical truth of taking care of the least among us. That doesn’t mean we can’t give each child the opportunity to succeed despite the color of his or her skin. I will say, this was a very riveting book and I suspect it will be a New York Times bestseller, but the racial undertones will continue to fan the flames of distrust and hatred for everything Pat Buchanan stands for.” [Janet Shan, 10/14/2011]
Conservative Support - At GoodReads (.com), reviewer John Caneday “admire[s]” Buchanan’s “Christian wisdom” as shown in the book, and writes: “He recognizes the spiritual decline in America is responsible for the cultural and political decline we are experiencing now.… He argues that the flood of third world immigration into the Western nations is one of the greatest forces for destruction in the modern world.… Many will charge Buchanan with racism, but the careful reader will realize that Buchanan sees these forces at work in every culture and every nation on earth. Diversity cannot possibly be a source of strength, as everywhere there is diversity, there is conflict.” [John Caneday, 12/15/2011] Free Republic (.com) blogger William L. Houston calls the book “the bluntest and most cogent statement of the truth about the present course of Western civilization that has been seen in American bookstores in many years.… Everything that real conservatives have privately known to be true for generations is finally aired in this brave and long overdue new book.” Buchanan calls the American left “a utopian death cult” bent on destroying America before it destroys itself. “The Baby Boomer elite that was captured by the counterculture in the 1960s has set America on a course to national oblivion: radical multiculturalism, open borders, the welfare state, affirmative action, the obsession with diversity, the embrace of the sick and degenerate ‘free love movement,’ the embrace of abortion and family planning, the embrace of an adversary secular culture that has flatly declared war on Christianity. As a historian, Pat Buchanan is here to remind us of the awful truth that this sort of progressive worldview and the lifestyle that accompanies it has consequences.” Whites are carrying non-white Americans “on [their] back[s]” now, Houston asserts; when “freedom loving European-Christian Americans” become the minority in America in 2042, the economy and the social underpinnings of America will collapse entirely. “Black America is culturally and economically a basket case,” Houston writes. “Hispanic America is worse off in some ways, better in others. White America has gone completely off the rails under the influence of the counterculture. Even Asian America has been negatively affected by the sickness of the dominant culture.” Whites are genetically and environmentally superior, Houston argues, and must continue to steer the nation to ensure its survival. [William L. Houston, 10/31/2011]
Praise from White Supremacists - Conservative blogger Hunter Wallace, a neo-Confederate and white supremacist, posts a lengthy, favorable review of the book, saying that it is Buchanan’s “boldest affront yet to the reigning racial and cultural taboos of Black Run Amerika.” Wallace, like Buchanan, focuses much of his attention on American minorities, decrying the fact that “[b]y 2042, White Americans are scheduled to become a minority in the United States.” He continues: “African-American and Hispanic tax consumers are becoming more aggressive and explicitly racial in their agenda. White taxpayers are becoming more defensive. The myth of a ‘post-racial’ society is collapsing. White racial attitudes are hardening again.” Both political parties, according to Buchanan and Wallace, are in danger of being overrun by what they call “officially aggrieved minorities,” especially since white birthrates are declining. America, a fundamentally Christian nation in their view, is also under siege from non-Christian religions and ideologies, and as a result, the “Western culture” that once sustained the nation “has collapsed and nihilism and chaos now reign in the realm of morality. Secular fantasy ideologies like liberalism, humanism, and communism have moved into the vacuum of faith. America is disintegrating as a nation because its people no longer share a common moral tradition. Instead, they bark at each other from across the ‘partisan divide.’ This is the inevitable prelude to our demise as a nation-state.” America’s economic system has become irrevocably corrupted, Buchanan and Wallace assert, by “a confused hybrid” of “liberal capitalist democracy [and] Marxism.” Gay rights, interracial marriage, the American celebration of diversity, and other “corrosive” phenomena, they observe, are heralding the final collapse of American culture, where “the scum of society” is allowed “to punch through the traditional racial, cultural, and religious restraints that have held degeneracy in check for generations and to rise to elite status in the former countries of Western civilization.” Wallace notess Buchanan’s failure to address what he calls “the Jewish question,” but says Buchanan’s decision to do so was “wise” “because 50 percent of American Jewry is scheduled to vacate the earth by 2050.” Wallace concludes, “Buchanan clearly believes that America will be torn apart by ethnonationalism in the 21st century in much the same that Europe was torn about by ethnonationalism in the 20th century,” and says the white, Christian values of “Middle America” are the only ideology that will “save” the nation. [Hunter Wallace, 10/26/2011] Steve Sailer, one of the owners of the white supremacist Web site VDare (.com), lauds Buchanan as a personal friend who “quotes me several times, citing my VDARE.com articles on the ‘racial ratio’—Affirmative Action beneficiaries vs. benefactors i.e. losers—and the real meaning of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores among others.” Sailer praises Buchanan’s “genial honesty” in the book as well as his “bareknuckles” approach to the “truth” of the “decline” of American culture. After spending much of his review lambasting Barack Obama and the American left, Sailer concludes that Buchanan “is now perhaps the wisest, most objective-minded man in American public affairs.” [Steve Sailer, 10/19/2011]
Entity Tags: Jeneba Ghatt, Hunter Wallace, Barack Obama, Janet Shan, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, William L. Houston, John Caneday, Steve Sailer, Kirkus Reviews, Republican Party, Jillian Rayfield, Patrick Buchanan
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
The image of Obama as a bullet-riddled zombie disseminated by a Republican party official in Virginia. [Source: Washington Post]A Loudoun County, Virginia, Republican Committee official resigns after the media reports his emailing pictures of President Obama as a zombie with part of his skull missing and a large bullet wound in his forehead. Robert Jesionowski, the committee’s communications director, admits to sending the emails. The reports originated on a conservative blog, Too Conservative, that used the image to promote the committee’s activities at a recent Halloween parade. The blog also displayed a similar image of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). State and local Republican officials strongly condemned the image. Virginia GOP chairman Pat Mullins said: “The disgusting image used today on a mass email has no place in our politics. Ever. The Republican Party of Virginia condemns the image and its use in the strongest possible terms.” Governor Robert F. McDonnell (R-VA) said Jesionowski’s email was “shameful and offensive,” and issued a call through his office to have “those involved to apologize for their actions and to immediately ensure that such imagery is never used again.… The governor has long stressed the need for more civility and respect in our politics. An email like this one undermines those goals, offends all Virginians, and discredits our entire political process. It will not be tolerated.” Jesionowski’s resignation is apparently in response to the criticism. Matt Sell, chairman of the Loudoun County Republican Committee, issues a statement calling Jesionowski’s email “a light-hearted attempt to inject satire humor into the Halloween holiday.” However, Sell continues: “Apparently, some individuals have interpreted an image of Barack Obama that appeared within the email as intending to portray the president as a victim of a violent crime. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we deeply and sincerely apologize to the president and anyone who viewed the image if that was the impression that was left. The LCRC deplores any effort to display, suggest, or promote violence against the president or any other political figure.” [Washington Post, 10/31/2011; Washington Post, 11/2/2011]
Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez. [Source: Washington Post]Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, a young Idaho man who reportedly has an “obsession” with President Obama, fires nine shots at the White House. One of his shots strikes the window of the mansion’s living quarters, but does not break the ballistic glass. Obama and his wife Michelle are on a nine-day Asia-Pacific tour. According to an FBI affidavit, Ortega drives his black 1998 Honda to a location near 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, and fires twice through his passenger window, using a Romanian-made Cugir SA semiautomatic rifle equipped with a telescopic sight. Two motorists witness the shooting. FBI agents search the area around the White House and locate “several confirmed bullet impact points on the south side of the building on or above the second story,” where the First Family’s residential area is located. Officials soon find the Honda abandoned, with the Cugir and boxes of ammunition inside, along with an aluminum baseball bat and a set of brass knuckles. Days later, Pennsylvania law enforcement officials arrest Ortega at an Indiana, Pennsylvania, hotel, after a desk clerk recognizes his photograph from a Secret Service handout. Ortega does not resist arrest, according to a Pennsylvania state trooper. According to the US Park Police, Ortega has known mental health issues, and the Park Police says “Ortega should be considered unstable with violent tendencies.” Apparently Ortega considers Obama “the devil” and “the anti-Christ,” officials say. Authorities say Ortega may believe his attack is part of some divinely inspired mission. Ortega’s family reported him missing on October 31; he was stopped by police in Arlington, Virginia, on the morning of November 11 after the police received reports of a suspicious person, but released because he had apparently committed no crimes. Photographs taken of Ortega during that encounter are later identified as being those of the possible White House shooter. FBI agent Chris Ormerod later discovers that before Ortega left Idaho, he told acquaintances that he “needed to kill” Obama and that he “will not stop until it’s done.” One acquaintance later tells the FBI that Ortega believes the government is “conspiring” against him. He is charged with an attempt to assassinate Obama. Initial media reports deny that Ortega has any connections with radical groups of any kind. [Associated Press, 11/16/2011; Washington Post, 11/17/2011; New York Times, 11/17/2011; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 11/17/2011 ] However, later media investigations will find those reports somewhat superficial, though no official membership in any such groups seems to exist. Ortega is apparently a religious extremist who has embraced a number of “oddball” conspiracy theories, and recently viewed a conspiracy-theory film by Alex Jones, the far-right Internet talk show host. The film Ortega watched is entitled The Obama Deception. Ortega recently posted a YouTube video asking talk show host Oprah Winfrey to allow him to appear on her program because he is the second coming of Jesus Christ. “You see, Oprah, there is still so much more that God needs me to express to the world,” he says on the video. “It’s not just a coincidence that I look like Jesus. I am the modern-day Jesus Christ that you all have been waiting for.” Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a mental health expert, believes that Ortega may suffer from schizophrenia. “I can guarantee you that in his mind, it all makes perfect sense,” Torrey tells a reporter. “If he’s Christ, Obama’s the Antichrist.” [New York Times, 11/21/2011] Ortega’s mother later denies press reports that her son has any mental issues. [Detroit Free Press, 11/18/2011]
The president of a Texas university branch of the College Republicans makes a post on Twitter saying that the assassination of President Obama is a “tempting” idea. The post appears just hours after a gunman is arrested for shooting at the White House in an apparent assassination attempt (see November 11-17, 2011). Lauren Pierce, the president of the College Republicans at the University of Texas in Austin, posts the following “tweet”: “Y’all as tempting as it may be, don’t shoot Obama. We need him to go down in history as the WORST president we’ve EVER had! #2012.” When ABC News posts an article about her comment, Pierce initially laughs about it, saying that “it must be a slow news day” for ABC to bother reporting her comment. She gives an interview to an ABC News reporter in which she giggles through much of the interview; she claims that the post was a “joke,” calls the attempted assassination attempt “stupid,” and says that for someone to assassinate Obama would “only make the situation worse.” The group’s vice president, Cassie Wright, says: “Insofar as she’s a representative [of the College Republicans], maybe it shouldn’t be said, but she’s made a positive statement in a way.… I don’t really see anything wrong with it. It’s just a personal comment, not representative of any group. Just freedom of speech, you know?” Later, Pierce removes the post from Twitter and instead makes the following comment: “It’s never funny to joke about such a serious matter. I have learned a very valuable lesson.” [Huffington Post, 11/16/2011; ABC News, 11/16/2011]
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) issues accusations that Americans on government aid programs are in many cases wasteful drug users who use their aid money to go on lavish vacations. Gingrich, riding a surge of popularity as the Iowa caucuses approach, calls President Obama “the food stamp president” during his stump speeches. In an appearance in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Gingrich says: “Remember, this is the best food stamp president in history. So more Americans today get food stamps than before. And we now give it away as cash—you don’t get food stamps. You get a credit card, and the credit card can be used for anything. We have people who take their food stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii. They give food stamps now to millionaires because, after all, don’t you want to be compassionate? You know, the Obama model: isn’t there somebody you’d like to give money to this week. That’s why we’re now going to help bailout Italy because we haven’t bailed out enough people this week, the president thought let’s write another check. After all, we have so much extra money.” The nonpartisan fact-checking entity PolitiFact calls Gingrich’s accusations complete lies. The “food stamp program,” known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has very strict guidelines about what can and cannot be bought with federal aid dollars. Except for very limited exceptions, SNAP recipients cannot use aid money for restaurant meals or to buy anything other than groceries. SNAP funds cannot be used to buy alcoholic beverages. The “electronic benefits transfer” card, or EBT cards, are similar in appearance to credit cards, but have a very different function. EBT cardholders cannot use their cards to buy airline tickets, whether it be for Hawaiian vacations or anything else. PolitiFact doubts that any recipients would have enough funds to buy such tickets in the first place; the average monthly SNAP benefit is $134 per person. Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution says, “There is undoubtedly some illegal bartering of EBT cards—though I understand trafficking in EBT cards is less than under the old food stamps—but I am having trouble imagining how you could barter an EBT card for an airplane ticket.” PolitiFact notes that Gingrich’s claims may have come from a recent news broadcast in St. Louis, which found that some Missouri SNAP recipients spent $2,737 on food in Hawaii in January 2011. The money, though spent out of state, was spent on legitimate goods such as groceries. The amount was .07 percent of the total money allocated to SNAP residents in Missouri for January 2011. And the Missouri beneficiaries had legitimate reasons to be in Hawaii—some of them were members of the military transferred to new duty bases, for example. If the Missouri story is the source of Gingrich’s claims, PolitiFact notes, then Gingrich completely misrepresented the facts of the story. As far as the “food stamps for millionaires” claim, anyone who earns over 130 percent of the poverty line cannot receive benefits. No such beneficiaries have been identified, and if they do exist, they are breaking the law. Michael Wiseman of George Washington University says, “I would challenge Newt Gingrich to find a millionaire in annual income who gets on food stamps legally.” PolitiFact says that Gingrich’s claims are “so ridiculous” that the researchers thought for a time that he might be joking. Think Progress reporter Marie Diamond calls Gingrich’s claims “absurd.” At a recent campaign event in Iowa, citizen Don Brantz confronted Gingrich, saying: “You don’t always tell the truth, Mr. Gingrich, and that food stamp thing is one of them. Iowa already has a computer system. We do not pay money so the people on food stamps can buy beer and anything else. It’s a very specific thing.” (Diamond notes that Gingrich is a frequent world traveller, taking lengthy vacations in luxury spots around the world. In one instance, he told reporters that after taking a luxury cruise in Greece, he came away with a deeper understanding of the European financial crisis.) [St. Petersburg Times, 12/1/2011; Think Progress, 12/2/2011; ABC News, 1/2/2012] MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz will say that Gingrich, like fellow Republican candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA), “is also quick to connect programs like food stamps to the African-American community.” Schultz’s guest, author and radio host Michael Eric Dyson, says: “I don’t think we need Newt Gingrich’s pedagogy in the NAACP. I think this is condescension at its most poignant. And, as with Rick Santorum, when you have pet Negro causes, you tend to treat Negros like pets.” New York Times columnist Charles Blow will say of Gingrich’s remarks that “this sort of racial pandering is exactly what happens at this point in a race.” Blow calls Gingrich’s remarks “extreme, very racist.” [Politico, 1/6/2012]
Entity Tags: Michael Wiseman, Don Brantz, Charles M. Blow, Barack Obama, Edward Andrew (“Ed”) Schultz, Michael Eric Dyson, PolitiFact (.org ), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Marie Diamond, Newt Gingrich
Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises, Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections
According to a Washington Post analysis, 10 percent of US billionaires have given to the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney (R-MA), who seems to be securing enough primary wins to be named the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. Romney himself is a former venture capitalist worth at least $250 million. Forty-two of the US’s 412 billionaires have donated to Romney’s campaign and third-party “super PACs” (see March 26, 2010, June 23, 2011, and November 23, 2011). President Obama has 30 billionaires on his donor list, or something over 7 percent. Romney opponents Rick Perry (R-TX) and Jon Huntsman (R-UT) have 20 and 12, respectively. The Washington Post reports: “Very wealthy donors are likely to play a greater role in this election cycle in the wake of recent court decisions that have loosened rules for campaign contributions (see January 21, 2010). That will only heighten one of the dominant narratives of the 2012 campaign: the nation’s rising income inequality and the outsize political influence of the super-wealthy.” Donors can only give $5,000 directly to candidates’ campaigns, but under the Citizens United ruling, they can give unlimited amounts to super PACs that run independent ads on behalf of, or in opposition to, candidates. “The only limit on the resources is the willingness of the donors to give,” says government professor Anthony Corrado, a former Democratic official. “It doesn’t take long to transfer $500,000 from one account to another.” Obama had a head start in raising campaign funds going into October 2010, largely because the Republican candidates were spending money against one another in primary battles. But now that Romney seems more and more assured as the Republican nominee, Republican donors are expected to focus on donating to his campaign and super PACs, and are expected to catch up to and surpass Obama and the Democrats in short order (see August 2, 2010, September 20, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, October 2010, Around October 27, 2010, May 5, 2011, and August 4, 2011). In 2008, Obama distanced his campaign from third-party donors, and donations from those individuals and interests were relatively down. But, perhaps recognizing the advantage Republicans have in raising money from the wealthy, Obama no longer objects to those donations. Romney’s largest donor so far is hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson, who has given $1 million to Romney’s super PAC Restore Our Future (see June 23, 2011). Think Progress’s Travis Waldron notes that Paulson made millions by shorting the housing market before the mortgage collapse that sparked the global financial crisis and drove the US economy into a recession. Other billionaires supporting Romney include Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, California real estate developer Donald Bren, and developer and publisher Sam Zell. Several billionaires who used to support Romney’s primary opponent Newt Gingrich (R-GA), including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Amway founder Richard DeVos, are expected to begin giving generously to the Romney campaign or to his super PAC. Obama’s richest donor is Len Blavatnik, a Russian-American industrialist who has also donated to Romney. Other billionaires supporting Obama include insurance magnate Peter Lewis, former Google executive Eric Schmidt, and venture capitalist John Doerr. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt downplays the billionaire contributions, saying, “Our campaign is fueled by donations from more than 1 million Americans, 98 percent of which were in amounts of $250 or less.” Corrado says that as the November elections approach, spending will only increase. “One of the things about large investors in campaigns is that they’re very interested in getting results,” he says. “And it is much easier to get a large effect in a race if you can give to directly advocate for and against a candidate.” [Washington Post, 12/1/2011; Think Progress, 12/6/2011]
Entity Tags: Dan Snyder, Sam Zell, Sheldon Adelson, Washington Post, Willard Mitt Romney, Anthony J. Corrado Jr., 2012 Obama presidential election campaign, Ben LaBolt, Restore Our Future, Richard DeVos, Newt Gingrich, James Richard (“Rick”) Perry, Eric Schmidt, Donald Bren, Peter Lewis, Mitt Romney presidential campaign (2012), John Paulson, Barack Obama, Len Blavatnik, Jon Huntsman, John Doerr
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
