Indiana

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Don Wildmon is officially stepping down from his role at the American Family Association due to on-going health problems.
  • Politico got its hands on a rather remarkable RNC fundraising presentation, and the RNC is already furiously backing away from it, calling its images and language "unacceptable" and saying "it will not be used by the Republican National Committee – in any capacity – in the future."
  • Shirley Dobson has been dismissed from the lawsuit against the National Day of Prayer.
  • Rick Perry has been the Governor of Texas for more than a decade, so why is he playing off his primary win last night as some sort of shot at the establishment?
  • Rick Warren and the Jonas Brothers, together at last.
  • Wow, FRC is really producing groundbreaking research.
  • Finally, the quote of the day from Rev. Rob Schenck reacting to marriage equality officially coming to Washington DC today: "Let me remind everyone that there’s nothing new about what happened today at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Marriage Bureau. In fact, it’s very old. Thousands of years ago, the world at the base of Mount Sinai looked very much like Indiana Avenue, NW, the street outside the Marriage Bureau office. Actually, it was far worse. On the Day of Pentecost, when the Christian Church was born at Jerusalem, Greco-Roman athletes competed in the nude and engaged in homosexual acts to titillate insatiably wild crowds. Worse, Roman men of stature kept wives to sire children by, but young boys as sexual play toys. Temple prostitutes were used and abused as an act of worship. It was into this kind of moral abandon that the Jews first taught God’s moral code and Christians later were called to evangelize. Both remain our challenge today. It was this kind of sin-sick, miserably wretched, often shockingly coarse and even frightening world that 'God so loved,' and to which He 'gave His only begotten son' ... If there’s anything to be disappointed about today here in the Nation’s Capital, it’s that we thought human progress had come so far, but, in fact, it has regressed."

The People Have Spoken: Palin in 2012

Gary Bauer reports the shocking news that Sarah Palin is the Religious Right's choice for President in 2012:

My Inbox was overflowing this morning with responses to yesterday’s question on preferred presidential candidates in 2012 – and they are still pouring in. But as my staff worked furiously to sort through the barrage of e-mails, two things stood out.

First, I was surprised by the wide range of names that came back. Granted we asked a very open-ended question, but folks obviously are thinking outside the box and willing to consider many options. Quite a few people insisted on a fresh face, such as Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who tied for fifth place with Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Other suggestions included Senators John Thune and Jim DeMint, as well as General David Petraeus.

Nevertheless, the final results were quite surprising. There was a spirited contest for second place with Mike Huckabee edging Mitt Romney, while Newt Gingrich finished fourth. But to say there was a clear favorite is an understatement. In fact, one individual got more votes than the other 23 names combined. If my emails and her book sales are any indication, Sarah Palin has a very bright future indeed!

And it's not just emails to Bauer that Palin dominates, as she's also running away with this OneNewsNow poll:

I think the GOP should just do away with its primary process entirely and simply pick its next presidential candidate based solely on the contents of Gary Bauer's email inbox. 

Of course, in 2000 and 2008, Bauer was John McCain's biggest (and pretty much only) Religious Right supporter... and that didn't work out too well for McCain either time.  

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The Baltimore City Council has passed a measure requiring all crisis pregnancy centers to display signs stating they do not provide abortions or birth control referrals.
  • Rick Santorum continues to test the waters in the 2012 presidential pool.
  • Bill Donohue is mad at Chris Matthews ... and says Irish Catholics are rude.
  • The Eagle Forum wants everyone to thank Rep. Michelle Bachmann for being so awesome.
  • Finally, apropos of nothing: did you know that James Bopp's résumé is 38 pages long [PDF] and includes extracurricular activities from high school and college, the fact that he’s a longtime season ticket holder for Indiana University basketball, his birthday, and his marital status?

Remember Back When the Right Hated The Filibuster?

Once upon a time, activists on the Right were vehemently opposed to the use of the filibuster against judicial nominees, declaring on principle that its use was flagrantly unconstitutional and calling on Senate Republicans to do away with the Democratic minority's ability to use them against President Bush's nominees.

But then President Obama took office and made a Supreme Court nomination and those "principles" went right out the window and suddenly those who had been, just a few years earlier, decrying the filibuster as downright evil were championing it.

