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Today's Republican Reality Revealed In 90 Seconds

It’s rare beyond measure that 90 seconds of Fox and Friends can be said to offer real insights into our current political climate. But this morning’s broadcast did just that.

The first insight came courtesy of Ted Cruz’s father. Rafael Cruz told Indiana’s Christian voters that they must choose between voting for God’s candidate – his son – and “the destruction of America.”

I exhort every member of the body of Christ to vote according to the word of God and vote for the candidate that stands on the word of God and on the Constitution of the United States of America. And I am convinced that man is my son Ted Cruz. The alternative could be the destruction of America.

The only thing new about Rafael Cruz’s rhetoric is that it was broadcast on Fox and Friends. He says this kind of stuff – and worse – all the time in his role as a valuable campaign surrogate. Rafael has spent so much time on the Religious Right circuit that he’s become a folk hero of sorts in his own right.

Rafael is an ardent Christian nationalist whose book spouts the discredited theories of Religious Right “historian” David Barton. Rafael, like his son’s other most ardent supporter, broadcaster Glenn Beck, believes Ted Cruz has been anointed by God to lead America. It’s one reason Cruz won the Christian-nation primary, lining up endorsements from the overwhelming majority of Religious Right organizational and political leaders.

When Fox asked Donald Trump about Rafael’s comments, he responded, “It's disgraceful that his father can go out and do that. And just – so many people are angry about it. And the evangelicals are angry about it the way he does that.”

Trump might have stopped right there, making the point that he does in fact get a lot of votes from self-described evangelicals (mostly those who don’t go to church that faithfully) and that it’s a bad idea for the Cruz campaign to claim God’s endorsement. That would have left us in the unfamiliar and somewhat uncomfortable position of agreeing with Trump. (Although not with Trump’s suggestion had Rafael should not be “allowed to say it.”)

But Trump did not stop there. He went on to spout a conspiracy theory — recently elevated by the National Enquirer after floating around the dark corners of the far-right internet — linking Rafael Cruz with the CIA and JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald based on an old photograph that some people think looks like Rafael:

You know, his father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. I mean, they don't even talk about that. That was reported and nobody talks about it.

Coming from Trump, you might say this was disgraceful but hardly surprising. Trump, of course, was an early and ardent birther who harangued the White House about President Obama’s birth certificate, and has since embraced a wide array of conspiracy theories on everything from Justice Scalia’s death to Muslim residents of New Jersey celebrating on 9/11.

And Trump has appeared on the radio show of Alex Jones, who Right Wing Watch has called “one of the most notorious and, frankly bizarre conspiracy theorists out there.” Jones, for example, promotes the idea that the shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school was “staged” as a “false flag” operation designed to ease the way for Obama to confiscate Americans’ guns. Oh, and the fact that flies are “always landing on him” is evidence that Obama is “a demonic creature.”

When he appeared on the show, Trump gushed to Jones, “Your reputation is amazing.” And Jones has continued to return the favor, praising Trump and warning that Democrats are planning to go “full-authoritarian” and that if Trump loses, “this really could be one of the last real elections.” Trump confidant Roger Stone has repeatedly made the case for Trump on Jones’ show.

So there, in one and a half minutes, is today’s Republican Party, whose two frontrunners for the presidential nomination are a Christian-nation candidate who complains that people of faith have allowed “nonbelievers” to set the nation’s course and a conspiracy-theory-promoting demagogue who will say anything he thinks will help him take power.

Congratulations, GOP!

Video captured by TPM

Glenn Beck: Mocking Me For Asking For Fasting And Prayer Is A Sign That America Is 'Done'

Campaigning for Ted Cruz in Indiana, Glenn Beck is once again asking his supporters to engage in prayer and fasting before the Republican primary, writing on Facebook yesterday:

I have asked for this in the past and was mocked. It is okay.

I would like to ask that you, your family and friends join me for a day of prayers, fasting and humility. To beg the Lord to not remove His hand from us. To turn to Him and ask that He will heal our land.