A screenshot from the Hutchinson, Kansas, Patriot Freedom Alliance Web site comparing President Obama to a skunk. The photo and accompanying text was quickly removed after it was reported in a local newspaper. [Source: Hutchinson News]Thomas Hymer, the leader of the Hutchinson, Kansas, Patriot Freedom Alliance (PFA), also known as the Hutchinson Tea Party, places a picture of a skunk on the PFA’s Web site and says it should supplant the bald eagle as the symbol for President Obama. The Web site explains why a skunk should represent Obama, stating, “It is half black, half white, and almost everything it does, stinks.” Hymer calls the picture “satire in a politically incorrect form,” but Hutchinson NAACP leader Darrell Pope says it is “a blatant statement of racism… intended to be malicious.” Pope says that tea party organizations like Hymer’s can pretend to support Herman Cain, a black Republican presidential candidate, all they like, but the skunk posting is “a statement of what they’re all about.” Local tea party activist Chuck Sankey agrees with Hymer, saying: “It just makes a point that we’re in trouble and what’s happening doesn’t smell right. That’s what it means to me.” As for the half-black, half-white reference, Sankey asks: “Isn’t that the truth? What’s wrong with the truth?… It may be offensive to some, of course, but in humor there is always an element of truth.” Sankey, who denies he is a racist, says if people are offended, then “Don’t look at it.” Sankey adds that the graphic is justified because former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (R-AK) has been the target of worse insults. After the article about the skunk graphic is posted to the Hutchinson News Web site, Hymer or another Hutchinson Tea Party member removes the graphic from the site. A Web post by The New Civil Rights Movement says another anti-Obama Web site, ObamaForwards.com, displayed the same photo and text accompaniment in July 2010. A commenter on the article says the Hutchinson Tea Party sported a Confederate flag on its float in a recent Christmas parade. [Hutchinson News, 12/10/2011; TPM Muckraker, 12/12/2011; David Badash, 12/12/2011]
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney (R-MA) uses a phrase made familiar by the Ku Klux Klan in his stump speeches. In a speech given to supporters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Romney says: “There are people in this room who are informed and who care about this election, who recognize that this is a defining time for America. We have on one side a president who wants to transform America into a European-style nation, and you have on other hand someone like myself that wants to turn around America and keep America America.” Reporters and bloggers note that Romney, inadvertently or not, is echoing the phrase “Keep America American” as used for nearly a century by the KKK. A 1920 pamphlet published by the United Klans of America and archived at Yale University was entitled “Why you should become a klansman: of interest to white, protestant, native born Americans who want to keep America American.” On the eve of World War II, a Klan-affiliated organization called the American Coalition pressured the US government not to admit Jewish refugees into the country. And in 1950, a pamphlet with the phrase “Keep America American” was sold in Dallas, Texas, just before a wave of bombings of African-American-owned homes rocked the city. Reporter Steve Benen also notes that the 2008 Romney campaign intended to use a similar “keep America America” attack against the Democratic nominee for that year if Romney had survived the primary process: focusing then on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, the Romney campaign intended to run on the platform that Clinton and the Democrats wanted to “drag America down to Europe’s standards.… That’s where Hillary and Dems would take us. Hillary = France.” The Romney campaign planned to print “First, not France” bumper stickers to go along with the campaign rhetoric. [Washington Monthly, 12/12/2011; Booman Tribune, 12/12/2011; Los Angeles Times, 12/10/2012] After initially refusing to comment on the allegation of the campaign using a KKK slogan, Romney spokespersons claim that their candidate is using the phrase “Keep America America,” and not the KKK phrase. Liberal blogger John Aravosis calls the campaign’s claim “a nuance without a difference” and says, somewhat sarcastically, that if it is fair to use President Obama’s rhetoric to label him a “socialist,” then it is equally fair to use Romney’s phraseology to label him a member of the Klan. MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews reports on the story, and is quickly pressured by NBC senior management to issue an apology to the Romney campaign, calling his reporting “irresponsible and incendiary” and indicative of “an appalling lack of judgment.” [John Aravosis, 12/13/2011; Mediaite, 12/14/2011; John Aravosis, 12/14/2011] In line with MSNBC’s retreat from its reporting, Washington Post editor Patrick B. Pexton calls the Post’s own reporting of the controversial slogan usage “error-filled,” and repeats the Romney campaign’s claim that the phrase “Keep America America” is different from the KKK’s “Keep America American.” Pexton also notes that a campaign ad on YouTube using the phrase is not an actual Romney campaign ad, but an ad by an “independent” political organization in support of Romney. [Washington Post, 12/16/2011] AlterNet’s Chauncey DeVega later writes of the controversy: “The dropping of one letter from the Ku Klux Klan’s slogan, ‘Keep America American,’ does not remove the intent behind Romney’s repeated use of such a virulently bigoted phrase. While Mitt Romney can claim ignorance of the slogan’s origins, he is intentionally channeling its energy.” DeVega notes the intensely “nativist” connotations of the phrase, and writes that Romney, like the remainder of his fellow Republican presidential contenders, is “hostile” to immigrants of any stripe, a hostility reflected in the phrase. “Romney’s slogan, ‘Keep America America,’ begs the obvious question: Just who is American? Who gets to decide?” [AlterNet, 1/25/2012]
Congress passes a defense spending bill with controversial provisions authorizing the indefinite military detention, or rendering to a foreign country or entity, without charge or trial, of any person, including US citizens, detained, arrested, or captured anywhere in the world, including the US. The bill is the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 1540 and S. 1867). [GovTrack, 12/31/2012] The NDAA created controversy soon after the indefinite detention provisions were revealed (see July 6, 2011 and after). Civil liberties and human rights advocates raised concerns about sections 1026, 1027, and 1028, which restrict transfers and releases of prisoners from the US prison at Guantanamo, including those found to be innocent, but the most controversial parts of the bill are Sections 1021 and 1022, which provide for indefinite military detention. A federal judge will later issue a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of Section 1021, finding it unconstitutional (see May 16, 2012). [Verdict, 12/21/2011]