Which brings us to this new Conservative Action Project "Memo to the Movement" demanding a filibuster of Seventh Circuit nominee David Hamilton:

We agree with Senator Sessions that indeed this is one of those extraordinary circumstances where the President should be informed that his nominee is not qualified. "Extraordinary circumstances" is the standard agreed to by the bipartisan Gang of 14 for when it is permissible to block a confirmation vote against judicial nominees. The Senate should apply it now to stop the Hamilton nomination ... Judge Hamilton is precisely the kind of liberal judicial activist who would use our federal courts as his own super-legislature. The Senate should vote no on the cloture vote to stop this nomination.

The memo is signed by the following group and I have taken the liberty of highlighting those individuals or organizations who, during the Bush presidency, signed on to letters [PDF] demanding an end to the use of the filibuster

Marion Edwyn Harrison, President, Free Congress Foundation
Edwin Meese, former Attorney General
Mathew D. Staver, Founder & Chairman, Liberty Counsel
Wendy Wright, President, Concerned Women for America
Cleta Mitchell, American Conservative Union Board of Directors
J. Kenneth Blackwell, Visiting Professor, Liberty University School of Law
Marjorie Dannenfelser, President, Susan B. Anthony List
Curt Levey, Executive Director, Committee for Justice
Colin A. Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring
Susan Carleson, Chairman & CEO, American Civil Rights Union
William Wilson, President, Americans for Limited Government
Kay Daly, President, Coalition for a Fair Judiciary
T. Kenneth Cribb, former Counselor to the U.S. Attorney General
Andrea Lafferty, Executive Director, Traditional Values Coalition
David Keene, Chairman, American Conservative Union
Gary Bauer, President, American Values
Phil Burress, President, Citizens for Community Values

Jim Martin, President, 60 Plus Association
David McIntosh, former Member of Congress, Indiana
Tom Winter, Editor in Chief, Human Events
Richard Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ.com
Alfred Regnery, Publisher, American Spectator
Becky Norton Dunlop, President, Council for National Policy
Rev. Lou Sheldon, Chairman, Traditional Values Coalition

By my count, 15 of 24 individuals listed of this memo demanding a filibuster of Hamilton either signed, or represent an organization which signed, a letter just a few years back demanding an end to the use of the filibuster.

Tornado Was a "Warning" to Lutherans Not to Approve Gay Pastors

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in American has been meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center all week for its 2009 Churchwide Assembly. And today, those in attendance are scheduled to participate in a key decision:

Following the Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians into one of the thorniest social debates of contemporary Protestantism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is to decide today whether to allow sexually active gays and lesbians to serve as pastors.

Meeting this week in Minneapolis for its biennial convention, the nation's seventh-largest denomination is considering a policy that would allow its 10,000 congregations to hire as pastor any properly ordained person "in a lifelong, committed, monogamous, same-gender relationship."

And apparently God is not happy with this effort, which is why, according to John Piper, he sent a tornado earlier in the week to let them know:

A day after tornados and storms slammed the Midwest, John Piper, a prolific author and preaching pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, called an out-of-the-blue tornado that struck downtown Minneapolis Aug. 19 a "warning" from God to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, whose delegates were meeting there to debate a liberalized policy on homosexuality.

The tornado tore off part of a 90-year-old steeple of the Central Lutheran Church and ripped apart large outdoor tents set up to serve breakfast to the delegates to the ECLA convention which has been holding its meetings this week next door at the convention center. Some meetings also are taking place at the church. The tornado also damaged the convention center, where delegates were at the time.

...

Piper then listed six points and accompanying texts as to why he thinks the tornado was providential:

1. "The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God. 'The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.' (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

2. "The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith. 'Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.' (1 Corinthians 6:11).

3. "Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.

4. "Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados. 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?' (Mark 4:41).

5. "When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms -- an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan or Baghdad. God's message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God's judgment. Jesus: 'Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.' (Luke 13:4-5)

6. "Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners."

