Bill Clinton

The Nazi Thing

Zirkle and the Nazi PartyTony Zirkle’s 15 minutes of swastika-draped fame were widely reported last month, when the Indiana congressional candidate spoke at an American Nazi Party celebration of Adolf Hitler’s birthday. Zirkle, whose campaign warns of a link between Jews and pornography, offered the comical explanation that, despite the oversize Hitler portrait and Nazi flags directly behind him, the swastika armbands of the men on either side of him, and the words “Seig Heil” on the cake, “he didn't believe the event he attended included people necessarily of the Nazi mindset, pointing out the name isn't Nazi, but Nationalist Socialist Workers Party.” The candidate was duly reviled by his opponent in the Republican primary race, as well as by everybody else, as an isolated racist crackpot.

However, the report on the matter by the right-wing WorldNetDaily—a product of the anti-Bill Clinton Arkansas Project that now hosts columnists such as Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, and Chuck Norris—offered an unusual twist. After reviewing the story and printing a number of random comments from other websites (a common journalistic technique at WND), the article tried to put it in a kind of context: "Other congressional candidates have raised eyebrows with their speeches, too," it stated. But its only example was a quote from Rep. Keith Ellison comparing the time after September 11, 2001, when the Bush Administration asserted new executive privileges, to the time after the burning of the Reichstag, when Hitler consolidated his powers.

While Ellison took heat for using the metaphor, there is, to put it mildly, a pretty obvious distinction between making a rhetorical comparison of your opponents' tactics to historical events in Nazi Germany, and actually forging an alliance with present-day Nazis based on apparently shared values. So why did WND choose this as its only attempt at context?

Ellison, of course, was the first Muslim member of Congress, and after his election in 2006, the Right launched an effort to portray his presence in Washington as a dire threat to the nation. WorldNetDaily offered obsessive coverage through dozens of flimsy, paranoid articles with titles such as “Doubts grow over Muslim lawmaker's loyalty” and “Muslim congressman called 'security' issue.”

Since WND is so desperate for an example of an anti-Semitic political figure, it’s fortunate that Ted Pike provided a timely reminder. Pike, head of the National Prayer Network, has been a frequent source of quotes for WND whenever the site covered proposed federal hate-crimes protections, most recently in December.

Pike is best-known, however, for pushing out anti-Semitic propaganda along with his father, a radio talker in the 1980s. As People For the American Way reported in a press release from 1989, Pike was warning that there was “a tendency toward Jewish domination of society,” that “Jewish international bankers” were behind the Bolshevik Revolution, and that the state of Israel was “the first stage in Satan’s plan to take this world from Christ and give it to the Antichrist.” Twenty years ago, Pike was warning that the Jewish motivation behind hate-crimes legislation was to silence churches; today, he warns of the “homosexual agenda.”

We were reminded of Pike—and his place as a privileged WorldNetDaily commentator—after he sent out an e-mail alert two weeks ago complaining that the Southern Poverty Law Center had cited the National Prayer Network as a hate group:

Jewish activist groups want to increasingly broaden the terms "hate" and "anti-Semitism" to include evangelicals. …

Jewish activists thus display a truly hateful intent—to harm Christians and deprive them of freedom. Such activists work to warp public and government perceptions of Christian conservatives—demonizing us as potential sources of “homophobic,” anti-Semitic bigotry and possible violence. SPLC alleges a 48 percent increase of threat from the "radical right" since 2000. Jewish attack groups such as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, American Civil Liberties Union, and People for the American Way, smear “homophobic” evangelicals as being part of this “threat.”

After defaming Christians as "haters," Jewish supremacists want to actually outlaw Christian political activity and evangelism. The ADL created hate crime laws that will particularly outlaw reproof of sodomy and evangelism of non-Christians, especially Jews.

(Photo: The Times of Northwest Indiana.)

Don't Cry for Me, Gary Bauer

“My assessment is that at this moment in time it is Fred Thompson's race to lose,” said Richard Land, Southern Baptist Convention political leader, back in July. “It may be a convergence of the right man, in the right place and at the right time. I have never seen anything like this grassroots swell for Thompson.”