Beginning Monday night and running for 24 hours ending on Tuesday will you pray and if possible fast like you have never done before?

Beck's plea yesterday was linked to by the Drudge Report, which predictably upset Beck, who declared on his radio program that the fact that he gets mocked for asking for prayer is a sign that America is "done."

Beck has been feuding with the right-wing website as he campaigns for Cruz and regularly complains the Drudge is engaging in anti-Christian bigotry by supposedly mocking him for his repeated declarations that Cruz has been anointed by God to save America.

Saying that fasting and prayer turned the tide during the Civil War, Beck declared that America must humble itself before God because we are mocking Him at every turn.

When "conservative bastions," Beck said, "are coming out and mocking people who believe in God, who believe in divine providence, who believe that the Constitution and Declaration are divine documents, when you mock that, we're done."

GOP Taking Supreme Court Orders From Radical Gun Group

Among the groups pressuring Republicans in the Senate to continue their blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee is Gun Owners of America, a gun lobby group that holds considerable sway on Capitol Hill despite its history of promoting wild conspiracy theories, frequent warnings to elected officials that they should fear assassination and deep ties to radical militia groups and white supremacists.

GOA has circulated a petition to its members claiming that Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, “would reverse your ability to own a gun” and “hates the Second Amendment,” basing its claims on exceedingly thin evidenceWhile these attacks on Garland’s record have been widely discreditedseveral Republican senators have pointed to the judge’s supposed disrespect for the Second Amendment as a reason to oppose him.

GOA’s general counsel, Michael Hammond, brought these claims to an op-ed in USA Today on Sunday, which GOA followed up with a video claiming again that Garland “hates the Second Amendment” and that if he gets on the court “good people will go to prison for exercising their constitutional rights.” Obama’s nomination of Garland, the video warns, is “the most significant step in his sordid trail towards transforming our nation.”

This paranoid and exaggerated language is typical of a group that has ties to the violent militia fringes of the Right and stays afloat by promoting conspiracy theories about various federal plots to snatch law-abiding people’s guns.

Tim Macy, the group’s chairman and the head of a “Second Amendment Coalition” on Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, used similar rhetoric in March when he said that the Garland nomination was Obama’s “last-ditch effort” to “ruin the Second Amendment and destroy this country.”

The group’s executive director, Larry Pratt, went even further when he implied that Garland should fear assassination if he displeases gun groups. “Happily, the Second Amendment is all about people like Judge Garland, so there is a limit to how far he can go, I think,” Pratt told radical radio host Rick Wiles.

Pratt frequently makes similar comments. We wrote last year:

In an interview last year, Pratt said that being afraid of assassination was “a healthy fear” for members of Congress to have, because that’s what makes them “behave.” When Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, who had felt threatened by one of GOA’s members, complained about his comments, Pratt doubled down, saying that elected officials should fear “ the cartridge box” and accusing the congresswoman of being “ foolish” and having “a hissy fit .” Later, he boasted that Democratic proponents of stricter gun laws are “afraid of getting shot and they ought to be!”

On his weekly radio program last year, Pratt said that President Obama should learn from the example of Charles I, who was executed for treason in the 17th century:

Pratt’s view of the Second Amendment as a tool for a well-armed minority of insurrectionists to take on a government they disagree with comes straight from the fringe militia movement, which Pratt helped shape in the 1990s.

And that’s not all. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “In 1996, Pratt was forced to resign as co-chairman of Patrick J. Buchanan's presidential campaign when it was publicized that he had been a speaker at the 1992 Gathering of Christian Men in Estes Park, Colo., where he rubbed shoulders with neo-Nazis, Klansmen, adherents of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology, and other radicals.”

More recently, Pratt was a cheerleader for the armed militias who staged a standoff with the federal government at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada, saying that the incident came “very close” to provoking “a civil war between the people and the government.”

In his role at the helm of GOA, Pratt is happy to stir up conspiracy theories and anti-government paranoia in an effort to turn his group’s membership against any attempt at reasonable gun law reform.