Interestingly, tornadoes also reportedly hit parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana on Wednesday as well, but Piper has not yet clued us in to what message God was trying to send to the people in those areas who had their homes and businesses destroyed.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • I, for one, am growing increasingly weary of Randall Terry's need for attention.
  • Gov. Mark Sanford's spokesperson has apparently had enough of trying to defend his boss.
  • Gov. Rick Perry is now "asking the federal government for a loan to cover the very expenses the rejected stimulus money would have paid for."
  • Gary Bauer explains why Democrats don't like Sarah Palin: they hate Trig.
  • Ralph Reed offers his brilliant insights on how "Republicans can reap significant political benefits by voting against [Sonia Sotomayor's] confirmation and making her an issue in key races next year."
  • The Liberty Counsel comments on the hate crimes legislation, warning that Democrats "will not be able to continue their efforts to undermine moral values, socialize the economy, and trash American pride and heritage. The people will not remain silent forever."
  • Finally, a newspaper in Indiana is coming under fire from the Religious Right for posting an engagement of a gay couple planning to wed in Iowa and offers a very clear response:
  • Same-sex marriage is legal in Iowa, where the couple lives and plans to marry. Since one of the young men is originally from Elkhart and his family still lives here, we did the same thing we’d do for any other local family with a child getting married — we published the couple’s engagement announcement.

Mat Staver is Your Best Friend in Protecting Religious Liberties...But Only If You Pick the Right Religion

Mat Staver can be a prison inmate's fiercest advocate for religious liberties, so long as the inmate chooses Staver's religion. If not, your religious freedoms are more likely to be called "security threats" by the Liberty Counsel's founder.

In a suit recently filed by the Indiana chapter of the ACLU, Muslim inmates have asked that they be able to practice their faith dutifully, which in turn, means small group prayer five times a day.

Louay Safi, director of leadership development with the Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North American, said Muslims try to pray in groups whenever possible.

"Muhammad said there is a much greater reward for people who pray in congregation than those who pray individually," he said.

As of now, the prison only allows the Muslim inmates to worship as a group one hour per week, though inmates are allowed to congregate for card games or to watch television multiple times a day.

To Staver, however, there is no reason the inmates should be allowed to worship in small groups, especially since a group of Muslim inmates congregating is an obvious security threat:

The lawsuit, however, in this particular case says that they are allowed to pray as a group only just one hour a week. The fact is that there is no constitutional right to assembly as a group five times a day.

But I think in the situation with regards to the Muslims, there is clearly a security issue at risk here.

While there may not be an explicit constitutional right to prayer five times a day, there isn't an explicit constitutional right to monthly baptisms at a prison either; that is because they both fall under laws protecting an inmate's right to worship. Staver must be getting forgetful, because not too long ago his Liberty Counsel threatened a New Mexico jail with a lawsuit unless monthly baptisms were allowed for inmates wishing to convert to Christianity.

Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the warden and the county explaining that failure to allow the baptisms violated the inmates' constitutional right to free exercise of religion.

Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented, "With the high rate of recidivism, prisons are in desperate need of better ways to rehabilitate inmates and make them productive citizens. Christian conversion and faith play a key role in transforming broken lives into new beginnings. Rather than throwing up roadblocks to Christian faith and worship, prisons should welcome the positive changes that the Christian conversion brings and the role that baptism plays in the inmates making a public confession of burying the old life and being resurrected to a new life in Jesus Christ."

So, in other words, Staver believes firmly in an inmate's right to religious freedom; the religion just has to be Christianity.

The Notre Dame Protests Get Even Fringier

Just when it seemed like the fringe right-wing protesting at Notre Dame couldn't get any more ridiculous, we come to find out that some anonymous donor has now handed Rick Scarborough a thousand dollars so that he could join the fray as well:

Today a gentleman entered my office and donated the $1,000 needed to pay for my trip to South Bend, IN to join Alan Keyes and Randall Terry in protest of Obama's commencement speech on Sunday at Notre Dame. This came after much prayer seeking God's direction and financial provision concerning whether or not I was to say yes to their request to join them and many others facing potential arrest tomorrow for standing for life on the Notre Dame campus.

...

I will be arriving in South Bend Thursday to join them. It is my privilege to stand for truth and with courageous men and women, going to jail if called upon, to bring awareness to our nation that this madness must stop. Please be in prayer as we choose to take our stand for the sanctity of life.

Now, it was at least understandable that Keyes and Terry would target Notre Dame with protests claiming that the Catholic University is violating Catholic teachings by inviting President Obama to speak, because both men are Catholic.

But Scarborough is a Baptist, so what exactly warrants his participation in these protests? 

The whole "controversy" here is that a Catholic University had invited a pro-choice president to address its graduating class ... and it is predominantly right-wing Catholics who are upset about it (while most other Catholics hadn't even heard about it and those that had largely support it.)