Needless to say, the swelling went down—after a disappointing “last stand” in the South Carolina primary, Thompson put an end to his presidential campaign. Thompson joined the race late, but in spite of that fact that he was going after the same voters as all the other Republican candidates, he started off with strong polling, thanks to the gushing support from Land, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, and other high-profile figures. Given Thompson’s lackluster campaign—in which the candidate developed a reputation for laziness and boring speeches—it seems likely that his run was propped up more by these big-name supporters than by the grassroots.

We haven’t heard from Land yet, but Bauer had some strong words for his former boss, James Dobson—who came out early against Thompson, even saying he “doesn’t think [Thompson’s] a Christian”—and others who failed to recognize the hidden beauty of the senator-turned-actor:

Gary Bauer says Thompson was the victim of identity politics during his White House bid. … "He was a good candidate with a great record on the life issue and on other issues we care about," says Bauer, "and I'm saddened that some leaders of our movement attacked him and treated him as if he were the enemy when he is much, much better than most of the candidates who have a chance of getting the nomination." …

"I ran into a lot of Christians out there as I traveled around the country who were for Mike Huckabee, first and foremost, because they saw him as an evangelical like them -- and I understand the appeal to that because I am an evangelical Christian," says the conservative leader. "But I kept reminding people, 'So is Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton sang in the choir in his church in Arkansas.'"

He adds "it's nice to know that somebody shares our values, [but] it's not enough that that be the justification to support them."

Given Thompson’s extra-special treatment from some well-established religious-right leaders, Bauer’s complaint that the establishment blackballed Thompson rings a little hollow—especially in as much as it echoes that of Mike Huckabee and his supporters, who say leaders like Bauer have been unfairly dismissing him as a real candidate. (“‘Richard Land swoons for Fred Thompson,’’ Huckabee said last month. ‘‘I don’t know what that’s about. For reasons I don’t fully understand, some of these Washington-based people forget why they are there.’’)

But at least one old-guard movement figure is happy to see Thompson out: “Thompson snoozed through the campaign the same way he snoozed through his Senate career. … He did little and left even less of a mark,” crowed Richard Viguerie, who never liked Thompson.

Brand Newt

Newt Gingrich has descended upon the Iowa caucuses again, promoting a “Platform of the American People” –and, incredibly, raising the specter of running for vice president:

The timing of his appearances a month before the Jan. 3 Iowa presidential caucuses is leading political observers to suspect he's angling to be on the short list of running-mates for former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or whoever is the Republican nominee. …

The former House speaker who flirted with a Republican presidential nomination run earlier this year said in a C-SPAN interview on Sunday that he might accept being the presidential nominee's running mate if offered.

"Depending on the circumstances, I'd be honored to be considered and under some circumstances, I'd probably feel compelled to say 'yes,' " said Mr. Gingrich, who says he will work until this summer's presidential nominating conventions "to get both parties to adopt a unity platform on a handful of things they could enact in the first 90 days of 2009."

It was just two months ago that Gingrich’s incipient presidential run was mercifully laid to rest, but some on the Right are apparently holding out hope that the former House speaker will save them, perhaps fondly recalling the “Contract with America” that he put together shortly before the Republicans took control of the House in 1995 and that served as a right-wing rallying cry after the elections.

Of course, a lot has happened since 1995. Gingrich quickly established his lack of popularity—within two years, his favorability rating was at 15 percent. His skills as a political strategist were put to the test as he pursued the impeachment of Bill Clinton in the run up to the 1998 elections, which resulted in a devastating loss for Republicans and his stepping down from leadership. Many Americans no doubt remember the hypocrisy of Gingrich prosecuting Clinton for sexual indiscretion while he himself was having an affair.

Gingrich was a key figure in creating the era of highly-polarized politics, but today he is branding himself, ironically, as a seeker of common ground, launching a campaign earlier this year of platitudes (“Real change requires real change,” etc.). Now, the Right is looking to him as its “ideas man,” gushing over his “intellectual heft.” “Newt Gingrich is the intellectual cornerstone of our modern conservative movement," said the American Conservative Union’s William Lauderback at this year’s CPAC.

