Monthly Archives: September 2009

More Grit, and Book Tour Info

I’m in Alaska now, about to do Shannyn Moore’s show on 700AM — we’ll be posting links so those of you not in Anchorage can listen. Then I’m heading the University of Alaska-Anchorage to talk about Republican Gomorrah. The talk begins at 8PM in room 150 of the arts center.

On Monday at 8PM I’ll be speaking at Powell’s Books in Portland and the following night I’ll be in the Bay Area at the Berkeley Arts Center for a live broadcast with KPFA. Then I head down to LA for a series of events including the University of California-Riverside at 7:30PM on October 1st and Book Soup in Hollywood at 2PM on October 4th. For now, watch me discuss my book with Laura Flanders.

Fact-Checking My Morning Joe Appearance

I made some claims on Morning Joe today that Joe Scarborough disputed. As promised, here are the facts to back up my completely accurate claims (actually, it looks like I understated my case):

According to a Kos/Research 2000 poll, 58% of Republicans are not sure Barack Obama was born in the United States.

A Public Policy poll shows 14% of Republicans in New Jersey believe Barack Obama is the anti-Christ and 15% of Republicans are “not sure” if Obama is the anti-Christ or not — that’s 29% of Republicans in a blue state who refuse to reject the notion that Obama is the Devil incarnate.

Republican Senator Jim Demint is on the record declaring that single, pregnant women should not be allowed to teach in public schools — nor should open homosexuals.

Irving Kristol’s Alliance With Anti-Semites

Irving Kristol orchestrated the alliance between Jewish neocons and anti-semitic evangelicals

Irving Kristol orchestrated the alliance between Jewish neocons and anti-semitic evangelicals

By the time Irving Kristol died on September 18 at the age of 89, he had transformed the Republican Party through the neoconservative philosophy he helped pioneer. A former Trotskyist, Kristol promoted the supply-side economic theories that formed the foundation of the Reagan administration’s domestic agenda. At the same time, he tapped industry trade groups and right-wing sugardaddies for massive donations, enabling the birth of an apparatus of conservative think tanks that would provide the future Republican Congress of Gingrich and DeLay, and the George W. Bush White House, with their policy blueprint.

These highlights of Kristol’s career have been detailed at length in the many obituaries about his death. But the story of one of Kristol’s most momentous — and cynical — maneuvers, the brokering of a tactical alliance between Jewish neoconservatives and openly anti-Semitic evangelicals, has been generally omitted.

In my book, “Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party,” I describe how Kristol initiated the alliance in July 1984, urging that American Jews, “enmeshed in the liberal time warp,” ally with Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority.

Kristol’s apologia was inspired by the anti-Semitic ravings of a preacher named Bailey Smith. “I don’t know why God chose the Jews,” Smith had said. “They have such funny noses.” When Jewish groups pounced on those remarks and on those of Jerry Falwell, who told his followers that Jews “can make more money accidentally than you can on purpose,” Kristol rushed to the preachers’ defense.

“Why should Jews care about the theology of a fundamentalist preacher when they do not for a moment believe that he speaks with any authority on the question of God’s attentiveness to human prayer?” Kristol wrote. “And what do such theological abstractions matter as against the mundane fact that this same preacher is vigorously pro-Israel?”

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True Grit

Here I am with Kai Wright and Janeane Garafolo on Laura Flanders’ Grit TV discussing Acorn, Jimmy Carter’s comments on race, and the 9-12 march. Next week my one-on-one with Laura about Republican Gomorrah will air.

Jane Smiley Reviews “Republican Gomorrah”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley on Republican Gomorrah: Terrific...but appalling.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley on Republican Gomorrah: "Terrific...but appalling."

Jane Smiley’s review, from the Huffington Post:

About twenty years ago, I read an article about a death row inmate who had shot a clerk in a convenience store. The way the murder was presented by the man on death row was mysterious–his hand just rose up and the gun went off. Shooting the clerk in the face in the midst of a robbery wasn’t in fact his fault. He never said, “I shot a man.” It just happened.