Detention Authorities Currently Unclear, Not Settled by NDAA - The Supreme Court ruled by plurality in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) (see June 28, 2004 that Yaser Esam Hamdi, a US citizen captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and alleged to have been armed and traveling with a Taliban unit (see December 2001), could be held by the military without charge or trial until the end of hostilities authorized by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). In other circumstances, such as persons not engaged in armed combat with US forces, or persons arrested or captured away from a battlefield, or inside the United States, the rights of prisoners and the legality of indefinite military detention are unsettled issues, and the NDAA provides no clarification. The AUMF makes no reference to the detention of prisoners or military operations inside the United States, but both the Bush and Obama administrations have consistently interpreted language giving the president authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force” to include broad powers of detention. Due to the lack of clear expression of the scope of these authorities in the AUMF, as well as potential conflicts with the Constitution, related case law includes differing judicial opinions. Supreme Court rulings have not addressed all the questions raised by the complexity of the issues involved. [New York Times, 12/1/2011; Secrecy News, 2/6/2012; Elsea, 6/11/2012 ; Salon, 12/15/2012] The NDAA states in 1021(d), “Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the president or the scope of the [AUMF],” and (e): “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” [Public Law 112 81 ] This language was included following the nearly unanimous passage of Senate Amendment (SA) 1456. It was a compromise, following the defeat of three other amendments proposed by members of Congress concerned about the NDAA’s blanket detention authority: SA 1107, introduced by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), which would have removed detention provisions from the bill and required the executive branch to submit a report to Congress on its interpretation of its detention powers and the role of the military; SA 1125, introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), which would have limited the definition of covered persons to those captured outside US borders; and SA 1126, also introduced by Feinstein, which would have would have excluded US citizens from indefinite detention provisions. [Senate, 12/1/2011; The Political Guide, 12/31/2012] Supporters of broad detention authority say the entire world is a battlefield, and interpret Hamdi to mean any US citizen deemed an enemy combatant can legally be detained indefinitely by the military. Opponents point out that Hamdi was said to have been fighting the US in Afghanistan, and that military detention without trial is limited to those captured in such circumstances. Opponents also say the 1971 Non-Detention Act outlawed indefinite detention of US persons arrested in the US. Feinstein, who submitted SA 1456 inserting the compromise language, states: “[T]his bill does not change existing law, whichever side’s view is the correct one. So the sponsors can read Hamdi and other authorities broadly, and opponents can read it more narrowly, and this bill does not endorse either side’s interpretation, but leaves it to the courts to decide.” Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), sponsor of the original NDAA in the Senate, agrees, saying: “[W]e make clear whatever the law is. It is unaffected by this language in our bill.” [Senate, 12/1/2011]
NDAA 'Affirms' Authority Not Expressly Granted in AUMF, Further Muddies Already Unclear Powers - In the NDAA, Congress attempts to settle some of the aforementioned legal questions by asserting in the NDAA that these authorities were included in the AUMF or that the president already possessed them (unless the courts decide otherwise). Section 1021(a) states: “Congress affirms that the authority of the president to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the [AUMF]… includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in sub-section (b)) pending disposition under the law of war… (c)(1) until the end of the hostilities authorized by the [AUMF].” This clear statement regarding detention authority is an implicit acknowledgment that the AUMF neither explicitly authorizes indefinite military detention, nor spells out the scope of such authority. As noted above, both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, citing the AUMF, have claimed this authority, and some courts have upheld their interpretation. However, as noted by critics of the bill such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Watch (HRW), and constitutional scholar Glenn Greenwald, this is the first time Congress has codified it. Also, despite Congress’s assertion in the NDAA that it does not “expand… the scope of the [AUMF],” the language in the bill does exactly that. The AUMF pertained only to those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, or those who harbored them. Subsection (b)(2) of the NDAA expands the definition of covered persons and activities to include “[a] person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.” Terms such as “substantially supported,” “directly supported,” and “associated forces” are not defined in the NDAA and are thus subject to interpretation, introducing new ambiguities. In addition, though the AUMF does not explicitly authorize it, the NDAA clearly covers any person, including US persons, “captured or arrested in the United States,” should the courts decide that the AUMF did, in fact, authorize this, or that it is otherwise constitutional. A federal judge will later issue a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of this section of the NDAA, in part because of its conflicting, vague language but also because of her finding that it infringes on the right to due process, and to freedom of speech and association (see May 16, 2012). [Public Law 112 81 ; American Civil Liberties Union, 12/14/2012; Human Rights Watch, 12/15/2012; Salon, 12/15/2012]
Section 1022: Mandatory Military Custody for Non-US Citizen Members of Al-Qaeda - Section 1022 requires that those determined to be members of al-Qaeda or “an associated force” and who “participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners” be held in “military custody pending disposition under the law of war.” This section is somewhat less controversial than section 1021 as it is more specific and limited in scope, and contains an exemption for US citizens, such that section 1022 may be applied to US citizens, but is not required to be: (b)(1) “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.” [Public Law 112 81 ]
Obama Administration Insisted on Broad Detention Authority - According to Senators Levin and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Obama administration required that detention authorities be applicable to US citizens, including those arrested in the US. Levin says that “language which precluded the application of section 1031 [1021 in the final bill] to American citizens was in the bill we originally approved in the Armed Services Committee, and the administration asked us to remove the language which says that US citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section.” [Senate, 11/17/2011] Graham says: “The statement of authority I authored in 1031 [1021 in final bill], with cooperation from the administration, clearly says someone captured in the United States is considered part of the enemy force regardless of the fact they made it on our home soil. The law of war applies inside the United States not just overseas.” [Senate, 11/17/2011]
How Congress Votes - With President Obama having signaled he will sign the bill, the Senate votes 86-13 in favor, with one abstention. Six Democrats and six Republicans vote against it, along with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). [Open Congress, 12/15/2011] The House votes 283-136 in favor of the bill, with 14 abstentions. Democrats are evenly divided, with 93 voting for the NDAA and 93 against. Republicans voting are overwhelmingly in favor: 190-43, almost four out of five. Obama will sign the NDAA into law by December 31, 2011 (see December 31, 2011). [Open Congress, 12/14/2011]
Fallout over Bill - The same day Congress votes to pass the bill, two senators who voted for it, Feinstein and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), introduce a bill to restrict presidential authority to indefinitely detain US citizens (see December 15, 2011). A poll that will be conducted shortly after the bill is passed finds that only one in four “likely voters” approve of it (see December 22-26, 2011). Less than six months after the bill is signed into law, a federal judge will issue a preliminary injunction barring enforcement under section 1021 (see May 16, 2012), in response to a lawsuit that will be filed by seven activists and journalists (see January 13, 2012).