While such a reputation on the Right may be hard to believe, it may ultimately doom his vice-presidential aspirations; ACU’s David Keene warns that Gingrich’s “articulateness and willingness to speak out on virtually every issue” would put candidates at risk of being “upstag[ed]” by him. That would indeed be embarrassing.

In any event, we’re sure Gingrich is enjoying all the attention, and it brings to mind the words of longtime Gingrich ally Matt Towery after Gingrich announced he wouldn’t seek the presidency. "The question is, around Washington: Was it a scam?”

Right-Wing Authors Claim to be Swindled by Right-Wing Publisher

The New York Times reports that several right-wing authors are suing their publisher, Regnery, over royalties supposedly lost to the company’s shell-game-like marketing strategy:

In a suit filed in United States District Court in Washington yesterday, the authors Jerome R. Corsi, Bill Gertz, Lt. Col. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, Joel Mowbray and Richard Miniter state that Eagle Publishing, which owns Regnery, “orchestrates and participates in a fraudulent, deceptively concealed and self-dealing scheme to divert book sales away from retail outlets and to wholly owned subsidiary organizations within the Eagle conglomerate.”

Some of the authors’ books have appeared on the New York Times best-seller list, including “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” by Mr. Corsi and John E. O’Neill (who is not a plaintiff in the suit), Mr. Patterson’s “Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security” and Mr. Miniter’s “Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror.” In the lawsuit the authors say that Eagle sells or gives away copies of their books to book clubs, newsletters and other organizations owned by Eagle “to avoid or substantially reduce royalty payments to authors.” …

The authors also say in the lawsuit that Regnery donates books to nonprofit groups affiliated with Eagle Publishing and gives the books as incentives to subscribers to newsletters published by Eagle. The authors say they do not receive royalties for these books.

Regnery’s strategy for boosting the sales of its books—often helping to land them on the best-seller list—is no secret: Anyone whose e-mail address is on a conservative list has likely received dozens of “special offers” from the Conservative Book Club, Human Events, or the Evans-Novak Political Report—all part of Eagle Publishing, the parent company of Regnery.

book clubFor example, yesterday the company offered a free copy of Laura Ingraham’s “Power to the People” in exchange for a subscription to the print version of Human Events. In September, well before the official release of Ann Coulter’s latest book, the Conservative Book Club had it at the low price of $0. The price range in these offers extends as high as $1 or even $3. While this model is similar to mainstream book club offers, in the case of a Regnery title, Eagle can sell it to its own book club subsidiary at cost, and then sell to customers “at, below or only marginally above its own cost of publication,” cutting the author’s royalties out of the transaction, according to the lawsuit.

While it’s hard to doubt the claim by Corsi and friends that these authors are not making money when their publisher is giving their books away for free, it’s an open question exactly how many of their timeless classics they presume they would have actually sold under normal conditions. The right-wing publishing industry already has a reputation for arranging bulk purchases to get its authors on the New York Times best-seller list; why is this any different?

Indeed, we can expect an ideological operation like Eagle Publishing to make a conservative argument in court: that selling these books for $0 to $3 merely reflects their market price.

Robertson to Endorse Giuliani?

That is what the Politico and the Washington Post are reporting:

Pat Robertson, one of the most influential figures in the social conservative movement, will announce his support for Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid this morning in Washington, D.C., according to sources familiar with the decision.

Robertson's support was coveted by several of the leading Republican candidates and provides Giuliani with a major boost as the former New York City mayor seeks to convince social conservatives that, despite his positions on abortion and gay rights, he is an acceptable choice as the GOP nominee.

It also slows any momentum for Mitt Romney within the social conservative movement. Romney had recently secured the backing of conservative stalwarts Paul Weyrich and Bob Jones III -- endorsements that seemed to strengthen his bid to become the electable conservative alternative to Giuliani. Romney had made no secret of his desire for Robertson's endorsement and has to be disappointed this morning.