He has humored radical radio hosts who have suggested that the Sandy Hook school and Aurora movie theater massacres were inside jobs designed by the government.

And, as we wrote last year, Pratt has plenty of conspiracy theories of his own:

… He has claimed that Obama is building up a private security force within the Department of Homeland Security to use for his own purposes “if he can’t actually commandeer the military”; warned that Obama will enlist undocumented immigrants into a private “ Praetorian guard” and advise police officers to go after people with conservative bumper stickers ; said Obamacare will ultimately “take away your guns”; feared Obama is stockpiling “anti-personnel rounds” because he “ seems to view the American people as the enemy”; claimed that Obama “had to steal” the 2012 presidential election and even buys into the fringe birther theory that holds that the president’s “real father” was labor activist Frank Marshall Davis.

Here is Pratt talking with fringe radio host Stan Solomon about the possibility that President Obama will start a race war:

This is who the GOP wants to listen to on the Supreme Court?

Right Wing Round-Up - 5/2/16

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 5/2/16

  • Ahead of the Indiana primary, Glenn Beck again asks his audience to pray and fast: "Tuesday Indiana is making its choice. All will be counted ... I would like to ask that you, your family and friends join me for a day of prayers, fasting and humility. To beg the Lord to not remove His hand from us. To turn to Him and ask that He will heal our land. Beginning Monday night and running for 24 hours ending on Tuesday will you pray and if possible fast like you have never done before?"
  • Remember how The Family Leader distributed David Barton's "Founders Bible" to every state legislator in Iowa last year? A state senator just got up on the Senate floor with his copy and started talking about how great it is.
  • Theodore Shoebat calls on the government to "follow the Scriptures" and "outlaw and annihilate these sodomites before they outlaw you."
  • Cheryl Chumley declares that "if wickedness could be bottled, it would be labeled transgender movement."
  • Andy McCarthy says that the criminal justice system is "the least racist institution that you can imagine."
  • Finally, a warning from Janet Porter: "There are nearly 750,000 registered sex offenders in the United States and Target just invited them into the Ladies room."

How Many Senators Is Mitch McConnell Willing To Sacrifice?

Another day brings another terrible poll for Senate Republicans.

This time the bad news for the GOP comes from Ohio, where former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland* is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

Public Policy Polling notes, “The Senate race in Ohio remains very tight, with Rob Portman and Ted Strickland each at 38%, and 23% of voters undecided. Rob Portman has just a 32/40 approval spread.” They explain, “That puts him well behind Sherrod Brown's 42/33 spread for honors as Ohio's more popular Senator (Brown also has an early 47/33 lead in a hypothetical rematch in 2018 against Josh Mandel.)”

Why are voters turning so strongly against the incumbent? According to PPP, “one issue percolating right now that really has the potential to hurt Portman is the Supreme Court seat. 53% of voters want to see the seat filled this year to only 39% who don't, including a 60/31 spread with independents in favor of filling it this year.”

Most interestingly, “where voters are really mad with Senate Republicans is the issue of holding hearings and at least giving Merrick Garland a fair shot. 65% of voters think the Senate should have hearings on Garland's nomination to only 21% of voters opposed to doing so.”

This is just one in a string of states in which Republican obstruction is tanking the poll numbers of GOP senators. Incumbents in New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania all find themselves in electoral hot water. Even Arizona’s John McCain is now in a tight reelection contest and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has seen a 29-point drop in net approval ratings in his home state.

This polling collapse is driven by a miscalculation by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his leadership team. They believed independent voters would see their blockade of Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court appointment as standard ideological bickering and at worst declare “a pox on both your houses.”

In this case, though, voters recognize that the dysfunction they despise in Washington is the fault of Senate Republicans serving the whims of the extremes of their party.

With Donald Trump now the likely Republican nominee, senators up for reelection are painted into an even tighter box.

As we get closer to November, McConnell’s position becomes more and more untenable. Campaign dollars will be spread thin as previously safe races, like McCain’s, require great financial commitment. This will pull resources away from at-risk incumbents like Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and from open seats in Florida and Nevada.

