Monthly Archives: November 2009

Palin’s Literary Klavern

When rumors reverberated through the media about Sarah Palin’s supposed impending divorce from her husband Todd, she called one of her favored conservative bloggers, Robert Stacy McCain, to spike the story. McCain eagerly recorded Palin’s response and reported it on his blog almost as soon as he hung up. “Divorce Todd? Have you seen Todd?” Palin confided to McCain. “I may be a renegade hockey mom, but I’m not blind!” This is the one McCain she’s happy to collaborate with.

In January, a writer for the American Conservative magazine named Clark Stooksbury joked that because of his unrelenting enthusiasm, Robert Stacy McCain would be the perfect ghostwriter for Palin’s forthcoming memoir, Going Rogue. McCain responded by recommending an old pal for the job. “Actually, I’d think myDonkey Cons co-author Lynn Vincent might be ideal for the job,” he wrote, “since she’s already co-authored the bestseller Same Kind of Different As Me.

Perhaps McCain was joking as well. Or perhaps he knew something no one else did. In May, just four months after McCain mentioned her name, Vincent was selected to be the official ghostwriter of Palin’s memoir. A staff writer for the conservative evangelical magazine, World, Vincent first encountered Palin at a speech the former Republican vice presidential nominee gave before an Indiana anti-abortion group in April. Describing herself as “an abortion survivor,” Vincent remarked in a blog post that Palin’s revelation that she considered aborting her son, Trig, who has Downs Syndrome, made her seem “very real, very human.”

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How Palin Became Indispensable While Destroying the Republican Party

A shorter version of this article appeared in the LA Times op-ed section. And click here to hear me discuss how Palin went rogue.

Sarah Palin’s heavily publicized book tour begins in earnest this Monday, but weeks before, her ghostwritten memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, had already vaulted into the number one position at Amazon. Warming up for a tour that will take her across Middle America in a bus, Palin tested her lines in a November 7th speech before a crowd of 5,000 anti-abortion activists in Wisconsin. She promptly cited an urban legend as a “disturbing trend,” claiming the Treasury Department had moved the phrase “In God We Trust” from presidential dollar coins. (The rumor most likely originated with a 2006story on the far-right website WorldNetDaily.)

In fact, a suggested alteration in its position on the coin was shot down in 2007 after pressure from Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. Nonetheless, Palin did not hesitate to take up this “controversy,” however false, since it conveniently pits a tyrannical, God-destroying, secular big government against humble God-fearing folk. In doing so, of course, she presented herself as this nation’s leading defender of the faith.

In a Republican Party hoping to rebound in 2010 on the strength of a newly energized and ideologically aroused conservative grassroots, Palin’s influence is now unparalleled. Through her Twitter account, she was the one who pushed the rumor of “death panels” into the national healthcare debate, prompting the White House to issue a series of defensive responses. Unfazed by its absurdity, she repeated the charge in her recent speech in Wisconsin. In a special congressional election in New York’s 23rd congressional district, Palin’s endorsement of Doug Hoffman, an unknown far-right third-party candidate, helped force a popular moderate Republican politician, Dede Scozzafava, from the race. In the end, Palin’s ideological purge in upstate New York led to an improbable Democratic victory, the first in that GOP-heavy district in more than 100 years.

Though the ideological purge may have backfired, Palin’s participation in it magnified her influence in the party. In a telling sign of this, Congressman Mark Kirk, a pro-choice Republican from the posh suburban North Shore of Chicago, running for the Senate in Illinois, issued an anxious call for Palin’s support while she campaigned for Hoffman. According to a Kirk campaign memo, the candidate was terrified that Palin would be asked about his candidacy during her scheduled appearance on the Chicago-based Oprah Winfrey Show later this month — the kick-off for her book tour — and would not react enthusiastically. With $2.3 million in campaign cash and no viable primary challengers, Kirk was still desperate to avoid Palin-backed attacks from his right flank, however hypothetical they might be.

“She’s gangbusters!” a leading conservative radio host exclaimed to me. “There is nobody in the Republican Party who can raise money like her or top her name recognition.”