Scarborough seems to be going to just protest Obama's pro-choice views ... but why he needed a $1000 to fly from Texas to Indiana to do that is beyond me because he probably could have saved himself considerable time and money if he had just gone and protested at Arizona State University where Obama spoke last night.

A Lesson In Senate Procedure for FRC

We have known for some time now that the Right was targeting Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel, for defeat.  But what we weren't aware of, until reading this post from the Family Research Council's Tom McClusky, was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn't have the votes to get her confirmed:

Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is now telling reporters he does not have the votes to confirm Dawn Johnsen for Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department. Ms. Johnsen has been a long time advocate for abortion rights groups, comparing pregnancy to slavery. She has also been outspoken on counterterrorism measures.

Of course, if you read the article he links to, you find out that Reid didn't say he doesn't have the votes to confirm Johnsen - what he actually said was that he doesn't have the votes to prevent a Republican-led filibuster of her nomination:

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moves to ease a backlog of executive branch nominations, he suggested on Tuesday that he does not have the votes to bring up President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“Right now we’re finding out when to do that,” Reid said, responding to a question about the status of Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to the Justice post. “We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60.”

As Reid explained elsewhere:

“We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60," Reid added. And it's just a small number, maybe two or three. But at this stage, I don't have all the Democrats. I have virtually all, but not all. And remember, we have 59 Democrats, and that's not enough to do it."

Reid has more than enough votes to confirm Johnsen if she can get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, which is exactly what Republicans are trying to prevent with a filibuster. 

According to his bio, McClusky has a long history of working in politics, including a stint as a political analyst for the Republican National Committee, so presumably he knows about Senate procedure and the difference between a confirmation vote and a cloture vote.

In fact, I 'm pretty sure that he does, because just a few years ago, he signed onto a letter calling on Senators to ensure that Bush administration nominees received an up-or-down vote on the floor:

If you cannot support a particular nominee, vote him or her out of committee without a positive recommendation, or vote against confirmation. But please do not deny the nominee a fair up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. In other words, we ask only that you do your job by putting statesmanship above politics and special interests.

Is it too much to ask that the Vice President for Government Affairs at the Family Research Council not hypocritically and purposely mischaracterize what is going on regarding Johnsen's nomination and the GOP's obstruction efforts?

Apparently it is.

DHS Report: It's Déjà Vu All Over Again

I have already written several posts about the entirely bogus "controversy" surrounding the recent Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism.

In several of these posts, I noted how the closely it resembled the similarly bogus controversy from a few months back regarding the stimulus legislation, the only difference being that this trumped up right-wing scandal had not really managed to make its way into the halls of Congress.

Well, now that one last difference has been erased:

House Republicans demanded Wednesday that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano detail how the controversial "right-wing extremism" report was compiled, using a rare legislative maneuver that ensures that the Democrats must take a public stand - one way or another.

...

House Republicans filed their request under the chamber's Rule XIII, Clause 7 - called "a resolution of inquiry" - which will force the Homeland Security Committee to vote within 14 legislative days on the Republican request. The request covers all documents relating to the intelligence assessment titled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment."

The panel is required to vote on the resolution in an up-or-down vote and send it to the floor within the time period, stating that the request for information has been reported favorably or unfavorably.

The resolution is sponsored by Mr. King and every ranking subcommittee member, as well as Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia and Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Republican Conference chairman.

This is absolutely unbelievable and just one more reminder of the lesson I repeatedly fail to learn:  never underestimate the ability of the Right and their allies in Congress to generate "controversy" out of absolutely nothing at all.

SCOTUS Round-Up

Sen. Orrin Hatch says he spoke with President Obama, who "assured me that he would not be picking a radical or an extremist for the court that he was very pragmatic in his approach and that he would pick somebody who would abide by the rule of law.” Hatch also speculates that the White House could announce its nominee as soon as this week.

Following Arlen Specter's defection, Sen. Jeff Session has been chosen to take over his position as ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committe in a move that is being welcomed by right-wing groups:

“He is someone who has a tremendous amount of experience with legal policy issues that the committee has to involve itself in,” said Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative lawyers ... Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, expects changes under Sessions.

“I assume he will bring in some conservative staff,” said Sekulow. He called Sessions’ elevation on the committee “good for Republicans.”