The other major effect of Robertson's support for Giuliani is that it will quiet talk in social conservative circles that nominating Giuliani would lead "values voters" to abandon the Republican Party. The stamp of approval from Robertson should assuage the doubts of many (although certainly not all) of the rank-and-file social conservatives.

Of course, back in 1992, Robertson addressed the Republican National Convention where he attacked Bill Clinton for his support for reproductive choice, saying the Right could not allow America to be run by a man who “wants to give your 13-year-old daughter the choice without your consent to destroy the life of her unborn baby” and was running on a platform that “never once mentions the name of God:” 

Since I have come to Houston, I have been asked repeatedly to define traditional values. I say very simply, to me and to most Republicans, traditional values start with faith in Almighty God … When Bill Clinton talks about family values, I don't believe he's talking about either families or values. …The campaign before us is not just a campaign for an office, but for the destiny of America. We will not rest until there is a new birth of freedom in America … until we restore the greatness of America through moral strength.

Apparently, times have changed.

Meanwhile, Sam Brownback will reportedly endorse John McCain:

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), meanwhile, plans to announce his surprise endorsement of former Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president on Wednesday, a campaign official told Politico.

The endorsement is to be announced in Dubuque, Iowa.

The alliance gives McCain — once a front-runner, now struggling — a crucial bridge to social conservatives, an important constituency that has remained suspicious of him despite his opposition to abortion.

Last month, Family Reseach Council President Tony Perkins was predicting that their Values Voter Summit would help the Right coalesce and narrow the field, if only by achieving agreement not to support Giuliani.  That turned out not to be the case, and if these two announcements are any indication, the Right’s hopes of unifying behind a single candidate are fading fast. 

The GOP's Hillary Primary

Mitt Romney may have officially “won” the straw poll at the Values Voter Summit; Mike Huckabee may have been the crowd favorite; and what to do about Rudy Giuliani may have been the biggest question mark; but of all the presidential candidates, the one most talked about at the right-wing conference was Hillary Clinton. “Bill Clinton,” Tom Tancredo warned, is “now measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.” Rep. Jean Schmidt urged Giuliani rejectionists to realize “how important it is that we stand behind whatever candidate comes out that will be her rival, and stand behind that person, whether we agree with all their opinions and values or not. Because if we don’t, you will have that woman in power.”

Libertarian journalism David Weigel, moonlighting at the paleoconservative American Conservative magazine, notes that the visceral hatred many on the Right have for Sen. Clinton could be the only thing that holds the movement and the GOP together, at least in the hopes of Republican strategists:

It’s a balmy, beer-drinking evening in the middle of August, and the conservatives trickling in to a meeting of the Robert A. Taft Club can’t enjoy it. They’re mostly under-30 Washington professionals, and they’re fed up with the Republican Party. They think George W. Bush’s bumbling and ideological hat-trading have reduced the conservative movement to a pitiable, piddling state. If Karl Rove stepped inside, he’d come out looking like Oscar de la Hoya after a bout gone wrong.

They settle into a debate about the future of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Panelists take turns whipping the party for its sins. “We beat them on immigration,” says Richard Viguerie, the direct-mail pioneer, “but right now, we just don’t have the strength or the resources to affect public policy the way we want to.” He beseeches the crowd to help save the movement, but that gets a muted reaction. So he steps it up: “I still think that in the short term, as many problems as we have right now, Hillary Clinton can bring conservatives back together.”

The name does the trick: soft laughter moves around the room. Keeping Hillary out of the White House is literally the only motivation some conservatives have to pull the Republican lever in 2008, especially if their party nominates a pro-choice candidate for the first time since 1976.

While many Republicans are crossing their fingers that a Clinton nomination will stir up the right-wing id into a frenzy of resentment, bringing back the anti-Clinton rhetoric of the 1990s—whether about Vince Foster or strong women—is not necessarily a recipe for victory. There will always be a core group that feeds off of even the most disgusting anti-Hillary marketing, but as Weigel points out, translating that into broader political success is another matter. GOP hatchet men started Stop Her Now and the Stop Hillary PAC to raise millions to prevent Clinton’s reelection to the Senate in 2006, but they hardly raised thousands. Even the steady stream of anti-Clinton books have fallen flat in sales.