I thought of that man while reading Max Blumenthal’s terrific, but also, of course, appalling new book, Republican Gomorrah. Apparently there isn’t a single person in the present incarnation of the Republican party who does anything. Things happen–God does it. Satan does it. No Republican is an agent of his or her own success or failure, sin or redemption. It just happens.

The consequences of this lack of responsibility are there for all to see–screaming threats, guns at rallies, unhinged behavior every time a Republican doesn’t feel the way he or she wants to feel, absolute sense of powerlessness leading directly to an absolute will to power. Because that was the thing that struck me about the murderer in the 7-11–he had the power and in his own last moments, the clerk knew it. But the killer, no matter how well armed, never felt it.

Republican Gomorrah is a frightening book because it is clear to all of us on the outside that the various Republican operatives who surround James Dobson and his ilk have no consciences and will stop at nothing. They invoke the name of God for purposes that shame God absolutely–hurting, destroying, maiming, and damning others who either don’t accept their beliefs or don’t acknowledge their power and righteousness. Of course that is frightening.

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Six Questions With Scott Horton of Harper’s on “Republican Gomorrah”

1. You open your first chapter with a portrait of R.J. Rushdoony, the son of survivors of the Armenian genocide, who devoted his life to a socially conservative vision of Calvinism that sees the United States as a political extension of that religion. What led you to pick a fairly exotic figure like Rushdoony as a starting point for your account, when most students of the religious right in America would put the Southern Baptists at the movement’s heart?

Rushdoony’s tomes advocating the replacement of America’s constitutional democracy with a theocracy based on Leviticus case law–under which disobedient children, witches, adulterers, abortion doctors, and blasphemers would be executed–provided the antecedents of the Christian right with a blueprint for the government it hoped to establish. Rushdoony’s vision of the church supplanting government functions like healthcare and schooling, a system he called Christian Reconstructionism, also influenced the rise of right-wing libertarianism.

Bush faith-based initiatives guru Marvin Olasky referenced Rushdoony in some his early writings. Olasky was clearly influenced by the libertarian undercurrents of Christian Reconstructionism. Rushdoony’s greatest financial angel was another libertarian: Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., a reclusive far-right businessman and the son of one of Southern California’s most renowned philanthropists. As I report in my book, Rushdoony became Ahmanson’s surrogate father after he inherited $300 million dollars at age 18, then went crazy, spending two years in a mental institution. In return, Ahmanson funded Rushdoony’s think tank as well as initiatives from Intelligent Design to California’s anti-gay Prop 8 that have advanced his dream of American theocracy.

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Inside The 9.12 Project: “Get The Gov’t Out Of My Social Security!”

While Fox News cameras covering the so-called 9.12 Project on the National Mall lurched away from signs morphing President Barack Obama’s face into Adolph Hitler’s, I zoomed in. Histrionics and manufactured paranoia were hard to avoid at the massive September 12 anti-Obama rally orchestrated by Fox News host Glenn Beck and former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s corporate lobbying front group, Freedom Works.

When I dove into the angry mob with a camera, I captured scenes of self-proclaimed “real Americans” declaring that the community organizing group Acorn was Obama’s version of Hitler’s SS; that the President planned to establish concentration camps for right-wing dissidents; and that Obama was raising a private army in the guise of a civilian volunteer force. The death panel rumor is just one of a rapidly growing array of conspiracy theories reverberating through the Republican base. Each one is more hysterical than the last.

Conspiracism has proven a useful tool for distracting many of the 9.12 Project participants I met from their own economic interests. Having been convinced through endless hours of right-wing media that government involvement in their healthcare would lead to totalitarian slavery, some demonstrators told me they were content to not have healthcare at all. Others said they would stop collecting their Social Security as soon as “the government gets out of my life.”

My video tour of the 9.12 Project is yet another exhibit of how the Republican Party’s big tent became a one-ring circus that operates according to the rules of P.T. Barnum: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

(For the inside story of how the radical right took over the GOP and drove it to the margins, check out my new book, “Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party.”)