Phyllis Schlafly has now gotten around to weighing in with her latest column, accusing Souter of flipping "from presumed conservative to liberal as soon as the media began ridiculing him" and attacking President Obama and several of his nominees, including David Hamilton:

We would also like to know if Obama's Supreme Court nominee is cut from the same cloth as his first judicial nomination, David F. Hamilton. He's a former fundraiser for ACORN and a former leader of the Indiana chapter of the ACLU.

Ed Whelan starts the opposition research, announcing "one [possible nominee] whose candidacy I take seriously and whom I have previously written very little about is Seventh Circuit judge Diane P. Wood. I will address her record in this and subsequent posts" and concludes that "her course of conduct signals the dangers of judicial lawlessness that inhere in Obama’s badly misguided standard for judging."

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The Thomas More Law Center has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security seeking answers about the recent report on right-wing extremists.
  • Gary Dull and his nascent Faith and Freedom Institute received some press coverage for their participation in a "tea party" rally yesterday, declaring "stop taking our freedoms away from us."
  • Bill Donohue opposes efforts to bring marriage quality to New York state, declaring "once you allow two men to marry there's nothing left. You can't stop three men from getting married. You could not stop Sam and Sally for that matter if they wanted to have an incestuous relationship granted by the state."
  • The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission warns that hate crimes legislation is on its way, saying that "if this bill passes it lays the foundation for censoring Christians."
  • The Judicial Confirmation Network's Wendy Long pens an attack piece on judicial nominee David Hamilton in which she repeats the discredited claims about his ties to ACORN.
  • The Susan B. Anthony List declares that Gov. Sarah Palin's decision to speak at the Vanderburgh County Right to Life Banquet in Indiana tonight proves that she is "authentic" and reflection of "her values and true persona." I'd argue that her refusal to follow to state law in filling an empty Democratic seat in the state Senate is a better reflection of her values and persona.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Former Indiana Congressman Chris Chocola has been tapped as president of the anti-tax group Club for Growth to replace Pat Toomey who is expected to run again Sen. Arlen Specter.
  • Right-wing activists are upset with the new head of the Massachusetts Republican Party for saying that "social issues are personal issues ... I am not legislating anyone's personal views."
  • Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) has joined the hate crimes scaremongering, saying that if the legislation passes pastors, rabbis, or imams could be charged with encouraging or inducing a "hate crime" if they preach against homosexuality.
  • The Susan B. Anthony List claims that its activists sent more than 25,000 letters to the Senate in opposition to Dawn Johnsen.
  • Steve Deace has a lot more questions than answers about how marriage equality came to his home state of Iowa.
  • Gov. Bobby Jindal knocked down rumors that he was going to run for the Senate in a challenge to Sen. David Vitter.
  • Thomas Road Baptist Church has merged with Gleaning for the World, an international relief organization.
  • Michael Steele will not be attending the Log Cabin Republicans' annual convention.
  • Finally, Alan Keyes appears to have ticked off a lot of Ron Paul supporters by claiming to have taught Paul everything he knows about the Federal Reserve.

The Judicial Nominations Fight, Through the Eyes of the Right

World Magazine has a good article on President Obama and the issue of judicial nominations ... and by "good" I mean an exhaustive listing of all of the complaints and concerns Republicans and right-wing judicial activists have about the process and the future of the judiciary:

Conservatives say Obama missed an opportunity to usher in a more conciliatory start to the often contentious judicial nominating process by naming [David] Hamilton ... In nominating Hamilton, Obama ignored a letter from all 42 Republican senators, asking the president to get the process off to a bipartisan start by renominating several of President George W. Bush's blocked nominees. Bush renominated two of President Bill Clinton's stalled choices soon after taking office ... GOP senators had also hoped to use the "blue slip" tradition, which holds that no judicial nominee can come before the Senate without agreement (in the form of a blue slip) from both senators representing that nominee's state. Republicans have at least one senator in 27 states. But the two GOP senators from Texas are already losing a battle to hold onto this privilege as the White House recently signaled its intention to include that state's 12 House Democrats in the screening process.

So it was Obama who missed the opportunity to be conciliatory by not nominating rather than, say, all the Republicans in the Senate who had pre-emptively threatened to filibuster all of Obama's judicial nominees? Nice try.

Furthermore, Obama did not "ignore" their letter - in fact, he obviously took into consideration their demand that the White House "consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states" because he obviously did so with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who immediately praised the nomination:

"I enthusiastically support the Senate confirmation of David Hamilton for U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hamilton has served the Southern District of Indiana with distinction as U.S. District Court Judge," U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar said.