That doesn’t mean it will stop. The Republican National Committee is already running against Clinton. We can probably expect Republican candidates, especially Giuliani, to keep taking Clinton as their de facto running mate unless and until the primaries prove otherwise, providing a foil always good for applause lines.

The Long Knives Come Out For Huckabee

Fresh off his resounding victory at the Values Voter Debate in Florida and his first place (depending on how you count) finish in the straw poll at the Values Voter Summit, it seemed as if Mike Huckabee’s campaign was gaining traction – for a while, at least. After all, following the Summit, a group of right-wing leaders met to discuss their options going into the 2008 election and many appeared ready to come out in favor of Huckabee:
Phil Burress, president of the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values and member of the executive committee of the Arlington Group, declined to talk about the meeting but said he has personally decided to support Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister. Another well-respected Christian conservative leader, Kelly Shackleford, a Texas lawyer, is also expected to come out on behalf of Mr. Huckabee in the coming days.
Since the summit, Huckabee has hit double digits in the polls for the first time, saw his fundraising skyrocket, and even picked up the endorsement of Joe Carter, who is not only Director of Web Communications for Family Research Council but also an influential blogger in his own right. His progress appears to have prompted others on the Right, such as the Club for Growth’s Pat Toomey, to take his campaign seriously and mobilize to stop it:

GOP's Preacher Candidate Politicizes Effort to Depoliticize Church

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has withdrawn from an effort to disentangle Baptists from partisan politics – citing politics. Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and a Southern Baptist pastor, was invited and expected to attend a meeting of the New Baptist Covenant organized by former President Jimmy Carter to bring together members of the North American Baptist Fellowship, African-American Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention – which was “taken over” by theological (and, largely, political) conservatives more than 20 years ago but has recently made motions toward centrism – and others around common-ground issues like poverty and AIDS. Huckabee, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley were among prominent Southern Baptist Republicans invited, joining prominent Baptist Democrats Carter, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore.

This effort to establish the New Baptist Covenant’s bipartisan credentials has been stymied, however, by Huckabee’s withdrawal over comments made by Carter in the political realm. After Carter criticized President Bush’s foreign policy, Huckabee told the Florida Baptist Witness that the comments were “unbecoming to one whose conference is supposed to be about civility and bringing people together.” Also complaining that Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, whom Huckabee described as “very, very liberal,” would be speaking, Huckabee said,

In light of the program and roster of speakers, as well as the very harsh comments toward our president this weekend, I feel it would be best for me to decline the invitation and to not appear to be giving approval to what could be a political, rather than spiritual agenda.

Huckabee was in Florida that day, along with fellow presidential candidate Sam Brownback, to speak to the far-right Florida Family Policy Council (a state affiliate of Focus on the Family). The two long-shot candidates, popular among the Religious Right, apparently impressed the partisan crowd (which included Republican National Committee chair Mel Martinez). But while Brownback was willing to share the stage with Democrat Barack Obama at Rick Warren’s megachurch to talk about global AIDS last winter – in spite of vicious criticisms from the far Right – Huckabee is apparently unwilling to give up the partisan mantle of his presidential campaign for the Baptist-unity event.

David Currie of Texas Baptists Committed responded,

The [New] Baptist Covenant meeting has never been about politics but about Jesus and unity. The fact is, if we have a meeting and only preachers preach, the national press will not cover our message. If prominent politicians of both parties speak, the national press will cover it. I am sorry Gov. Huckabee withdrew, as I have been impressed with him on TV several times. But I'm sure the Religious Right put great pressure upon him. I wish him well.

Still, Huckabee’s act may gain him some new friends, such as Richard Land, the Southern Baptist Convention leader who has helped define the SBC’s right-wing political reputation and who had scoffed at the New Baptist Covenant’s aims.