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The Great Teabag Disaster in NY-23

Doug Hoffmans loss in NY-23 was a repudiation of the right-wing purge of moderates

Doug Hoffman's loss in NY-23 was a repudiation of the right-wing purge of moderates

On a night when conservatives expected a landmark victory in New York’s 23rd congressional district, the movement’s anointed candidate, Doug Hoffman, instead went down in a startling defeat to Democrat Bill Owens. The official Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, had dropped out days before and thrown her support to Owens after the conservative movement backed Hoffman in a campaign to destroy her, attacking her as a closet socialist with a cynical, hidden agenda—the same terms they have used to demonize President Barack Obama.

Hoffman’s rejection by rank-and-file voters in a solidly Republican district dampened the conservatives’ mood on an otherwise upbeat night and raised serious questions about the movement’s attempt to purge moderates from party ranks. Now, many of Hoffman’s right-wing cheerleaders are struggling to explain their dubious gambit, while others fear repercussions for their zealotry.

“Watch [Owens’ victory] be spun as a defeat for Sarah Palin and the hateful extreme right-wing of the Republican party,” National Review online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez  warned on the conservative magazine’s blog. She added: “(Hi! See George Pataki standing next to me?),” referring to the moderate Republican former New York governor and failed presidential candidate who basked in publicity after endorsing Hoffman.

With endorsements from the National Rifle Association, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican Party elders Newt Gingrich and New York Rep. Peter King, Scozzafava was assured an easy victory. Then Hoffman declared his candidacy on the Conservative Party line. Hoffman was a lawyer and Tea Party activist who did not live in the district and, according to the local Watertown Daily-Times, “showed no grasp of the bread-and-butter issues pertinent to district residents.” Offered as his only selling point: ideological purity.

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Republican Gomorrah with Real Change

Rosette Royale of Seattle’s Real Change interviewed me about “Republican Gomorrah” back in September. Here’s the full transcript of a pretty substantial discussion:

“Republican Gomorrah:” You know, Gomorrah’s a Biblical town that’s linked to Sodom and, essentially, things didn’t go so well. So why choose Gomorrah as part of the title?

And I managed to look into Gomorrah and not turn into a pillar of salt.

It’s a reference to the Republican experiment — from the Gingrich Revolution in ’94 to the end of the Bush era — and during that time, a Gomorrah-like sea of scandals exploded into the open, ranging from the bizarre sexual escapades of rightwing, supposed family-values Republicans from Ted Haggard [the evangelical preacher caught having sex with a male escort while using meth] to Larry Craig [the former Idaho Republican senator arrested for lewd conduct in an airport bathroom] to David Vitter [the Louisiana Republican senator who frequented a high-end prostitute called the “D.C. Madam”], to lesser known figures who did even more bizarre acts, to the wanton criminality of Tom DeLay, “The Hammer,” who [was charged with money laundering and violating campaign finance laws and] was the majority leader of Congress. And these scandals, to me, while they’re entertaining, they suggest a lot of hypocrisy. I wanted to go beyond that and show how they reflected an essential sensibility of the Christian Right, and how bringing that movement into that party brought the party down.

When did this movement begin? You mention Newt Gingrich.

The movement had been building capacity in the 1960s, and my narrative sort of starts in the Civil Rights struggle, and Jerry Falwell was inveighing against Martin Luther King from the pulpit: He’s attacking King for being political and saying preachers shouldn’t be. Falwell was primarily concerned with his private Christian schools being integrated and King was a threat to that. The irony of attacking King as political can’t be lost — [To me:] I don’t know how long I can go with the answer.

As long as you want.

So moving from the Deep South with Falwell, I move to the Swiss Alps, to a hippie commune run by a guy named Francis Schaeffer, who was the quintessential Jesus freak. Timothy Leary, the LSD guru, came to visit him; Jimmy Page, from Led Zeppelin, was a fan.