Thirdly, how exactly are the Republican Senators from Texas "losing the battle" to use the "blue slip"?  As we pointed out before, in situations where the President is of one party and both of a state's Senators are from the other, tradition has generally dictated that opposing party Senators play a secondary role in the judicial nomination selection process - and that is what is happening in Texas. If they don't like Obama's nominees, they are still free to refuse to return their blue slips, so in no way can it be said that they at risk of losing this privilege.

In essence, as the article explains, all of these sorts of gripes are aimed primarily at ginning up opposition to Obama's judicial nominees in order to set the stage for a Supreme Court battle and rally Republican forces leading into the mid-term elections:

The ultimate hope among conservative lawmakers is that if Obama overreaches in his judicial picks, then Democrats may face a backlash in the polls during the 2010 Senate races. Such political costs could force Obama to make marginally more moderate picks in future openings, says Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

The article features quotes from a variety of right-wing groups that work on the issue, including Whelan, as well as representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund, Judicial Watch, the Committee for Justice, and the Heritage Foundation ... so if you are looking for a good run-down of just about every right-wing talking point on the judiciary and judicial nominees, this article offers one-stop shopping.

GOP Contemplating Filibusters of Johnsen and Hamilton

Anyone who paid even a minimal amount of attention to the battle over judicial nominations during the George W. Bush’s presidency knows that Senate Republicans were unified in their opposition to the Democrats’ use of the filibuster against a handful of his nominees, going so far as to threaten the “nuclear option” to do away with their ability to block his controversial nominees.

But those days are long gone, as the GOP made clear to President Obama when it pre-emptively threatened to filibuster all of his nominees before he had even made any. And true to form, it looks like they are contemplating using one right off the bat against his very first nominee, David Hamilton:

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, has complained that the Democrats are moving too quickly to consider Mr. Hamilton, a federal trial judge in Indiana since 1994. The committee has set for Wednesday the confirmation hearing on Judge Hamilton, who was nominated only in mid-March.

While that possibility is still a bit down the road, a filibuster of Obama’s nominee head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, Dawn Johnsen, looks like it might be coming soon:

Republicans senators and aides, granted anonymity to discuss their strategy, said they might consider a filibuster in an effort to block Ms. Johnsen’s confirmation. They will first gauge whether they can attract some support from conservative Democrats, they said, in order to help defeat any motion that would cut off debate.

Roll Call also reports that Republicans are considering filibustering Johnsen and that doing so would be a good way for Sen. Arlen Specter, who is likely facing a tough primary challenge from ultra-conservative Pat Toomey, to demonstrate his conservative bona fides:

Although Senate Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) declined to comment on a possible filibuster until he meets with Johnsen again before leaving for recess at the end of the week, Republicans confirmed that the filibuster option has been discussed by members of the GOP Conference and that opposition to the nomination is mounting … Republicans said Johnsen’s record on a number of key issues has done something that has become increasingly rare in their fractured Conference — uniting social conservatives and security hard-liners.

“She’s got one of those résumés that unites the social conservatives and the war-on-terror conservatives,” a GOP leadership aide said. Johnsen has been a vocal critic of how the Bush administration conducted the war on terror and her views have rubbed hawkish conservatives in the GOP the wrong way.

Should Republicans ultimately decide to filibuster Johnsen’s nomination, it could be a boon to Specter’s re-election efforts. Specter is looking at a tough primary challenge from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who came within 17,000 votes of defeating him in the 2004 GOP primary. A recent poll showed Toomey with a double-digit lead over Specter in a hypothetical Republican primary, but with many voters still undecided and the primary more than one year away.

Specter also faces a dwindling base across the state as hundreds of thousands of moderate Republicans have changed their registrations to Democratic since 2004 in the Keystone State. Specter is at a disadvantage in the closed GOP primary without those moderate Republicans and will likely have to mount a voter registration drive to switch some of those Democrats back before 2010.

But a filibuster of Johnsen could help Specter significantly bolster his conservative credentials with the voters back home. One Republican said a filibuster “could be very good for him,” particularly because opposition to Johnsen’s nomination runs the spectrum of conservative constituencies.