Struggling Huckabee Chides Religious-Right 'Political Bosses' for Not Backing Him

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, beloved by many on the Religious Right for his positions on wedge issues but dismissed as a serious presidential candidate, has spent the last few weeks deploying a seemingly desperate gambit aimed at undermining support for frontrunners Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. They should “be held to a standard of personal accountability and responsibility for their personal lives,” he said, alluding to what Vision America’s Rick Scarborough called “multiple marriages and serial adultery” among the candidates. “If Republicans in this election vote in such a way as to say a candidate’s personal life and personal conduct in office doesn’t matter,” said Huckabee, “then a lot of Christian evangelical leaders owe Bill Clinton a public apology.”

Unfortunately for Huckabee, the strong attack apparently has not helped his own candidacy: he has yet to break 2 percent in polls, and he’s raised less than $600,000, putting him in the lower end of the second-tier candidates.

In a recent appearance in Iowa, Huckabee sharpened his “personal lives” attack, noting that “I’m specifically referencing Christian evangelical leaders who were the most vocal in saying back during the Clinton era that personal behavior, personal responsibility and character were the key factors in a president’s criteria.” He accused those leaders of selling out to the Republican Party.

‘‘That’s my challenge to Christian leaders — either be consistent, be Christian leaders or just say I’m a political boss and it’s really about the power,’’ he said.

What’s at stake, Huckabee said, is the credibility of religious conservatives.

‘‘Christian leaders need to be Christian leaders, not Republican leaders,’’ he said.

Of course, Huckabee isn’t running for a church board, he’s running for the Republican presidential nomination, so it’s not exactly clear why embracing his own political bid would prevent a religious-right leader from being a “political boss.”

2008: Struggling Huckabee Hits GOP Candidates' Personal Lives

Else “a lot of Christian evangelical leaders owe Bill Clinton a public apology.” Meanwhile: Religious Right organizes in Iowa; Giuliani scorned.

The “Maturing” Right-Wing Voters

One has to wonder just what world right-wing commentator Cal Thomas inhabits.  The fact that the Right is resoundingly under-whelmed and dismayed by the current crop of GOP presidential frontrunners is not to be taken as a sign that their influence may be waning, but rather as sign that “Conservative Evangelical Christian voters” are supposedly “maturing” in their political outlook: 

Conservative Evangelical Christian voters have come a long way in a short time. From their nearly unanimous condemnation of Bill Clinton for his extramarital affairs, a growing number of these “pro-family” voters appear ready to accept several Republican presidential candidates who do not share their ideal of marriage and faith.

Thomas then goes on to recount the various infidelities of Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and John McCain before concluding

That substantial numbers of conservative evangelical voters are even considering these candidates as presidential prospects is a sign of their political maturation and of their more pragmatic view of what can be expected from politics and politicians.

Seeing as these men are widely considered to be among the GOP’s frontrunner and that the first Republican presidential primary is still almost a year away, these voters don’t really have much choice but to consider these candidates at this point.  Nonetheless, according to the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll, they don’t seem too happy about it:

ASKED OF REPUBLICAN PRIMARY VOTERS ONLY:

Are you generally satisfied with the candidates now running for the Republican nomination for President, or do you wish there were more choices?

Satisfied – 40%

More choices – 57%

DK/NA – 2%

But if, in fact, “conservative evangelical voters” really are willing consider these candidates despite their past infidelities, then they are a lot more forgiving and mature than some of their self-described political leaders, who are actively writing off GOP candidates for an endless variety of reasons:

Staver Tells Pastors They Have Nothing to Fear From IRS

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Right is working hard to mobilize millions of voters leading up to the mid-term elections in November and that some seem to be encouraging pastors to actually break federal election and tax laws in the process

Preachers "ought to put their toe right on the line," said Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit law firm that supports conservative Christian causes.

Pastors have a right to work directly for candidates on their own time, as long as they don't use church resources. In a recent article aimed at evangelical preachers, Staver wrote that they "should feel free" to go even further and endorse a candidate from the pulpit because he thought the IRS law was unconstitutional. He repeatedly noted that the IRS had rarely sanctioned churches. The Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y., is the only one ever to lose its tax-exempt certification, for sponsoring newspaper ads that opposed presidential candidate Bill Clinton.

