On October 25, while an overflow crowd of 1,500 poured into the first convention of the progressive-leaning Israel-oriented lobbying organization J Street, Elie Wiesel addressed a crowd of 6,000 Christian Zionists at Pastor John Hagee’s “Night To Honor Israel.” According to the San Antonio Express News, while Wiesel sat by his side, Hagee trashed President Barack Obama, baselessly accusing him of “being tougher on Israel than on Russia, Iran, China and North Korea.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who appeared at Hagee’s Christians United for Israel summit earlier this year, rejected J Street’s request to speak at their convention, instead dispatching a low-level embassy official to “observe” the event. Oren then accused J Street of “impair[ing] Israel’s interests.”
In blessing Hagee while damning J Street, Wiesel and Oren chose an anti-Semitic group led by a far-right End Times theology preacher over a fledgling progressive organization that bills itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” And both Wiesel and Oren seem to be embroiled in yet another controversy over involvement with the extremist preacher.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain avidly sought Hagee’s endorsement, appearing by the pastor’s side during a widely publicized press conference to announce it. McCain was intent on winning a seal of approval from a figure of the Christian right, especially since he had lambasted Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in the 2000 Republican presidential primaries.
Hagee: The Antichrist will be “partially Jewish…as Hitler was”
Bob McDonnell and his mentor Pat Robertson in 2007
Last summer, after Virginia state Senator Creigh Deeds crushed his rivals in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, a veteran Democratic consultant named Lowell Feld offered the Deeds campaign some advice. Feld told me he urged Deeds to immediately launch an attack campaign painting his Republican rival, state Attorney General Bob McDonnell, as “Pat Robertson’s Manchurian Candidate.” If Deeds wavered, Feld was convinced McDonnell could make inroads in the liberal-leaning but fiercely competitive suburbs of Northern Virginia.
While many Republican candidates pander to the Christian right to win elections in evangelical-heavy states, McDonnell has done exactly the opposite in the Virginia governor’s race: He’s appealing to the sensibilities of comparatively moderate Northern Virginian voters. But that’s not because he’s a moderate. In fact, McDonnell is a consummate culture warrior; a graduate of Pat Robertson’s law school, Regent University, and a personal friend of the far-right televangelist, who donated heavily to his past campaigns.
During an appearance on Robertson’s 700 Club in 2007, McDonnell said his four years at Regent “gave me the insight about what our Founders believed about government and about their view of the Constitution that I’ve been carrying with me on the job today.”
Before I first appeared on Morning Joe on September 22, I was warned about Joe Scarborough’s tendency to filibuster guests he does not agree with, and to do so in a belligerent manner. But to my surprise, the former Republican congressman proved a remarkably genial host, presiding over a civil but spirited discussion of my book, Republican Gomorrah and extremism in the GOP.
Perhaps Joe’s civility was rooted in cluelessness; when I was announced on the set as “the YouTube Michael Moore,” Scarborough excitedly asked a producer if I was “the ACORN guy,” referring to James O’Keefe, the young right-wing activist whose hidden cameras prompted a congressional investigation into the Obama-linked community- organizing group. Nevertheless, by the end of my segment, Joe promised to bring me back on. “I want to debate you more on this,” Scarborough insisted.
I returned on October 7, just days after Scarborough instigated a food fight with Rush Limbaugh, by criticizing his higher-rated competitor for celebrating Obama’s failure to secure the 2016 Olympics for Chicago. Scarborough opened the segment by launching a scattershot of breathless accusations at me, including that I was being “intolerant” of evangelical Christians “concerned by the radicalism of the 1960s.”
NPR’s Here And Now aired Robin Young’s interview with me today. We were able to cover lots of new territory in the interview, from the roles of Francis Schaeffer and R.J. Rushdoony in inspiring the Christian right’s tactics and goals, to Dwight Eisenhower’s prophecy about the radical right, to the birth of the terrorist wing of the anti-abortion movement, to the weird intersection of the LaRouche cult and the anti-Obama crazies. Listen to it at the 4:20 mark here.
My interview with the LA Times is up and can be viewed here. “At the state level” was incorrectly transcribed as “at the stake,” as if I was referring to a witch burning (I was interviewed in a loud cafe so it may have been hard to hear on the recorder). But the Times’ Lori Kozlowski had a clear understanding of the psychological themes that underpin the narrative of my book and asked some provocative questions, including about whether Obama has fulfilled the expectations of his most fervent liberal backers:
Why’d you write this book?
I’ve been covering the radical right — primarily the Christian right — for six years, particularly their role in national politics and how they took over the Republican Party. I covered the 2008 campaign intensely, and I covered the 2006 midterms. So, this book is really just a culmination of my reporting and my research and my analysis.
There have been a lot of books about this movement, but I wanted to write something unique that not only told people who the players are and what they do, but why they are the way they are. I think that’s what people want to know. Because that’s what really animates how the movement will behave in the future.
So, you’re in your early thirties.
I’m 31. Bar mitzvah age backwards.
Do you have any interest in running for political office?
None at all.
Do you want to continue to cover politics?
Yeah, I intend to do what I’m doing, but more. More intensely.
So I got into it with Joe Scarborough today on Morning Joe. Joe came out of the gate hard, assigning what I think were false equivalencies between the Democratic establishment and the far-right controlled GOP, and we were soon locked in a heated confrontation. I regret that our discussion became so contentious since Joe was gracious to invite me back on and we seemed to have had a good rapport in the past. Afterwards I gave Joe a little box of Sarah Palin Embarassmints and handed Tom Brokaw a copy of my book. Joe was visibly upset. Brokaw flipped through the book and remarked to me (as I was being rushed off a very tense set), “I’ll read any book that has at least two references to Bristol Palin!”
Update: I’ll be on the Ed Show tonight (9.7) at 6:48ET on MSNBC.
Update #2: Danny Shea has posted a write-up of the confrontation at HuffPost.
College Rethuglicans attempted -- and failed -- to shut down my recent appearance at UC-Riverside
I’ll be writing about my appearance at UC-Riverside, during which a mob of College Rethuglicans attempted to shut us down — and failed miserably. They were an exhibit of everything I discuss in Republican Gomorrah. The night ended with the crowd on its feet and the Republicans severely demoralized. Bethany Brendon, who has profiled me before for the Highlander Newspaper, summarized the event and interviewed me about it:
Max Blumenthal is not a man afraid of controversy. The award winning journalist has been censored by YouTube, accused of being a “self-hating Jew,” and has received numerous death threats. But before last Thursday, he could never say that protesters marched in front of him with signs repudiating his leftist message.
Now he can.
At an event held at the University Theater on Thursday, Oct. 1 to promote his book, “Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party,” Blumenthal, the son of Sidney Blumenthal, former President Bill Clinton’s aide, spoke and showed a few of his investigative videos to the crowd. Afterwards, he and a discussion panel were interrupted by a group of College Republicans protesting his work.
“It shows that I’m making an impact and that the opposition views me as somebody who has done a lot of damage to their cause,” 31-year-old Blumenthal explained later over a drink at Mario’s, a bar and restaurant in downtown Riverside.