That would be quite a change for Specter, who was no fan of the filibuster when Democrats used it against Bush judicial nominees like Miguel Estrada, according to his remarks on the Senate floor on April 2, 2003:

When you strip this argument down, it boils down to an effort by the other side of the aisle to rewrite the advice and consent clause of the Constitution. For more than 200 years, the President has had discretion in the nomination of Federal judges. And unless there is some reason not to confirm them, they then are confirmed … This is simply an effort, when 41 Members from the other side of the aisle decide to oppose cloture, to continue this filibuster … I do believe there is going to have to be some dramatic action taken so that Americans understand the travesty going on in the Senate Chamber today.

So the filibuster of a nominee to a life-time seat on the federal judiciary was a “travesty” to Specter, but a filibuster of an executive branch nominee to a political position might be perfectly acceptable to him?

Right Wing Round-Up

  • Dan Gilgoff reports that retired NFL Coach Tony Dungy, who endorsed an Indiana ballot initiative banning gay marriage in 2007 and accepted an award from the right-wing Indiana Family Institute, has been invited to join the White House's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. We have released a statement criticizing the move, as has Americans United - and Pastor Dan likewise disapproves and Sarah Posner says the White House is running low on slots to "represent a cross-section of American religion."
  • As Steve Benen says "It's had to argue with logic like that."
  • Religion Clause notes that Sen. Charles Grassley says he may subpoena records from those televangelists who have failed to cooperate with him in his investigation of their financial dealings.
  • David Neiwert catches Newt Gingrich advocating draconian measures for drug users in America.
  • AU's Rob Boston is hoping that "Obama’s future appointments annoy the Religious Right as much as [David Hamilton] has."
  • Terry Krepel reports that the Western Journalism Center is back.
  • Pam notes that Sally Kern fits right in among the legislators in Oklahoma.

Storm Debris and Religious Discrimination

When a severe ice storm hit parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began coordinating federal assistance to the affected states and making aid available to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

But among the things it wouldn’t do was remove debris from commercial properties because, as FEMA states, “it is assumed and expected that these commercial enterprises retain insurance that can and will cover the cost of debris removal.”

Now an Arkansas church is complaining that FEMA used its parking lot during the recovery efforts but then refused to pick up the debris from its property … and so it has now contacted the Alliance Defense Fund, which is accusing FEMA of religious discrimination:

Following instructions in the local media that all properties should pile their debris by the street for FEMA to pick up, the church piled its debris near the street, but a FEMA supervisor advised the church that FEMA would not be collecting the church’s debris because “churches are considered a commercial business.”  FEMA denied assistance to other churches in the community as well.

“The denial of disaster relief to Southside Community Church constitutes discrimination in its worst form,” the ADF letter states.  “A church is not a ‘commercial business’ but is a vital community partner and participant in disaster relief....  Further, the rationale that a church is a ‘commercial enterprise’ seems to mask the fact that what is really occurring here is religious discrimination....  FEMA is mandated to provide disaster services without discriminating on the grounds of religion.”

FEMA reportedly did not pick up debris from any church which, instead of being taken as a sign of standard policy, is being held up as proof that FEMA is engaging in religious discrimination.  But for its part, FEMA insists it did not use church grounds as a staging area and that the church never requested public assistance with its clean-up efforts:

FEMA spokesman Win Henderson said federal and state government log records show the church was not a FEMA staging area during the debris clean up from the January ice storm.

Also, Henderson said, the church is a private nonprofit organization and did not qualify for debris pick up. In addition, he said, the church did not submit a request for public assistance.

This is yet another example of the tendency I commented on earlier this month, whereby seemingly standard practices, when they happen to inconvenience Christians, become further evidence to the Religious Right that there is a conspiracy afoot to discriminate against them.

Contentious and Counterproductive

Yesterday, Ed Whelan wrote a post on Bench Memos asking why Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy was trying “to rush through President Obama’s nomination of David F. Hamilton to the Seventh Circuit.”

Today, he followed it up with a post linking to this CQ article reporting that Sen. Arlen Specter has weighed in to voice his opposition to the timing and saying that just because Hamilton has the support of his home state senators, that doesn’t mean he is free and clear:  

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy said today that he plans to hold a confirmation hearing for President Obama's nomination of David F. Hamilton to the 7th Circuit next week, despite GOP objections.

"We'll do it next week," Leahy said. He brushed aside Republican complaints that he is moving too fast on the nomination, which Obama made on March 17, saying that his acquiescence in delaying some of Obama's Justice Department nominations was met with more Republican delaying tactics.