Far more often, IRS agents resolve complaints by training church leaders to avoid future missteps, said Lois G. Lerner, who directs the IRS unit for tax-exempt groups. In 2004, the IRS resolved dozens of complaints this way, including such blatant violations as churches donating to a candidate's campaign or placing political signs on their property.

Given the slim chance of serious sanction, "I encourage pastors to exchange their muzzles for megaphones," Staver wrote in the Rev. Jerry Falwell's monthly newspaper, the National Liberty Journal.

In its “Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations” the IRS clearly states

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all IRC section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and religious organizations, are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax.

[F]or their organizations to remain tax exempt under IRC section 501(c)(3), religious leaders cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official church functions.

The IRS even offers this example of prohibited political activity and it sounds exactly like the sort of activity Staver is advocating

Example 4: Minister D is the minister of Church M. During regular services of Church M shortly before the election, Minister D preached on a number of issues, including the importance of voting in the upcoming election, and concludes by stating, “It is important that you all do your duty in the election and vote for Candidate W.” Since Minister D’s remarks indicating support for Candidate W were made during an official church service, they constitute political campaign intervention attributable to Church M.

Staver has something of a history of urging others to push the boundaries of the law in advancing the right-wing agenda - last month he called upon public school teachers to serve as “domestic missionaries” and promote Christianity in class under the guise of instruction.

As we noted then, it is a lucky coincidence that the Liberty Counsel’s primary mission is filing lawsuits in defense of those who claim to have had their religious liberties violated, because those who follow Staver’s recommendations may very well find themselves needing his legal assistance.