A ‘tweet’ sent by College Republican Cassie Wright regarding President Obama. [Source: Twitter / Black Entertainment Television]The president of a Texas university branch of the College Republicans posts a racially charged rhyme about President Obama on Twitter. Cassandra Wright, the president of the University of Texas College Republicans, posts the following on Twitter: “My president is black, he snorts a lot of crack. Holla. #2012 #Obama.” The post comes a month after Wright’s predecessor as the president of the UT College Republicans, Lauren Pierce, said on Twitter that the idea of assassinating Obama was “tempting” (see November 16, 2011). Pierce retweets Wright’s “crack” post. Shortly after a progressive blog, the Burnt Orange Report, writes about Wright’s Twitter post, Wright takes her account private, thusly rendering her “tweets” inaccessible. Wright was chosen to succeed Pierce as the president of the UT chapter of the College Republicans on December 1; Pierce is the secretary of the Texas College Republicans. Wright refuses to confirm that the “crack” post is hers, and her grandmother says Wright’s Twitter account may have been hacked. Huey Fischer, president of the UT College Democrats, says: “I was really surprised by her tweet last night. It was clearly offensive and it definitely had that strain of racism in it. She seems like a really smart girl. She’s a really upbeat person. someone who seems politically correct most of the time.… I don’t know if her account was hacked or not. It could definitely have been just a careless remark. It was definitely insensitive. It was definitely inappropriate and not something someone in her position should have tweeted.” However, according to the Huffington Post, Wright recently posted the following racially inflammatory remark on Facebook: “What kind of messed up world is it when I’m studying hard in the library and the Asian guy next to me is watching America’s Next Top Model episodes on his laptop??” [Austin American-Statesman, 12/19/2011; KVUE-TV, 12/19/2011; Huffington Post, 12/20/2011] Asked by a commenter what being Asian had to do with anything, Wright responded: “Because Asians study a lot.… If you’re offended by my use of a stereotype then gtfo” (Internet slang for “get the f_ck out”). [Ben Sherman, 12/19/2011] A source described by KVUE-TV reporter Shelton Green as “a Republican insider” says that Wright may have gotten the idea for the tweet from a rap song titled “My President is Black.” The song contains no references to crack cocaine nor to Obama doing any drugs. [Austin American-Statesman, 12/19/2011; KVUE-TV, 12/19/2011; Huffington Post, 12/20/2011] A spokesman for the UT College Republicans issues a statement that reads: “The UT College Republicans neither condones any ‘tweeted’ remarks, nor any statements made by any member of our organization that may be hurtful and lacking in sensitivity. The opinion of our President Wright is that of her own not in keeping with our core values, our standards, and our code of conduct. While some within our organization may not respect the current president, UT College Republicans does respect the office of the president of the United States. We are all Americans, and even if we do not agree with certain policies, the UT College Republicans wish all our leaders well, as they are all dedicated to public service. I personally apologize for [the] ‘tweeted’ remark.” BET’s Joyce Jones observes: “Like Pierce before her, Wright’s tweets are marked private. And like Pierce, she will likely be looking for a new student leadership position soon. Not that her predecessor has learned her lesson one month after having to apologize for her poor taste.” [Black Entertainment Television, 12/16/2011] Burnt Orange Report blogger Ben Sherman will write: “In less than 140 characters, Wright brought shame upon her club, her university, and herself. This may be news to President Wright, but crack cocaine use is not limited to one race. Nor is this the year 1811, when such hate speech might be accepted in American political dialogue. Clearly, Wright did not learn anything from the [Pierce post]. Disgusting, hateful beliefs have been legitimized in the Republican Party so completely that the next generation of Republican leaders are barely distinguishable from the current crop of hate mongers.… This would be the time to call for Wright’s resignation if her resignation would make any difference at the College Republicans. But, clearly, it won’t. For now, all we can do is endure and publicly condemn this emblematic parade of hate.” [Ben Sherman, 12/19/2011]
The logo of InfoCision, the telemarketing firm that received much of the ASWF monies. [Source: InfoCision]Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) has apparently exploited a loophole in campaign finance law that has allowed him to build what McClatchy News calls “a political money machine that raised $54 million over five years,” according to McClatchy reports. Gingrich has used “a supposedly independent political committee that collected unlimited donations” to “finance… a coast-to-coast shadow campaign that raised his profile and provided a launch pad for his presidential run.” Critics call the ASWF issue another aftereffect of the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010).
$54 Million over 5 Years - The Gingrich-supporting PAC, “American Solutions for Winning the Future” (ASWF) was closed down in July 2011. Organized as a so-called “527 group” (see 2000 - 2005 and June 30, 2000), the tax-exempt, “nonprofit” organization raised $28.2 million in the two-year period ending December 31, 2010, the last period for which McClatchy has data. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that ASWF raised almost double the amount garnered by the next closest 527. The organization raised some $54 million throughout its existence, from 2006 to July 2011. McClatchy has learned some of the details behind ASWF and is now revealing them to the public. The organization provided at least $8 million to pay for the chartered luxury jets that Gingrich used to fly back and forth around the nation for public appearances and campaigning for president. The jet charters occurred during the 2008 and 2012 presidential primaries.