The committee's top Republican, Arlen Specter, voiced his displeasure during a committee hearing this morning. Specter also made it clear that when it comes to Obama's judicial nominations, support from Republican home state senators, by itself, won't be enough to eliminate GOP opposition.

Hamilton, currently an Indiana federal district judge, is backed by Indiana Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar. But social conservatives have criticized Hamilton as an ideological activist.

Specter said Lugar's endorsement is "not sufficient. There's a little thing called the Constitution and it calls for confirmation by the Senate," Specter added, "Dick Lugar doesn't confirm, the Senate does."

Whelan also reports that Specter sent a letter to Leahy asking him to delay the hearing until after the upcoming recess and added a handwritten note at the bottom reading:

If you insist on this schedule [i.e., a pre-recess hearing] for Hamilton, you will [be] starting on the first Pres Obama nomination in a very contentious manner which will provoke opposition [and] prove counterproductive.  (Emphasis in original.)

Interesting that it is Leahy who is acting in a “very contentious manner” regarding judicial nominations considering that it was Specter and all of his Republican colleagues who sent President Obama a letter before he had even made his first nomination threatening to filibuster any and all of his nominations if they were “not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from” their respective states.

Specter apparently doesn’t see the irony here, but the threat to preemptively filibuster all of President Obama’s judicial nominees before he had even made any is itself rather contentious and counterproductive behavior.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • The Judicial Confirmation Network takes heart in the fact that "75 percent of Senate Republicans" voted against Elena Kagan's nomination to be Solicitor General, saying it shows that if President Obama tries to make a similar appoint to the Supreme Court, "there will be a formidable GOP Senate contingent ready to take a stand to protect the Constitution and the Court."
  • Focus on the Family takes a different view: "The only thing more egregious than Obama's nominations of pro-abortion, anti-family activists to the Department of Justice is the Senate's swift confirmation of so many of them, with very few objections."
  • Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network reported a nearly 10% increase in donations in 2008, giving it $278.7 million in total revenue.
  • For some reason, the AP is running stories about Mike Huckabee comparing abortion to slavery as if this is not something he has been saying for years.
  • The Family Policy Council of West Virginia is using telemarketers to target state legislators who it accuses of blocking their efforts to get a marriage amendment on the ballot.
  • A Roman Catholic bishop in Indiana says he will boycott a pro-life banquet if RNC Chairman Michael Steele is allowed to speak.
  • Sometimes you have to wonder if there is any hook that Day Gardner will not use as an opportunity to decry abortion.
  • The Washington Times is launching it own three-hour syndicated radio program later this spring.
  • Finally, this week's installment of the Family Research Council's Washington Watch Weekly featured Rick Berman discussing EFCA.  Berman was billed as "the executive director of the Center for Union Facts," which he is ... but he is better known as a shameless corporate shill who is referred to as "Dr. Evil."

Fox News' Bream Has Ties To Jerry Falwell

Just yesterday we noted that the Right's primary talking point in opposing President Bush's first judicial nominee, David Hamilton, is that he has ties to ACORN. Of course, as we pointed out, said ties consist entirely of a one-month stint as a fund-raiser for the organization some thirty years ago.

But apparently that is still enough to damn Hamilton in the eyes of the Right, as they continue to repeat it:

Hamilton is being touted as a moderate, but Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice disagrees. "He's just your classic, liberal judicial activist on issues like abortion, criminal issues such as suppression of evidence and sex offenders, separation of church and state issues," he says ... n addition, Hamilton has had some off-duty activities that have come to Levey's attention. "The guy has had a leadership role in the Indiana Chapter of the ACLU, and we know how the ACLU feels about religion," Levey adds. "He even did fundraising for the ultra, ultra liberal group ACORN, so none of this is surprising."

As we pointed out yesterday, this assertion was first put forth by Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network and has now made its way into press, with Fox News citing it during a segment on Hamilton's nomination yesterday.

Media Matters has posted the clip which features Long, as well as our president, Kathryn Kolbert, during which Fox News reporter Shannon Bream segues into a quote from Long by noting that "critics say Hamilton has ties to the liberal activist group ACORN:"

Interestingly, Shannon Bream is a graduate of Liberty University, so maybe we should mention that she has ties to Jerry Falwell ... ties that are, incidentally, far more substantial than Hamilton's supposed "ties" to ACORN.

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