Values Voter Summit: Starting Day 2 Right

Nothing like starting your Saturday with Sean Hannity. The Fox TV personality got a hero’s welcome. While he promised a serious talk, he couldn’t stop from entertaining himself by repeatedly breaking into innuendo-rich impersonations of Bill Clinton. The bullying partisan lamented the “troubling” nature of our public debate, saying it shouldn’t be left and right, Democratic and Republican – we should all be united in the battle of right v. wrong, good v. evil. Then he went on to deride liberals and Democratic leaders for suffering from “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” Clearly, the kind of unity Hannity has in mind is everyone agreeing with him. He analogized those he deems insufficiently supportive of President Bush’s tactics in the war on terrorism with appeasers of the Nazis. He got applause ticking off the expected litany of conservative Republican talking points – support the President, we’re overtaxed, public schools undermine our values, etc., etc. But he may have gotten his loudest ovation when he declared “Hillary Clinton must never be the President of the United States.” He ended by assuring the audience that God had sent us George W. Bush just when we needed him. Virtue-meister Bill Bennett seemed to surprise the crowd a bit by insisting that the Bush administration is being too tentative – that’s right, too tentative – in conducting the war on terror. After four U.S. contractors were killed in Fallujah, the town should have been leveled. Venezuelan President Huge Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should never have been allowed into the U.S. to address the U.N. Reporters who print classified information they’ve been leaked should be prosecuted. Bennett ended on a more hopeful note, saying that while elites have corrupted our culture, we should take heart by remembering our victory in World War II and the heroism demonstrated after 9-11. Embattled Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania did not show as expected, but appeared in a relatively low-key video. He said he has paid a price for standing up for “definitional” causes such as defining life as beginning at the moment of conception. Santorum invoked the war abroad and the battle at home (to define family and culture), though he acknowledged that the battle against radical secular humanism is “less virulent” than the battle against radical Islam. Right-wing movement pioneer Paul Weyrich followed Santorum and declared, “Rick Santorum is the most important United States Senator that we have in this country at this time.” Weyrich’s remarks were mostly a pep talk, reminding people how far the “pro-family” movement has come since its early days and telling people not to be discouraged. “We are a national movement, we are a strong movement, we are a visible movement, we are on the march. Don’t ever get discouraged, because we’re doing so much better than we ever did before.” He gave “Dr. Dobson” credit for bringing down Sen. Tom Daschle, and predicted victory in every state with an anti-gay amendment on the ballot this year. Perhaps foreshadowing a new direct-mail and turnout theme, Weyrich claimed that if Democrats get control of Congress, they intend to shut down right-wing talk radio by reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.
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Bill Clinton Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 09/15/2009, 11:33am
Joel Vaughan was a high-ranking staffer during the heyday of the Christian Coalition and its inexorable decline into obscurity. He eventually left the organization and now serves as special assistant to Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, and has written a book called "The Rise and Fall of the Christian Coalition: The Inside Story."  Recently, he appeared on a Christian radio program called "The Georgene Rice Show" to promote the book and provided a fascinating insider's view on the group's rise and decline following the departure of Ralph Reed. But, Vaughan... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 08/04/2009, 5:08pm
In recent week, Religious Right groups were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the legislation introduced by Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, and Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn seeking "common ground" in the debate over reproductive choice.Though "aimed at preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women," the Religious Right immediately dismissed the effort as a "red herring,"a "travesty," and an effort to increase abortions.Among the various reasons they gave for opposing the bill was that, in the words of Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 07/22/2009, 3:42pm
With the Religious Right's influence its lowest levels in several years, Tony Perkins has penned a rallying cry for the movement called "Never give in - Values Voters at the Summit" that, not surprisingly, proclaims his organization's upcoming Values Voter Summit the key to turning it all around:We believe that in a representative democracy, citizens have not just the ability, but the duty to participate in the political process. For too long decisions about the fate of millions have been made "at the summit" by a handful of leaders and those decisions have too often... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 07/13/2009, 3:34pm
When it was first reported last month that Ralph Reed was forming a new organization called The Faith and Freedom Coalition, Reed wanted it made clear that "this is not your daddy's Christian Coalition."He vowed that this effort would be "more brown, more black, more female, and younger" and all-around hipper with a greater focus on using "third wave" technology to mobilize activists.In shot, Reed sees himself as the Steve Jobs of the Religious Right, called in to turn around the movement that floundered after he left:The party needs what he delivered in the... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 07/13/2009, 11:59am
Last month, Wiley Drake declared that the murder of Dr. George Tiller was the answer to his imprecatory prayers. He followed that up a few days later by unapologetically admitting to Alan Colmes that he was also praying for President Obama's death.Now Drake wants to clarify his position and make it known that while he does want Obama to die at the hand of God, he doesn't want to come off as some crank who is obsessed with it.  After all, he explains, he's really only spending at most two percent of his prayer-time in seeking the president's death:Ever since Pastor Wiley Drake declared... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 06/26/2009, 11:42am
I don't really have anything to say about this latest column from Matt Barber other than to marvel at how he's managed to become a relatively high-profile right-wing activist based on little more than his seething animosity toward gays:The idea of open homosexuality within our armed services has long been considered preposterous.[George] Washington wisely understood that to allow men among the ranks who sodomized other men would necessarily distract from the mission at hand, disrupt unit cohesion and damage the morale of non-sodomy-disposed soldiers forced to sleep and bathe alongside... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 06/23/2009, 4:30pm
I have to admit that, outside of tales involving Gordon Klingenschmitt, I am pretty much ignorant of what goes on in the military's chaplaincy service.Fortunately, there is the Military Religious Freedom Foundation which focuses on these sorts of topics and via whom we found out about this recent Kathryn Joyce piece in Newsweek exposing the efforts of Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches and its founder Jim Ammerman:According to the group's president, Mikey Weinstein, a cadre of 40 U.S. chaplains took part in a 2003 project to distribute 2.4 million Arabic-language Bibles in Iraq. This would be... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 06/12/2009, 1:18pm
On April 15, 1995, Timothy McVeigh destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.A little over a week later, President Bill Clinton delivered a speech in which he defended the First Amendment while raising concerns about the impact of violent and hateful rhetoric:[W]e hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable. You... MORE >