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US Non-Profit Bankrolled Settlement Home Of Accused Jewish Terrorist Jack Teitel

Yaakov “Jack” Teitel, a resident of the Jewish settlement outpost Shvut Rachel, was arrested by Israel’s Shabak for his alleged murder of two Palestinians and planned terrorist attacks on a left-wing academic and homosexuals. Teitel, an immigrant from Florida who was granted Israeli citizenship through the country’s “right of return” policy for Jews, is the second accused terrorist to emerge from Shvut Rachel. The first, Asher Weisgan, murdered five Palestinian co-workers in 2005 in an effort to derail the Gaza disengagement.

So what’s the matter with Shvut Rachel? Was Teitel a lone wolf, as many, including Amos Harel, have argued? Or was the settlement an ideological seedbed for acts of terror against Palestinians and their allies?

Until Shabak’s investigation has concluded, there will be no way to know if Teitel had operational assistance, though the fact that it took Israeli security forces over 12 years after Teitel’s first killing spree to arrest him, and the ease with which he transported a fearsome cache of explosives and weaponry into his settlement, raise serious questions. What is clear, however, is that Shvut Rachel was founded on an ideology consistent with the radical beliefs Teitel apparently attempted to translate into violent action.

Ronit Shuker and her late husband Yosef founded the settlement in the hills east of Shiloh with explicitly political motives; they claimed to have been incited to action by the Palestinian murder of Jewish Shiloh resident Rachel Druck. For the Shukers, Shvut Rachel’s expansion became a means to send a message to the surrounding Palestinian population.

When I interviewed Ronit Shuker in May 2009, she spoke the same eliminationist language that might have resonated with Teitel. “The government doesn’t know how to deal with [the Palestinians],” Shuker told me. “If I was Prime Minister, I would send all of them to Iran, to Sudan, to Egypt, to Jordan. I would wish them all the best, but not in the land of Israel.”

Shvut Rachel founder and Moskowitz grantee Ronit Shuker appears at 2:23 to call for forcibly transferring Palestinians out of the “Land of Israel”

I interviewed Shuker immediately after she was honored at the 2009 Moskowitz Awards For Zionism ceremony in Jerusalem with $50,000 and the “Lion of Zion” prize. The gala, which brought together hundreds of radical settlers with sympathetic Israeli political bigwigs, from MK Benny Begin to National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, was made possible by the financial generosity of the 501 c-3 non profit of Irving Moskowitz. So who is Moskowitz?

A close confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Moskowitz has funneled millions in profits from his California-based Hawaiian Gardens casino, where he has been sued for exploiting undocumented workers, into settlement construction projects in the West Bank, including Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. He has also funded several neoconservative think tanks including a research center named after Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, who was killed while leading the Entebbe rescue raid in 1976. Moskowitz and Netanyahu have remained close since he established the center.

In 1996, Moskowitz convinced Netanyahu, in his first round as prime minister, to open a tunnel adjacent to the Temple Mount, a controversial act that led to several days of rioting and 70 deaths. Four years later, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the tunnel set off the so-called Al-Aqsa uprising, the opening salvo of the Second Intifada. Now, Moskowitz’s imprint on the West Bank’s landscape is most clearly reflected from the settlement he bankrolls called Kiryat Arba, a center of Orthodox Jewish radicalism that was once home to the terrorist Baruch Goldstein, to Shvut Rachel, the colony that spawned the terrorists Weisgan and Teitel.

The Moskowitz Foundation makes no mention on its website of its support for radical Jewish settlements. The extent of Moskowitz’s support for settlements is difficult to track because he does not disclose his grant recipients. I was only able to connect Moskowitz to Shvut Rachel through my interview with Shuker. Despite his preference for operating under cover of darkness, Moskowitz has been exposed once again by his connection, however peripheral, to acts of Jewish terrorism against Palestinians. Yet he has never been held accountable. Why has Moskowitz been allowed to funnel money through a tax-exempt non-profit into radical settlements that pose a clear and present danger not only to Palestinian civilians, but to US security interests as well? If the White House is serious about restricting settlement growth and imposing a two-state solution, it should arrange a visit by the IRS to the Moskowitz Foundation.