If McConnell doesn’t reverse course soon and begin confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland soon, the question will be how many Senate seats he is willing to sacrifice to placate his party’s far-right flank.

* Full disclosure: I worked in Ted Strickland’s congressional office from 2001-2003.

Is President Cruz Planning To Use Carly Fiorina To Strong-Arm The Senate? It Sure Sounds Like It

Last month, Glenn Beck explained to a live studio audience about how Ted Cruz, if elected president, could use the constitutional provision declaring that "the Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate" to essentially use his vice president to take complete control of the Senate.

Claiming that he had "no information on this" and was just "thinking outside of the box," Beck envisioned a scenario in which Cruz would name a "pit bull" like Carly Fiorina as his running mate and then instruct her to "go run the Senate," creating a situation in which "the White House is running the Senate as well."

Like Beck, right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton has very close ties to Cruz and his presidential campaign, and last week he spoke to a small group at Liberty University. That speech was attended by a Liberty graduate student who reported that Barton floated the exact same plan:

Barton spoke strongly in support of Ted Cruz’s decision to appoint Carly Fiorina as his running mate and suggested that her role in a Cruz presidency will be much more significant than the Vice President’s role in years past. If elected, the Cruz campaign plans to reinstate the VP’s reign over the Senate in the hopes of nullifying the influence of the president pro tempore, who commonly acts in the VP’s absence. This is another interesting development given the history of Cruz’s clashes with the GOP establishment.

While Beck initially presented this scenario as something of a hypothetical idea, the report on Barton suggests that this is something that he either learned directly from Cruz or his campaign or something that has at least been discussed among top-level Cruz supporters.

The fact that two key Cruz backers are promoting this idea raises the question of whether this is something that the Cruz campaign is actually planning on carrying out if the Texas senator, notorious for his poor relationships with senators on both sides of the aisles\, wins the White House.

Cruz, who has been campaigning in Indiana alongside Beck, has not yet been asked if he plans to put his surrogates' idea into action if elected.

Michael Savage Sees 'God's Hand' In Donald Trump's Rise To The Presidency

On Friday, Donald Trump chatted with Michael Savage about his deep admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, falsely claiming that Russia has been actively bombing ISIS in Syria.

Savage, meanwhile, spent the time leading up to the interview expressing his admiration for Trump.

“I personally think that after this is all over and Trump becomes the next president of the United States, I personally believe you’ll look back and you will see that there’s God’s hand in all of this,” Savage said.

Explaining that he sees “spiritual elements” in the election, Savage said that President Obama “was put here to show us just what could happen under a corrupt, left-wing administration” and that “Trump is the counterpoint to these eight years of corruption and communism in the United States of America.”

President Obama, Savage said, “goes to sleep dreaming of how to run America down” and “how to destroy America one more time, to get in one more round of smackdowns on this country and everybody sees that and Trump is the antidote to these eight years of hatred for this dear nation.”

Fox News' Favorite Sheriff Will Speak To Radical Anti-Government Oath Keepers

David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and a favorite of Fox News and the right-wing media, will deliver the keynote address to a meeting of the New York chapter of the radical anti-government group Oath Keepers next month, according to an invitation on the group’s website.

Clarke’s association with the anti-government fringe is nothing new: In 2013, he accepted the “Constitutional Sheriff of the Year” award from the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group that believes that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the country and have a duty to defy federal laws on issues like gun control and health care. At that event, he shared the stage with Oath Keepers head Stewart Rhodes and a number of other radical activists.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers as “a fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group” summarizing the group’s philosophy like this:

The core idea of the group is that its members vow to forever support the oaths they took on joining law enforcement or the military to defend the Constitution. But just as central is the group’s list of 10 “Orders We Will Not Obey,” a compendium of much-feared but entirely imaginary threats from the government — orders, for instance, to force Americans into concentration camps, confiscate their guns, or cooperate with foreign troops in the United States. These supposed threats are, in fact, part of the central conspiracy theory advocated by the antigovernment “Patriot” movement of which the Oath Keepers is a part — the baseless claim that the federal government plans to impose martial law, seize Americans’ weapons, force those who resist into concentration camps, and, ultimately, push the country into a one-world socialistic government known as the “New World Order.” In 2013, the group took on a more aggressive stance, announcing the planned formation of “Citizen Preservation” militias meant to defend Americans against the New World Order.