Largely Financed by Billionaire, Corporate Donations - ASWF has accepted enormous cash donations from billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino owner, who has emerged as Gingrich’s primary benefactor. Adelson has given $7.65 million to ASWF, including a million-dollar startup contribution in 2006. According to an Adelson spokesperson, “he and Speaker Gingrich go back a number of years.” Adelson is a prominent supporter and financier of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and like Gingrich holds far-right, aggressively territorial views about Israel. Gingrich has made provocative statements about Israel and the Palestinian people over the years, denying that the Palestinians are a separate people and declaring his support for Israel’s forced-settlement plans that have displaced many Palestinians. A Gingrich spokesman says Adelson and others merely gave to the organization because they agree with Gingrich’s views. Charlotte, North Carolina, real estate developer Fred Godley gave ASWF $1.1 million in 2007 and another $100,000 in 2009. Energy firms donated heavily to ASWF: Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal producer, and its chief lobbyist Fred Palmer gave ASWF $825,000. Arch Coal, the US’s second-largest coal company, gave $100,000. Oil and gas firm Devon Energy gave $400,000, as did American Electric Power Company and its CEO Michael Morris. Plains Exploration Company gave $200,000. The late Cincinnati billionaire Carl Lindner gave $690,000. Dallas real estate firm Crow Holdings gave $600,000. Minnesota broadcasting mogul Stanley Hubbard gave $385,000. Wisconsin businessman Terry Kohler gave $328,082. California businessman Fred Sacher gave $275,000. NASCAR president James France gave $264,000. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus gave $250,000. Another Las Vegas casino owner, the late Frank Fertitta Jr., gave $250,000, along with his sons; together the three of them co-owned a casino and the Ultimate Fighting Championship sports league. Former CarMax and Circuit City chief Richard Sharp gave $150,000. Stock brokerage titan Charles Schwab gave $150,000. Cincinnati Reds owner Robert Castellini gave $146,000. Political science professor Larry Sabato says that in light of such enormous contributions, “there’s no way that any politician is going to deny you much of anything that you want.”
New Super PACs Supplanting ASWF - In place of ASWF, two new pro-Gingrich super PACs have formed to support Gingrich’s attempt to close the gap between himself and frontrunner Mitt Romney (R-MA) in the Republican primary.
'Diabolical Scheme' to 'Circumvent' Campaign Finance Law - Campaign expert Lawrence Jacobs calls Gingrich’s use of ASWF “clever,” and adds, “Looking back, and now seeing Gingrich as the frontrunner… it’s an ingenious, diabolical scheme to circumvent what’s left of the campaign finance regime.” Jacobs says of the organization: “The money wasn’t used literally to finance a campaign for a particular office. It was used for a general, over-time campaign to keep Gingrich alive politically—an enormously luxurious campaign operation to sustain his political viability for the right time to jump into the presidential race. It’s no accident that he’s popped in in 2012.” Jacobs says ASWF operated “right on the line” of legality. Sabato says ASWF played a key role in resuscitating Gingrich’s flagging political career. His term as speaker of the House ended in scandal and resignation, and his high-profile divorces and profligate personal and campaign spending had led many to assume that Gingrich’s political career was over. But Sabato says Gingrich used ASWF to create what he calls a new kind of informal candidacy, one that shows the inherent weakness of campaign finance laws that are supposed to ensure “nobody could give so much money that they would become too influential, too powerful.” ASWF was always nominally independent, as required by law, but in 2009 Gingrich ousted its board of directors and took the title of general chairman. Gingrich never formed a formal exploratory committee before declaring his candidacy for president. McClatchy observes, “None of his Republican presidential rivals, nor any other federal candidate for that matter, is known to have operated such a committee before formally declaring his or her candidacy.” Gingrich spokesperson R.C. Hammon says Gingrich did not begin considering a presidential campaign until April 2011, and all of his committee activities were “legitimate.” Hammond says: “The purpose of American Solutions was to advance an agenda of free enterprise and tri-partisan solutions. Those were the activities he was undertaking.” ASWF is just one of a network of political entities that Gingrich has created over the last 10 years. He has managed to enrich himself by charging lucrative fees for speeches, consulting for undisclosed health care industry firms, and selling historical documentaries and books. After the group was formed in the fall of 2006, Gingrich sent a letter to potential backers calling it a unique organization “designed to rise above traditional gridlocked partisanship” and to develop “breakthrough solutions to the most important issues facing this country.” Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman who served on ASWF’s board for two years, says the group “certainly helped build his path back into political prominence.” He adds, “They basically sent Newt around the country promoting American Solutions.” Weber is now supporting Romney for the presidency. He says that ASWF had “not gotten really up to speed in terms of programming” when he received a call, apparently in 2008, advising him that the board was being abolished. Gingrich then took over as the group’s general chairman.
Relatively Little Spent on Campaign Initiatives, Most Spent on Raising More Money - ASWF proposed a number of campaign and advertising initiatives that would appeal to conservative donors, including:
a “Drill Now!” movement aimed at increasing US oil exploration;
attempts to rally opposition to President Obama’s health care reform efforts;
a campaign to fight climate change legislation that would call for reduced carbon emissions by industrial concerns.