Rhodes, the group’s founder, regularly turns to the far-right media to promote conspiracy theories about a coming civil war in which the federal government will use some combination of race war, Jade Helm 15gun lawsEboladeath campsBlack Lives Matter and radical Islamists to subdue an unarmed and unprepared population.

Speaking at a New York Oath Keepers event last year, Rhodes warned of a government plan to “cause chaos, and in the middle of all that chaos, spark a race war, and in the middle of that, unleash these ISIS cells that are now all over the country”:

At a gathering in Arizona last year, Rhodes said that Sen. John McCain “should be hung by the neck until dead” for being “a traitor to the Constitution.”

Clarke has been embraced by Fox News, and even by politicians like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in part because of his fiery dismissal of critiques of the criminal justice system and in particular of the Black Lives Matter movement. They are seemingly willing to ignore Clarke’s association with an extremist fringe movement.

Once Again, Glenn Beck Has No Idea What He Is Talking About

On several occasions, we have noted that the claims made by right-wing pseudo-historian and pro-Ted Cruz super PAC leader David Barton are so misleading, if not outright false, that it has gotten to the point where we have to fact check just about every assertion that he makes. 

Barton, of course, is extremely close friends with his fellow Cruz booster Glenn Beck and it seems as if his habit of utterly misrepresenting information for the purpose of promoting his own agenda has been rubbing off on the right-wing radio host. 

For the last week or so, Beck has repeatedly claimed that Microsoft's Bill Gates recently asserted that the biggest mistake he made when starting his company was failing to hire lobbyists. To Beck, this is a sign that government regulation is out of control, as he explained again today on his radio broadcast.

"Bill Gates just said recently he would not be able to start Microsoft here in America any more," Beck said. "He wouldn't be able to do it because the regulations have gotten so out of control. And, in one of the saddest comments I've ever heard, he said that the problem with Microsoft was that, at the very beginning, Bill Gates did not believe in going to Washington and getting a lobbyist group. Apple did and so, from the beginning, Apple went and hired lobbyists to make sure their interests were protected in Washington. Bill Gates was of the opinion that Washington has nothing to do with the computing business, they have nothing to do with Microsoft, so he didn't hire lobbyists. He says that's the difference between the wild success and the ease of doing business between Apple and Microsoft. That's not America."

After hearing Beck make this same point several times, we decided to look into it and, of course, Gates said nothing of the sort. 

What actually happened was that Brad Silverberg, who served as senior vice president at Microsoft for nine years, was asked "what were Bill Gates's worst decisions as CEO?" and he suggested that not hiring lobbyists was a key mistake:

Top of the list for me is that Bill did not engage – either himself or the company – in the political process early enough.  When Microsoft’s competitors were effectively lobbying the government, Bill’s attitude was the government should just go away and leave Microsoft alone.  In his view the company was competing hard but fairly; it was creating value for customers and that should be enough.  Well, this approach of not constructively engaging the government and concerned politicians, of not alleviating  concerns that were not going to go away, was a disaster.  The US federal government, many states, and the EU all essentially declared war on Microsoft, and Microsoft paid a devastating price.

Intel did a better job figuring out how to negotiate with the government and avoided the catastrophic fate Microsoft suffered.  Google has done a better job with the US government but it seems the EU is on Google’s case now.

Gates didn't say that failing to hire lobbyists was the worst mistake he ever made, nor did he claim that he couldn't start Microsoft today because there is too much regulation. Those were things that Beck simply made up after apparently misreading news articles and then, as usual, proceeding to making false declarations based on his own lack of information.