But of $37.9 million raised from 2006 through 2009, the committee spent just $7.2 million on programs, according to its filings with the Internal Revenue Service. Most of the ASWF money was spent on telemarketers and direct-mail appeals to develop a loyal pool of wealthy contributors. InfoCision, an Ohio telemarketing firm that specializes in building lists of “small” donors, was paid some $30 million over the course of the organization’s existence, exhausting much of the money contributed. $17 million of that money was used to finance Gingrich’s travel. [McClatchy News, 12/19/2011; Think Progress, 12/19/2011]
Entity Tags: Bernie Marcus, Benjamin Netanyahu, Richard Sharp, R.C. Hammon, Plains Exploration Company, Sheldon Adelson, Stanley Hubbard, Terry Kohler, Vin Weber, American Electric Power Company, Barack Obama, American Solutions for Winning the Future, Willard Mitt Romney, Arch Coal, Newt Gingrich, Robert Castellini, McClatchy News, Michael Morris, Crow Holdings, Charles Schwab, Center for Responsive Politics, Carl Lindner, Devon Energy, Frank Fertitta Jr., Peabody Energy, Fred Palmer, Internal Revenue Service, InfoCision, James France, Fred Sacher, Larry J. Sabato, Fred Godley, Lawrence Jacobs
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2012 Elections
Ron Paul (r) removes his mic as CNN reporter Gloria Borger looks on. [Source: CNN / The Blaze]Republican presidential contender Ron Paul (R-TX) again denies any involvement in the racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic content printed in his newsletters for 16 years (see 1978-1996). CNN anchor Sanjay Gupta describes Paul as “kind of prickly” over the accusations of racism in the newsletters, and notes that “his story appears to have changed over the years.” In 1996, Paul admitted writing much of the newsletters’ content, admitted to the positions taken in the newsletters, and called questions about his newsletters “gutter politics” (see May 22 - October 11, 1996). He began denying their content, and his involvement in his newsletters, in 2001 (see October 1, 2001). In 2007 and 2008, he freely admitted supporting the implicitly racist John Birch Society (JBS—see July 22, 2007, August 4, 2008 and December 2011). He denied knowing anything about the newsletters’ objectionable content in 2008 (see January 8-15, 2008 and January 16, 2008) when the questions arose during that year’s presidential contests; Paul supporters accused rival libertarians of smearing Paul’s character (see January 12-15, 2008). In May 2011, Paul was one of five Republican presidential candidates to take part in a debate sponsored in part by the JBS and a racist militia group (see May 5, 2011). Today, Paul walks out of an interview with CNN reporter Gloria Borger rather than continue to answer her questions about his newsletters. He tells Borger that he read the newsletters published under his name “on occasion,” and implies that he was too busy with his medical practice to pay close attention to the newsletters. “You know, I didn’t write them and I don’t endorse those views and I’ve explained it many times,” he tells Borger. “I never read that stuff. I never—I would never—I came—I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written, and it’s been going on 20 years that people have pestered me about this, and CNN does every single time. So when are you going to wear yourself out?” Paul says even asking about the newsletters is not legitimate, and instead the media should just accept his denials and move on. Borger says such questioning is legitimate because “[t]hese things are pretty incendiary, you know.” Paul retorts, “Because of people like you.” When Borger presses the issue, Paul walks away and refuses to answer further questions. Conservative blogger Erick Erickson of RedState (.com), who is not a Paul supporter, asks Gupta why in 2008 Paul “allowed neo-Nazi Web sites to fundraise for him. We can ask him why three years ago he went on Iranian TV to say that Israelis had set up concentration camps to indiscriminately kill Palestinians.… But I think a more relevant question is, if we can’t go back and ask him these questions from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, why then he—can he go back to the ‘90s and attack [fellow Republican presidential candidates] Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney or Rick Perry for things? They wrote it. Does he believe this is a legitimate double standard?… Ron Paul supporters frequently attacked Barack Obama for sitting in Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church (see January 6-11, 2008) and Barack Obama has denied ever hearing Jeremiah Wright’s sermons. How is Ron Paul’s denial of knowing these things any different from going after Barack Obama for the Reverend Wright matter? There is none. They can’t defend that.” [CNN, 12/21/2011] Note: Erickson is referring to a specific sermon of Wright’s, where he denounced what he called America’s “white arrogance.” Obama did not hear the sermon because he was not in Illinois at the time (see August 1, 2008 and After).
Entity Tags: Willard Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Sanjay Gupta, James Richard (“Rick”) Perry, Erick Erickson, CNN, Barack Obama, Gloria Borger, John Birch Society, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, Newt Gingrich
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections
President Obama signs a controversial bill passed by Congress (see December 15, 2011), which gives the president power to order indefinite military detention for anyone deemed an enemy combatant, including US citizens arrested or captured in the United States. Obama had threatened to veto the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on a number of occasions, but once certain restrictions on presidential authority were removed, he became willing to sign it. For instance, the original version of the bill required that persons covered by the bill be held prisoner by the military and prosecuted by military tribunals, if at all. Obama was of the view that by requiring military detention, Congress was intruding on areas under the purview of the executive branch, and in ways that would impede the ability of the executive branch to effectively gather intelligence, fight terrorism, and protect national security. He also believed the bill was unnecessary and potentially risky in order to codify detention authority, and that the president already had authority, via the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) and subsequent court rulings, to unilaterally designate persons, including US citizens, as enemy combatants and subject them to indefinite military detention without trial. [White House, 12/31/2011; Salon, 12/15/2012] For the same reasons, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, CIA Director David Petraeus, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, White House Advisor for Counterterrorism John Brennan, and DOJ National Security Division head Lisa Monaco were also opposed to the mandatory military detention provisions. [ACLU, 12/7/2011] Also, according to Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), a sponsor of the NDAA, “[L]anguage which precluded the application of section 1031 [1021 in the final bill] to American citizens was in the bill we originally approved in the Armed Services Committee, and the administration asked us to remove the language which says that US citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section.” [Senate, 11/17/2011] With the bill drafted so that military detention was optional, and an option US citizens were subject to (see December 15, 2011), Obama signaled he would sign it, despite having concerns that it was still unduly restrictive of executive authority, and it unnecessarily codified authority that had been exercised for 10 years and had been upheld by a number of lower court decisions. [White House, 12/17/2011 ] However, in a non-binding signing statement attached to the bill, Obama says he is signing the bill “despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.” Obama does not specify what his reservations are, but promises: “[M]y administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.” [White House, 12/31/2011]
Controversy over Indefinite Detention Provisions - Though 86 percent of US senators and almost two-thirds of the House of Representatives voted to pass the NDAA (see December 15, 2011), and the bill is signed by Obama, the military detention measures are opposed by a number of constitutional experts and public interest organizations, and a significant percentage of the general public (see December 22-26, 2011).
Entity Tags: James R. Clapper Jr., Carl Levin, Barack Obama, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice, US Department of Defense, Leon Panetta, Robert S. Mueller III, John O. Brennan, David Petraeus, Lisa Monaco
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
More than a dozen state and local government bodies pass or begin debate on laws or resolutions condemning provisions for indefinite military detention in a recently passed federal law, or limiting cooperation with the federal government on enforcement of the controversial section of the law. The law is the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense spending bill, and the controversial sections are 1021 and 1022, which codify indefinite military detention, without charge or trial, of anyone accused of supporting groups hostile to the United States, including US citizens and including persons arrested in the United States (see December 15, 2011). President Obama signed the bill into law on December 31, 2011 (see December 31, 2011). The bill began generating controversy six months earlier, after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) highlighted the indefinite military detention provisions (see July 6, 2011 and after). [Tenth Amendment Center, 12/31/2011; People's Campaign for the Constitution, 12/31/2011]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.